As she stood there watching the puppet show, our eyes locked. I was instantly attracted.
After what felt like the longest fifteen minutes torn between the desire to talk to her and the fear of rejection, I mustered the courage to introduce myself.
She gave me a smile, then without saying a word, walked away.
“What just happened? How can such a beautiful lady be so rude?” I stood there in disbelief, overtaken by embarrassment, pretending nothing had happened.
Two weeks later, as if by pure serendipity, a mutual friend reconnected us. That was the beginning of a relationship I could only dream of.
Oh boy, did I misjudge her! Her attractive appearance was an exact expression of the beauty of her soul.
One year and a half later, we were dating. Yes, I spent one year and half chasing after her. I guarantee a minute spent with her would convince you it was well worth my while.
They say it takes longer to build a castle than a chicken coop. One and a half years must be the foundation for a skyscraper that not even the worst storm could break.
For about a year, it felt that way. We were inseparable. Both our parents gave us their blessings. We moved in together. We even made wedding plans.
It was like a relationship out of a fairy tale. We had every reason to believe we would live happily forever after. Life without each other was inconceivable.
But there a problem… I was excessively possessive and controlling.
I couldn’t stand my girl talking to another guy. I had the passwords to all her social media accounts. Whomever she was talking to, I knew. If she had to meet a male friend, I was present.
Little by little I was withdrawing from her emotional bank account, as Stephen Covey put it. Worst of all, I was taking more than I was putting in.
As a fervent Buddhist who believes in “letting go,” she was very tolerant. That gave me plenty of room to throw tantrums, ruminate, and blow the littlest issue out of proportion.
Well, patience has its limits. After three and a half years, she had reached hers. I had emptied her emotional bank account.
It was over. She had broken up with me.
I was so clingy that I wouldn’t even accept her decision. I spent eighteen days trying every trick under the blue sky to get her back, to no avail.
How did that happen? We’d spent so much time building our relationship, cherishing and loving each other. What went wrong?
The eighteen days that followed were like a living hell. I suffered panic attacks, lost my appetite, and couldn’t sleep. Life became meaningless. I was at a breaking point.
On the eighteenth day after the breakup, when I realized she wasn’t coming back, I had a reckoning. My desperation suddenly gave way to a wave of frustration, anger, and shame.
As I was engulfed in deceit and embarrassment, I made a solemn decision to never again get rejected by a girl for being overly possessive, irrational, and intolerant.
Such a momentous decision! I didn’t know if that was even possible and how I was ever going to reach such a lofty goal.
That breakup and the three years spent self-examining taught me the big four lessons I am about to share with you.
Are you in a relationship? Does your overbearingness prevent you from spending quality time with your partner? Are you ready to make changes?
If you answered yes to all three questions, you are reading the right article. Hopefully, you won’t have to lose a partner and spend three years in self-introspection to find out you need to make changes.
First thing first, love thyself.
I know that sounds cliché, but I couldn’t find any fancier way to put it..
Enjoying the company of your partner starts with you feeling good in your own skin. I’m guessing you would agree that one cannot love if they don’t possess it.
A lack of self-love will cause you to center your entire being around the other person. And just like any host-parasite relationship, it will eventually fail. Your partner can’t let you feed off them indefinitely.
Self-love is not selfishness. Loving yourself first doesn’t mean disparaging the other to elevate yourself. It’s acknowledging and embracing yourself while selflessly attuning to your partner’s needs and whims.
Forget the “other half” mantras. Neither you nor your partner is a half, each of you possess their unique interests, weaknesses, strengths, and aspiration. It’s only when you both commit to each other, while staying true to your individuality, that genuine love happens.
If I had espoused that idea then, I would never have considered suicide when my ex left me. I had based so much of my life on her I just couldn’t find meaning outsider of her.
Learn to trust or you lose.
Trust is the pillar of every human relationship, especially romantic ones.
My lack of trust in my ex had nothing to do with her but rather with my deep sense of insecurity. I had the recurring thought that she would leave the minute she met someone better than me.
Not only did my baseless fears cause me my peace of mind, they also created a wedge in our relationship.
My trust issues caused her to lose all sense of vulnerability and safety around me. The only option she had was to confide in someone else.
To learn to trust, I had to remind myself of this simple truth: We can’t control someone’s thoughts and actions. The best we can do is to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Now, I choose to respect and trust my girlfriend unconditionally. Not only is she more willing to open up to me, I also enjoy a dramatic increase in self-esteem.
Forgive and forget.
Do you know those people who catastrophize and ruminate long after they got hurt? Well, that’s my past self!
I did this every time my ex did something that displeased me. It didn’t matter if she apologized, I would internalize it and bring it up every time we were in an argument.
For the last two years of our relationship, I made her life miserable. Imagine someone who never forgets even your most trivial mishap and uses it to attack you every time you’re wrong.
Ironically, I learned to forgive and forget during the eighteen-day period while I was trying to get her back out of desperation.
After flowers, long letters, and constant phone calls failed, I thought I could use religion to get her attention. That idea brought me to Google searching for “Buddha’s quote about forgiveness.”
I came across this wisdom by Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
As I copied and pasted the quote in a text message, I realized it was more relevant to me than her. I had an instant awakening.
Instead of sending the quote to her, I decided to internalize it and use it for myself. How many times have I burnt myself by holding to anger? That was a genuine eye opener.
When I started to remind myself of the danger anger poses to one’s mental health and peace of mind, not to mention its disastrous consequence on our relationships, I became more tolerant and accepting.
Understand that nothing is guaranteed to last forever.
I learned the hard way that no matter how well things are going between you and your partner, they may leave you at any time.
When you accept the temporal nature of everything, you can stop clinging and worrying about the future and simply enjoy what you have in the moment.
This means we must balance enjoying the company of our partner, while accepting the relationship might not last forever.
Ironically, accepting that they could leave might decrease the odds of them leaving any time soon because people feel a lot happier when they don’t feel suffocated or controlled.
Today, I understand my ex breaking up with me was a blessing in disguise.
Would I change things if I could go back in time? Not for the world! I grew more in the three years following our breakup than I had in the twenty-one years before that. Why would anyone trade that?
Exactly three years after that breakup, I got into a new a relationship that’s been going strong for almost two years now. I know when to invest in myself and when to give my girlfriend my undivided attention. I respect, trust, and give her all the affection she deserves.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t worry. I seize the day, prepare for the worst, and hope for best.
Did I reach my lofty goal to never again get rejected for being overly possessive? Geez, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. All I know is that if my girlfriend leaves me tomorrow, it won’t be because I was being intolerant, overbearing, and bossy.
About Bachir Bastien
Bachir Bastien aspires to be the sparkle that will ignite the fire of possibilities in as many people as possible. Struggles from early childhood prompted him to use his stories to empower others. He currently lives in Taiwan, where he often conducts workshops, seminars, and 121 coaching aiming at helping people build resilience, courage, and confidence. Visit him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.