Lesson in Love: fear and expectations kill the cupid
We’ve all found ourselves in a situation that we know isn’t right for us, but for one reason or another, we resist change. Our innate knowing of what is best taps patiently at the door of our stubborn minds, but sometimes we are so intent on a certain desired outcome, that we refuse to hear the knocking and continue to push, force, and turn round and round in a negative situation for weeks, months, years…lifetimes?
I’m going way out on a limb here, as I’ve never talked about my love life on the blog before, but I’ve decided to share my recent experience because it was such an enormously growth-producing event for me and with hope that my doing so might comfort/encourage others dealing with something similar.
So here we go…
In 2011, I fell in love with a wonderful Tahitian guy. It was a powerful, unexpected, fairytale kind of love story, and after knowing him for only a few months, I trustingly took a leap and invited him to fly up and join me aboard Swell on a tour of French Polynesia. Having proven all I needed to prove to myself in terms of solo sailing, I was ready to love and share it all. I just knew that together we would be unstoppable…
When he was at his best, we were. But shortly following his arrival, I began seeing that his extraordinarily caring, chivalrous, talented, courageous, and hard-working ‘good side’ had an equally extreme and radical jealous, possessive, and manipulative ‘bad side’. But there I was, out in the middle of the Pacific, already overly attached to my expectations for our relationship. I resisted sending him home, in hopes that giving him all my love and wisdom might help him overcome the darker aspects of his character so that we could live happily ever after…
That was stupid. On the good days all was blissful, but after a few months aboard those days grew fewer and farther between. Nothing I did was ever enough. His jealousy was always my fault. Amidst awe-inspiring paradise, he only felt fear. Fear of losing me. Fear that I would stop loving him. Little by little, he pushed and tested me, whittling away my energy and hope until there was no question that I had to get away from him. But around the same time we arrived back in the Society Islands, and Swell got t-boned by a charter boat, which complicated distancing myself from him, as he was from the island where the Charter company was based that was responsible for doing the repairs to Swell.
Hence, putting real distance between us was impossible until I flew to California for the birth of my nephew, and even then, I felt like Swell was vulnerable there on the island with him if I didn’t keep things friendly.
When I eventually returned to French Polynesia and climbed up the ladder to Swell in the boatyard, all the memories of our voyage and the deep sadness and disappointment returned. He came around to help and against my better judgment, I caved and let him. I missed him and wanted to believe he’d changed like he promised he had…but before long, the neurotic jealousy started again and I knew I had to cut him off completely.
But the more I resisted, the more he persisted to be near me. The island became very small. There was nowhere to hide. He was always watching me. It soon became clear that he was more unstable, unpredictable, and prone to violence than I had ever imagined.
One evening I locked myself inside Swell at the yard, seeing his mood go south earlier in the day. He arrived later—drunk and crazed—and set to violently bashing on Swell’s door, yelling belligerently that he was going to beat me when he got in. Horrified and panicked, I fumbled to call his mother, my friends, the police… I got quite a reality check about the general attitude surrounding domestic violence when the police said they wouldn’t come because they needed a key to get in the gate!? Luckily the yard owner and my friends came quickly to my rescue. He slinked away into the night when he saw them coming…
After this terrifying moment, I knew there was no other way to ensure my safety until Swell was floating, than to go along with his wishes. I moved out of my girlfriend’s house and in with his family during the final months of the haul-out in order to placate him and decrease my chances of being alone. His family welcomed me graciously, but his behavior remained erratic. His frightening mood changes had me living in fear all day, everyday, not knowing when or what might set him off. He wasn’t ashamed to steal and hide my belongings or threaten me with force.
The more I quietly shared my story with other women, especially Tahitian, the more stories I heard about others dealing with the same. In fact, this kind of behavior is quite common here. This was one of many scary incidents I went through with him, and despite that I managed to avoid ever being directly ‘hit’, the threats and bullying and psychological abuse are not to be disregarded. The next day he always acted as if nothing had happened and, as they do, promised that nothing like it would ever happen again. But knowing I feared him and that I was trapped there, he continued to threaten physical violence to keep things his way.
Never in my life did I think I would find myself in such a radical situation, stripped of my independence and personal freedoms. I couldn’t be myself because I was constantly questioning whether he would misconstrue my actions. He became paranoid beyond belief, hardly letting me out of his sight for those long, laborious months. Desperate to gain my liberty from him, I worked madly on Swell from dawn to dusk, usually with his help, as he never wanted me to be alone. I couldn’t call my friends or go where I pleased, and I felt ashamed and guilty to tell people what was really going on. Even the sunniest day felt dreary.
