Set Boundaries, Get Dumped

I just got dumped and I feel pretty good about it.

I set boundaries for the first time in my life. I just had the healthiest relationship with Mr. Outdoorsy Tech that I’ve ever had; at least it was from my perspective. According to my trusted mental health professional, I was brought up with no boundaries by two alcoholic parents. I had no boundaries in my marriage, as I was constantly trying to control and manage my addict/alcoholic husband.

I was always upset with my friends if they didn’t do the right thing, or say the words I needed to hear, or call me just when I needed them to (even though I wouldn’t ask for help, I guess I expected mind reading?).

But this past year has been different. I’ve started to count my blessings, and nurture my own self, and use my Higher Power to fill the needy, empty hole that, for so many years, I used love relationships to fill.

And it’s working. I’m not afraid of being alone anymore. Well, not deathly afraid, anyway.

I think I was a pretty cool girlfriend to Mr. Outdoorsy Tech: we had weekly date nights on our mutual night “off” that we spent together, we spent every other weekend together when we didn’t have our children, and I saw him on weeknights after the kids went to bed, even when I didn’t necessarily want to. I tried some of his more adventurous hobbies and genuinely enjoyed myself, even when I was out of my comfort zone. Yet he still left accusing me of not compromising. I set boundaries, and he didn’t like them. I planned a special night for his birthday recently, I surprised him with a special Christmas present, and I talked to him every night. I made myself available and vulnerable in so many ways.

Here is what he complained about: I took things more slowly than he wanted to. I did not introduce him to my family and friends, as we’d only been dating three months and we were both still legally married. I wanted to take it slow and not disrupt my children’s lives too much. He felt like a “secret boyfriend.”

I had a high fever last weekend and needed to sleep alone to sweat it out; he was really hurt that I didn’t let him stay.

I didn’t make him feel special enough, he said, although I’m not sure how I would’ve done that. Ten years ago I would’ve fawned over him and lost myself trying to please him; I’m not that girl anymore. I listened to him talk about his feelings for three hours last night, but still he did not hear the words he needed to hear. He grilled me for an hour on what I meant by one line in one email; I finally told him I was done talking about it. I was starting to feel bullied.

No one can make you feel special but you. That’s what I’ve learned this year.

I was complimentary to him, told him I cared about him very much, and listened as best I could. Still, it was not enough.

I know what that feels like. To be so needy and confused and constantly hurt. I used to be that one in a relationship.

But I’m not anymore.

I need to be with someone who can respect and honor my boundaries, not try to trample all over them and then accuse me of “not compromising.”

I set boundaries and held to them. No one can break those down again. I’m learning where I begin and end, and that my lover is a separate entity. I am not responsible for taking care of anyone else’s feelings. I can listen, yes, and have empathy, but I handed his insecurities, and petty complaints, and lingering issues from his dissolving marriage right back to him on a platter with kindness, patience, and resolve. He did not like that. He was harping on me for not responding to his email in a particular way; I looked him in the eye and said, “If that’s something you need, a specific word or phrasing, you need to tell me that. I’m not a mind reader.” He didn’t like that! He accused me of putting it back on him.

I spent years, decades of my life even, interpreting people’s words and actions in a way that often left me feeling hurt, angry, and resentful. I obsessed about what he/she really meant by a particular word and anguished over what someone did or didn’t say. I dare say I drove people nuts. I don’t do that anymore. I hear the words that are said. If I don’t like them, I have choices. But mostly I accept what I hear as truth. Watching someone else engage in obsessive codependent thinking, like Mr. Outdoorsy Tech seems to, is so painful. And so very tiring. It’s like watching myself on VHS fifteen years ago. Or even fifteen months ago.

But I didn’t fight him, or try to fix him, or even defend or correct him much. I accept that he and I are at spectacularly different places in our journeys. He is a good guy and I wished him luck. I thanked him for a wonderful time.

I’ve never felt so good after a breakup.

I’m not afraid of being alone. But now I will have to find something to do on date night.