I once left a relationship behind that was too broken from lies to hold together. While there was love left at the center of it, there was nothing left to hold it. I had gone into it with such trust and belief, and at first, there seemed to be every reason to believe what I was being told. It was never a leap of faith but slow, unsure steps forward into trust. When I made it there, I barely had time to rest before that trust was swept away. The lies began to show up in the cracks of the relationship, and I began to wonder if all my trust had been misplaced.
Even after I found out the truth and summarily left the relationship, I needed for him to prove to me that he was actually a good man, the one I had believed in. Each time he brought me another lie, I bought it because I needed so desperately to believe in his goodness, as if believing in it would justify my love. As if I needed to justify my love at all. I knew that the relationship was broken beyond repair, and yet I wanted him not to be. I wanted him to show me that he would do the right thing, even if everything he had shown me up to that point had proven otherwise.
That’s why I bought every lie from his lips, wanting and needing to believe them. Each time he broke yet another promise, I was broken apart just a little more. I was destroyed by my eagerness to believe that he would not continue to deceive me, that he would do the right thing because, at heart, he is a good person. I collected those broken promises like shells from the seashore. I filled my pockets with them.
And I was drowning.
I would vent to my friends about his inability to ever keep a promise. I would cry about how much it hurt to be let down again. And then I began to understand that it didn’t matter, really, that he kept telling the lies. The problem was that I was still so eager for them not to be lies at all. The problem was that I was continuing to even engage in conversations that allowed for promises to be made, then broken.
It wasn’t his fault I was drowning. It was mine.
I had to make the decision to empty my pockets of all the lies I had so willingly taken. I had to decide that as much as my heart still lifts sometimes to hear his voice that we cannot have conversations anymore. I had to commit to shoring up my own boundaries in order to prevent myself from being repeatedly hurt by promises he will inevitably make and then fail to keep.
By cutting off that cycle, I will no longer have to ride the rollercoaster of the promise, the excuses for breaking it, the repeated apologies that are only ever words and not actions, the gaslighting conversations where the broken apology is my fault, the chilling silences that follow, and then the next call that heralds the next promise to begin it all again. I can save myself the anger and tears, the recriminations and the heartbreak, and the soul-crushing disappointment that I can’t make him be the person I know that he has the potential to be. Not now. Not ever.
In cutting off that cycle, I also had to decide to stop beating myself up for feeling love for someone who would put me through this. I had to accept that we sometimes love people without qualification or explanation. There is simply no reason to it. We don’t always want it. And that love doesn’t always equate to a relationship. Sometimes it’s just a thing that we feel like we feel anything else, and to get angry at myself for feeling it is as useless as being angry at myself for feeling sad or disappointed or any other emotion that comes up in my life.
Loving someone who lets me down doesn’t say anything bad about who I am as a person. It just means that I have to stop letting the love I feel dictate the terms I set. It means I have to get smarter and stronger. I have to put up boundaries that limit the disappointment and stop the cycle, even if the love wants me to be soft and accommodating in an effort to connect just one more time. Because one more time is a cycle, too.
I also have to take a hard look at the place in me that needs to believe in someone’s potential versus their reality. We all have great potential, but we all don’t use it. There are people who will never try to be anything more than what they are, expending as little effort as possible in life and blaming everyone around them for their failings.
Then there are the people who are all about the growth mindset, learning and exploring and trying and never giving up. For some reason, I want to believe that people will switch from the former to the latter, adopting a growth mindset to make the changes that will improve their lives. To give up addictions. To choose integrity. To develop a work ethic and positive relationship with money.
But people show us who they are. They show us in what they say, but mostly they show us in what they do. How have I gotten this far in life still choosing to believe in potential over reality? How much of that is a wishful thinking philosophy because I struggle to cope with a hard truth?
When I realize that I’ve been investing in people’s potential and not their actions, I have to dial that back, too. It’s not just about accepting the love and putting boundaries in place. It’s about accepting where they are in their journey and no longer volunteering for the role as their cheerleader in life. It’s saying I see you as you are and not as I think you can be.
It’s recognizing that truth so that when they go to hand us a promise that’s as empty as their apologies, we can tell them no, thank you from a place of acceptance and peace. I see who you are, and I don’t want that empty promise rather than deceiving ourselves by believing the lie on the off-chance they’ve decided to turn over a new leaf.
The love hasn’t gone anywhere, but I’m choosing not to let it tie me up in lies. One day, he might make a promise to me that he keeps. It would be appreciated. But I don’t plan to wait around for that day. Because I’m not going to be available to listen to anymore promises. It’s time to put it all away.
I’ll accept who he is and explain who I am. And that’s a person who isn’t buying any more of the promises he’s selling. I’m going to put them down so I can walk into my future lighter and more at peace than I’ve been in a really long time.