Dear Jana

My blog has been a lifesaver for me for years. Although I am only consistent during tough times, it is when I need to journal the most. I have been so lucky to have readers engage with me thoughtfully and honestly, even when the truth hurts. This particular comment from Jana really addresses so many of my own questions I figured it would be great to copy and past both Jana’s comments and my answers as I work through it.

I had one post written and scheduled for this morning before I read Jana’s comments and its sort of eerie how many of her own thoughts were starting to surface in my head. It often takes me a while to sort through the emotional murkiness I create for myself.

Thanks for all the thought starters Jana – you have always been such a great support and eye-opener for me and I always appreciate you.

Jana’s comments are in italics and my thoughts/replies/comments are in regulars font.

You have every right to have boundaries and dealbreakers. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that. However, an area where you can do better is to to not let anyone cross those boundaries. Of course, they may do it – but you shouldn’t redraw the boundary to keep the relationship going. If smoking was a dealbreaker, then the first time you learned he was smoking (especially since he knew this was not something you would tolerate and after he lied to you about it), then that would have been the time to end the relationship.

Quite frankly, in my view the lying should have been the biggest issue. I don’t smoke and I don’t want to be with a smoker – but at least if they came out and told me, ‘Look, I do smoke. I’m trying not to smoke so much, but I’m probably always going to want to smoke from time to time.” Then you could have a real and reasonable conversation about the smoking, possible compromises (not just bullshit promises to quit) and then make a decision on whether you can tolerate that or not. With Scott, he lied up front (I’m sure because you had mentioned you would not be with a smoker and he wanted to bang you) — but then once he had gotten what he wanted, he let you “find out” that he was smoking. You bitched about it and he told you he wouldn’t – but then he did. Then you bitched about it some more and he said he would only smoke cigars – but he smoked more than that (after all, you had stayed after that first time). You bitched some more and he became progressively more angry and resentful until he told you straight up he would do what he wanted, especially in his own home. In my humble opinion, the first time you determined that he was smoking (which meant he was lying), I would have thanked him for the memories and ended the relationship. He certainly can do what he wants and set his own boundaries, especially in his home, but you don’t have to debase yourself by staying.

*This is all 100% accurate. Had he been honest, at any time, a conversation would have been possible.

I would suggest that you really examine 1) Why you were willing to keep adjusting your boundaries in order to stay in the relationship. *I adjusted (for smoking) because I wanted to believe what he was saying rather than what I felt to be true in my gut. Also, because he never smoked around me (except the very first fight in Dec, then he never did again) and he would do his best to be sure I didn’t smell it or taste it before we were together. When he said he wanted to quit (and he had quit once in his life) I believed he would want to quit again.

Do you feel you must be in a relationship to be happy? Is your sense of self-worth based on whether someone finds you attractive and desirable? *A half answer is mostly yes to both questions. I am not entirely unhappy outside of relationship, I am happier within. I have such severe body dysmorphia that, yes, much of my self-worth is centered around being comfortable in my body, not necessarily in being attractive. Desirable, yes (but not in a sexual way, just overall).

Do you not have enough activities or close friends to help you with any loneliness you feel? *Sure, I have plenty. They do not fulfill me the way a partner does.

and 2) Why do you have the mistaken belief that you can change someone – or that they SHOULD change in order to be with you? In a real, healthy relationship, neither party expects the other to change. Both parties realize that there are going to be things about the other person that drives them crazy – but they figure out a way to deal with that and/or compromise with love and respect. If one of the party is not willing to do that – the relationship will not work. *I submit that people do not change, but they do grow, and growing together, and even better, healing together, can be a beautiful thing. In the beginning with Scott I was entirely judgmental about all the normal things I usually am in dating, I let go of all of it, and saw other behaviors that I didn’t even have any idea I needed to be wary of because I hadn’t been exposed to them (in a sense).

