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!!
JeremyOctober 30, 2013
Liz, I discovered your site only a couple months ago and I am truly inspired by your story. In comparison to my life as a surfer and athlete who happens to be working a 9-5 desk job and living in the suburbs, your chosen life aboard Swell is idyllic. I’m sorry to hear about your recent troubles, and I thank you for sharing your story. I have every reason to believe that your successful outcome was due to your self confidence and the fact that you truly know yourself! I wish you all the best in your upcoming journeys, and I’ll be checking back occasionally to get recommendations from your reading list.
Lori KallestadNovember 3, 2013
You and your post gave me strength today when I needed it! Thank you a million times over. My marriage was a mirror of what you described. I just found my freedom through divorce and am buying a sailboat to live-aboard and rebuild my life. The emotional and verbal abuse does crazy things to your health…I’m so sorry you went through such a painful time. I love your strength to share and uplift others. I’m naming my new boat Moxie. You are living your moxie out loud. Shine your light and keep sailing through the storms as you always do.
Captain lizzyNovember 27, 2013
So grateful to hear, Lori…keep moving toward positivity, Light, and wellness!! Sending LOVE and STRENGTH your way!!
GraceNovember 10, 2013
Thank-you for sharing your recent turmoil, hindsight and new clarity. You are a strong, amazing adventurer, and it really is apparent throughout your journey. Although the consequences often hurt us and leave us puzzled I do like T.S. Elliot’s quote:
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
I hope you recover and keep learning from your experiences and keep sharing them- as they really do help de-mystify and energise others who are following your blog.
John SchuylerNovember 12, 2013
Don’t give up the ship! You and I knew someone who loved saying that, and your recent experiences are a manifestation of his philosophy. I haven’t checked out your site for a while so your long blog was quite an eye opener. I am sure you can feel the support coming from around the world and I know you are coming back to a place that mirrors your beginning here in SB. All the best, John
Al SantosDecember 6, 2013
Thank you so much for sharing. You’re a wonderful human-being. Keep shining and inspiring others to live a happy existence. And may your life be filled with love and peace.
John WallerDecember 12, 2013
I love you and your wonderful character Liz, stay strong and keep inspiring.
Michael WilkersonDecember 27, 2013
I am new to your site but not new to what you have written here. I believe you have handled your experience well and writing about it will undoubtly help others who may be experiencing something similiar. You are strong and this will make you stronger and smarter. Power to you!
EricFebruary 20, 2015
You’re truly an inspiration. Go Cap’n!
CharlotteMarch 10, 2015
I so appreciated your sharing your experience, how you dealt with it during and after, and your thoughts throughout the process. As someone who is many years out from a relationship with very similar patterns, I can attest that it can take a very long time to come out from underneath the fog an experience like that leaves you encompassed by.
I was quite young when I entered that relationship, and knowing myself less than I would have had I been older, and not yet having any other example of romantic love to compare it to, (along with heaps of naivety); it took me quite some time to recognize and objectively see what was going on. Before I got to that point there was a lot of self blame, guilt, confusion about myself, and shame. So I agree, we ladies need to be brave and share our stories so that our shame can’t survive.
I found a few of your revelations about the experience to be especially powerful. Your line about how (as much as it may have felt loving or forgiving to keep giving him second, third, fourth, fifth chances), that in fact every time you let him back you were actually telling him his past behavior was okay. And, secondly your bit about coming to realize he was on his own journey, and that the choices he was making weren’t necessarily imperfect for his own evolution; ‘because if he never crawled into that dark hole and experienced it’s isolation, how would he know he didn’t want to be there’.
Those two things you said were incredibly powerful to me! Because I have -to this day- harbored some guilt about abandonment of that person. Now I am reminded that was just a part of his journey, and that it wouldn’t have been helpful or loving to stay. Your story and your revelations helped the healing process continue for me even so many years later. So, thank you! Your taking the lessons from the experience and shining such a positive light on them is inspiring. :)
Captain LizApril 22, 2015
Thank you Charlotte, I’m so grateful for your note and so thankful that my words helped you all these years later. It’s not an easy process but having others to share it with has been so helpful in my healing. Sending you all my Love and Light. Xx liz
DeniseMarch 12, 2015
Thank you for sharing this story. I know it must have been very hard, but hopefully somewhat freeing, to get this all out. I stumbled upon this blog somewhat by accident, but it is some kind of fate that I did. I am going through something similar, and yet completely different at the same time. The last few paragraphs specifically were exactly what I needed to hear and what I have been searching for. It has helped me see what I need to do for myself. I think I knew all along, but focusing on one’s self has always seemed selfish to me. I have been trying for some time now to feel okay with doing things for myself. To reclaim the person I lost. Your words have given me courage and inspiration to focus and work on healing myself before I take on healing someone else. I believe the former will indeed be of better service than I have been able to give.
