If you’ve ever considered giving up on finding love…
Don’t give up on loving YOU. It’s not the idea of a perfect companion or frolicking through the meadows holding hands or finding a perfect dad for your future kids.
It’s just YOU.
Five years ago, I took this picture.
I’m not usually the girl who takes pictures marking an event, especially a “bad” event in my life. But I remember taking this picture. I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach. I remember feeling like I was making the decision to be different, but I didn’t know how I would do that. I remember it was the day that I truly loved myself but didn’t even know it yet.
But the journey of loving my Fierce self didn’t start five years ago. Gosh, is it ever just about ONE life event? Nope.
When I started the Fierce Motherhood Community, I wanted to create a place that that women could come together to focus on truly loving themselves. That journey is the most powerful journey, and it was the one that was the hardest for me.
It was so hard because I didn’t know HOW to truly love myself.
Growing up, I didn’t see a great example of love. My parents had traditional roles. My mom stayed at home and took care of my brother and me. My dad worked and provided. My parents argued a lot. My mom tried to keep the peace, but it never seemed to work. My dad was mean and cruel with his words. He would always leave when he got mad. He wasn’t really a dad. I don’t remember confiding in him. I don’t remember being close. I don’t remember him allowing my mom to be important. I don’t remember him ever empowering her. I don’t remember her feeling like she was in control of her own life. I can’t imagine how strong she had to be, to try to focus on her children, more than herself.
She always said, “Don’t get married, just go to school.”
We were always on eggshells. Trying to keep him happy.
I remember always wanting a friend to come over so I would know they wouldn’t argue.
We always hid that part of our life. I would later realize as an adult, that I suppressed and hid my feelings to navigate life.
Later in my childhood my dad became physically abusive to my mom and I felt it was my fault. I couldn’t stop it. I was too little. I never had another ounce of respect for him my entire life. There was nothing he could do to ever make me feel like he was a real father.
My relationship with myself and with love was deeply affected.
I had a few boyfriend’s high school. Wanting love, but not knowing how to attract it or even keep it. I had the “typically” breakups, but every time, I was left heartbroken more than the next. I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
Towards the end of college, I reconnected with a friend from high school. He was a great person. He was kind. He seemed like the kind of man I wanted. We dated for a year and then got engaged and bought a home. It seemed like the right course to take. I was an adult, out of college, employed. Next, was clearly marriage….right?
Days before the wedding, I was sitting in my living room floor making something for the table décor, thinking, I don’t want to do this. But I suppressed my feelings. It was so close to the date. That would disappoint him and everyone else, and my biggest fear was letting others down.
We got married and then he rarely came home. He was always traveling for work. It seemed OK.
The change came within me, in 2010. I started a leadership program at work. Little did I know, it was mostly coaching. I realized I had extreme anxiety issues. I began to get counseling. I grew in ways that I never thought I could. I shared for the FIRST time in my life, the things from my childhood. I cried. A lot.
At the end of that year, I wasn’t the same person. My then husband and I, weren’t on the same track anymore. As much as I tried to make it work, through marriage counseling and every idea I could think of, it didn’t fit.
In 2011, I filed for divorce. There wasn’t anything to really split. We didn’t have kids. It wasn’t hard, logistically, but it was lonely. He was able to sign everything beforehand, and I was left to go in front of the judge alone. I knew it was the right thing for both of us, but it was so lonely. I had failed.
I learned one thing. I wanted someone to grow with me. Not just grow old, but grow as a team.
After that, I still felt broken. I didn’t know how to love myself. I still didn’t know how to accept the kind of love I deserved. How could I when I didn’t know how to do it for myself?
I quickly jumped into another relationship.
It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.
For years, I kept trying to make it work. We were off and on constantly. He was going through a divorce and he had a child.
I gave everything. I helped take care of his child. I tried everything to make him love me. But I was always on eggshells, because he would leave if he got mad. Sound familiar?
I developed the worst anxiety, always trying to keep him happy. It never worked and we broke up when he eventually moved away for a year for a work project.
But when he returned, he had seemed to have changed. He convinced me and my friends. We talked about moving in together, we went to counseling to work through things. We spent so much time together, took trips, and researched schools for his daughter closer to my home.
Looking back, I remember having dreams every few weeks, that he was going to leave me. Sometimes it was a dream that he was cheating. I pushed it aside.
On a Sunday morning, I answered his phone call – assuming it was to wake me up to say good morning. We had just had a double date with friends the night before and he said he needed to get back to his house (an hour away) to pick up his daughter.
He said, “I’m with my ex-wife.” “You’re on speaker.” My heart sank.
He said, “I’ve been with her the entire time we’ve been dating.” I couldn’t even comprehend what he was saying. I asked what he meant and he replied “I’ve been living with her the entire time.” The only thing I could reply was “The entire time?” I had no clue.
The only other words I could muster were, “Please tell her how sorry I am and please tell her I had no idea.” It was true. I felt for her. I had no idea.
I was heartbroken. I sobbed for days. My friends came to check on me constantly.
The lies he told were so elaborate. The lengths he went to were so bold. Keeping groups of friends apart. Lying about where he lived. Going to schools to get brochures to show me he was considering them. Going to counseling with me. Later I would learn so many more crazy things he did to hide the truth. I felt so stupid.
But one thing happened that I could have never expected, and it changed my course.
I received a Facebook message from that woman. It said “Here is my number. You can call me if you ever want to talk. I could hear in your voice that you genuinely didn’t know.”
I called her. She told me that she found out the night before, because her family had hired a Private Investigator and finally told her the truth. She was heartbroken too.
She was kind. She was strong. She never once made me feel bad. For the next few days, she called me. She said I was the only person that understood what she felt.
After about a week, we never talked again. But she gave me something so special. When her world had also fallen apart, she was compassionate.
It lit a fire in me. She shared her strength with me.
I then took that picture above. She gave me courage, to stand in my own strength.
I went to church ever week and prayed for that strength. I began to work on loving ME. Just me.
I prayed for God to find me the right person and that I would solely trust him to do so, because I was clearly not capable.
A few months later, I met my now husband, Ryan. On Tinder. Yep, Tinder.
He’s the most supportive man. He is a great father. He grows with me as we grow individually. He loves me unconditionally.
We’ve now been married for almost 5 years. We have four beautiful kids. He’s my forever.
I never thought it would be possible to have this kind of love; To love myself more than anyone else, not strive to make someone happy over making myself happy; to just be at peace in a relationship.
It took all those experiences to be the person I am today. There were many times I had felt I wasn’t worthy. There were times I felt crazy. There were periods of time I wish I could erase from my memory, but I’m glad I didn’t.
If you are feeling like you don’t see a way out, you’re not at the end. There is so much in store for you, if you do the work; If you trust that you have the courage; and if you give up control.
It only takes one small flame, to ignite a fire in you.
My hope is that I can share the flame given to me, to someone else.