You're reaching for the wrong thing.
When you first met him, he was everything to you! He filled you up and that left you feeling like a whole NEW you. His love made you WHOLE! You couldn’t imagine not having him in your life. You spent all your time together and it was fun. He was perfect in every way.
Sure, you kind of lost touch with your friends and didn’t hang out with them anymore. But that was OK, because he was in your world.
Then, gradually little by little, things started to sour. He complained about you more and more, argued with you, and criticized you.
You tried harder to please him, but nothing was good enough. Something always upset him, like the way you dress, or that the laundry wasn’t done the way he liked it. When he started putting restrictions on your money, you tried harder and harder to delight him again! But nothing worked. Things started off so wonderful. But now, things haven't felt good in a long, long time.
You took a look around and see clearly that your life is dramatically different ... you've changed.
You used to play tennis on Saturday (doubles) with your friends, but you don’t do that anymore. You used to love going shopping with your sister, but you barely see your family anymore. And you've stopped sharing details of your life with them, because they told you to leave this guy a long time ago.
It hits you like a brick, that you've really been living in his world all this time and you've lost parts of yourself along the way.
The thing is … you really do love him and you don’t want to lose him. But, the stress, the arguing and the loneliness is starting to take its toll on your looks and how you feel on the inside. You feel stuck between loving him and, at the same time, feeling really alone with no one to talk to about it all.
But, though you feel lonely now, you feel like you’d be completely lost in the world if you lose him! Your biggest fear is that you’ll end up alone! You fear that no one else will love you because, bottom line, you believe you’re not good enough, no matter how much you keep trying to make things right.
Do you see recognize this cycle? Does this resonate for you? Dr. Suzanne Lachman of Psychology Today, says that when you have low self-esteem, that state of being becomes familiar and you gravitate towards it, recreating it over and over in your relationships.
What can you do? How do you start over again? Do you have to leave him?
Lindsey Holmes, in The Huffington Post, says that self-acceptance can lead to great satisfaction in your life. That said, damaged self-esteem doesn't repair itself over night. The first step is to recognize that you deserve to feel better (loved and supported).
Start by being mindful. Practice being kind to yourself mentally. Here are three steps that will help you begin your healthy journey back to yourself:
1. Stand tall
Yes, I mean literally stand erect. Do this often. And when you do, take a breath and pay attention to your body. Practice this when you're alone, and then practice standing tall when he raises his voice or gives you that critical glance.
2. Question his criticism
Just because he says something doesn't make it true. Stop buying into his logic. Learn to disconnect yourself from the scenario. This reduces your anxiety and frustration. Then, really observe him — like you're listening to him for the first time. Notice how unhappy he is as a person. How uptight he is. That's on him, not you. If necessary, mentally protect yourself. Visualize yourself surrounded by Plexiglas, so that you feel nothing from his hurtful words.
3. Change your response
Practice changing yourself from the inside out by refusing to focus your attention on his negative comments. Do not react to his negative comments, instead, internally focus on how you think and feel. Practice this over and over. For example, if he says, "You’re so stupid!", silently say in your mind (not out loud) — "Actually I am logical." Or, "I'm smart." Or, "I'm a good person."
Immediately translate his negative statements into a POSITIVE thought about yourself (in your own mind). The more you do this, you'll find the exercise entertaining and almost funny. The real deal is that you'll begin to build inner strength and awareness. You'll rediscover who you truly are. You'll begin to remember your value ... which is something you carry inside you. He does not decide your worth.
If you ask him for what you need and he throws it back in your face to start an argument, recognize that this man you "love so much" doesn't care enough in return to give your request the time of day. If he turns whatever you say around and blames you in some way, making you explain your actions to him ... that is manipulation.
Will a man like this ever really make you happy?
Are you really willing to lose yourself entirely just to hold onto a man like this?
It's time for you to reclaim those lost parts of yourself so that you can look in the mirror and like yourself again. So, you can hear yourself laugh and see yourself smile once more.
You deserve better. And, please know — if he was really Mr. Wonderful, he would TREASURE YOU! A real man doesn’t emotionally intimidate his partner. Nor, does he ask you to sacrifice yourself as a measure of your love for him.
When you find the real Mr. Right, you'll discover that he loves you despite your flaws! Remember: No one person is "perfect." What’s perfect is when Mr. Right loves you for YOU and accepts your imperfections ... and you do the same for him.
That said, no relationship can every truly fulfill you until you finally love and accept yourself. When you like yourself, you choose healthier partners who like themselves and who love you more!
Margot Brown is the author of "Kickstart Your Relationship Now!: Move On or Move Out."