This is one of the harder relationship stories to share. I felt a lot of shame, guilt, and self-hatred from engaging in this particular relationship. It was also the absolute last straw. It was the last time I called someone a “boyfriend” (don’t worry, there’s a happy ending) and it was the relationship that ended my hatred for men (ironically). It was the last time I allowed myself to be abused and the last time I was an abuser.
This story may trigger you. You may judge me or unsubscribe. I accept whatever you decide although I will feel sad losing you as a reader and community member. I needed this relationship (in fact, I created it) to show me my darkest, most hidden rooms within me. Seeing who I was in this relationship and seeing what I allowed set me on the path to self-LOVE for good.
Still So Alone
I was feeling really good in life after breaking up with my first Portland boyfriend. Business was booming. I was forging relationships with amazing women with whom I’m friends with today (this is a really big deal since I’ve had a lot of shitty female friendships full of jealousy, envy, and betrayal). I kept my promise and allowed myself to feel everything. I didn’t jump into any relationships or sex with men. I focused on my passion – coaching. I also started partner dancing regularly. I craved physical intimacy that didn’t involve sex. I wanted to be close to men and feel their energy. I started to develop platonic relationships with men (especially ones I was attracted to). It was challenging not to fuck them yet I kept my agreement with myself. I was dancing quite a bit, putting myself out there, taking risks, and sitting with my social anxiety. I was having a blast.
I thought I was fulfilled. I felt fulfilled but entering the relationship I entered showed me, in hindsight, that I was far from OK. The inner critic was still powerful in dictating my actions. It made me believe many lies about myself and from the mouth of this man. He was a profound reflection of my own self-hatred.
I met M at a party in the summer of 2016 after a year of being single. Going to the party felt like a big deal because I didn’t really know the people. I came in and was myself; I hugged everyone even folks I didn’t know. M and I struck up a conversation that lasted a while. I felt excited by him. We shared identical interests and he checked off a lot of boxes. (Those mother fucking boxes. Always about a checklist. I hadn’t learned Body Tracking yet so I was still making decisions about men from my thinking brain instead of my feeling body/intuition). In our conversation, I happened to ask the question that revealed that he was married. I felt crushed yet we kept flirting with each other. I asked if he was polyamorous since that’s pretty likely in Portland and he replied “I’m poly-curious”. I allowed that answer to give me permission to continue flirting with him. However, this set off an alarm inside me and I ignored it. A part of me knew he was bypassing the fact that he was actually unhappy in his marriage and about to cheat on his wife.
We quickly connected on social media and set up a time to go hiking. Although I asked him a lot of questions about his wife and made it clear that he needed to work things out with her, I knew that hanging out wasn’t right. I didn’t stop, though, because I was extremely attracted to him and I loved the attention (clue #1 that I was not OK and still needed validation from a man). We were quite intimate in every way except sexually. I thought since sex wasn’t involved, I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Our relationship was deepening and it was clear that he was not polyamorous and that his wife didn’t know he was pursuing me. After a few weeks, I clearly told him that the only way we could pursue a romantic connection was if he was divorced with plenty of time to grieve and process. I felt sad, yet resolved to end our connection. I told him several times in writing what I wanted. I also asked him several times whether he ever cheated on his wife before and he said “no” each time.
I was ready to forget him. He kept contacting me (boundary violation #1) being sweet and I caved. I wanted attention so badly. I wanted romance, love, sex, arousal, adoration. It had been a year since I had sex or any kind of romantic attention. I needed a fix and I needed touch. I felt extremely lonely even though I was doing stuff. I still suffered from social anxiety and felt extremely insecure.
He did, indeed, ask for a divorce (which was a long time coming and I understood that I was the catalyst) and the process was rather quick. He didn’t tell his wife about me but she knew something was up. During the process he revealed to me, after I asked him again, that he had cheated on his wife before. I felt disgusted and immediately cut him off. I was so done.
Except I wasn’t. We were in the same communities and against my inner wise woman’s voice, I listened to advice outside of me telling me that I should explore our connection. We had chemistry and love, I was told. It would be a shame not to explore it, I was told. So I decided to give him another chance with conditions. I told him he had to tell his wife about falling in love with me and he had to tell her that he had cheated on her in the past. He obliged to the first condition but not to the second and I let it go. I didn’t heed my own boundaries. I let myself down over and over again in relationship with him.
I also told him that I didn’t want to be sexual for awhile and he did not honor the request. He kept pursuing me sexually asking to penetrate me (boundary violation #2). I kept saying “no” and he kept asking. Even with all of these alarms, I said yes to sex and a relationship with him. I felt guilty a lot with him and he fed it. I didn’t know him, he was newly divorced, and I couldn’t stop giving into him; the entire time betraying myself.
(Our adventures together were super fun in the beginning. Our love of nature drew me to M. The photo above of me kayaking was a trip we took before we became romantic.)
Still in my masculine
M gave me a false sense of security. He was spiritual (so-called), loved to dance, and appeared to be communicative. I heard so many alarms: he was much older than me and in grad school. He didn’t work and relied on his wife for money (hence he wasn’t keen on divorcing or telling her about me). He was actually weak and I was overbearing. We treated each other horribly. I was extremely masculine with him and I never let him be a “man”. He never let me be a “woman”. I couldn’t relax with him. Even though I was reading all about tantra, intimacy, polarity, and attraction, it was an enormous blind spot for me. I truly had no idea how to live in my feminine. Sure, he paid for shit and planned stuff. He cooked and even cleaned (looking back that was not sexy at all. I would have preferred he listened and accepted me instead of trying to change me. Cleaning my kitchen didn’t make up for his lack of acceptance). He could be assertive sometimes but a lot of the time he wanted to talk and process. This meant that I was required to hold space for him a lot (which means I was in my masculine a lot) and listen even when I didn’t want to (clue #2 I was being a pleaser).