To be honest, I never thought I’d be sharing this here, but with a month or so away from it now, I feel that hiding the situation only adds to the silence and shame that cloaks the lives of women (and men) in similar situations. Concealing it would betray them. I cried in the night, thinking of them–all over the world—people living in fear everyday of oppressive, unpredictable partners. I knew I would soon sail away and have my life back, but in so many places there were women who would be forced to remain in such situations out of fear for their safety. It pains me to know that females are still treated as possessions or ‘lesser’ than males in so many parts of the world, and that this kind of behavior is just accepted as ‘the way it is’. I was raised to believe that my potential had nothing to do with my gender, but so many women in the world aren’t that lucky. I mourned humanity’s massive loss of potential squashed under the world’s repressed women. For how can one pursue their gifts and passions under such stifling circumstances? And how does love manifest itself in such an ugly way?
I’m not looking to blame or demonize him, only to call to attention this kind of backwards behavior. As, in his mind, he was showing me how much he loved me. Through the long saga, helped me enormously on Swell any way he could. My choices were my choices. I could have found another way. Maybe I needed to see the depths of his darkness in order to free myself from my last hopes for his transformation. My love for him and sympathy for his confusion about how to express his love, made me weak to leave for a long time. But I see now that every time I accepted him back into my heart after the bad behavior, I was telling him it was ok.
In the end, instead of relishing the sweet completion of the enormous overhaul of Swell on the day she was re-launched, he became instantly jealous because Swell was berthed next to a boat with two young men on it. I watched his mood begin to unravel and I wasn’t about to wait around for the wrath I knew was coming… I feared he’d lash out like never before, knowing that my freedom was now possible. So despite my bone-deep fatigue, I devised a plan and notified my friends. With trembling hands that night, I snuck my belongings out of his house and my friends helped me sail away under a big lovely moon…
Regaining my freedom felt completely surreal, but the fear lingered on. He called and threatened relentlessly to come find me in the days following, and on the third morning after my departure, all the stress and fear and exhaustion manifested into the temporary paralysis of one side of my face, a condition called Bell’s Palsy, followed by a bout with shingles!!! Awful!?! Luckily, I was safe and surrounded by loving friends, good health care facilities, and had the long-distance support of my family to get me feeling strong again.
So there it is… the reason for the big blog delay, and why I haven’t yet replied to a lot of your emails. It’s taken some time to heal and process it all. I deeply appreciate your patience and continued support.
I’m all healed now, and feeling stronger than ever. As hard as it was, I bless this experience for all the perspective it has given me. For we cannot know the Light without the darkness. We cannot choose who and where we want to be in life unless we know who and where we don’t want to be! Hardships are our greatest opportunities to choose anew, grow and redefine ourselves. But only if we choose to see them that way.
I realize now that when it comes to relationships, ultimate love and fidelity to one’s Self—by both parties—would be a much better foundation. Love doesn’t mean you put someone else before you or sacrifice who you are for them, it means you support each other to grow into the ultimate best versions of yourselves, with respect to individual pace and method. When that doesn’t include each other anymore, may we lovingly go separate ways. Every soul is undergoing its own unique journey to becoming who he/she wants to be, and I was naïve and self-righteous in thinking that I could get him to evolve faster than he was ready for…or that what he was choosing wasn’t perfect for his evolution. I got attached to results, and in doing so, caused myself a great deal of pain.
Fear and attachment work contrary to love. They erode what builds and binds us, and we constantly have the choice of to use. It’s often so much easier, safer, more comfortable to lean into fear and blame the other. But in the end, this doesn’t serve us. It only digs us into a lonely hole. As much as I couldn’t understand his behavior in the midst of it, I see now that if he never crawled into that hole of fear, and truly experienced its dark, isolated, empty space, how would he know and decide that he doesn’t want to be there?
…All paths lead to the Light in the end, we just have to accept the often painstaking duality along the way.
If we choose to look within and ask ourselves what we can do to change our unhappiness, life becomes unlimited potential. When we keep blaming others or grappling at expectations, we stay in the hole. Trying to convince people of their greatness is futile. We can only be so busy working on ourselves, that we might inspire them to realize that their own evolution is possible.
