10.26.2011

Carrying Baggage

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson. This post was inspired by the book. 

In the book Lost Edens, we experience a play by play of the end of a relationship due to infidelity, abuse, and mental health issues. The themes in this book weren't new to me. I've volunteered and worked for a domestic violence organization. I've had my fair share of friends in unhealthy, sometimes abusive relationships. I've known many people battling mental health issues. And I've been the person encouraging someone close to me to end a destructive relationship more times than I can count. But none of that is what this post is about.

Relationships are often messy. They can be painful. We don't always bring out our best when with our partner. We all have played a role in past relationships that we're not proud of... Right?

So, what about when you're the toxic one? Because I have been. I dated someone for a very long time, years longer than I should have. I knew I had the upper hand. I knew he needed me more than I needed him. I knew I could do whatever I wanted. So, I did. I wasn't very good to him all the time. He didn't bring out the best in me and I certainly didn't give it to him.

I made many attempts to break up with him, but they never stuck. He would beg me to stay with him and reconsider, promise that things would work out in the end, and time after time I took the easy way out. I wasn't doing the right thing, but there was a part of me that liked the security of having someone and knowing that I wasn't alone. My attempts at breaking up would continue over the years and with each one I gained more control, distanced myself more, and pushed every boundary I could. Finally, I was in a relationship that looked fine on paper, but wasn't really a relationship at all.

I just hope that when he looks back on our time together, he doesn't focus on the end instead of the beginning. I feel awful that what started as young, foolish love ended in a dramatic parting of ways. I regret that I wasn't a better person. I see the ways that I took advantage of the situation. And I feel bad for both of us and the people we both dated after our story together was over. Sure, we were young, but we taught each other how to be in a relationship and - in this case - a dysfunctional relationship.

Past relationships - the baggage we bring from them, the way we're treated or learn to treat the other person - impact our future relationships. And that would be true in this case. No matter how far we go or how much we grow or what amount of therapy we get, we still carry our past relationships with us. 

I wish I could say that retrospect has taught me to be a better, more gracious partner so I never have to look back and wish I might have acted differently or treated someone better... I'm still hard on my partner. I'm often self-centered. The difference now is that I've found someone who challenges me, puts his foot down, and pulls me back when I've taken a step too far. I'm still not the ideal partner, but I've found someone who balances me.

In the end, I know I've grown and learned from my past relationships, but more importantly, I'm with the right person now. I only hope that he is, too.

In Lost Edens, author Jamie Patterson struggles to save her marriage which may or may not be already over. Keeping her attempts a secret from her family, she attempts to mold herself into the wife her husband wants her to be. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson on book club day, October 27 at From Left to Write.

5 comments:

Silicon Valley Diva said...

What a thoughtful and honest post. That is so great you have self awareness and work on your flaws, we all have them!

melanie said...

reading this made me evaluate some of my past relationships from this perspective. i'm used to blaming the other person and finding their faults. i can see how i manipulated situations in my past relationships as well. thanks for the reminder!

Emily Cullen said...

Awesome post, Lisa. I related to Jamie b/c I was always the one trying too hard. It took until I was 31 years old before I finally found someone whom I was on equal footing with and I married him.

Nicki said...

I completely understand this. Way to be brutally honest. It's often so difficult for us to admit our flaws and weaknesses. And I'm sure that you are much loved and appreciated right where you are. Glad to see you have balance.

Miss you!

Alicia said...

Well this is a switch, hearing the story from the other side, from the person who had the upper hand.

What I thought immediately when I read your post is that I hope that my ex-husband at some point in his life regretted what he put me through, what he put our children through, just as you have regrets for your part in this relationship.

No one is perfect. I know that I wasn't always the perfect partner in my marriage, but whereas your partner now makes you accountable, my partner then took advantage of my faults to instill a deeper sense of insecurity.

Thank you for this take from someone on the other side, I know it wasn't any easier to write your post than it was for me to write mine and I appreciate your honesty.