Have you ever felt like you had to deny your own, personal truth in order to have love?
Perhaps you pretended that you were into outdoorsy activities, because the person you were dating loved to camp; when truthfully, the thought of sleeping on the cold, hard ground made you shudder. Or you pretended to love kids because your girlfriend cooed over her nephews and nieces, but secretly you knew you weren’t interested in starting a family. You just didn’t want to disappoint the person you loved.
When I was 44 and dating a man named Ed, I came to a crossroads in our relationship where I had to truly be honest with both of us. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.
Sometimes, the truth is the last thing we want to hear, even when we’re admitting it to no one other than ourselves.
We had been together for about eight months when Ed began to back off. The cards, the flowers, the fabulous visions he spun for our future cropped up less frequently and eventually, not at all. More and more, I began noticing that even when we were together, Ed didn’t seem as present. When talking, I had to repeat myself frequently, when at one point, he would hang on my every word.
I surmised that what Ed really wanted was a part-time girlfriend. He wasn’t ready for anything more, because he had just ended one marriage and didn’t want to fail again. But I wanted a committed relationship. I wanted to blend our families and build a life together. I loved Ed and couldn’t help plan our future together in my mind, even if he was avoiding the subject.
I sensed that the time had come for me to stand in the truth of what I wanted, even if that meant that I had to end the relationship. I was scared.
Fear makes discerning the truth more difficult. At first, I looked for reasons to continue the course we were on and not rock the boat. I told myself that at 44, I wouldn’t meet someone else if I lost Ed. I began to think fatalistic thoughts, with fear getting the best of me. What if I never met anyone else? What if I spent the rest of my life without a mate? Could that actually happen to me?
But the truth was that I needed to honor myself. I couldn’t continue the relationship, pretending that I was fine being a part-time girlfriend. I didn’t want to go on feeling like a doormat. I was not a woman who was willing to wait an eternity for someone else to decide that he might want what I want … someday.
Staying in a relationship that wasn’t building the future I wanted — a life together — denied my truth. If I continued to deny my truth, would I eventually become bitter, resentful and jaded? Pretending I was OK with just a casual relationship going nowhere was equivalent to living a lie.
Furthermore, the most important relationship I needed at the time was the one I had with myself.
So I mustered up the courage to tell Ed what was in my heart. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be a part-time girlfriend to you when I deeply want so much more. I want to spend the rest of my life loving you and to bring our families together. This ‘part-time’ status is not, and never will be, fulfilling for me. I need to let you go.”
The month following our break-up was torturous and lonely. I dialed Ed’s number so many times in my head that I’m surprised the phone didn’t actually ring on his end. Increasingly, though, I had a sense of inner security knowing that I stayed true to myself and spoke my truth, no matter if it was breaking my heart.
After a while, Ed called me. He had time to think things through, and he decided that what he really wanted was me. Six weeks later, he proposed.
Without the demand or pressure for a commitment, Ed was able to more clearly discern his own truth. It could have gone either way. For some facing this crossroads, it means the end of a relationship. For others of us, it means an opportunity to come closer together, as it did for Ed and me. Regardless of the outcome, we fool ourselves by thinking we can find genuine fulfillment if we’re less than honest.
I have known many people who have faced this same challenge. In every situation in which half of a couple has sublimated their needs, compromising the truth of what they wanted in order to hold on to the other person — the relationship ultimately fell apart.
What is your truth? What do you need in order to genuinely be happy and fulfilled? What is the one thing you’re not willing to compromise for your future? Have the courage to speak your truth.
Even if it means risking everything. Even if it means having your heart broken. You never know, it might just bring you closer.