Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Red flags, Stop signs, and Learning the hard way.

I've talked about listening to your heart and tuning into your spirit a couple times so far.  Just as doing so will guide you in the right direction, it will lead you away from the wrong direction.

Seems obvious, right?  That is, if you listen. 

When we meet people or enter into a situation, we get a certain feeling.  Sometimes it's good -- all systems go, full speed ahead -- sometimes it's bad -- Stop NOW! -- and sometimes it's not so clear either way.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) life seems to be mostly the last one of the three.  But isn't that what makes it so darn exciting?!

When you encounter a stop sign, it's pretty clear.  There is something about that person or situation that you know, without a doubt, is not for you.  You have no trouble steering clear and staying away.  Turning around.  It's one of your "deal-breakers." 

When you encounter a red flag, however, it's not so cut-and-dry.  It's something that gives you pause.  Makes you question, even if ever so slightly.  Something that's not quite right but may not be the worst thing in the world either.  You can either treat it the same as a stop sign and turn around or choose a different path right away.  Or you can proceed with caution.  If you proceed, that red flag will always be in the back of your mind, though, and is likely to pop up, often with some of its friends, at a later date. 

This is what happened for me.  Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, but I was seeing perfectly clear and went ahead anyway.  Sometimes we just have to learn the hard way.     

There were a few things I knew relatively quickly upon meeting my boyfriend that weren't my "ideal circumstances."  But none were that bad, and certainly none were outright deal-breakers.  I liked him, I felt a connection with him, and I wanted a relationship, so I proceeded ahead. 

As time went on, sure enough, those little red flags flapped stronger.  But there was one pivotal point in the relationship.  The point I can look back now and say that is the moment, above all others, that shaped the future of the relationship. 

We were out to lunch one day, about two months into our dating.  He informs me that his ex-wife, who had moved out of their house when they separated and gotten her own apartment, wanted to move back into the house.  She wanted him to move into a rental house she owned, which was about twice the distance from me.  (Granted, I don't know that I played a factor in her wanting him to move there, but it may just well have.  Either way, I saw it as a control issue.)   

I was immediately threatened.  I was in this new (mostly great) relationship and did not want him moving twice as far away.  What was already a 20-30 minute drive threatened to be a 45-60 minute one.  So what did I do?  "Why don't you move in with me?" I said.

I acted out of fear.  Mistake #1 in the game of life. 

Yes, I was in love with this person.  And yes, I believed he loved me (he later told me he did).  And yes, our relationship had progressed rather quickly due to a few things (we actually went to high school together, so we knew who each other was before meeting as adults, it's not like we were complete strangers).  But would I have suggested we move into together so soon?  No.  That was a completely fear-based action on my part. 

It's easy to look back now and say, "If we hadn't moved in together so quickly, such and such would never have happened."  That may be true.  Sometimes I feel like we would have broken up a long time ago had we not been living together, thereby making breaking up much more difficult.  But other times I feel like we may still be together if we remained living apart.  Who knows.

Instead of analyzing every possible outcome, from past actions that weren't taken, I've decided to just let it go.  Give it to the Universe.  What happened, happened.  I learned some valuable lessons about myself and about relationships.  I learned more about what I will and will not accept in regards to actions from a person I'm dating. 

My most important life lesson:  Act out of LOVE, not fear! 

And my #2 lesson:  Don't ignore red flags.  They won't go away.  When they start multiplying, take it for what it is:  A stop sign.  Stop and look at what you're doing.  Look where you are.  Is this you?  Is this really what you want?  Listen to that inner voice!  I know oftentimes we don't want to know what we know.  That was certainly true for me.  I had to learn the hard way.  Sometimes we all do.  But the key word there is learn

I believe as long as we learn and grow, the experience was worth it. 

I learned more about who I am thanks to this relationship and the choices I made.  I'm more me today than I was two years ago.  Parts of myself that weren't clear before, are now.  I choose to be grateful for that. 

So right now I feel a mixture of sadness and joy.  Sadness over the ending of a relationship that was good in a lot of ways.  Sadness over hurting someone I love.  And joy for the future ahead.  Joy for speaking up and voicing how I feel, instead of keeping it locked inside (like I've done too many times in the past). 

I may have made some poor choices in the past.  I acted out of fear, as I often do in relationships.  But I learned from it.  And I am taking actions now out of love.  Love and respect for myself and what I need. 

Yes, I feel badly about hurting my boyfriend (he didn't see the break-up coming).  But the alternative, as I see it, was to push my feelings down or ignore them completely, for his happiness.  That's not good either. 

He'll be fine.  I know that.  If a relationship isn't good for one person, it's not good for either person, it's just that the other person may not see it or want to accept it yet.  In order to have a healthy, happy relationship, both people need to be living in love.  Love not just for the other person, but love for themselves as well. 

Be true to you.  It doesn't mean you won't make poor choices from time to time, but when you do, you can always do something about it.  When you're ready.  When you've learned what you needed to learn.  When you're strong enough and brave enough to make a new choice and take a new path! 

Quotes of the Day:

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship." (Louisa May Alcott)

"Each challenge adds to the suspense, adds to the mystery, adds to the chaos, adds to the possibilities, adds to the romance, adds to the adventure, adds to the joy.  And I say anything that adds to the joy should be embraced.  There's nothing challenging that has ever happened in your life that one day you won't look back upon with deep gratitude."  (tut.com)

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