Mother’s Day is this weekend. Last night at 9 pm I was startled to hear a little knock on the door. I reluctantly turned the handle to discover my 2 youngest children at the door beaming with excitement. They spend the weekends with their father, who happens to be a full blown Narcissist. Each of my girls gripped the handle of a coffee mug that contained a flowering cactus in one hand and a chocolate bar in the other. My initial thought was, “Oh God…not more coffee mugs!” As a self-proclaimed Rae Dunn addict, my coffee cup collection runneth over. I have a mug for every occasion, every mood, and everything in between. The looks on my girls’ angelic little faces however, prevented me from discouraging their gifts in any way. These little sweethearts are 5 and 7 years old. If anyone were to ask them what their mom loves, I’d be willing to bet they would immediately and proudly tell them how much I love coffee mugs and chocolate. And they would be absolutely right. It would be devastating to discourage their thoughtfulness. I thanked them for the gifts and they were overjoyed with my reaction. On a side note, I have to reluctantly acknowledge how grateful I am for my shitty, narcissistic ex for putting down his sword and being the bigger person this Mother’s Day.

My little girls’ father and I do not get along. Co-parenting has been a challenge to say the least. Finding the right formula for a parenting schedule that allows the children to thrive has been an uphill battle for sure. Until recently, I had a LOT of resentment towards him and the abuse I withstood throughout our relationship. It’s taken years for me to recover from the deep trauma that was inflicted during the course of our 6 years together. A lot of the healing has been the direct result of understanding why I would be attracted to such a hurtful, destructive person. When I was told he was a Narcissist by our marriage and family therapist, I had never even heard that term before. The concept was completely foreign to me (or so I thought.) Yesterday, I had a groundbreaking epiphany. I finally realized what had made me so susceptible to the abuse. I was raised by a Narcissistic Mother. I had unknowingly been conditioned by mental and emotional abuse my entire life. A people pleaser to the core, I was taught that love was conditional. My childhood was not void of love, however, the love was very conditional. I was raised by damaged people, who were raised by damaged people. They taught me what they had learned: Do what you are told and be loved. Defy it, and love would be withheld. Doing good equated to being good and doing something perceived as wrong equated to being bad. In order to avoid being and feeling bad, I strived to be as perfect in my parents eyes as I could be (which is a whole other blog post in itself!)

In learning to love myself unconditionally, I have had to be forgiving of my mistakes. I have had to embrace the things I love about myself and stop condemning myself for things I dislike about myself. In order to be whole, we all need to recognize that we are human and mistakes are inevitable. Many valuable life lessons are learned through mistakes. Mistakes are not failures. Mistakes are an opportunity for growth. We only fail if we give up trying and stop growing. I’ve also learned that practicing unconditional love towards others is what will break the cycle. We have to be the example for our children. This includes loving people when we don’t feel like they deserve it. Love is not a reward and withholding love is not a punishment. REAL love is truly unconditional. This does not mean that we agree with someone’s behavior nor does it mean that we have to be tolerant of it. It just means we understand love in all it’s simplicity and depth.

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So with all that being said, as someone who is trying to break the cycle of dysfunctional parenting, I encourage all of you to evaluate your own relationships and reflect on the perception of love that you are instilling in your children. On this Mother’s Day, I encourage all of you that share a child or children with someone who has hurt you or wronged you in some way, be mindful of how important it is for your children to see a display of unconditional love towards their mother. Don’t fall into that trap of modeling conditional love to your children. Buy the gift, make the card…it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Recognize that the gift is not for the other parent, it’s for your child. It’s for their understanding of what true, unconditional love is.

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Gonna channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw for this one. My life certainly is not even remotely as glamorous as Sex and The City and let’s be real… Sex and The Suburbs doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. I’m 37 years old and the perpetually single girl. Actually I’ve been the perpetually single mom most of my adult life. Maybe that makes me a little bit of a Miranda as well (with a few shades of Samantha in between!) I’ve got 3 kids spanning nearly two decades of my life (see I told you I was little Samantha!) and I just can’t seem to get it right. I’ve been engaged a few times but can never seem to make it down the aisle to the finish line. I’m really good however at making it to the “I’m Finished” line.

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I’ve certainly had my fair share of failed relationships over the years. I just spent the last 5 minutes wracking my brain as to which one of Carrie’s failed relationships could be likened to my most recent fiasco. It suddenly dawned on me that he wasn’t one of Carrie’s lovers. He was one of Samantha’s. He was a Richard… he was a cheater. And it totally caught me by surprise. It caught everyone by surprise actually considering we just got engaged a few months ago. I think it may have even caught him by surprise. It was really dumb. I never did anything to deserve that. Not that anyone deserves to be cheated on, but I had been an exceptionally good girlfriend throughout the entire relationship. But I think the biggest surprise of all came to him when I opted out of the relationship immediately. I told him to pack his stuff and get out with a whole bunch of colorful expletives added in for emphasis.

