Day 27 of 365 Tiny Changes
If I don’t like who I am, then who will I be?
I just finished watching Surviving Picasso. It’s a movie written from the perspective of one of Picasso’s mistresses. It’s a story of her relationship with a very manipulative, narcissistic, man. It’s a story of her getting lost in him, and then fighting her way free.
I admit that I have been in relationships with men like this. None as famous as Picasso, but all with very similar personality characteristics. It’s easier than one might think to become lost in the relationship, even lost in the man. Wanting, needing, to fulfill his needs, before mine. Slowly, loosing my point of view of the world, gradually taking on his point of view as my own. All in the name of the relationship.
The first time I was young, just graduating from high school. It happened easily with him, because I had a romanticized view of what a relationship should be. I believed that it was right to loose myself in him to become one. The catch was, he never lost himself in me. He just absorbed me, and I was lost in his chaos. Not healthy for either of us.
The second time was 10 years later. I was more aware this time. This man however was the epitome of a nag. He would find a trait or a behavior in me that he didn’t like and he would nag me until I agreed to change it. They were little things, like using a wash cloth more than once.
I like to use a fresh, clean wash clothe each time I bathe. He thought this was ridiculous. Really? It’s a 9x9 inch piece of clothe. He claimed it increased his laundry loads. Interesting, since I was doing the laundry. After enduring 18 months of his nagging, I finally, calming put my foot down. I told him it was my personal hygiene and he had no right to ask me to do something that I felt was unclean. One win for me, among many, many loses.
To disentangle my self from this man, I needed to seek professional help, in the form of a therapist. Three months into therapy, he was freaking, because he couldn’t manipulate me as easily as he once had. Six months into therapy, he broke it off, because I had changed. Hurray for me!
Eventually, in both of these relationships, I realized the reflection in the mirror was no longer my own, but only a distorted version of who I once was. Similar to many of Picasso’s paintings of the women in his life. The paintings were of how he viewed his women after he had taken them into his life, not as they were when they came to him.
However, realizing I was not the person I once was, nor the person I wanted to be, was only the first step. If I didn’t want to be the person I had become, who did I want to be?
I don’t think it’s possible to break the ties of relationships like this, unless one has a clear picture of who one wants to become. Otherwise, it’s too easy, too comfortable, to stay the same, and live in the shadow of someone else.
Once a vision of who I want to become is in place, and committed to, the changes were inevitable. Do I want to have a voice of my own, with which I’m not afraid to speak my opinion? Do I want to discover and express my talents, what ever they may be? Do I want to were red lipstick and hug everyone I meet? Just who, exactly, do I want to become.
These types of changes are particularly difficult, because those around you may become uncomfortable, maybe even threatened, as manipulator number 2 was of the changes I was making. They won’t know what to expect from you, next. When others around you are uncomfortable they may try to derail you from making the changes you have decided to make.
Family and close friends are really good at this. Which seems odd, when you think about it. Your family and friends should be your biggest supporters. They have known you the longest and are your biggest fans. They only want what is best for you. Until, it affects them, in some way. When one person makes a change it forces others to make a change, even if it is only how they think of you, and this doesn’t always happen easily.
It was an effort to disentangle myself from these relationships. At first the changes I made were tentative, small, changes. But, as I got used to the changes I was making and the type of responses I was getting, I was emboldened. I became stronger and more committed to finding who I was, again.
The most important thing I discovered while dissolving these relationships. We can never step back into the past to become who we once were. Life changes us. Period. So, though I may have liked who I was before I entered into the relationship, I had become a different person. I had to decide what parts of the new me I wanted to keep and what parts I wanted to improve. Improvement is the only option, because once a trait is part of me, I can’t get rid of it, I can only improve it.
I am out of those manipulative relationships now, and the better for them. I’m stronger now, and more aware of my weaknesses. I’m better able to protect myself from these type of relationships, because I recognize them early on, and choose to stay committed to who I want to become, not who someone else wants me to become.
I’m still far from perfect, and will always be. Life is not about the road to perfection. It’s about learning, and growing, and sharing, and striving, to become a better person today, than I was yesterday. It’s about discovering what gifts I have to share with the world, and then finding a way to do it.
Tiny Change 27: Develop a clear vision of the woman I want to become, and keep that vision in the forefront of my mind, to direct the changes I choose to make in myself to become that woman.
If you are in, or ever have been in, any type of manipulative relationship, and would like to share your experience, I would like to listen.
Tiny Blessing of the Day: I am blessed to be in a strong, healthy, non-manipulative relationship with a man that I love, dearly.