by Jill Petsel
I thought I knew what love was...
I thought I knew how to love and be loved. I bought into all the Hollywood fantasies of happily-ever-after . . . despite watching my parents struggle with all the challenges life threw at them. I longed for the love I read about in romance novels regardless of watching my parents ebb from love to hate, and then back to love. I bought into fairy-tale love, but not the reality my parents were living.
I wish I had listened to my mother.
Love actually isn’t that hard. It’s the relationship part that is challenging. I am a competitive, always-have-to-be-right, impulsive person.
I am not easy to live with – and clearly not easy to love.
Finding a new path...
My marriage failed after years of drifting apart and my active alcoholism. Neither of us were happy – but staying together is what people do. At least it is what my parents did (the one time I did pay attention). The difference is that my parents worked hard at their relationship in ways that I did not see. As crazy as they made each other, in the end, they couldn’t live without the other. Sadly, in my case, I just didn’t want to work that hard anymore.
I was in early recovery from alcoholism when I decided to leave my husband.
It was an impulsive decision – or was it . . . love?
I had fallen for a young woman who was head over heels in love with me. She stirred something in my heart that I’d never felt. I realized I was stuck in a marriage that had failed ten years earlier. “Life is too short to be unhappy,” I told myself.
So I left and started down a new path.
New love is always exciting, always optimistic...
My new relationship was heaven . . . at first. Then, little things became bigger deals. The conflict I knew once, as a child, first crept into the shadows, then into the open light.
It was the little everyday things at first.
She got angry with how I loaded the dishwasher.
I defended my dish-stacking ways.
She would get embarrassed when I talked to strangers — any strangers — about the weather, the food they were eating, when I chatted about the dog they were walking in our neighborhood. I took all of her criticism and embarrassment personally I saw how she was just like my ex-husband.
Our relationship ended three years later.
What now? Where do love's boundaries lie?
So here I am, the product of two failed love relationships.
The sad fact is there seems to be one, common denominator: ME.
Don’t get me wrong, my exes certainly aren’t perfect, but I only have control over myself.
I am the only one in control of how I react to life.
The truth is I don’t have to be hurt by perceived injustices or unkind words.
Being right just isn’t that important. It's not important at all, in fact! My happiness is not contingent on how someone else treats me.
Most importantly—I am worthy of love!!
This is the really, really hard work. However, the gift of the program is that it teaches us that the work is worth it.
If I find love again, I will be better prepared. And, maybe by letting go, I'll let the boundaries of love define themselves, without my intervention.
It won’t be easy.
But nothing worthwhile ever is.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jill Petsel lives openly in long-term recovery. What that identity means to her is that it’s been seven years since her last drink of alcohol. More importantly, recovery means she can reflect on and celebrate her imperfect life, a gift as it is.