Coulda, woulda, shoulda. I think we’ve all felt this way at one point or another. Whether you’re 32 or 62, we all look back on life and sometimes wonder, “What if?” What if I never had kids? What if I never got married? What if I took that job in the city or studies abroad in college?
I hate having regrets. For me, there’s no worse feeling of wondering what would have happened if I’d followed my dream or taken that opportunity or chose a different career path. I think the answer to some of these burning questions is self-acceptance. Accepting the choices you’ve made, finding the lesson in them and not repeating the same mistakes.
I am thankful for my current life and my family. I’m accepting of my circumstance. But if I could go back, would I have done things differently? Yes. And I mean no offense to my husband, nor my amazing son. But my life has been mostly about sacrifice. Sacrificing for others and ignoring my own personal needs and desires. Something I’ve learned to do but took me some time was to differentiate between my own dreams and those of my loved ones.
This has a lot to do with codependency, something else I am guilty of in many of my relationships. My own personal feelings and desires are lost and sometimes transform into those of my partner. I start to believe that their wants are my own. I get pleasure out of making my partner happy, lending support, and making their lives easier. What I don’t always recognize is that in the process, I am ignoring my own wants, desires, and dreams. So much so, that my efforts to make their lives easier are actually making mine harder. This isn’t something you often see at the moment. It’s something you realize over time. When feelings of resent and regret begin to creep in. You may end up resenting your partner because you’re always the one sacrificing for them, doing for them, and supporting their dreams. What about you? Well, it’s partially your fault, because you’re the one that set the precedent for this behavior.
My partners quickly became accustomed to and comfortable with the fact that I always do for them and never ask for anything in return. Then, when I finally realize that I too have needs and desires I need to be met, I verbalize them and my partner is somewhat caught off guard. And rightfully so, I guess.
So, I’ve learned to be a supportive partner without sacrificing my own wants and needs. At one time, I didn’t think you could achieve both, but I’ve discovered that you can. I am always willing to help and support my husband, but not if it means completely interfering or altering with what I know is best for myself. I’ve learned that ignoring self-care will only create negativity down the road.
My husband is a natural born entrepreneur, which has meant many business ventures in our time together. I was heavily involved with his first one, which lead to a lot of resent. I offered to help and convinced myself that this dream was “ours” - there’s that codependency thing creeping in! Though I supported his efforts, running a deli was not my dream and because I forced it to be, I ended up hating it and resenting my husband in the process. I learned my lesson during my husband’s most recent business venture.
He is currently running his family’s hardware store and has asked me on several occasions to become more involved. Though I love him dearly and have no issues visiting him while he’s working or ringing out a customer if I happen to be standing at the register, I will not become a full-time worker. I will not be put on payroll or the schedule. Why? Because working at the hardware store is not what I want to do be doing. If I went through with it, despite my gut feeling not to, I would end up resenting my husband for the fact that the hardware store was keeping me from doing the things I wanted and loved most. But in reality, it would be my fault, not his.
Many people in my life have questioned mine and my husband’s decision to move to Florida in the next two years. People have asked me if I really want to live in that type of heat? If this is something I want or if it’s really just my husband’s plan for retirement. Though the idea was prompted by my husband and his desire to live in warmer climates, I too crave sunnier weather that elevates my mood and creates more motivation. Living up north, I suffer from winter depression and it’s getting worse with age. So, yes the idea started with my husband but no, I am not moving to Florida just because he wants to. In this case, the dream to retire down south is one we share together. And that’s okay.
It’s important to recognize the difference between abandoning your own desires for those of your partner and actually sharing the same dreams and compromising on seeing them through. In the end, the most important thing to remember is to stay true to yourself. And that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. So you need to start with yourself and everything else will fall into place.