The biggest lesson I’ve learned, after letting go of my ex-love, is this: my lack of boundaries with him cost me incredible amounts of pain.

When we were together, I gave myself to him on a level I’d never given anyone, and when we moved into a friendship, even though he’d withheld emotionally or disregarded many of my requests to communicate differently in the relationship, I somehow assumed, in a friendship, we would do alright. 

What actually happened was his pre-occupation with his own life and his withholding emotionally increased. While he was busy getting his life back on track after our breakup (while still sleeping with me, if the opportunity provided), I was on the same track for my own life (while still sleeping with him, if the opportunity provided), yet those times together, after the breakup, were times I remained open to possibility, and I allowed things to unfold. And what happened was I allowed myself to fall in love even more, from a realistic standpoint, while he continued to exclude me from what he felt he needed, from a realistic standpoint.

He’d given me plenty of red flags about dating other people again in the future. And slept with me, then said it was unrealistic to be together. Part of me thought I should put my boundaries up and walk away. The other part wanted to remain friends.

And that’s what I did, I remained his friend, while continually trying to untangle my deeper heart strings from him.

And now I’m in a situation where he’s dating again and it’s a bitch. Not because I don’t want him to be happy. I do. For one thing, it was the way he handled letting me know about his first date. He was so flippant, then away from his phone much of that day. I’d responded to his text, asking about the date, and it took him hours to respond. Yes, I know he was out and about, but it was a first-time, sensitive situation.

He didn’t handle it with care. Only more flippancy and absence. I’d been his “little bit of sunshine” he could put in his back pocket and take out again whenever he wanted. At least that’s how it felt that day. But if I’m honest, it’s also a bitch because while remaining his friend, my feelings grew while his waned.

“Why did he owe you anything?” you ask. “You were broken up!” (I won’t insert the famous Ross quote, from Friends…)

Because, despite being broken up, we were friends with a lot of depth between us. And this is exactly my point: I thought the depth would translate to him somehow letting me know the special person I was in his life, even though he was dating again. But instead, the way he mentioned it so nonchalantly made me feel insignificant in his life. And then later, on get-aways with her, he’d shut his phone completely off until the next day. I was an outsider.

I had embodied the phrase “fool for love.” I had believed he’d take care of my heart, if we were to remain friends. Somehow I believed if I kept a sacred space for him in my heart, despite breaking up, that he would too. But that’s not how it played out. I guess it seems obvious… if he wouldn’t meet me halfway emotionally in a relationship, why would he in a friendship? I just thought a friendship would be less complicated… maybe it would have been if my heart strings weren’t still tangled up. 

We were both confused and terrible at defining the boundaries… which didn’t help avoid hurt feelings. I felt used and not truly cared for quite often. Truth is, he hasn’t been in love with me for a long time, even when sleeping with me, but I didn’t realize how unbalanced it was until far too late, and I ended up hurt.

I’ve learned, even with those we love, when we see red flags and continuous patterns of behavior that don’t work for us, they are there for a reason, and we need to be responsible for protecting ourselves so our hearts don’t become mashed up globs of bloody mush.

It’s difficult to remain friends when feelings are at different levels. But I can honestly say I’ve tried my best.

Maybe he’ll always see me as the woman from our past relationship rather than finding ways to make a friendship work for both of us. 

But maybe not.

Yeah, like I said, “fool for love.”

First off, I need to pull a quote from this article that made me laugh at loud:

“From an Attachment Theory perspective, victims tend to be anxious-attachment types, and savers tend to be avoidant-attachment types. Or as I like to call them: crazy people and assholes. Both often push away secure-attachment types.”

Yeah, that would sum me and my ex-love up! I was the crazy one, he was the asshole.

The author goes on to say, “For the victim, the hardest thing to do in the world is to hold themselves accountable for their feelings and their life rather than others. They’ve spent their whole existence believing they must blame others in order to feel any intimacy or love, so letting that go is terrifying.

For the saver, the hardest thing to do in the world is to stop fixing other people’s problems and trying to force them to be happy and satisfied. For them, they’ve spent their whole lives only feeling valued and loved when they were fixing a problem or providing a use to someone, so letting go of this need is terrifying to them as well.”

If you read my two sections above, you are fully clued into how unhealthy this relationship with my ex-love was. There are many healthy, thriving parts in my ex-love and me separately, but somehow, putting us together, with our different communication styles and love languages, we were a disaster, time and again.

The article tells us personal boundaries and self-esteem go hand in hand. People with high self-esteem have high boundaries… but wait a minute… I’ve worked hard on my self-esteem and feel it’s pretty good, yet my boundary with my ex-love was so flimsy! How could that have been?

After analyzing it, I realize it’s because my boundaries tend to weaken with those I truly love. This should not be the case, and I’m working on it. In this case, I wanted his heart to change, for him to want to be together again, even while trying to be friends. Meanwhile, I was getting bruised and battered emotionally, while waiting for something to change… instead, I should have put up my boundary when he indicated he didn’t want to try again. I should have walked away instead of being friends because my feelings were too invested in wanting more.

Better late than never.

The article tells us to accept who we are (none of us are perfect), while working on ourselves. And if we’re in a relationship where one partner wants us to do something, like, for example, call the other person everyday for three minutes, etc., we should only do it if it’s something we’re willing to do, to make the other person happy. We shouldn’t do it if it will cause resentment on our end or if we’re afraid of their reaction if we don’t.

The article wraps up by telling us, “A person with strong boundaries understands that a healthy relationship is not controlling one another’s emotions, but rather each partner supporting each other in their growth and path to self-actualization.”

Side note: I texted him, to let him know I’m working on my boundaries and that I realized I should have left long ago. Instead of saying something in return like, “Wish I could have handled that convo about my lunch date with that girl in a way that didn’t hurt you,” he said, “Thanks for sharing that. And of course I wish you well too.” Then a hug emoji.

At first I was like, “Fuck you!” He couldn’t offer the kind of response I indicated in the previous paragraph, something to show he wished his actions hadn’t hurt me. Then I had a flash of realization. “Of course he didn’t! That’s part of why we didn’t work out!” I’ve realized, even though he’s not responsible for my feelings, I need someone who is more tuned into sharing feelings. And I’m not giving my power away to him anymore, handing over my emotions to him, based on his lack of investment.

Read this article in its entirety, for more on boundaries.

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