Ex-Girlfriend: “You are much nicer than I remember; I like how you’ve changed.”
Ex-Boyfriend: “Thank you, I like the changes I see in you too. You seem happier.”
Ex-Girlfriend: “Yes, I am. What else do you see different in me?”
Ex-Boyfriend: “You have… a Presence.”
More often than not, a woman hates it when an ex-boyfriend…or even a current boyfriend sometimes, is right about something. But in this case, the conversation above was exactly something I needed to hear from this person. Because truth be told, he was right.
Have you ever been in the same room with someone you loved and felt like you weren’t even there? It was a pretty painful experience for me. There were many times when I didn’t even get a hello. I tried to work it out with him. But eventually in the end, the calls stopped and in public, I would be surprised if I got a kiss hello or a hug. So, like repeated punches to the stomach, the emotional knot that developed inside me just wouldn’t release until I finally let go. But before I did, I just wanted to crawl somewhere and disappear whenever he ignored me, especially if it happened when we were in the same room with people who knew we were together. We didn’t even have to have an argument for this to happen. Affection, tickles, cuddling, holding hands…these simple acts of intimacy couples often take for granted. But when it goes missing, you realize just how much it means.
To be fair, this kind of treatment was the result of one those frustrating relationships many people have at some point in their lives. It see-sawed high and low and circled back around on-and-off for almost three years. There were a few sweet lulls of love and happiness during that time, but I pretty much exhausted myself trying to make things work. As time went on, he got bored with me it seemed, so he noticed me less and less. After a while, I got sick of trying so hard to get noticed, so I finally ended it. It shouldn’t have been so hard to be seen in the first place.
But there’s a silver lining to an ending sometimes. And it’s been over five years since we broke up, so the lining shines a little brighter for me now. Much has changed about how I treat myself. Simply put, I love and respect myself more, so I demand higher expectations from myself as well as from others. I’ve become pretty unwavering about this over the years too, because I feel I deserve to be loved just as much as anyone else. If you love and respect me, I’ll return it in spades. But if you don’t, well…there’s the door. So, I guess it seems natural, that my ex would notice a difference in me too. It was like I was a new person to him, because in essence really, I am.
As time passes we can learn quite a bit from our romantic relationships. It’s not always clear to us at first when things end, but in time, that foggy cloud of love and anger can clear up and you see what may have caused the problem. Sometimes it can be the simplest thing as mine was. It boiled down to respect and more self-love… which in turn, could be transferred to others and also back to me. It didn’t matter what I looked like, who I was with in the past and who I will be in the future, how much weight I gain or lose, what I was doing at work or with family, respect needed to take precedence for me, no matter what.
Demanding respect doesn’t always have to be done through words, though sometimes it does. But around 65 percent of communication is non-verbal, and sometimes, the simplest action can set people on the right course. A few months after I started dating my current boyfriend, we were having a peaceful intellectual conversation. But at one point, he didn’t like that I disagreed and inappropriately raised his voice loudly in retaliation, thinking I would cower away. I remember immediately stopping in my tracks. He kept on walking until he realized I was no longer next to him. When he turned and saw the look on my face, he realized the mistake he had made. He also knew that if he didn’t do something soon, I would simply turn around and head home. Fortunately, he walked right back to me, apologized for raising his voice and kissed me. I told him not to do it again and accepted his apology. And just to repeat that, I told him, not asked him. He took my hand after that and more than four years later, he still has it. I realize that some incidents aren’t as peacefully resolved. But more often than not, it’s easier to demand respect than you think, especially if you demand it in the beginning of a relationship and refuse to waver from it.
If someone cares for you, I think they’ll eventually try to understand your needs, even if it doesn’t work out. And when we can understand each other, it’s pretty rewarding. It may not happen right away, but if you stand firm and have patience, it will. And what I’ve also learned so far, is that if they cared for you at all in the past, they may realize what was missing too and apologize for it later. I am lucky enough to say that I was able to get the apology I wanted from my ex-boyfriend, and I accepted that one too.
Like many women I know, it’s sometimes easier for us to treat a man like a god than it is to treat oneself like a goddess. A major problem with my last relationship was that I needed to love and respect myself just as much, if not more-so than him. And now I do. I am fortunate enough to be able to say that I learned my lesson and got out of that situation before I really did disappear behind a self-created curtain of shame. I am also fortunate that my demand for respect has taken me farther in life and I am happier because of it. My ex-boyfriend seemed to gain some insight too, which I believe has made his relationships better as well.
So I am here now body, mind and spirit…and I will no longer be invisible by choice. Because I love me. I respect me. And I will always have a presence.
This post was written by Gina Pujols