“When my boyfriend of almost two years broke up with me, I had the strangest reaction. I was relieved. More accurately, I was happy.
I really loved him, so I was a little caught off guard by my own response to him ending our romantic relationship. I thought to myself, ‘Wait, shouldn’t I be sad? Isn’t this the sort of thing that breaks people’s hearts–being broken up with out of the blue when you thought you were both in love? Shouldn’t I be crying or something?’ Of course, I was going to miss him and our relationship, but that sadness was overshadowed by the undeniable freedom I was feeling. Something was off.
I did a little soul searching to figure out what was causing this twisted response to my breakup. I realized that ever since I was a teenager, when I dated, I didn’t show up totally. I wore a mask–or better said, I had a representative. My dating representative was still very much me, except she was always cool, sexy, and mysterious. She was all the ‘good’ parts of me without any of the ‘needy’ parts. She was extremely confident and fiercely independent. There was no situation that caught her off guard or scared her. She was alluring and compelling (think Lara Croft, Sarah Connor, or Wonder Woman).
Basically, if I wanted to be in a relationship with a guy, I showed up as the coolest chick ever–never needing anything and confident in all situations. I knew how to seduce and intrigue men. I played the game well. In fact, I can’t think of one man I failed to get when I sent my dating rep after him. It was indeed a game for me, a challenge–to learn what he wanted and adjust the insecure parts of me to become what he desired. I didn’t feel like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t, because I hadn’t ever actually decided who I was to begin with. It felt more like I was ‘trying on’ different roles and parts to see if any of them felt true or authentically me(think Runaway Bride).
It wasn’t that I had multiple personalities. I just had different versions of myself. My dating rep happened to be the strongest one (probably because she got the most practice and attention). The other reps in my REPertoire were: party rep (chipper, friendly, upbeat, gets along with everyone), work rep (assertive, confident, didn’t take shit from anyone, could handle all kinds of people), travel rep (unapproachable, preoccupied, slightly annoyed by everyone), and I even had a sex rep (having no needs, accommodating, fun, enticing). Every time I sent a rep out to cover the date, the party, the meeting, I had to split myself into two ME’s: the authentic me and the perceived me. This was a tricky little web to weave, and it took a lot of thought (a lot of overthinking, actually). When I interacted with the guy I was dating, I had to filter through my rep–what would cool me say? How would laissez faire me respond? The amount of energy this took was overwhelming and consumed my mind.
So, when my boyfriend broke up with me after nearly two years, it wasn’t that I was happy the relationship ended, I was just happy that I didn’t have to use my rep anymore. Using reps in lieu of being my authentic self was exhausting. Historically, I just had short term relationships (5 weeks max), except for my ex-husband. He married my dating rep. Yikes.
Here’s the thing, I have always been a genuine person. I just haven’t always lived as my authentic self. When I lived split (real and perceived), I hadn’t fully discovered who I was yet, so I genuinely thought my reps were me. The longer and more frequently one uses their reps, the more separated they become from their true self. I wasn’t consciously aware of how disconnected I was from myself, but I felt the discord in my incessant thoughts about the relationship. I was up and down and back and forth on the daily about my boyfriend and our relationship through its entirety. Unbeknownst to him, of course (because my rep would never allow the true state of my heart to be revealed which was at its core, total chaos). He is a good man and I really did care for him, so I didn’t want to break up with him just because I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to be with him or not. That would be crazy, right?!
When he broke up with me, I literally thanked him. I hadn’t realized how tired I was always playing it cool and pretending we were awesome when something felt off about us the whole time. My decision to take the time to figure out what that ‘something’ was ended up being the best decision I could have made for myself. What started with a little bout of curiosity turned into an awakening. Not only did I fire all of my reps, I found my authentic self.
I gave up on distracting myself with relationship hopping, drinking when I felt sad, or texting friends when I felt lonely. I learned how to nurture myself and process my feelings. Now I get to live my life fully expressed, centered, and congruent in all areas: dating, parenting, work, parties, traveling… I’m just me. Sometimes I’m energetic and excitable and other times I’m reflective or melancholy, but it’s always fully me. There’s no mask, no alternate version of me, no representatives standing in place of the real deal.
Once I discovered I was housing a slew of lesser (albeit, cooler) versions of me, I said, ‘To hell with the house of reps!’ and I cut them all out, cold turkey. After I spun out trying to find who I was without them for a few weeks, I began my journey back to self. This has been the most beautiful transition of my life. Not only am I living whole and free for the first time, I show up differently. I’m a better mom, friend, lover, and person.
There really is nothing like the original… turns out, that’s true about humans too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by MaryBeth Koenes, 36, of Fort Worth Texas. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from MaryBeth here:
‘Only 6 months after our divorce was final, my ex-husband ended his lifelong battle with mental illness.’: Woman’s journey to discover her ‘self-worth’ after ex’s suicide
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