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!!