“NEVER explain yourself to anyone. Because the people who love you don’t need it, and the people who dislike you won’t believe it.”
—passed along to me by my high school friend Stephanie on Facebook
I’ve emerged from two very damaging relationships over the past two years. I say damaging because one took a chunk of my self-esteem, and the other bit a plug out of my ability to trust (mainly trust of myself and my gut feelings, but also others and their words and actions). They were very different relationships, and both had enough drama and psychological complexity to warrant a complete retelling.
However, I’ve heard there’s some sort of international law against torture, so I won’t go into all that detail right now with you. Suffice it to say that, as a people pleaser by nature, I’ve exhausted myself to no avail at trying to please two candidates for life partner, and ended up feeling miserable and inadequate as a result.
I see perfectly mean and awful people who have enduring marriages and relationships, and I wonder why I can’t have the same. Am I too nice? Am I too much of a pushover? Am I just fundamentally wrong as a person?
And then, as if on cue, someone came into my life. Not just someone who could be another life partner candidate, but someone who answered all of the above questions for me. He answered repeatedly, patiently, reassuringly. The answer is that it doesn’t matter. And my thick head may finally be giving way and letting in that answer.
I am probably too nice. I am definitely a pushover. I have latched onto some traits that could qualify me as “wrong.” And there are other quite unflattering things I could say about myself. But anyone who’s willing to deride me or walk away from me because of any of those things probably doesn’t love me.
What I’m experiencing now is something quite novel for me. I’m spending significant amounts of time with someone who actually nurtures my “faults.” Someone who understands that when I react in a negative way toward a situation (whether by avoidance, indecision, embarrassment, or hesitancy) is the exact time to step in and support me. I’m self-aware enough to know when I need to improve, so his lecturing me, seething at me, or harboring resentment toward me is unnecessary and counterproductive. And it doesn’t show love.
The weird thing about me is that I’m fiercely independent, but in order for me to act independently, I must walk a tightrope of behavior to minimize disruptions to my focus. So when I am faced with an unexpected situation, I may fall hard off that tightrope. My guy understands that dynamic, and he is willing, even happy, to be my safety net when I fall from my tightrope.
And psychobabble circus metaphors aside, he simply appreciates me for exactly who I am. The opening quote rings so true to me now because it reminds me of his refrain: “You don’t have to explain yourself to me.”
And as I continue my steady march toward becoming a grown-up (maybe I’ll make it by 40), I’m hoping to internalize the knowledge that I don’t have to explain myself to anyone.
But look out. That could make my posts here a lot shorter.