My dad has been on my mind and in my conversation a lot over the last several weeks. That is usually a signal that another “divine opportunity for healing” is right around the corner. Oh joy.
My growing up years were dominated by my father’s alcoholism. He was very high-functioning in the world and many people saw him as a hero. But when he came home, he was an emotional terrorist and I bore the brunt of a lot of really nasty words and behaviors.
I wanted desperately for my father to SEE me. I desperately wanted to be more important to him than his disease. (It’s worth noting that this is the adult talking – I didn’t have words to put to these feelings when I was a child.)
Fast forward through several romantic relationships and guess what – I’ve chosen a string of men who had varying degrees of serious dysfunction. I chose a drug addict, a man with PTSD, a man who was so emotionally broken he couldn’t acknowledge that we were in a relationship, and a closet alcoholic.
I realize now that what I was looking for from each one of them was what my dad couldn’t give me – for someone to finally make ME more important than their disease. I felt shattered because no one seemed willing to love me enough to stay healthy for me. It seemed clear to me that I was the problem – I wasn’t lovable enough.
The cruel joke is that each of these men (starting with my father) would deny that the disease had anything to do with it. Each of them denied that their particular dysfunction had any affect on the relationship at all, leaving me to feel just a touch crazy.
I’ve been on this roller coaster again for the last six months as I heal from my last breakup – once again believing that I wasn’t important enough or lovable enough for him to make me more important than his particular brand of dysfunction. This weekend I finally admitted that I’ve been really, REALLY pissed off about it.
Which brought me to this recognition – NO ONE can make me more important than their disease. Only I can do that for myself!
I get to choose whether I engage with someone’s dysfunction. Which means that I have two choices – I can keep getting involved with dysfunctional men and trying to get them to make me important, or…
I can choose A HEALTHY PARTNER!!!! What a concept!
I have been doing my work for the last six years. I have worked hard and made huge progress in my healing. There’s still more to do – there always will be, because I believe that is the journey of being human. But I can comfortably say that I am no longer willing to sit in my dysfunction and make excuses for it (yes, sometimes I whine and complain, but ultimately I can’t stand the sound and I get off my butt and start doing my work again.)
I want to find someone who will meet me in THIS place – a place where we choose to work toward health, rather than finding ways to accommodate our dysfunction. He or she doesn’t have to be perfect. They just have to be willing.
As I was processing through this over the weekend, I wrote to Michele Rosenthal and she sent me a beautiful email in return:
“…someone who’s not entirely ready to heal is not entirely ready to be Mr. Fabulous to your Mrs. Fantastic.
Letting go is the best thing you can do to open your heart for the real man who even right this moment is moving one step closer to you.”
Thank you, Michele. What a beautiful way to say it.
All of this reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by the amazing philosopher and teacher Jim Rohn:
“The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me.’”