I had a love-hate relationship with myself because I didn’t know who I was. I grew up witnessing my parents’ love-hate relationship. I absorbed mixed messages and wrong messages from the messengers: my parents. I never got helpful messages to explain the ugly parts to gain an understanding. I lacked the maturity and sense to discern that I should do the opposite of what my parents did when I went out in the dating world. I was ill-equipped to resist the familiar, and I repeated the cycle.

I attracted men prone to cheating: cute, charming, and a little on the wild side. I told myself they had potential, but looking back, I imagined their potential when trying to justify why I chose the wrong guy. Every man I decided to date, like, and fall in love with cheated on me. I didn’t want nice and square; I wanted exciting and hip. I failed to learn because I had no awareness. If I hung on to a doomed relationship, I disliked myself for groveling, then hated myself because I couldn’t keep a sorry man. I lost what little self-respect and self-esteem I had by trying to change all my Mr. Wrongs into Mr. Right.

Before marriage, I was getting older and a single parent with no love interests in sight. I was lonely. In my drought, I had the time to get to know myself and self-reflect, but I didn’t. Had I done the work, I would have had some esteem and respect for myself to make better choices when it came to men. And I would not have chosen my spouse. I would have heeded the red flags I saw when dating my spouse. Love is not blind; I was stupid. But…but he had potential, and…and I knew him before, and…uhm, wait a minute, he came from a good family. He also had addiction issues. And I had unresolved mommy and daddy issues. I ignored the elephant in the room. I condoned habitual weed smoking from a man in recovery for crack, who had no business smoking weed, period. I was ripe for picking; I didn’t know how to love in a healthy way. My mom’s mantra about men rang in my ears: a half loaf is better than no loaf. I realized that I was the one who was a half loaf, not a whole loaf. No, mother dear, a half loaf is not better than no loaf–a whole loaf is best. Neither one of us was whole nor suitable for marriage. Successful, functional, loving, lasting relationships require two whole people who don’t need changing and are open to growth. I want to be whole, and wholeness starts with a loving relationship with myself.

I hate that my decisions have chaotic consequences for my kids, but I love that I gather them and apologize, explain, forgive, talk it out, and hug it out when the going gets tough. I hate being driven out of my home in tears, but I love that I can escape and take refuge at parks and beaches nearby. I hate that friends and family are forbidden in my home, but I love that I can hop in my car and reunite on weekends. I hate that negativity comes home and roosts, but I love sitting on my porch surrounded by flowers, watching the sunset.  I hate that AA books are hidden away, but I love that I can walk to the library and get my own.  I hate being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, but I love that God gives me the strength to get better in bad times.

Love conquers all.  Love covers a multitude of sins. Love is the greatest. Love is part of my foundation. I love that I still have the capacity to love even those that are hard to love.  I love that I’m learning to love myself, and loving myself means letting go of bad relationships, and letting go of bad relationships means breaking up with my spouse while under the same roof despite having nowhere to go.