View this post on Instagram
I fled from my last codependent relationship—literally.
I was pregnant with a three-year-old daughter in tow, frantically throwing things into boxes.
At the time it was hard to breathe and hard to think. I was scared for myself, and for my daughters. My fight-or-flight instincts were flourishing within me like weeds, protecting yet suffocating my nervous system.
Once I was in my own space—I could breathe. I realized that I had gone too far.
For too many years I had denied my own reality, people-pleased others, and tried to fit into socially defined glass boxes.
This is my last codependent, toxic, emotionally abusive relationship, I told myself. I went from a childhood of organizing my needs around others to an adulthood of doing the same.
I was suffocating; I couldn’t go within. I couldn’t heal; I couldn’t grow.
I had no bandwidth left for myself. My nervous system was constantly operating in survival mode. From here on forward, I wanted to do things differently. I was ready for a rebirth.
I dove into myself.
I traversed and forged into my own darkness and my own self-healing. I cried. I journaled. I felt rage.
I became aware that I couldn’t just practice yoga and meditation and heal miraculously. Yoga and meditation help the nervous system, but true change happens consciously, intentionally, and with purpose.
I realized I wasn’t living consciously, I was living life habitually. For years, I was unconsciously falling into the same comforting, coping patterns.
During my self-healing process, I made the decision that it was time for me to date. On my second date, I had butterflies in my stomach and my head was spinning. We started dating, and I felt myself falling deeply in love.
I began drinking the intoxicating codependent elixir, yet again.
All the same behavior patterns were there: I would create stories around why he wasn’t calling or texting, I would seek out his attention, I would think about him constantly, and I would debate ending the relationship to protect myself.
I abandoned myself to stay connected to him—my boundaries were nonexistent. The familiar feeling of disconnecting from myself began to emerge once more, but this time I was aware.
I was no longer in survival mode. I had already begun to peel back the layers of my codependent self.
I was healing; I knew it didn’t happen in a straight line.
About 14 months into the relationship, a massive breach of trust and betrayal occurred between my boyfriend and I. All of the classic players were present: other women, lack of communication, misunderstanding, betrayal, heartbreak, and mistrust.
Amongst the immense pain and confusion from the incident, our relationship was broken wide-open—and we began consciously constructing a new one.
In the midst of our decision, of whether to end the relationship or continue, he sat down with a pad and paper and drew out our relationship. We discussed, built, and defined our new conscious relationship.
Our relationship consisted of three circles: one for me, one for him, and one for “us.”
We labeled our relationship “us.” To this day, that is what we call it; it is a separate entity from either him or I. We discussed how our relationship was voluntary—neither one of us would be a part of it if we didn’t to.
We also didn’t know how long our relationship would last—there were no guarantees. He was responsible for his happiness, and I was responsible for mine.
The third circle—“us”—was dependent upon the health, wellness, and well-being of both him and I. Each individual had freedom and support from the other to live their own life, follow their own desires and dreams.
If one of us wasn’t thriving, then the “us” would suffer. The “us” would be built on time together, experiences together, arguments, and problems solved together.
The three circles were independent and exclusive of each other.
Fast-forward a few years, we have tweaked the original plan and altered it as needed, and will continue to do so with time. We have rebuilt the trust that was broken through a million hard conversations that could have fractured the relationship, but didn’t.
We grew as individuals and collectively.
We have certainly added to the map of our conscious relationship, but the three circles still remain. We have created a horizontal relationship. There is no hierarchy of power or power plays. We trust each other and do not need to manage, manipulate, or covertly control one another.
We speak respectfully to each other. We both acknowledge our faults and mistakes, and forgive quickly.
We argue, but who is right and who is wrong is not important in our relationship. Our relationship is not binary, one or the other, it is multifaceted and multilayered.
Conflict is our catalyst for understanding each other. When we have cooled off from an intense argument, we are able to shift into understanding-mode, attempting to really understand the other person’s perspective. This promotes compassion within the individual and our relationship—the more we practice awareness, the less time we spend in egotistical arguments.
We repair. After an argument, we gauge ourselves and our relationship on the ability to repair.
How do we each feel after the argument?
Are one or both of us still holding on to the disagreement?
At times we will need to circle back and have the difficult conversation one, two, or three times over, until we fully and truly understand each other’s perspective. Then, individually, we work on shifting our mind past the argument and into repair.
Some arguments can flow into the repair phase immediately, some take a while to hash out. Repair can take the form of a casual discussion, a special outing, or a meal together. The repair usually consists of laughter and good experiences.
None of this is easy, it is difficult, it is time-consuming, and it is hard work.
It is a priority.
In our relationship, it’s our own responsibility to be healthy and grounded, and we encourage each other to commit acts of self-loving kindness.
If I am not feeling grounded, I might look outside of myself, to him, for support; however, I know ultimately that I need to take the time to go inside and nourish my soul with things that promote my well-being such as journaling, walking, meditating, or going to the beach.
I do not expect him, nor do I put the responsibility on him, to rescue me. I ground myself. He grounds himself.
The work we put into our relationship is conscious—we are both aware of our own feelings and take responsibility as such. We call each other out, we set boundaries with each other, we are honest with each other, we communicate authentically, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable in our relationship.
We offer support. We show up for each other, but we put ourselves as individuals first. His issues fall into the realm of “his tasks” and my issues fall into my realm of “my tasks.”
It is not my job to fix him, nor his job to fix me.
We are strong within ourselves as individuals. If our “us” falls apart. Our lives do not fall apart. We still have a strong sense of self. We are not bound by the glass ceiling of patriarchy dictating our behavior and our choices.
Our relationship is a safe place.
We give each other the gift of vulnerability. We continually thank each other for coming forward and showing our true self.
If there is an issue or a problem, we talk about it directly; there are no games of indirectness. We do not spend all of our time together. We each have our own work, our own friends, and our own lives.
We do not know where the other is at all times—physical distance is as valuable as physical closeness.
At times, usually when I am feeling insecure, stressed, or fatigued, past habits of codependency creep into my unconscious actions. At times, he becomes avoidant and runs, and I become the anxious attacher and chase.
With continued work, we are now able to recognize when these old patterns creep in. We individually stop, communicate, and recalibrate.
The work is hard and messy, but we both put in the work.
We both invest, we both grow, we both feel safe, and we are both proud of what we have created.