So, may we free ourselves and our partners from expectations, and truly want for them, what they want for themselves. If you have the luxury of choice to leave a relationship that isn’t serving you, do it. And feel all the women (and men) in the world who can’t (or don’t), cheering you along. A better life awaits…
I pray that as humanity, we learn to cherish our women (and men) across all lands. Not to fear their power, but embrace it. Not to stifle their voices, but sing together in harmony. We must rethink standards we have set, question our prejudices, and help our sister and brother humans call forth a new era of respect and love among us–no matter the gender, race, or social status. Your individual power to change yourself is a critical spark in the global fire of human evolution towards Love and Oneness. So let the sparks fly!!
KevinOctober 13, 2013
Powerful post. Thank you.
DavidOctober 13, 2013
You went through a very stressful time. Thanks for sharing. Good Karma will find you.
FredOctober 13, 2013
Thanks for sharing your story Liz,
I’m sorry you had to deal with both him and the boat incident.
I found your blog because an ad for the charter company that hit
you appeared in my FB newsfeed. After clicking around their page
I saw someone had posted a link to your entry about the incident.
To my surprise they have not deleted it, however their non-response
speaks volumes of the way they treated you. I’m happy you were
able to let it go as you described in your entry.
I hope this dude gets help for his issues with women.
Enjoyed reading through your older entries, hope your next journey
is full of joyful places, and comfortable situations!
Tim DerryOctober 13, 2013
Thank you for sharing that Liz, it was important for all of us that you did.
LissaOctober 13, 2013
Wow. I have followed your blog for years, and I so admire your adventurous, courageous spirit; not just for how you live on the outside but also for how willing you are to go inside. This is an amazing story and amazing piece of writing. May you continue your happy trails and continue to love.
JennyOctober 13, 2013
Thank you Liz for courageously sharing your beautifully written insights.
laurelOctober 13, 2013
stay private for the one who will be your hero
Kevin FaulOctober 13, 2013
Glad you’re okay. Frequently I think of people who don’t have families and support. They may be old and alone in their apartment in a big city, injured or ill and alone in a hospital, out on the street or emotionally abandoned harboring secrets of an abusive relationship. It’s hard sharing, but in my opinion this is the kind of thing that justifies corporate sponsorship. These are the things that need to be said by those with the freedom and courage to do so. Thank you.
JeffreyOctober 13, 2013
You continue to be an incredible inspiration for many of us. A time and place for everything; tonight I read your soul bearing saga and tomorrow I will start a better life for myself, unsure to do so until now. Mahalo
LauraOctober 13, 2013
Thanks for the brave and honest post. Domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic lines and sexuality/genders. Perpetrators are often insecure and afraid of abandonment. It is dangerous to leave the relationship as Liz’s story shows, and the moments right after leaving bring the highest risk of being attacked. So glad Liz had an escape plan and supportive friends. Can you imagine living on an island where the location of a domestic violence shelter would be impossible to keep secret? Here’s a tip I heard from a woman who left her abuser: *always* keep spare keys. They come in handy if your car is stolen too!
StacyOctober 13, 2013
thank you for sharing this…I so needed to hear this from a powerful woman such as yourself, to see how it’s okay to be naive and let yourself fall into darkness sometimes, as long as you come back to the light within you.
like so many do and will, I relate (painfully, recently in fact) to this post all too much. falling in love with someone who is not as far along on the path can be more than a deal breaker; it can humble you and break your heart a little, too. love to you in this time of freedom and limitless adventures that await! namaste!
JocelynOctober 13, 2013
Hope to see you soon liz, I’m glad you found the strength to post this..much
Love from Huahine!
Christiane GozashtiOctober 13, 2013
in my own personal experiences….
This experience was something that prepared you for the real deal of love. Without these moments of losing ourselves, we never learn to appreciate who we are. And now your conditioned eyes and soul will lead you to recognize and appreciate the right one when he comes along. Ironically, he may not be what you expect, or look a certain way, but you will see his value and genuine self and love it. It will be real. :-) I think a girl like you shouldn’t settle for anything less than bliss. I wish you the best and all the love. Ive been looking up to you for 7 years now, and you inspire me!
MaggieOctober 13, 2013
Thank you for sharing your story beauty. May your words reach those who need them the most. It is story of truth and hope. You are a warrior queen. All my love xxx M
StephenieOctober 13, 2013
Mahalo…a powerful reminder for lovers everywhere, the journey continues
ColinOctober 13, 2013
Thanks Liz, way to keep it real…
Life’s a journey and has it’s ups and downs. Even the postcard existence you have achieved has it’s many pitfalls and bumps in the road. That you bounce back stronger and wiser is an inspiration for the rest of us to cast off onto journey’s of our own. Times of uncertainty and change are when I’ve personally felt the most growth.