It would have been easy to stay. Our life could have gone on uninterrupted. He was completely embedded in my life and the lives of my 3 daughters. I frequently relied on him for childcare at night. I still can’t even figure out how he had the time to invest in an affair quite honestly! I guess that’s just a testament as to how easy it is to hide an entire relationship from someone you live with. Anyhow, the thought of trying to work things out was not an option for me. I carefully and thoughtfully played it out in my head to the end. I just knew that while I could probably move forward past the infidelity with him in something that resembles a life, I would never get over it. The trust had been broken. Nothing would ever be the same for me. And if I couldn’t be the same, then I also knew it wouldn’t be the same for him. That’s not the type of person or girlfriend I would want to be in a relationship. I imagined what it would be like to live in a constant state of doubt and anxiety. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Everything would be questioned forever.

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I have had to work so hard to become the woman I am. I’d been leveled to the ground in a previous relationship in every way you could possibly imagine. I spent the last year of that relationship rebuilding myself financially just so I could leave. That’s a special kind of Hell right there. Having to live with someone you hate with every ounce of your being is a true test of strength. That’s basically relationship purgatory. It was a LONG year to say the least.

Once I left I spent the next year rebuilding my self esteem since I was basically an empty shell of a human being. A mombie if you will. I had spent so much time just taking care of my kids’ basic needs even though I was completely depressed and totally isolated. I also had to rebuild every.single.relationship. with friends and family. You would be amazed at what happens when your friends and family think your spouse is a giant piece of human garbage. I’m not saying I disagree with the popular opinion, I’m just saying…friends? What friends? Family is a little different…but not much. Not to mention bringing sexy back after having gained 40 lbs from eating my feelings for 2 years. So trust me, I wasn’t gonna take that girl, or woman I should say, even remotely for granted. She’s a badass and she’s amazing. And I know without a doubt, she deserves someone equally as amazing.

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2 days after the breakup with my “Richard” or perhaps a more fitting name would be “Dick”, I reconnected with an old flame. He was basically my Jack Berger…except he didn’t even bother to leave me a post it note when he left. He just ghosted me out of nowhere in the middle of what was still the best relationship I’ve ever had. He was sweet, funny, sarcastic, witty, super sexy and also, SUPER DAMAGED. It was soul shattering when he abandoned me. It had been 12 years since I had seen or talked to him. And as it turns out, everything I had assumed about why he ghosted me over a decade ago, was completely WRONG. The reasoning was simple…. he fell too hard, too fast and he got scared, so he ran away. As someone who just LOVES to be right, being wrong has never felt so good. I had really made peace with the end of the relationship though many years ago. When I found out he had moved on with someone else, I simply thought that I loved him so much that I just wanted him to be happy…even if it wasn’t with me. And I truly meant that as terribly cliche as it sounds. It was a revelation to learn that everything I felt during our relationship was in fact mutual. And I couldn’t have heard that at a better time in my life than after this last breakup.

I wish I could “Jack Berger” and I both rode off into the sunset separately and lived these beautifully fulfilling wonderful lives. Sadly, that was not the case. We have both suffered tremendously separately. The circumstances were very different, however many of the lessons have been the same. We have both struggled and fought to recover and rebuild. I was very fortunate that my life was not heavily affected when my recent relationship ended. “Richard aka Dick” had moved into my apartment. I had created a pretty stable life and home prior to us dating, so he was able to walk away as easily as he was able to walk in without having a significant negative impact. I’m thankful we didn’t move forward in buying a house and getting married like we had planned when I found out he was a big lying cheater. That’s the thing about divine timing (as mentioned in my previous post here)…it may not always be convenient, but it’s always completely perfect.

In case you may be wondering ” Berger” is actually still in the middle of rebuilding himself and his life after also suffering a pretty traumatic breakup. It’s really bittersweet. I don’t think we could have reconnected at a better or worse time in our lives. We are both on our own paths to self love. I’m actually a little further ahead than he is. And by a little further ahead I mean a lot. Like a REAL LOT. A shit ton actually. I’ve come to realize that it really is impossible to TRULY love someone else if we don’t truly love ourselves first. The two actually correspond in my experience. We can only love someone else as much as we love ourselves. It may closely resemble true love, but it’s going to be more of a conditioned idea of what love is versus the ultimate, true unconditional love we all deeply desire. The conditioning will be based on the love blueprint that was instilled in us by our parents and life events. Sounds heavy right? Well it can be if you grew up in an even remotely dysfunctional home. Let’s face it. Most of us were not raised by fully functioning, emotionally attuned and mentally balanced parents. So basically it’s a nice way of saying that we are all effed up on some level. Recognizing and undoing the effed upness (I just made that up, can you tell?) is part of what the journey to self love is. It’s not all of it, but it’s a big part of it.

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So today was kind of a big day for me. I got hit really hard right in the heart chakra. I came to this realization that we put so much pressure on ourselves to establish relationships with other people, especially romantic ones. We’re all running around trying to fine “THE ONE.” We often overlook the importance of establishing a healthy, happy relationship with ourselves first. So right now that’s what I’m doing…unapologetically living my best life for nobody but me. I’ve spent my whole life focusing on everyone else, trying to make everyone else happy (which is impossible by the way!) Now is my time. I spent years watching Sex and the City and taking pointers from Carrie Bradshaw. Now I’m starting to think Carrie Bradshaw could take a few pointers from me.

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