New relationships are always challenging, but when you begin one in the midst of chaos and change it adds another level of pressure. It has been a little over two years since R. and I started dating. He has been through some of the worst moments of my life with me and most certainly has seen me at my lowest point. We struggled, we went back and forth, we still struggle to meld two lives together. Something that came naturally in my 20’s is a whole lot harder in my 30’s. I have different ideas, a different outlook on life in general, I am a lot more opinionated and I still struggle to develop healthy headspace.
I didn’t grow up with a good sense of healthy boundaries, especially when it came to expressing emotion. We were a hot headed, loud and large family. We yelled a lot. When I got married, at twenty one, I continued this pattern in my marriage; high emotion and yelling. I thought this was normal, it was my normal but it was not healthy. My ex husband and I are both intense and emotional people, we did not know how to express our feelings appropriately or work out conflict in a constructive way. In some ways, this led to the breakdown of our relationship.
I am not saying that emotion is wrong or that you should stifle what you feel. I am a firm believer in being in touch with your emotions and your feelings. However, there’s a certain level of self control and self awareness that needs to exist so that your emotions do not control you or alienate others. As someone who also deals with anxiety, this is very difficult for me both in a relationship and as a parent. Some days I am able to internally cope and regulate, other days I miss the mark completely and end up hurting those closest to me.
One of the things that I have come to appreciate about R. is his ability to call me out on my crap. Obviously, I don’t appreciate it immediately but over time I have come to see the benefit of his insight and ability to stay calm more often than not. He has helped me to realize that plowing ahead full force with all my emotion and feeling is not healthy and in fact creates a disconnect with the people I love most. This was insight and understanding that I had never received before. I had never experienced life in any other way. My parent’s relationship was fraught with tension and emotion, my childhood and teenage years were full of high emotion and intensity, and my marriage followed the same pattern.
So here I am, in my 30’s trying to reconstruct my life and change the destructive patterns I have created in my life. I would love to say that I have figured this all out and that I am on my way. However, I am really at the beginning stages of mental reconstruction and self awareness. I have been presented with the challenge to change. I have said quite often that I believe change is a choice and I guess now would be the time for me to take those words to heart in a new way.
A few years ago, I participated the My One Word project. According to their website, “It’s okay to want to be a better you—the question is, how? My One Word replaces broken promises with a vision for real change. When you choose a single word, you have a single focus. You are moving toward the future rather than swearing off the past … This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.” So although I am a little late to the party, I have decided that my word this year will be “Space.”
I need to develop a healthier head space, I need to make time for my own space in life, and I need to give those around me the space they need. In doing so, I believe that I will begin to develop better strategies for coping with my own emotions and also minimize my anxiety.
When it comes to relationships, I am all about togetherness but I am finally realizing that for a relationship to grow and to remain healthy, there must be “spaces in your togetherness.” You can not be your best self if you do not take the time and space to develop your best self. So this is my challenge and goal for the year.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”