No More White Picket Fences

the dreamI like to think of myself as an open-minded, trusting person. But sometimes that can get me into trouble as I tend to be too trusting.

The problem is really one of lack of self-trust rather than misplaced trust in other people.

I thought I had the problem tackled, but then the universe sent me an old friend to remind me that it's not that simple.

If you've been following my blog, you know that I've been working my way through Christine Arylo's Madly in Love with Me. I spent May working on self-trust. Each chapter in Arylo's book begins with a self-assessment on a particular area of self-love. A month ago, my self-trust score was in the negative. But over the past month, it rose considerably to a positive number. Proud of myself, I felt I was making significant strides in this area. Then a friend challenged me to retake the test and apply it to my self-trust with men and romantic relationships.

I hate when she's right! When I re-took the test with romantic relationships in mind, my score was once again negative, as likely most of my self-love assessments would be when it comes to men.

The ironic thing is that many of my teenage friendships were with males. I had more male friends than female friends in high school and college. So why don't I love or trust myself when it comes to men? Why do my self-love muscles take a run for the border the minute I realize I am interested in a man as more than a friend?

Looking back I can see that while the quantity of my male friendships in adolescence may have been greater than the quantity of my female friendships, the quality certainly was not. Between the teenage angst and underlying sexual tension apparent in many male-female relationships, my friendships with men were very superficial. They were also more about meeting their needs than mine.

I was and until recently had always been in people-pleaser mode when it comes to my relationships with men. I thought that I needed the approval of men to be a ‘real' woman. I thought I needed a man in my life to feel whole and complete. That I was somehow flawed and unable to do things on my own. I know where this misguided belief came from: my mother.

I don't blame her. A product of the baby boomer generation, she passed on to me what she learned about male-female relationships from her parents. But the roles women played in the 50s and 60s when she grew up are vastly different than the roles played by women today.

Yet, many of my female friends still report this interesting paradox: they are ‘fine' with male coworkers and friends, but turn that relationship into a romantic one and all bets are off. The codependent gloves come out and the Modern Day Goddess turns into a Princess who thinks she needs to be saved.

For 21 years, I waited for my now ex-husband to save me, to fix me. To give me my white picket fence with all its accoutrements. He never did; he couldn’t.

But I didn’t know that. I thought he had failed. So for the past 6 months I have been unconsciously searching for my Prince. Trying to find the one man who would complete me, all the while knowing that was ludicrous – yet still harboring the dream of ‘someday my Prince will come and bring my white picket fence with him.'

While I was married, I often thought of my first high school crush. He, I thought to myself, was my Prince. If only things had worked out between us I would have had my white picket fence. But they hadn’t. I married; he married and had three children. Chance lost. Game over.

Or so I thought.

My high school crush and I have stayed in touch on and off over the years. He travels quite a bit and found himself a few hours away from my home last weekend. I decided to take a couple of days off and go see him. I envisioned catching up on old times, laughing, and having a little fun with an old friend.

He had a different vision. 25 years later, he was finally ready to be my Prince. My knight-in-shining-armor. Of course, given he’s married and has three kids, my Inner Goddess gave a big, “Nope” to that idea.

Although my weekend plans of re-connecting with an old friend didn’t exactly work out the way I wanted, I realized something: even my “Prince” wasn’t my Prince. And in the end, he didn’t want to save me; he wanted me to ‘save’ him from his failing marriage – without actually giving the marriage up, of course.

And for this, I am grateful. I wouldn’t have traded this lesson for the world. You see, I learned several valuable things last weekend:

1)      The past is your past for a reason – let it stay there

2)      There is no Prince – never was, never will be. YOU are the one you’ve been waiting for

3)      I’m glad the ‘one that got away’ got away. Otherwise, it might have been me he was cheating on and not the unfortunate woman he married

4)      Sometimes people grow and change, and sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you use your interactions with others as stepping stones for your own change and growth.

5)      I think I am even more grateful when things don’t work out as expected as when they do for that is where the opportunity to own your truth and walk in your power lies

Oh and of course:

6) White picket fences are highly overrated!

What old notions will you let go of today? I promise you'll feel lighter for it.

 

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