Anonymous: Very recently, I dated a man who was 15 years older than myself. Before this relationship, all of my past relationships involved infidelity. Going into this relationship, I let this man know that I was still working through certain aspects of my past relationships, such as the lack of respect and being cheated on.
Now at the beginning of our relationship, everything was great! But whenever we were out in public, he would stare women down and it always made me so uncomfortable and very cringeworthy. When it came down to it, I told him how I felt and how I thought that we could communicate and work through it. But instead of working through it, he broke up with me. Should I have handled this situation differently?
I am so very sorry that you aren’t writing to me about better circumstances. But I am happy that you reached out and that you are open to changing your perception of events and your experiences. And I am also sorry that you have experienced so much turmoil and upheaval in your relationships, but I am seeing a bigger problem here that isn’t being discussed. So, let’s focus on that!
In most of your relationships, your partners have shown a lack of respect towards you and your needs. Because of that, I would like to focus on an exercise that I believe can truly help you forgive, heal and move on from your experiences with your exes. But it will also change the way you view yourself and your past experiences. The exercise we are about to do is known as the mirror exercise.
It’s an exercise that I love and personally use. It’s an exercise that truly helps those that use it heal as well as get to the heart of a matter when it comes to problems. Which is why I bring it up now. I believe it could give you some insight as well as help you work through all that you are feeling and your experiences from your past relationships.
So, with that being said, let’s begin. Grab a piece of paper and something to write with. The exercise is easier whenever you can see your thoughts and reflect upon them rather than just thinking them or voicing them aloud. So, once you have your materials, write out a sentence of why you are upset.
Make sure you are very clear, concise and detailed when writing the sentence. Then make a list of ‘Who, What, Why, Where/When’. For example, if I were you, I would put one upset as:
I am upset because my partners always showed a lack of respect towards me and my needs.
The Who: My partners
The What: Upset me
The Why: Because they all showed a lack of respect towards me and my needs
The Where/When: Throughout the course of our relationships
Now once that task is done, go back to the beginning sentence, the one explaining the upset, and replace the nouns with pronouns. So, the sentence would read like this:
I am upset because I always show a lack of respect towards myself and my needs.
Now the next step, which is often the hardest, is to sit with this sentence, dig deep down within yourself and decide if it contains any truth. And this is such a great exercise because it stops us from placing the blame upon others and it makes us look within.
It makes us take a long look in the mirror and see how we weren’t nourishing our souls and loving ourselves. But also, it shows us how our thinking got us to where we are today and in the predicaments we are in today.
So, reflect on your past relationships with your significant others and the relationship you have with yourself. Do you think the bolded sentence holds any inkling of truth? It could explain why you continually chose men that disregarded your needs and your feelings.
If that particular upset doesn’t resonate with you, then another upset that you could focus on is:
I am upset because my ex-boyfriend always encroached upon my boundaries and never acknowledged my feelings.
The Who: My ex-boyfriend
The What: Upset me
The Why: Always encroached upon my boundaries and never acknowledged my feelings
The Where/When: Throughout the course of our relationship
Now, using pronouns in place of nouns, the sentence would read:
I am upset because I always encroach upon my boundaries and I never acknowledge my feelings.
Then you can, of course, sit with this sentence and see if it holds any truth. The mirror exercise is all about taking stock of ourselves, the relationship we have with ourselves and others and it sheds light on the changes that we need to make.
And once we acknowledge our role in the experience, we can heal, forgive all parties, and move on. And I do believe that you would benefit significantly from the mirror exercise and working through your experiences with all of your ex-boyfriends as well as in any other relationships that you have that have experienced upsets.
And, I know you wrote in wondering if you handled the situation correctly with your ex-boyfriend, but I think the true matter at hand is the relationship you have with yourself and why you forgo your own needs in place of others’.
Choosing to go within, do the inner work and heal will help you be able to better discern a man’s character before entering into a relationship with him. So, the next time you date someone your boundaries will be clearly defined, and you will have chosen someone who respects those boundaries just as they desire to have their own boundaries respected.
And next time, if a situation like this arises again, you will acknowledge your roll, choose yourself and say no to the demands that others may place upon you. So just chalk this entire relationship up as a learning experience because it has taught you a lot about yourself as well as how you view yourself and treat yourself. And just forget this guy and focus on going within, doing the inner-work and healing.
Now, I hope I’ve been helpful and that I have given you a lot to think about. And consider trying the mirror exercise again whenever you experience another upset. I truly hope this has helped you and has offered you some much-needed clarity and guidance and I wish you so much success and happiness on your journey of self-discovery. Wishing you the best!