Good luck! I hope I run into you at some remote south pacific reef pass some day ;)
TiiaOctober 14, 2013
Thank you for this post. I appreciated reading it from mutual events in my life years past that led me to flee and re-evaluate how I think I should be treated and how I want to treat others in my life.
megOctober 14, 2013
Thank you so much for sharing this story – I hope it helps me to find a way out of my darkness-of having loved and being betrayed and unwanted. xxx
crystalOctober 14, 2013
Thank you for sharing liz, I too was a victim of emotional abuse in a previous relationship, as horrible as it was to live through it made me that much more certain of what I expected and deserved in a relationship. Ironically this was contrary to what that abuser wanted or had to offer. I am here to tell you there is hope. Going on 9 years of sweet marriage with a man who would never dare throw a mean word let alone a punch. Love exists and it never hurts physically or emotionally.
kieran smartOctober 14, 2013
I think its very brave and honest of you to both share your story and to make your escape. Domestic violence is inexcusable and I’m glad you are able to live your life free from fear. You remain an inspiration to many people and I wish you safe sailing and peace.
StevenOctober 14, 2013
Reinforces what an amazing and powerful woman you are. Well done for telling your story, that itself takes huge courage. Following our hearts doesnt always lead us in the best direction but certainly teaches us the lessons we wouldnt have learnt otherwise. Stay true and you will be fine. Aloha
Jason LightfootOctober 14, 2013
Being a man brought up to be independent and strong and then find myself in a similar situation I felt every word, fortunately the violent side was not as imposing but the mental abuse made me fell two inches tall. Thank you for sharing and I hope others in this situation will find this and the courage to leave.
ColleenOctober 14, 2013
thanks for sharing, sounds like a terrifying time. You are such an inspiring person and strong individual. I have dealt with that kind treatment from a loved one, irrational jealousy and instability, when I was just a friendly and free spirit in the world, and the person felt threatened. It made me phobic of such situations: It can be really damaging to the self esteem, and as you experienced, have intense physical effects. We never really know a person’s dark side until it comes out in the everyday, over time, so it can be scary to fall in love with someone new. It’s a good point to acknowledge the women/men who are really powerless to leave these situations, and keep them in mind. Wasted potential is one of the biggest human failings, and quite heartbreaking. (recognizing that in my own life/relationships at moment and trying to learn from it) I’m glad you got outta there, and I hope you can heal and feel safe in the world once again!
Marc GarnerOctober 14, 2013
Aloha from the La Jolla Reefs… Wow your adventures are forever Epic, glad to hear you are back chasing the dream! Just spent a little time with Pablini when he came through a few weeks ago. The Nexpa family is still battling back from heavy rains this summer. Still would love to have a picture for the wall of fame some day, here San diego. Keep Charging much love from the Garner Gang….
billOctober 14, 2013
My last boat was seafoam green. The first time I saw the color was enroute US east coast to Bermuda. Sun shining through broken wavetops, very pretty. There I was, sitting on a boat the same color. Best wishes and safe passage…….
The Brighter Side is Not ALWAYS Bright | Brighter Side BlogOctober 14, 2013
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ChrisOctober 14, 2013
You are the bravest of souls. Wishing you fair winds and following seas.
JennyOctober 14, 2013
Thank you for sharing your story; it’s clear that you’ve spent time reflecting on this experience and processing the various aspects. I’m glad that you shared this, although I’m sorry for your experience. You continue to be eloquent regardless of the topic, staring at the moon has often been my favorite time to process big things. Enjoy the new learnings and respect you’ve discovered. Very glad you’re no longer in that relationship.
TeresaOctober 14, 2013
It’s strange how life gives you exactly what you need and I needed to read this today. I have always admired you through your journey only more so now. Thank you!
AuntieOctober 14, 2013
Lizzy ..you are truly my HERO and my SUNSHINE…..what courage that took to share your truth with other’s….your beacon of light and love lift me up everyday…I love you
DawnOctober 14, 2013
Powerful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ve been following your journey via your blog for years, and this post shows me more than ever what a wonderful example of strength, humility and independence you are for women everywhere. Sending light and love your way!
mistyOctober 14, 2013
Beyond happy you are back, out there doing your thing in life. Must feel amazing. Carry on, gal…
EricOctober 14, 2013
Thanks for sharing. Wishing you continued successes on your journey. Shine on.
