Have you ever had the experience of facing a situation similar to one you’d been in before, maybe even many times before, and finding that you had changed enough to actually handle it better this time? Well, I just did and I want to share the story with you.

This story is about relationship. Relationships seem to be the “Self-Growth Groups” in my life. They serve as mirrors of both the dark shadows within myself and also for the ways in which I have grown more self-assured and capable.

This summer, I found myself in a relationship with someone I met online. You see, even though I love the freedom of living alone, I was missing the verbal and physical intimacy of being in a relationship with a man. This guy seemed to be everything I was looking for—interested in spiritual growth, deeply familiar with Eastern traditions such as martial arts and meditation, financially responsible, hard working, nice looking, great smile, literate. He even knew sign language, a plus for being able to communicate with my grown son, who is deaf. Wow!

We had our first “date,” a day-long, hand-holding, talk-about-everything, seems-like-we’ve-known-each-other-forever, affectionate, honest, walk-along-the-river, eat-a-couple-of-meals date. It lasted ten hours and felt like ten minutes. Both a heart connection and a physical attraction were present.

The magic continued through our second meeting. That’s what I always think it is when everything clicks—magic. And then I usually go off the deep end, enter into intense relationship, move in and only months or years later discover that I have suppressed or changed essential parts of myself to hold onto the romantic, magical dream. Only later do I see that I have made excuses for or rationalized all of the ways in which I had actually been disrespected. Only later do I see the extent to which I have “sold out” for “love.”

Well, something different happened this time, much to my surprise! I suppose the surprise came from the fact that I still hold onto old images of who I am, while the fact of the matter is that self-reflection, meditation, journaling, learning from past mistakes, and the wisdom of present friends have all contributed to enormous changes in me.

The first thing that was different was the way I was speaking to myself: “It’s too soon to tell how this relationship will be.” “I am trying hard to stay grounded in reality this time.” And “I am sufficient unto myself; I don’t actually need a man to complete me.” My attitudes and my behavior had both changed. Somehow, patterns of the past had fallen away, almost unnoticed. I began to feel that this was like a test, a final exam to see what I had learned by reviewing past relationship stories I had been in.

And a good thing, too. For the test, the challenge came all right, and big time! I went to spend a week with this man and it was a minor disaster. The day-to-day reality of being together was so different from the romantic dream. I won’t go into great detail, but suffice it to say that he had a definite and firm idea of who his ideal woman was and what his ideal future looks like. And to fit into both images I would have to change much about who I am and the future I want. I found myself feeling judged, pressured, irritated and impatient. Instead of the time we spent together being one of joyous discovery, it seemed as though we found very little to say to each other. After several days of my gut closing down and of consciously opening my heart to another try, time and again, I spoke about what I was experiencing. He countered with statements like: how could I ruin his dream?

I left the next day, knowing with certainty that there is no way I could live with this man. I have never had quite such a strong visceral gut knowing! I listened to my feelings, my intuition, and I acted to make a clean break. This was so unlike the old image I still had of myself. That old image would have continued the relationship, tried to please, tried to make it work, tried to make herself fit into his dream—just to have the companionship, just to keep the “love” alive. In the end, I actually felt proud of myself: that I had set boundaries and maintained them; that I could listen to my inner voice and have the courage to act on it.

How often do you feel that all the work you have been doing to change yourself, become the person you want to be, attain the life you want to have is not yielding results? Well, you might just be surprised at what is happening below the surface of your conscious awareness. I am sure that you, too, have learned many lessons that you do no give yourself credit for. If you are feeling stuck in old behaviors and mindsets, perhaps your self-image has not caught up with the changes that have already occurred deep within.

Author's Bio: 

Roshani Shay , Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Hawaii Wellness Institute and former Co- Director of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programs of Hawaii . When she discovered meditation in 1984, it provoked a major life transformation which included dropping caffeine and cigarettes, perfectionism, and a compulsion for being a workaholic. Roshani Shay has facilitated meditation workshops for more than ten years and is widely known for the way she gracefully moves through challenging situations with effectiveness and relative equanimity.