Thanks you again, and best wishes on your voyages… both in life and on your boat!
Captain LizApril 22, 2015
Dear Denise, I’m so happy my words resonated with you. Self-love should always be our number one priority but it’s not easy for me either, so i completely understand. But i really think we are incapable of truly healing others until we ourselves are healed. I hope the process is going well. Sending all my Light, Love and Courage your way. Xx
David TangMay 4, 2015
Great inspirational story!! All I want to say is don’t let this experience hinder you or make it harder for you to find true love. I was in a long relationship (about 8/9 years) where everyone thought it was inevitable that we were going to get married!! The thing is I didn’t love her anymore and only a close few friends trusted what I said, anyway I’m still single and most of my close friends have partners. Even though I sometimes few left out or lonely don’t get me wrong I love them all & I’m happy for them, I still believe that the 1 will show up. Learn from your experience but don’t build your defence up so high that true love can’t find a way to your heart, love is meant to be easy just the sea go with the flow. It’s great to let everything out sometimes lol until next time be safe captain xx
Ps I love all your sunset sunrise & wave photos on Instagram!! You have a new follower in me tangalangalang21 haha
jeff DunlapDecember 23, 2018
I’m 64 and had no idea until the Meto movement that there was so much bullying and harassment of women going on. My father raised me to believe that a man who hits a woman is a coward. I know that’s simplistic, but generally bullies are cowards, and usually need a good sock in the face to settle them down(not advocating violence), but I’ve seen many a bully reform once they have to confront something they can’t handle, that ends up humbling them. Liars need to be confronted with the truth, and I don’t have to tell you how applicable this is in our time. Sometimes I wonder if all the pornography does not contribute to all this. Young men watch this stuff and then assume this is how real life is, and go out into the world somewhat desensitized to seeing a woman a being, a spiritual being, and not a piece of meat to be used and controlled. Since I’m old enough to be your Dad, I obviously come from a different time, and life has become a little different since then, and I’m not sure in some ways for the better. Sounds like you had to go through something no woman should ever have to put up with. My years have taught me that the lucky person is the one who has it in them to just love the world and all in it, and to not be anxious about whatever love gets returned, or doesn’t. Sounds like this person was living in fear about what he was going to receive from you, or not, and this fundamental lesson in life is something he has yet to learn. On a more animalistic evolutionary perspective, males are territorial, its just in our DNA, that’s the warrior part of us, women also have this as well, but not quite so pronounced. But warriors are peaceful and gentle with all, except a real threat, and your friend was confused about this. I have met many in my life desperate for love and the surety that it will never be lost. The fact is love is ever-present, all around, penetrating our souls with every thought and every movement we make, and cannot be lost, only unrecognized and underappreciated. For sure, everyone can’t help but be a little anxious about what life holds for them, but I know that my life has just been the addition of my days, so all I can do is to tell my best truth each day. Not that that magically fixes everything, because sometimes my perception of the truth is not in line with another, but I know that I always tried to tell the truth, and I loved as well as I could. Each day I know I’m holding up my end, and that’s all I need for my sense of dignity and self respect. Words like God and Love are so etherial and undefinable really, sometimes I like sticking with less challenging words like Balance, Moderation, Truth, Goodness, and Conscience. I’m very clear about what these are, and I hold them in my heart; that’s my contract with this Universe, but in no way do I expect the Universe to pay off in any particular way, I’m just doing what I believe is right. I saw you give a talk in Cardiff, good job. And yes, emotional shocks to your system can give you physical symptoms, but the next time you’re challenged, your body, already having traveled this road will respond with greater resilience. The good thing about years is that you’ve seen it all before, so whenever it shows up, the effect is less impactful and more predictable. I wish I still had my 35 year old body, but glad I have my 64 year old mind. Nothing Pierces the Shield of the Taoist Warrior. Bless you Liz Clark.
Captain LizJanuary 12, 2019
Blessings to you too my friend. Thank you for this thoughtful comment. –Liz