Relationships. What a complex word when I think about all the people that have come and gone through my life, and how each one has shaped me. It all starts with who raises you. Your parents, grandparents, your siblings, and close family. As we grow and branch out into the world, we are also shaped by our teachers, our friends, friends that weren’t really our friends, and yes, the many things we’ve learned from the boyfriends along the way. I’ve given so much of myself to relationships that didn’t serve me, and I’ve also been on the other side of that spectrum. Being selfish with my time, not thinking of the other person and their feelings, and not communicating because it was easier just to walk away and not deal with it. I have my regrets on how I’ve handled myself in some relationships, but I know one thing. I’ve learned from them. Every single one. I wouldn’t be the wife, daughter, sister, friend and mother that I am now if I had done everything perfectly.
Before I dated my husband, I was in a very weird place. I wanted so badly to find “the one” and to just be in love, but everywhere I was searching I fell short. I spent years searching outside of myself for my happiness and at that particular time in my life, I’d never felt so sad and so insecure. I was unhappy with my career, obsessed with my body image, and I knew the “right” boyfriend would distract me from my woes. I wanted a cure, but even I knew the truth. I needed to do the one thing we always never want to do. I needed to work on my relationship with … you guessed it … myself.
We hear this all the time: you need to be whole with yourself before you can give wholeheartedly to others. But, could you honestly be so well with yourself that you could live on an island all alone in constant bliss? Of course not, because we NEED each other. Leaning on one other is what relationships were designed for. They’re essential for our own growth. With that said, we all have our stuff, and we know deep down the gunk that needs attention before we can truly be happy in life. For me, my gunk was figuring out why I was pushing myself to write country songs as a career when I didn’t really enjoy it. I hated it actually. It was understanding why I thought reaching a certain body weight was going to make me confident again. And the ugliest truth, why I was dating a guy who adored me so much, and I felt absolutely no connection with him. Was I using him to build me up because I didn’t know how to build up my own self? I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, that’s exactly what I was doing. I told you, ugly truth. But I’m willing to call myself out on that one because this is about relationships, and how we learn from them isn’t always pretty.
During this time that I like to call my dark days (you should see the journal entries…I don’t even know who that person is), my now husband was one of my closest friends. He listened as I cried to him about how lost I was, how gross I felt, and how confused I was. He was always there for me. A true friend, an incredible listener. He didn’t just throw nice words at me to try and make me feel better about myself. He helped me navigate my feelings and encouraged me to help myself. Soon I was in love with yoga, in the most spiritual place I’d ever been, and starting a blog for fun. Little by little I felt lighter in my heart and kinder to myself. I got there by honest talks with him, and honest conversations with myself. I’d never met someone who knew how to communicate so well and, for the first time in my life, found myself communicating well back. This was my ah-ha moment. As I spent that time focusing on my own growth, I was in a loving, open, honest, and conscious relationship with someone and I didn’t even know it.
Every time I look back at this time of my own evolution, the tears well up. I don’t know who I would be, or who I would be with, without that sacred time in my life searching within. To this day, the goal in my romantic relationship isn’t happiness. The moment we start to put that kind of pressure on our partner and ourselves is when it feels like it could all start to crumble. Instead, I think we should focus on growth. Growth as individuals, and growth together as a partnership and team. Having a child together catapulted us to that next level of growth almost overnight. Once our sweet baby came home, I found myself so overwhelmed trying to balance my new life as a mom and my husband was put way far on the back burner. I don’t think this is totally uncommon. But thankfully, he was so patient with me and my roller coaster of emotions. I know I took that for granted at the time. It’s so easy to become laser focused on being the parent you expect yourself to be, but I was still a wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, and friend. These are all people I spent time with on a regular basis my entire life. Not to mention I still had a responsibility to my job, my creative endeavors, my home, keeping a normal routine for my pup, a clean house, laundry, and preparing meals. It’s A LOT. There were days I’d completely melt down because I just couldn’t do it all and that’s where the fear would creep in. Would I slowly lose touch with the people I cared so much about because I no longer had the time? But something different happened. All of my relationships changed for the better. Maybe I didn’t see my friends as often, but when I did, I appreciated that time with them so much more. Because time became so precious, I learned the true meaning of quality time. I was also doing less people pleasing and learning how to say no. I’ve always struggled with that one. I learned that some relationships drift and change too, and that’s ok. Just because someone is not in our same season of life, doesn’t mean they don’t love and care about us. Accepting that can be huge. Everything in life ebbs and flows and we have to remember that applies to relationships too.
Learning how to navigate this new mom life was and still is a challenge. So, to all the new mamas out there trying to find your balance again, remember this when you feel like you’re losing touch … for those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter. Your plate is FULL, and the people who love you understand. You will find your rhythm again and your life and relationships will be even richer than they were before. That is a promise.
I still have many moments of madness when I desperately need a shower, and my home resembles some weird combination of a day care and a filthy frat house. It stresses me out. Bad. But, I continuously have to remind myself that it’s all going to be ok, and we don’t have to be perfect at everything. As long as we are being present and consciously putting love into everything we do, I say that is a successful day.
So I’ll finish by saying some insecurities need constant work and attention, and some we thankfully grow out of. Taking the time to reflect on what’s keeping us on our hamster wheel, abandoning the thought that someone else will save us, and truly craving growth, is what leads us to healthier relationships with ourselves, and all the other people who enter our lives. And, there will be times we can’t always figure it out on our own. It’s ok to lean on the people we love. They will lean on us too. It’s how we all contribute to one another and why relationships are essential to life, and to our emotional and spiritual development. Giving love and receiving love is what we are here for. Let’s just remember to give a little bit of that love back to ourselves sometimes.
Erica is a singer-songwriter turned clinical aesthetician, mama, and lifestyle blogger. Her goal in life is to help build people up, make them feel beautiful and worthy from the inside out, and to raise kind and creative little humans. She enjoys being outside as much as possible, thrifting, decorating, watercolor, writing, travel, and making music with her husband.
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