being married to me… a story about learning to love myself…

If you’re not new to A Little Bit Brave, you know that I’m all about me. I don’t say that to sound selfish, but instead to make a point – I am all about doing what is best for me, not making my decisions to please someone else.

Thanks to my time in Korea, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be and feel confident. I’ve learned to appreciate and embrace my independence. Two years ago, I decided I wanted to make a statement, so I got a tattoo to represent that I was married to me:

This was something that made me feel powerful – like I could do anything and be the woman I had always dreamed of. It doesn’t mean that I absolutely never want to get married; it just means that I know I have to love myself first.

Self Love is Real

Last fall, after showing off my tat to a new friend and talking about living a single life abroad, she emailed me a video a few days later that encapsulated a lot of what I have been trying to say all along.

So much of what Ms. McMillan states is what I’ve felt for a while now. I couldn’t relate to everything, but there was one thing that stuck out more than any other: I have to love myself first.

When I decided to get my tattoo nearly two years ago, I did it mostly because I thought I was never going to get married or be in a committed, long-term relationship again. And then something happened… My BBF, JW, and I started talking again about spending our lives together and what the next chapter will look like when I repatriate. We talked about getting married. I started to think that maybe I regretted inking up my ring finger.

I love JW with all my heart and truly believe I’ll never love another human in the way that I love him. But not long after we began having those conversations, I began to silently mourn the independence I felt was slipping through my fingers.

I felt like I was selling out.

I was letting go of everything I had grown to hold dear. Everything I had built for myself was crumbling around me. I was giving up all the confidence, freedom, and dreams I had built for myself in Korea and throwing it all away for a marriage and a future child. Part of me was dying and I was grieving.

When I told my cousins about our plans, I didn’t do so in a voice that relayed excitement. One cousin said of my explanation about my expected 2016 engagement to JW: “Doesn’t sound like you’re too sure or excited about that.” I tried to play it off like I was excited, but that there was also a lot I felt like I was giving up. It was going to be a big transition for me; a big change in my plans.

It wasn’t that JW was attempting to limit me in any way. On the contrary, I know he values and loves my independence and respects it. I know he doesn’t want to silence me (though I know sometimes he wishes I would just shut it already, Lol). I know he respects me and my opinions, even when they differ from his. He never did anything that should have made me feel the way I did, but I also knew that spending my life with him would mean letting go of many of the aspirations I had made for myself.

As more time passed, the distance was hard on us and eventually, we were right back where we always end up: it wasn’t the right time, wasn’t the right place, wasn’t the right circumstance. It hurt. Again. I was miserable being in that relationship. And with every day that passed, I felt more and more guilty about giving up on my dreams. That friend who sent me the video said, “You need to talk to him. You’re not happy and this isn’t right for you.”

It was painful, but it was right to separate from the “romantic side” of our relationship. And you know what? We’re still okay, if not closer. But it made me realize something: even if I choose to enter into a real relationship in the future – with JW or anyone – I need to remember who I married first: myself.

Relationships 101

It’s not that I think I shouldn’t put someone else’s needs before my own. I understand that’s an important part of any relationship. It’s not that I don’t want to fully love someone someday. I do want to love someone with all of my heart. But it shouldn’t hurt this much.

There is certainly sacrifice and compromise involved in any relationship. No question. But should that sacrifice and decision to compromise make one person feel as though they have lost themselves? I don’t think so. I think if you’re going to invest in someone and expect the same investment from them, you should both feel as though you’re gaining something amazing, not losing part of who you are or what you’ve hoped and dreamed for.

Relationships are messy. JW and I may have messed each other up for all of eternity, what with our on-again-off-again habits. Oddly, I don’t care so much about that. What I do care about, however, is that I never lose sight again of what I want to accomplish in life.

I think want to get married someday… Though, maybe not. I love my independence and the empowerment I feel. I love that I don’t need someone to take care of me – I can do it by myself, thankyouverymuch. I love that I am in control of my choices, my body, my path in life. It will take a lot for me to commit to someone for the rest of my life, but I’m open to it.

And yet, here’s the bottom line: I’m married to me first. No relationship should cause me so much internal anguish ever again. If it does, that just means that something’s wrong.

Getting Back to Being “Me”

Since our “official” split, I’ve changed my plans slightly. I’m still planning to go back to the Americas next year and shack up with JW in a very platonic, BFF kind of way. We will have a grand ol’ time. Probably too much fun, in fact. I don’t know how long I’ll stay. I don’t know that we’ll start the business we’ve been fantasizing about starting lately.

I think I want to live in Southeast Asia for a while, hopping from place to place. I want to see other parts of the world. I want to continue editing for Charm House, eventually full-time, and potentially start writing for myself.

Some things have changed, and some things are the same. But the most important part is that I feel alive again.

To All the Single Girls

Being single is a frame of mind and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Regardless of what you want your life to look like – with a husband, a live-in boyfriend, a child (or a few) – remember that you are valuable. What you want has value. Don’t lose sight of it. Chase after it. Don’t let anyone limit you.

You are incredible and you deserve to work toward what you want. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t let anyone ever tell you to settle. Settle for nothing. When you find someone who wants the same things you want, who empowers you to be who you are and encourages you to chase after your ambitions, who you truly can share your life with – you’ve found someone special. Don’t lose them.

Before you marry anyone, get married to yourself. You won’t regret it and I guarantee you: it will be the most important relationship you’ll ever have.

 

*This post was published partly in response to WordPress’s The Daily Post: Sentimental.

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Do you have a story about lost love or learning to love yourself? 

Share in the comments!

4 Comments

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I’m glad that you realized that plans can be changed. I didn’t realize that, and I ended up in a 5-year marriage that should never have been. I am happy to report that I did find true love after that, so you never know what the future might bring.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Dan! It seems you and your wife are very happy – I enjoy reading about the time you spend together! And yes, I’m glad to know that choosing a different direction isn’t wrong – often it’s the most “right” choice. :)

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