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Hi! I haven't been around here for a long time! I remember fondly all the time I spent here, and this forum made a good difference in my life when I needed it. At this time of year, I tend to reflect on the year(s) past, and think about what I’m thankful for and try to put bad memories to rest. I have a little story to share, and those who remember me, know I tend to write a bit too much, haha! So, here goes! Several years ago, I was feeling a bit dissatisfied with my long-term relationship with my boyfriend, Mark. We weren’t connecting as much anymore, and we didn’t share some things that were important to me, such as music. He was spending most of his evenings hanging out with his sister, leaving me on my own (I didn’t partake in their favourite pastime of smoking up and watching youtube videos). I started reaching out for something to put some emotional energy into, because I was getting so frustrated with the lack of companionship with my boyfriend. This is how I got heavily into Rush. I dove head-first into Rush, devouring as much as I could, listening to all of their songs (there were so many I hadn’t heard previously!) and watching all their dvd’s, and going to see them live a few times. Rush resonated strongly with me, with their high musicianship and great songs and intelligent lyrics, and mostly the guys’ affable personalities. Rush filled a bit of a void that I had, and I will always look back fondly on my Rush-a-thon. I got something I needed from them, and was satisfied. Two years ago, my boyfriend and I went on a cruise for my brother’s wedding (he married on the ship), though Mark and I were going through a bit of a rough patch. I befriended this awesome band on the ship, while Mark preferred to spend his time in our cabin, watching movies. He would join me sometimes for watching the band, but he would always retreat to the room, saying the music was ‘too loud’. It just wasn’t his thing. But I loved the band – they were great players and such nice guys! I instantly felt comfortable around them, and felt bereft when we left the ship. The band became my ‘new’ Rush – I’d recorded their music from all the nights they played, and I worked to make mp3s of all their songs to listen to. My gut told me there was something special about the band. I kept in touch with the band guys, and started making plans to see them again, on another cruise. When I found a great cruise deal, I jumped on it, and went on an Alaskan cruise last year, without Mark, as he wasn’t interested in travelling again. It was so good to see the band again! We had a good time together. It was weird to have a break away from Mark, too, and I got thinking more about our incompatibilities and how I wasn’t happy with him. I was feeling more happiness being with the band guys than with Mark. I was feeling more strongly that we shouldn’t be together. I came home to a dirty, messy house, since for the past week Mark and his sister hadn’t cleaned up their garbage or dirty dishes. I was disheartened, seeing the gross state of the living room. I hated how messy they were. I hated how they always smelled like weed, a smell that makes me a bit nauseous. I hated how Mark spent so much time with his sister, watching TV, leaving me on my own, and I’d long since stopped trying to nudge him to spend more time with me; I no longer cared. I was realizing more and more that we shouldn’t be together, that I should break up with Mark. But I was reluctant... how could I end a 10-year relationship? But I was becoming more and more unhappy over the past few years, and I realized I wasn’t in love with him anymore, and I was fighting with the thought that I shouldn’t be with someone I didn’t love, and that it wasn’t fair to him, either. But I still didn’t have the nerve or courage to end things. Then I started talking with the son of the cruise ship band’s guitarist. He had seen a band video I’d uploaded online, and we started chatting, and we quickly became friends. When Mark would hang out with his sister, this guy and I would chat about music and life and culture and a lot of stuff, for hours. We had an instant rapport, and it was simply platonic. After a few months we started talking about my situation with Mark, and at first he was trying to advise how to fix it, then realized it maybe shouldn’t be fixed and advised me to end it, especially since I admitted I wasn’t in love with him anymore. He was right (and my friends and family were saying the same thing), but I still just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to hurt Mark, and I was a bit afraid of being alone – I couldn’t picture finding anyone else. Just before Christmas last year, I finally broke up with Mark. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it was awful and terrible, but I felt it was the right thing. He was so hurt, and I’ll never forget the nights he cried and asked what he’d done wrong, and I tried to explain it was just that we weren’t compatible and that he deserved to be with someone who embraced him for the things I didn’t (like his weed-smoking and constant TV-watching), but he was still hurt. He blamed the guy I’d been talking with, since I was open with Mark that I was talking with this guy. I felt awful. It took two awful months to finalize the break-up and split everything up between us, and Mark moved out. I was so stressed out and badly wanted to get away for a while, and was talking with my friend and his dad, the guitarist, about staying with them for a while, all the way in the Philippines. It was a great opportunity for me to get away for a while, clear my head, and then start on the next chapter of my life. I ended up staying with them for three months, and became good friends with the son and we quickly fell in love. [And, this is a term I’d never thought I’d use – “fall in love” – but it’s what happened!] We got along so well, and were inseparable, and it felt so wonderful to feel so good with someone. I felt so lucky. It was very hard coming back home. And as for Mark, he quickly started dating one of his long-term girl friends, and is now living together with her, so he’s fine, which I’m glad for. So, now the guy and I are involved in a distance relationship, and are figuring out how to be together in the future. He is a great guy, and I feel more love from him even though we’re thousands of miles apart than I did in the past several years with Mark. My heart is full, and I’m no longer yearning for something to help fill the void I had with Mark, which Rush helped to do. So, this is the whole point of this story: it’s never too late to change something. If something doesn’t feel right, you’re not obligated to keep doing it. There are always excuses, like, “I’ve been with him for too long – I can’t break up with him after so many years!” or “I’ve always done it this way, why should I change now, even if a new way might be better?” If you’re in a toxic relationship, and your gut is telling you to leave, leave! Listen to that voice deep inside you. My voice kept quietly nagging at me that I wasn’t happy with Mark, but I kept ignoring it. When I met the cruise ship band, I felt something special about them, like I had to have them in my life. If I hadn’t met that band, I wouldn’t have gotten very far with my ‘I-should-break-up’ revelation, and I wouldn’t have met the guitarist’s son, and I wouldn’t have been in the happy position I’m in now. I listened to my gut, and even though it was hard, I’m happy to be where I am now. It’s so freeing to be away from toxicity. Not that Mark was a bad guy – just that he wasn’t the right guy for me, and it was toxic for me to ignore that and keep pretending everything was ok. It’s never too late to correct a mistake!! Listen to your gut voice – if something tells you quietly that something is wrong, heed it! Thank you to anyone who has braved through these many words to read my story. I hope it can just help or inspire anyone in a similar position, whether someone is with the wrong person or the wrong job or has a bad friendship or even a bad habit, like smoking or not eating enough healthy food. And to quote another of my favourite Canadian rock trios: Follow your heart!