I would attempt to tell him my needs and desires and he would ignore me. Instead, he would say things like “a good girlfriend would listen to me” or “we’re supposed to having way more sex”. I wanted to go slow and we would fight about sex. We were together for hardly 6 months and we were fighting all the time!
I believed him. I must be a bad girlfriend, I would think. He’s right, I need to be a better listener, I would think. I need to be a better meditator so I could let go of my frustration and annoyance. Besides, why am I so frustrated all the time? Why do I want him to shut up all the time? These were the thoughts floating in my mind and I would suppress all the thoughts and feelings. It was my job to be OK. That’s what I learned. Fix it, Sophia. It’s yours, not his. Fucking fix it.
I thought I had awesome communication skills but I truly didn’t and M was quite abusive. I just didn’t realize it before I unleashed my rage onto him. Several times I blew my lid and screamed at him. After screaming at him I would go into a suicidal rage against myself. He would feed it telling me I’m abusive without taking any responsibility for his narcissism.
My rage terrified me and I believed M when he said I was abusive. Instead of ending the relationship and seeking help, I asked for his forgiveness, stayed with him, and agreed to couples therapy (again we weren’t together for even 6 months!). In the meantime I sought therapy for myself with a woman who specialized in EMDR. I knew my rage was beyond M. It was so intense. I knew it was linked to trauma. I began working with my therapist and the rage began to subside as my understanding and releasing of trauma increased. I learned about the rage and talked to M about it. He seemed to be supportive and I seemed to be OK yet the rage was still under the surface.
On a vacation together, the fighting and rage hit its pinnacle. We fought non-stop and my depression hit a dangerous low. My hatred for him was at it highest. I wanted nothing to do with him. We didn’t have sex. Upon our return, I continued therapy and stayed with him for a month and a half longer. We began couples therapy and it wasn’t helping me. It showed me how little I cared for him and how much I didn’t respect him (or myself) at all. After a fight where I said everything in my mind (it wasn’t pretty), I broke up with him for good. He attempted to shame me and later on get back together with me. I had zero interest in him or anybody anymore.
My therapist helped me see what the rage was about (childhood trauma with my parents) , she helped me release the rage with EMDR, and a few months later, I sat in a plant medicine ceremony with Ayahuasca that released the anger and rage completely. That pivotal experience is a whole other story.
How I stopped being a pleaser with men
I’m not proud of how I treated him and that he was the recipient of my rage. I’m not proud that I was the other woman while he was cheating on his wife.
Of course, anyone reading this is probably thinking “duh, of course you were fighting. Look how your relationship started and the foundation it was built upon.” All true and I was so desperate for affection, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that a rage was building inside me. It didn’t matter that I had all this knowledge about tantra, relationships, and communication. The programming and beliefs were so deep and so ingrained that I had no idea what was running the show. I thought I had made a lot of progress but this layer of shit was deep. Thank God for my therapist helping me see another deep layer of inner critic bullshit.
What I learned as a result of being in relationship with M is that the true masculine listens deeply and is a profound giver. He showed me the opposite of masculine. The true masculine respects boundaries and asks for consent always. The true masculine stands up for the feminine. I didn’t allow M to be in his masculine because, honestly, he didn’t have it in him at the time to step up. I stopped trusting him the first day I met him and I suppressed my mistrust all along. The feminine needs to trust and since I didn’t, I launched straight into my own masculine. It was a shit show.
What I realized, even though I had been teaching extensively as a coach on pleaserhood, was I was being a pleaser by not speaking up when I needed to, by not respecting my own boundaries, by suppressing my feelings and making it about my lack of discipline (not being a good meditator syndrome). If only I meditated more or breathed more. I know now that M was violating my boundaries consistently even when I spoke up. I used my voice and he didn’t hear me. That built up the rage inside me and I blew. My core wound is not being heard and feeling alone. M poured salt on those wounds often.
I’m grateful for my decades-long rage. I forgive myself for projecting it onto M or anyone else. It needed to come out and terrify me. It led me to seek help. It led me to remain vigilant so that it never comes out in an abusive way ever again. It led me to see how I was still in my masculine and choosing men who couldn’t step up. It showed me my pattern clearly and I was ready to break it. It led me to open my heart so wide as to finally see men differently. It showed me that my own projection and rage is what colored my experience of men, relationships, and my sense of belonging (which I didn’t feel back then).
My relationship with M was the last time I called a man my boyfriend (you’ll know why in the next part of the story). I broke up with him in February of 2017 and I was clearing the path for the most beautiful man of my life to enter.
In September of 2017, he appeared (of course I didn’t know it when I met him. Why would the inner critic make it easy? LOL). At exactly the same time, my love and dating coach (who is now my sister and dear friend) appeared as well. The woman I am today and the one I’ve always been truly begins here…
How are you a pleaser? Dig deep. If you are not being yourself 100% of the time, you’re a pleaser. If you are not speaking up, you’re a pleaser. If you are suppressing feelings, desires, and needs (or you don’t know what they are), you’re a pleaser. Comment below and let me know!
I love you fiercely.
P.S. if you want to stop being a pleaser once and for all, let’s talk. I dedicate 30-50 minutes just to you. Perhaps you are ready to feel good again and to release pleaser or victimhood. Perhaps you want to be close to people but you don’t know how anymore. I’m a genius at returning you safely to your body so you feel close to yourself and others again. Once I shine a light on your blocks, you can choose to let it go and feel freer, more joyful, and allow yourself to receive pleasure.