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Accountability

Updated: Feb 3, 2023


If I want you to see my light, I have to be willing to let you see the cracks.


I'm a deeply imperfect human. We all are. I don't say that to let myself off the hook, but more to acknowledge that I'm not unique here. I'd love to hide behind childhood wounds, or past relationships. I'd love to hide behind the form of masculinity (or lack thereof) that I was raised with. That's not really taking accountability in my eyes. I step into this space to acknowledge the pain I've caused another person, and to encourage any man reading this to take steps towards accountability and allow the healing to begin.


As a friend said, "This type of work isn't for the weak hearted." As I prepare to express some of my thoughts, that's exactly what my heart feels like—weak.


I'd like to preface this by saying I don't offer this as a source of pride for my "re-birthed self." I also don't offer it in shame, either. In my deepest integrity I know I've done the best I could at any given moment in my life. Sometimes, my best was just a shitty version of what someone else deserved, including myself.


I fell in love with an amazing woman in 2018. There were immediate sparks and moments that imprinted permanent memories. I was also a person with so little understanding of boundaries and a huge fear of disappointing others. I also had (and still have, to some degree) a fragile ego that so desperately wants to be loved and approved by all those around me. The biggest threat to my ego is disappointing someone else, resulting in my lack of worthiness. As I look back, there are countless moments where another person's happiness superseded my partner's. It even superseded my own.


In the early weeks of our blossoming relationship, my boundaries were flimsy and I didn't know how to say "no," even when I wanted to. A woman whom I met months earlier when I was unattached was set to visit from out of the country. I couldn't gather the courage to disappoint her and tell her to not come. I couldn't disappoint her and say "no" when she wanted intimacy. My body and mind screamed it, but someone else's feelings were more important. I caved and felt awful about it, but exaggerating the truth to my partner felt safer, somehow. Then I tried to normalize it, by saying we were just a few weeks into things. But I knew damn right I loved my partner even in those early days. It was just egoic justification.


In the months to follow, I'd make a coffee date with a new friend and tell my partner, "This is normal. What's the big deal?" I'd seen it in my previous toxic relationship. It was normal, right? Not exactly. I stayed in contact with an ex and while it was mostly friendly contact, there were times I undermined how serious the relationship was to keep her on the hook. I argued that this, too, was normal. In my heart, I knew I wasn't quite over her, and there was a sense of comfort in knowing I wasn't quite forgotten. I told myself it was part of the healing process.


When I came back from seven weeks of healing and growth in Guatemala, I defaulted to my climbing friend over my partner on more than one occasion when it came to adventure plans we were all involved in. This often left her out of the adventure and, again, I told her this was normal. I let my comments on social media get flirtatious all in the spirit of human connection. There's a fine line between between connecting human-to-human, and connecting to fill the void. That line became super blurry and I found myself on the wrong side more than a few times. When I was called out on it, I became defensive, or ready to delete my whole social media and to take a break, only to jump back online and start the trend all over. While I never crossed any infidelity lines there, I know I wasn't proud of all the conversations that had taken place, and knew that it would at least bring some confusion and discomfort.


The point in this list is not to pile shame on myself. The point is how often I normalized this type of behavior and made my partner feel like she was the one in the wrong for questioning my love. Here's the catch. I did love her. I still do. I sure as hell didn't love myself or respect myself enough to sort that shit out and I wasn't strong enough to acknowledge that she had a point. Finally, she had too much and the pattern didn't seem like it was going to stop. So she had to be strong enough for both of us and walk away.


It's taken me months of anguish and tears (frankly, weeping at times) for me to look at myself and acknowledge that I shoulder the load of responsibility for why things didn't work out. Hopefully in saying this, it might make more sense to some of my family and friends why things didn't work out and why she's so hurt and angry. It's also why I defend her. She loved me with her whole heart and she showed it every day. I loved her in my pieced together 85 percent. Even though I have the capacity to love very big, this wasn't my true, authentic self, and only I know that.


So now I sit in this huge paradox I've created. It took her walking away for me to have the opportunity for this lesson. It's taken me leaning in, feeling the feelings, and not jumping into other relationships to develop one with myself. It's revealed huge lessons, growth, and a refined ability to love, but that has only been because I've been able to love myself. I can finally say with confidence that I'm becoming the man she's always wanted me to be, the man she's always deserved. Most importantly, I'm stepping into being the man I deserve to be. The ugly joke is this: she's not here, anymore. The Catch-22 is that the only sane way I could have gotten here was the hard way. I had to lose the best thing that ever happened to me to take accountability for my actions, my lack of boundaries, and my path of healing. Staring those things in the face has been ugly. It's been heart-breaking. It, too, has been the only way.


My only encouragement to anyone reading is that there was another way. A way that starts is with feeling into that burning in your chest or stomach when what you know doesn't quite align with what you're about to say, or how you're about to justify it. Accountability starts with being honest with yourself and then having the integrity to let that ripple out to the people who deserve it, too.

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