Monday, April 16, 2012

does he dim your light?

Lately I've found myself in conversations with some close friends that are going through tough breakups. Their relationships are ending, some that have lasted for years, and it has me thinking about my own past relationships and why they may have ended.

For being so young, I think I've experienced a fair amount of serious, substantial relationships with some really great guys. I have to be completely honest with you guys, I've kind of been boy crazy since I was little. I found out what a boyfriend was in Kindergarten when the dashing JP Stevens (yep, I name names) gave me a piggyback ride during PE and I didn't have to walk from the basketball court to the monkey bars. Not a bad gig, I thought, and the rest is history.

I'm what you would call a "serial relationshipper," and while this type of woman often gets criticized for being weak or dependent, I maintain quite staunchly that there is nothing wrong with finding yourself in relationships more often than being single, if of course you ARE confident in your independence and you have a strong sense of self. Now, I certainly agree that maintaining that sense of self while always in a relationship can be challenging, but what can I say, I like a challenge. I enjoy being a partner with someone and I thrive off of situations where I have to constantly improve myself while improving with someone. Anyway, this post isn't about my psychological justifications for having serial boyfriends (though you better BELIEVE that topic will find its way back around... I'm a sucker for a great self-psychoanalysis), it's more about what I've learned from being that way.

Ask any of my friends what my "type" is and they will undoubtedly laugh at you. Why? Because I have literally run the gamut. My ex-boyfriends are a cast of characters that could literally fit the bill for a hilarious reality TV show. The free-spirited surfer, the goofy go-getter, the cultured musician, the sarcastic law student...(picked to live in a house, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being real. Yeah you know how it goes...) But honestly each one of them has represented a different side of me and appealed to me for that very reason. Some of those relationships were healthy and ended because it was time to move on, and others were volatile or simply inhibitive to my own personal growth. With each relationship (all of them lasting close to a year, some a bit longer) I did my best to take what was good and right and positive about each dynamic and keep searching for that. All that wasn't good and right and positive I made myself aware of and promised to never settle for that again. I told myself that that is how I'd arrive at the perfect person for me (not to be confused with literally the perfect person, which does not exist.)

Two of these friends that are in the midst of ending these relationships have said very similar things to me, and it just happens to be one of the most important, if not THE most important, thing that I have learned in this process of scrutinizing my relationships. They both said to me in similar words - "Now that things have ended, I realize that he dimmed my light."

Back when I was dating one of the previously mentioned cast members, I hit a point a few months into our relationship where things didn't feel right. There were a million positive things about this particular relationship but as time went on I had this nagging feeling that wouldn't go away. He was a quieter guy, but I always loved that about our dynamic because I thought we were great complements to each other (in no scenario or situation have I ever been considered "quiet.") But as time went on, my upbeat, outgoing nature started to create tension between us. When we were around friends I always seemed just a little too boisterous for him. I laughed a little too hard, I enjoyed talking to strangers (abstaining from any candy they offered of course), I didn't mind it when the spotlight turned to us in conversation. These things made him incredibly uncomfortable though.

I really think you overdid it a bit, tonight... he'd say. Overdid what? I thought. I was just being myself. 

And that's when I should have known. Looking back after things were over, I thought of so many situations when I held back, bit my tongue, or filtered my personality so that I didn't make him feel uncomfortable. Over time I began to believe that there was something wrong with my personality and my humor, and those words would creep in and take hold. Eventually it started to feel like I had this weight all over me - like I was tethered to the ground. I couldn't play or laugh or tell stories at dinner without feeling judged.

When I finally ended it, I didn't really know why it had to end. I just trusted that it didn't feel right, and I wanted a future for myself that did feel right. A future relationship where I felt lighter and more... me. (Sometimes that really is all you have to go on, and I firmly believe in matters of the heart trusting your gut is the only way to be truly happy.) Then, as I was explaining things to a friend a few weeks later (as you inevitably have to do if you're a girl going through a breakup - retelling the details to each separate girlfriend, fielding questions, making official statements... it's like a heart-breaking media tour), I had an epiphany and the words just came curiously out of my mouth: "He dimmed my light."

It really is as simple as that.

He made me feel guilty and ashamed for having a bright and commanding light. Not on purpose and not maliciously in any way - he was a great guy. But still, living life as a grayer version of yourself is no way to live. I am so incredibly blessed to have learned that lesson because I carry it with me in every facet of my life. I was also glad to hear my friends say the same exact thing because it is an important thing for any woman (or anyone, in fact) to remember.

Take the things that you love and appreciate about yourself, and choose people/jobs/lives that allow you to be those things unapologetically.

Don't ever let anyone or anything dim your light.


  1. love this. Completely agree too! I've had a few "light dimmers" in my day and for the first time now, I'm with the most perfect man who let's me be my... shining self. Cheesy but true... and it feels awesome! 

  2. thank you for putting it in to such great words!!! I never thought of it like this before but I am so grateful for how you put it!!!! still have not found the one who keeps my light lit but glad learn from the other dimmers as you put it as it now make more since!!! you rock!!!!

  3. Thanks for reading, Cindy and glad you like the post!

  4. Isn't it the best when you do finally find someone that let's you be completely yourself? For me it was eye-opening to realize just how much of myself I was bending to others' wills. Glad you found someone that let's you shine!

  5. Caroline, this is so great :)

  6. Thanks, Ash! And thanks for reading!!!