Friday, 6 June 2014

Learning to love yourself

Since I left my husband one thing I have had to learn to do is to be generous to myself.

My husband prided himself on his generosity, except it wasn’t, it was just another way to control me. He would buy something on ebay most days; he’d call at the supermarket on the way home from work- just to pick up bread, and come home with bags and bags of treats. I used to dread the postman knocking on the door because I knew it meant he’d been spending money we didn’t have.

Usually it was clothes he bought me: tight tops, short skirts, push up bras, lacy knickers. When clothing arrived for me I wasn’t allowed to question it because that was just “pouring cold water” on his gift. If I said I didn’t need clothes or I was worried about the money I wasn’t just “being ungrateful” I was also spoiling the pleasure he claimed he got from being generous.

So I had to feign excitement as I tore open the package, I had to smile and say ‘thank you’ for the revealing skirt I didn’t want. And I had to sound convincing too. Instead of rushing to check the bank account to see how much he’d caused us to go overdrawn I had to rush upstairs and try it on, there and then, no matter what I was planning to do at that moment, even if I was tired and about to go to bed, or ill, or on my period and feeling bloated- fashion parades happened in our house several times a week.

And if it was too small, which it often was I’d feel guilty as he choked back tears and said “well I bought your size” and then refuse to send it back saying “put it away for when you lose weight”

With my husband spending all our money like it was going out of fashion I had to do the opposite. I never needed clothes or shoes because my wardrobes (notice the plural, I have one now!) were bursting at the seams, much like the tiny clothes squashed reluctantly inside them. And I daren’t spend money anyway because I never got to look at the bank accounts and I never knew how much we had, or didn’t have. But I did know that with his spending habits we couldn’t have much left.

So by the time I left my husband I was in the habit of buying myself nothing. This is something I’ve had to ‘unlearn’ now I regularly treat myself. Just little things, I get my hair done, I buy clothes I like, I buy myself chocolate and flowers and ice cream and little knick knacks. The sort of thing I guess that a husband might buy for his wife, as he saw them and thought of her. I’ve learned to do that for myself.

When I was married if a single friend was buying for herself I’d have felt sorry for her that she had to treat herself, that she didn’t have a husband to treat her; I’d think “yeah it’s nice but it’s not the same.”

I was right, it’s not the same.

When I treat myself I buy things I like, and that fit; gifts from me don’t make me feel bad about myself. I am grateful when I buy myself something; I am grateful that I am able to, and it’s real gratitude, not forced gratitude for something I don’t want in fear of what will happen if I am truthful about not liking it. When I buy myself something I don’t feel guilty about the waste or the money; I buy nice things, that I like, and I budget for them. My spend doesn’t cause me to worry about savings or the future or anything really. My husband’s gifts also used to make me feel indebted to him, I’d think “oh he buys me so many things and I never get anything for him….” When I buy myself something I don’t feel indebted to anyone. (except maybe the credit card company)

And I’m not just generous to myself in terms of spend, I have learned to cook myself nice food. In fact this has been important too, because when I was with my husband I’d cook him lovely food as an act of love for him, it took me a while to cook for myself with such tenderness.  I also give myself time, for relaxing, for enjoyment and often a bit of pampering. When I was with my husband I didn’t wear make up because he’d complain if I took too long to get ready, now I enjoy sitting in front of my mirror playing with my mascara and lippy, it gives me a boost.

Acts of generosity are designed to make the receiver feel loved, to feel special. My husband’s acts of generosity never did that, they just made me feel worried and guilty. When I treat myself I remind myself that I am loved. Not just by others but by myself. I no longer waste my energies trying only to love an unlovable person who rejects and does not reciprocate love. I no longer put my own needs aside hoping in vain that someone will notice them. I no longer rely on someone else to fulfil my desires or to provide for me.  I love myself, I care for myself and I take responsibility for myself.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to learn to be kind to yourself in whatever way makes you happy.

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