With the help of a therapist, Anka was able to recognize that she needed to learn that it was OK for her to have needs and it was OK to make meeting those needs a priority. That new philosophy led her into a relationship that Anka describes as more of partnership than any relationship she’s been in.
Therapy had a huge impact. I was seeing this lady in New York for two years and then she referred me to someone else when I moved to London. She was a tough cookie – there was some tough love involved in that process. It was a matter of looking at myself and rejuggling priorities. Even simpler than that, I came to realize that some of those priorities were an extension of my life experiences up to that point and that I didn’t necessarily like them anymore. She helped me figure out what is really important to me and what’s less important. And then, we worked on the language to communicate that – that may seem obvious but it wasn’t obvious to me.
For example, I learned that being out in nature was important to me and living in London at the time, that meant getting out into the countryside. For that to happen I had to communicate to my partner, who is now my husband, ‘it’s really important to me that when we’re together we get out of the city periodically. I need to see green and I need to be somewhere close to nature, to walk or to ride my bike. It’s a mental health thing. I need to be able to do that.’
I guess I had enough self-confidence to know that what was important to me deserved to be respected and I ought to be the first person to honor it. By the time I met my current husband, I was being true to myself. I showed up for our first date wearing my biking gear because I could kind of squeeze him into my schedule after having gone on a bike ride with my friends. He saw me in my padded pants, sweaty and gross and disgusting and I thought, ‘this is what I like to do and if he can’t deal with it then clearly this is not going to work.’
That was a major change for me. I would never have done that before. Granted, I rarely wear makeup but I would have spent more time getting dressed and I would not have shown up on somebody’s doorstep for a first date looking the way one looks afer a 30-mile bike ride.
What’s amazing about my relationship with my current husband is that it’s been easy compared to my other relationships. Once you figure out what’s important to you and it’s no longer scary to you to have an opinion about what’s important to you, the relationship is much easier because you’re not forever fighting with yourself. You’re not thinking, ‘I really want to do this but my partner wants to do something else and his should be more important than mine.’ It’s not to say that it’s always my way – it’s not but at least I know what’s important to me and I’m able to communicate that.
It’s been a little over two years since my divorce and since I haven’t felt ready to venture into the dating scene, I have no insights to offer on finding a new partner. With balancing my children, work, writing, exercise and seeing my friends, it’s hard to imagine squeezing in dating but that could be a chicken and egg question, I know. I have a very vivid visual of Anka in her biking gear turning up on her date’s doorstep and I think that’ll be playing in my head when I do get a date. How about you? Did the changes you made after your divorce help you in your next relationship? What needs are important enough to you that you place meeting them first before meeting the needs of those around you?