I have been in love with a man these past couple of years despite knowing full well he couldn't be the one. We had been doing this dance for about a year and although I was comfortable, the relationship itself was increasingly becoming uninspiring to me. With time, our puzzle pieces that at one time felt like they fit together seamlessly shaped themselves in ways where their edges were something else, something different. I didn't even notice until I noticed. There was something about him.
Content, always so content, and despite the potential that glittered him gold, everything he wanted from life seemed just out of reach. If he ever cared to reach at all. We'd talk about our dreams and as much as I tried to see him when I closed my eyes, I couldn't.
It had nothing to do with how he felt and everything about how I felt.
I felt stifled.
I felt heavy, uninspired, and tired.
I was over it.
And I didn't realize how much of a mismatch I felt we were until I spoke to myself directly, a conversation I had quieted about a year prior. He wasn't it. And I am completely OK and at peace with that. I think I have been for a while. But sometimes you feel so comfortable in settling within a state of contentment, you don't even realize that's where you are. I have my answer to that question of what if I was stuck on a year ago: we wouldn't have been and for knowing him and loving him, but that's the end of that. A closed chapter.
And I loved his laughter, the way he sang, the hugs he'd pull me into from behind when I was doing something just for him. I had to be real with myself though: love was not enough to make me view us as more than where we are now. And that realization, as hard as it was to come to, came after I searched within myself to redefine some of my boundaries.
Boundaries are exactly what it sounds like, it's your way of drawing a line between behaviors you accept and tolerate from a person and behaviors you will not. These boundaries can take on healthy forms or unhealthy forms depending on what you decide your boundaries will be.
Redefining my relationship boundaries acted as the key to helping me let go of a relationship that no longer moved me, which brings me to my first boundary: I do not have to stay somewhere with someone that I know is not for me just because there's love there.
The fact that there was love and the fact that it was content felt like enough, I didn't want to be one of those people who could not appreciate blessings and love is not something you encounter every single day despite how googly-eyed I tend to be and how easily I tend to fall. Relationships should add to my life, it should go somewhere, and while love is the glue, it shouldn't feel like a crutch as to why you're keeping a relationship together.
The moment I let in that realization as truth, I encountered my second healthy boundary: my “no" means “no" and is the end of the sentence, no further explanation or efforts of persuasion needed. I had felt these things with him before.
I felt like a lack of ambition could be a problem. I had felt like we didn't see eye to eye on values. As a recovering people-pleaser, “no" has long been an issue for me, but mostly becomes an issue in my relationships with people like friends, family members, and of course significant others. I don't care too much nowadays about saying “no" to someone whose feelings I don't care about, but I do with people have solid relationships with. I would leave me and my partner's relationship and he'd follow up with a week or two of convincing me to change my mind.
My “no" didn't feel valid, when at the time, I realize it should have. Now I am cemented in my “no" and my right to have “no" be the end of it. Period.
And in all my preachings and teaching of loving myself, I realized that there seemed to be a line between how I applied that to my everyday life versus my love life. Loving myself not only means ensuring my happiness but it also looks like doing what's best for me. With the love I gave to my partner in our relationship, I felt like his happiness was as important as mine. I had to take him out of the equation and think about me and embrace that love for myself as selfishness.
So my final boundary that led me on my path of freedom was doing what made me happy and silencing the rest.
For a long time, I think healthy boundaries for me were a way to filter out potential mates who I didn't see fit to have a long term relationship with. Those boundaries were: no married or taken men, no abusers (physical, emotional, verbal), no men who are half interested, no men I must pursue, no men who are just placeholders, etc. And while that is effective while dating, it was hard to apply those boundaries in particular to an actual relationship I was in.
When I realized the key to releasing myself from a long term relationship that no longer fulfilled me was to redefine my boundaries, I also realized that there is room to continuously add boundaries and cater them to my needs, whether or not I find myself single or in a relationship. Boundaries guide us and align us with our wants and allow us to say goodbye to people and things that do not serve us, regardless to how much love there is. And that is so crucial.
What are some of your boundaries and what situations have they helped you avoid or let go of? Let's share stories below.
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