Walking away from close to two decades of tears, sweat, sacrifice, betrayal, lots of hurt, some joy, a bit of anger, and most importantly, though ironically at the centre of all these feelings and experiences – love; was the most difficult decision I ever had to make to this point in my life. Added to this complex mix of history and emotions, was the life of four little people (at the time) who had not asked to be casted in the midst of this particular theatric production. But I eventually rationalized that since it was not a good place for me to be there, it just could not be a good place for them.
It took me a very long time to come to this realization. The process to this epiphany was hard, long and painful. It required from me the performance of introspection (yuck!) whilst receiving hard, raw feedback from close family and friends. Crazy isn’t it! How could someone be in a place where they are hurting so badly and not have the desire or instinct to walk away from such a place? A light bulb eventually went off inside my head, and I realized that I was stuck in a cycle of abuse and a relationship dominated by control. I was so ashamed of this reality when I was finally awakened to it. How could someone with so much education and light be in a place of nothingness and darkness? Logically, this is what it was, but my heart told me that it was love, and that I was going to stick it out come hell or high water. Hmmmmmm…
I recall the weekend I said for the 101 time, that I was done! At the time our youngest child was only 2 years old, while our eldest was barely 11. It was and is still amazing to me how even though I made the decision to leave and eloquently communicated that decision to the father of my children, that a decision like that which involved so many factors was not that simple. I eventually learned after several months of insisting that the relationship was over, that putting a stop to such history required the involvement of all parties including mothers, sisters, cousins and friends, to be in agreement. The back and forth regarding the ‘status’ of our relationship persisted for well over three years before both him with great reluctance, and I, got to a place where we both agreed that the relationship had in fact ran its course.
It has been nine years since I left that relationship; which was really my first real relationship as an adult. I spent many years after being very angry and bitter having ‘wasted’ so many years of my life and my youth. Not only had I misspent time and myself, but it was not until then that I realized that I was left with the sole responsibility of physically, mentally and emotionally ushering four people into adulthood. The thought of being a single parent haunted me especially when I reflected on my childhood dream of being a stay-at-home wife and mother running several businesses and raising six children. The words ‘single mother’, which I saw as a curse, a stigma, especially in our society, taunted me for several years. What pressure! The life I was now living was not the kind of life I anticipated for myself or my children. My heart broke each time I thought about all the dreams I laid aside so that I could be devout in my relationship, and to our four children. Though we had, I thought, this ‘commitment’, which was symbolized by the engagement ring I wore for 11 of the 15 years we were together, it was not near enough to keep us together and either of us happy. Quite honestly, it was all a lie.
Though it felt like my life was going to end during the following years, life did not stop for me even as I worked through my anger and bitterness. In actuality, my desire for love and companionship became stronger. I dated for the first time in my life during the last nine years. The thought of this was initially exciting, but the excitement quickly disappeared after I realized that there was still something I was missing. Even though I had 15 years of experience under my belt, I still made the same mistakes. After each relationship ended after a few months of ‘seriously dating’ – Caribbean style – is when I would recall the words of my high school best friend, “you should not put all of your eggs in one basket.” My high school best friend was male, and we were only 19 years old when we had that conversation. His words walked with me quite a bit in the last few years as I slowly and reluctantly learned some undesirable realities about myself.
With my experiences over the past five years, and my high school best friend’s words constantly playing over and over in my mind, was when it all started to make sense to me. During the latter part of 2016, I ended a two-and-a-half year relationship with a much younger guy. I knew I loved him, and I believe he loved me, but with all the love I knew I had given him, and still had left to give, I just could not get why our relationship did not work. I could not understand why I was still unmarried. One day shortly after my break up during one of my increasingly common personal internal rants was when it hit me! What does love got to do with anything? At that point my mind was flooded with a number of experiences which validated my question to myself, and the eventual answer which was – nothing; well, at least initially. I mediated on this personal revelation during the following weeks and months. I eventually asked myself, well if love has nothing to do with it, what does? If love was not the key ingredient needed for a successful relationship, then what was? This question launched me into period of searching. I read and studied for several months and spent time reflecting using spirituality as my guide. I eventually stumbled upon this word during one day of reflection – values. I deduced from all of my experiences that love alone was just not enough to secure the success of a healthy romantic relationship, and reasoned that “values” is the key ingredient to a long, healthy, productive and happy romantic (erotic) relationship.
Why values? Google dictionary defines values as ‘principles or standards of behaviour; or as one’s judgment of what is important in life’. With this in mind, imagine being in a relationship or even married to someone who believes that it is acceptable to have multiple partners. Consider what it would be like to be seriously involved with someone who believes that your children together should be allowed to skip school and not get their education. Let’s try this scenario; consider being married to someone who gambles away your monthly earnings instead of saving or investing those monies. Do you see the potential conflicts and challenges that could arise from being tied to someone who has drastically differing views to you on essential things in life? Though it is possible to love someone who views life much differently than you do, I believe it is much more difficult to be committed and happily involved with someone who views life differently on important things. I am not proposing that you find someone who’s every value is identical to yours. Quiet honestly I do not even believe that it is possible, as we were all created differently. I do however believe that it is possible to find and fall in love with someone whose core values align with yours.
These thoughts and that one word were a game changer for me. They were the start to my new outlook on companionship and love. My now 24 years of relationship experience has thought me many lessons. Most importantly I have learned what I want in a relationship, and what I absolutely do not want. If there is anything you take away from the tiny bit of what I shared with you, let it be this: know what core values you need in a partner before you begin a relationship. If someone you are getting to know romantically is not displaying those values, make a conscious decision to stop things were they are, as hard or as painful as it might be. Hold out, as I am now trying to do, for the person who embodies those values you cherish. It is important that you spend time getting to know yourself and cultivating the characteristics that you value, so you’ll be ready for them. I know it is sometimes hard, but I believe that a steadfast commitment to your values is ultimately the best way to protect yourself from a life of disappointment, hurt and anguish like I had during my earlier life. I encourage you to lead with your values, and not with your heart. Let your values lead you to the right person, and guard your heart. It is certainly worth protecting. When your values lead you to that right person, I promise you that you will grow to love them with all of your heart.