Anja LightOctober 14, 2013
Beautiful post Liz – thanks so much for sharing! Here’s to freedom and growth and evolution…
rennyOctober 14, 2013
WOW. A fellow survivor. And yes, continue to talk and tell to those that appear to not hear. They do and they too will survive. And we are powerful in our conviction of “staying the course”.
Lauren RogersOctober 14, 2013
Wow, what a amazing voyage….
Tom SantanielloOctober 15, 2013
Liz: Words cannot convey the sadness I felt after reading your post, and what you had to endure. I wish I had some magical words that would erase the past, but I don’t. So instead I will send out a wish to you for your heart and soul to heal quickly, so that you may continue on your quest to fulfill your dreams. The ” New Swell ” looks great, and I’m sure that she will help you heal. Until we hear from you again, be safe, be happy……..Tom
KristianOctober 15, 2013
Thank you for sharing your story of love and your insights!!!
Gern BlanstonOctober 15, 2013
Having spent 3 months traveling around Fiji I very quickly picked up on the high level of substance abuse and the way many women are brutalized in much of the south pacific. The price to be paid for “paradise” is never reflected in the the most idyllic pictures of perfect waves going off in tropical settings. Stay on your path. -Peace
Endless Summer MargaritasOctober 17, 2013
Swell took a heavy hit and so did you. Coincedence??
The ocean heals us all and “change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn”. The world has found you. DO Not let anger in! Heal. Heal. And Heel! Good luck and Godspeed, and hope to see you again someday.
HogesOctober 17, 2013
Well done to extricate yourself. You thought that through like a great sailor. Now, to know you’re improving, I need to see SURF SHOTS of you enjoying yourself! There’s none here in Turkey where we’re wintering
WendyOctober 18, 2013
Amazing post, Liz. The sea and its beautiful people will hold you up, keep you strong, and show you more good. It’s never easy to see when you’re in the middle of a bad place, but once you’re outside and have the opportunity to look in, the experience can give us so much more. It just takes courage to see, and you have that in spades… Keep on sailing, loving, enjoying, and being a good person. It only gets better…
kevinOctober 18, 2013
You are free .
Time to stow the gear and put on some sail .Its hard to leave these places we love so much .
Stoked to hear you are well and moving on.
140 miles a day I hope.
Please come to northern indo soon.
Tom MeshewOctober 19, 2013
Wow. Good on you for having the courage to act on the situation, and to tell the world about it. Also glad that you’re afloat again.
I’m pullin’ for ya, Captain.
JJOctober 20, 2013
Thanks for sharing your story, Liz You are brave, and I’m so glad you managed to get out of that toxic relationship. I wish you fair wind and lots of healing. And love–good love!–in the future.
AlanOctober 21, 2013
When I read your post on forgiveness, I felt that you had more to say than you were letting onto and then you disappeared. Welcome home Lizzie
archieOctober 21, 2013
I have been following your journey for quite a while, amazed at your courage. I didn’t think that anyone could be more courageuos than you have been, but I was wrong. You are, quite simply, extraordinary. Archie
TomOctober 21, 2013
Liz, Wow, as others have commented! I’m not amazed at your positivity and strength as through out you have posted the most amazing and positive pictures and comments about the people you meet. Thanks.
I wonder whether it is possible for a family that learns of such a family member to recall the person for reprogramming. But as we have learned over the years, kids learn how to behave from their families, both daughters and sons, so it is hard to expect the families to help. One of my sons learned the hard way that you have to have your family and friends and her family and friends date each other to help you know if there is a fit. He seems to be succeeding this time.
I remember your story about the older man on a dock who chased off a younger man trying to get into your boat at night. There is some hope for the community. I wondered during my three visits to French Polynesia as to how well the culture was holding up particularly for young men, but for young women too: It seemed that the communities had a hard time working at as a unit. I think, working as teams is where corrections and protections occur.
Wishing you the very best, Aloha
T SchmidtOctober 24, 2013
Appreciate the honesty and sorry you had to go through all that. But writing about it I am sure helped you explore your feelings and learn from it. I always try to think on what I could have done differently since you can’t control what others will do. Glad you are off and sailing free again, good luck!
Karyn ChildsOctober 26, 2013
A beautiful and transformative blog. I’m grateful you have bravely shared your experience to assist others in understanding the confusion and fear generated by such relationships. Happy healing Liz. Be true to yourself. Much love ;-)