You are not the bad guy here — but I would submit that Scott is not really the bad guy either. He lied, which is something I would not have tolerated, and he treated you with disrespect, which is equally bad. But you also lied – to yourself when you kept convincing yourself that he would change or that the relationship was healthy. And you treated him with disrespect when you started to nag him about his behaviors (smoking, drinking, hanging out with younger people, staying in his job). *Nag seems a strong word here. We had one discussion about his drinking where he admitted he drank too much and was pulling back, that was not at my request – it was because he blacked out twice when I wasn’t with him. He was also with the kids when this happened. So the conversation with the kids and drinking happened once. I was on his about his job early on but stopped long before the Thanksgiving holiday, acknowledging it wasn’t my place and in an effort to understand I had to accept his decisions. The smoking caused one big argument in December then did not appear again until March. It is easy to pull out the big ones as they are so obvious, but they are also the ones I tended to focus on the least as I knew they created the most tension.

You can’t change Scott (or anyone), but you can change yourself. But first you have to be willing to really examine your roll in your history of failed relationships. That’s a pretty hard thing to do and not fun at all. But then you need to figure out a game plan for future dating and relationships. A plan where you are not so desperate to be with someone. Where you expect respect and truth and will not tolerate disrespect. Where you get to the point where you really understand that, while you will never be perfect (and that is OK – none of us are), that you are always trying to grow and that you are willing to accept that the other party will not be perfect, but that’s OK as long as they are trying to be the best human they can be. *I believed that is what I was trying to do with Scott, I really do. I was striving at every turn with Scott, to be a better person.

The line about “expecting truth and not tolerate disrespect” should be my mantra. I have found this impossible to abide by, which does make it appear as if I am desperate to remain in relationship at all costs.

I would suggest that you also work on why it is so important to your sense of worth or your view of a “good” relationship that a man needs to follow the scripting you have in your head of how they should act – how often they should be texting and calling, how many and what types of gifts and perks they should be buying for you, how they should anticipate all of your needs on a first date. All of that is mostly superficial bullshit and doesn’t allow either party to really get to know the other to find out who they really are and what is important to them in life or in a relationship. *With Scott, this all fell to the side. I thought about these things during dating, then evaluated the importance of them over how I felt when I was having fun with Scott. I can’t say I don’t think about it, I’m not sure when (or if ever) I won’t think about some of it, but I do realize what I feel is important on a date now, and what isn’t.

Hopping into bed as quickly as you do may also be contributing to your pattern – women especially equate sex with feelings, love, or some sort of bond. Take sex out of the equation until you really have a handle on who someone is and if he’s worthy of that next step. *we can agree to disagree to a point. I had no emotional feelings for Scott post sex for many, many months. Same with other men I had sex with after Tony. HOWEVER, I also know there is a risk that when I get a little crush on someone, that’s when I should stay out of bed – that’s when the trouble starts with the imaginary bonds. Sex with Scott was very good, but I never felt the emotional connection, that real passion, I have had in the past – it was ALWAYS missing from sex.

You’ve got a continued difficult road ahead if you’re serious about becoming more emotionally healthy and learning to love yourself instead of just medicating your pain and doubt with quick fixes like weight loss surgery and drama-filled relationships. As you have found out, time and time again, these types of things cause more pain and heartache, more doubt, more guilt, and in the case of your surgery, it almost cost you your life. You deserve better, Madeline – but only you can do the hard work to make things different and better. *I love this comment Jana and it really helped me clear out some cobwebs. Strangely enough I had some of these thoughts the other nights and had written a post on lying…..I should have identified that trigger as the smoking gun long before the actual smoking (there must be a great play on words in there for a more clever person!).

I am confident, despite what has happened with Scott, that I have changed and grown. I don’t understand myself and why I want to accept an unhealthy relationship, or why that feels more comfortable to me than having no relationship. I don’t have those answers yet. I am searching for them though and I appreciate having you as a trail guide along my path. Thank you, Jana.

Author: Madeline Harper

My journey through divorce and an emotional and sexual reawakening. Love, laughter, friendships, family and heartbreak included. And there is sex, lots of it, so close your eyes and turn the page if that's not for you! While I started this blog as an endeavor to journal my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to better understand myself, it has become an amazing platform from which I have met some of the most interesting and wonderful people in my life. My path is often crooked, but I hope you will share in the journey with me.

