Yep. I did it. I went to the other side. But only for a moment. I interrupted my summer vacation by accepting an invitation to “catch up” with someone I used to know. We hadn’t had an actual conversation since 1998, even though we’d worked together and, therefore, had been in each others’ presence more than a handful of times since then. I haven’t seen him or spoken to him in six years.
When he contacted me, I sensed he needed some advice from someone who knows who he really is, and that maybe he had something he wanted to say to me. So… I agreed to meet with him.
Apparently, a certain person in his life has been filling his head with nonsense for the past 12 years. (Yes, he has allowed this to happen.) I asked him if he wanted to hear the truth. He said yes.
As gently as possible, I shared with him that he had become someone I didn’t recognize; that I could see the influences she’d had on him and always thought it was very sad (and scary). I explained that he was no longer the person I knew, and it bothered me. “You were fine just as you were. The moment you started changing to be what someone else wanted you to be… is when you lost yourself. To be honest, I’m glad you’re moving away from her.”
“She was very controlling,” he admitted. “Nothing I ever did was good enough or right. I had to do everything her way.”
“I know,” I told him. “I saw that quality in her 12 years ago when you married her — and everything I knew of her was based on one photograph. The influence she had over you was immediate and obvious. But… that’s all you wanted back then — someone to tell you what to do and how to do it. You jumped into that relationship as if any random person could fill that space in your life. (And so, any random person did.) You handed yourself over to her because you thought you needed to belong to somebody. What you really needed to do was figure out why you felt that way.
“And, by the way,” I continued to regale him with my impromptu wisdom of the ages, “your need to be controlled is just another control issue — your own. It’s your way of not having to take blame or responsibility for your actions. By forcing your weakness on another person (making them/allowing them to deal with it), you get them to do what you want them to do: ‘Control me’. In return, you get to point your finger at them and say: ‘She made me do it’. So you both actually did get what you wanted out of your relationship, but in the most unhealthy way. I’m sure there was love between you two (if you say so), but… on the most basic level, you’ve just been using each other. You need to break that pattern.”
He listened pretty well… I think. He said my insights were “interesting”, because it was the exact opposite of what several other people have been telling him recently. But, to me, it was all merely common sense.
I think he has gotten so used to (and accepting of) being told he’s doing everything wrong that he’s forgotten that all he needs to be in life is himself… and that anyone who doesn’t like who he is or isn’t happy with something he does, is just projecting their own insecurities and perceptions and needs on him.
"We lose a lot in judgments Mostly people. . . But especially ourselves. . . Love is out of context It has to be. . . It's when we stop comparing that we love." -Merrit Malloy
I made up a mantra for him and asked him to repeat it to me a few times for good measure: “What is wrong with me? Absolutely nothing!”
I suggested he repeat it to himself every time someone (including me) says something subjective to him, so he can weigh it objectively, without the influence of the moment making him feel obligated to interpret it as the other person thinks it should be interpreted: “If someone asks you to do something or says something about you that your mind and/or heart is not comfortable with, ask yourself why… and decide if it really is YOU who is in the wrong… or if it’s actually the THING someone wants you to do or be that is wrong for you. Then respond accordingly.”
Three seconds later, he asked me what kind of person I thought he should be looking to marry in the future (so soon???) — if it should be someone who isn’t like him at all (so he can learn) or someone who is totally like him (so they won’t ever disagree). After nearly banging my head against the table, I just shook it at him incredulously.
I’m not sure if even my verbal response was clear enough… but what I meant was: “Take time to stand alone; to be on your own. Love yourself as is. Once you do that, all the love you desire will find you. And you won’t be questioning it. And neither will anyone else. It will just… be.”
Then he asked, “So, do you see yourself with anyone in the future?”
I hesitated, not wanting to reveal anything too personal.
By then, it was time for me to go… (oh, my… look at the time!)… so we walked out together. He hugged me quickly, but warmly… kissed me on the cheek and walked away smiling.
It actually turned out to be a good chat. We talked about a variety of subjects (quickly) and, ultimately, I was proud of him for having the courage to take a step that I, too, am taking to change my life for the better. I also had a chance to say a lot to him that I had never said. (Whys and wherefores about past events.)
And now I never have to think of any of those things ever again.