5 thoughts on “Dear Jana”

  1. Adding my thoughts about his blacking out when drinking with his daughter and her friends. I can just about imagine how he this may embarrass his own daughter and she may be feeling like he’s really not a parent she can count on and has to stick around to take care of him. Furthermore, based on how he treated you when you tried to talk to him about how he upset you and his anger issues I would about bet money that his daughter has experienced similar reactions if she voiced her concerns about his drinking. Who knows! But Jana brought up a lot of great points to you that have floated through my mind. Thanks Jana! And remember this: A person who belittles you like he did has a lot of inner demons. Be free Madeline!!! And please love yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the feedback Madeline! I’ve been through a couple of shitty marriages and a few more crappy relationships. When my last marriage died (after a long, agonizing downward spiral), I felt horrible about myself. Why hadn’t I walked away years earlier instead of letting myself be abused and belittled. Why hadn’t I been more concerned with my children’s self of worth and their trauma instead of convincing myself they were better off with my husband because at least then we would have enough money to survive instead of relying on my parents or my job (especially after I got laid off and felt like that much more of a looser).

    When my husband finally walked out (and I thank him for that now), some good friends gave me a book to read: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a bit of a embellished tale regarding the ancient Toltecs and how they managed to have a happy, well-adjusted society for so long. But the premise of the “four agreements” really resonated with me. 1) Don’t make assumptions. You can’t know anyone else’s story, so have the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want; 2) Be impeccable with your word. Say what you mean, speak with integrity, avoid speaking against others or gossiping; 3) Always do your best. Your best will vary moment to moment, depending on your health, if you’re tired or not, if you’ve had a tough day, etc. But just simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.; 4) Don’t take anything personally (this is my favorite and the one that really changed things for me). Nothing others do is because of you. It may FEEL personal, but what others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be a victim of needless suffering.

    These may resonate with you or not – but I encourage you to find mantras that DO make sense to you and that encourage self-acceptance and self-kindness. Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend. I think that may be what your therapist is trying to guide you towards. If you are capable of loving others, then you are capable of learning how to love yourself. PS – I agree that your therapist trying to bring God into the discussion is ridiculous and unprofessional, especially after you told her that was not your cup of tea. But again, this is coming from her own reality and religion and spirituality may really be her comforting and happy place. But it’s not everyone’s. When I was in therapy (and believe me, I had to kiss a lot of toads before I found my therapy princess), I got to the point where if my therapist said something I really did not agree with (like one told me I must have repressed memories of being abused by my father and another one was convinced I had ADHD), I would just tell them that I did not agree (or that they were full of hooey) and made sure I was saying the truth instead of just ignoring or side-stepping something that was hard for me to deal with (like recognizing my emotions and trying to make a mind-body connection, a basic skill which I had lost so very long ago and I’m still working on getting back).

    Anyhoo – I drone on. I just really want to see you in a place where you are happy in your own skin and mind. You deserve love, happiness and respect – but it starts with you finding that within yourself.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Jana – I’m sorry you went through such a messy marriage and divorce and I’m happy to know you came out stronger for it and lucky to have you give me the benefit of your hindsight.

      I feel that I read that book years ago or something quite similar as it sounds so familiar. My therapist literally said those words this week: speak to yourself the same way you speak to your friends when they struggle. She is also making me write down every single positive thing I hear in one week no matter how small or where it comes from. It’s amazing what I’ve heard in a day that I’ve brushed to the side. I really can’t take a compliment.

      I also spoke to her about the fact that I take almost EVERYTHING personally – this is a major struggle for me. I always feel as though I am being blamed for something and I just have done something wrong and I’m not good enough. I also know enough to understand where my trauma comes from, but now I need to understand how to find the grace and forgiveness for myself which I haven’t been able to do.

      #3 resonates with me as I live that as a mantra. Wake up snd do my best. I just wish I didn’t have the regrets over not doing “better” because I feel that my best isn’t good enough.

      I always appreciate you. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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