Listen to the podcast discussion here.
Today, I am talking to a lady named Arja from Croydon, South London.
She is currently studying for a degree whilst working as an Education Advisor. By her own admission she has had a successful career so far, and has two children who are 8 and 2 years old.
‘’I feel like I don’t know my worth because rather than me saying ‘What can you bring to the table?’, I’m actually saying….‘Come and sit with me, please!’’
Arja has been struggling emotionally since her partner left the family home. They would have been celebrating four years together this Spring, however she admits that it has been a very difficult four years.
After leaving a previous long-term relationship due to infidelity, she met her most recent partner and fell pregnant six months into the relationship.
Still in her early 30’s at the time, she felt she was at an age where she couldn’t have a termination and wouldn’t consider it as an option, even though they didn’t know each other that well.
He moved into her home which she shared with her child from her previous relationship. She soon came to realise during this time that he was quite a difficult person.
Following the birth of their son she noticed that things didn’t seem right. He admitted that he had cheated on her whilst she was pregnant.
Despite her attempts to fight for their relationship, he eventually left after three and a half years.
Do you feel that things took more of a negative turn once you were aware that you were pregnant?
Yes, kind of. During pregnancy, I suffer from a condition called Hyperemesis (chronic nausea) and noticed from the outset that there was an element of empathy missing from him. I felt like the only time he may have cared is when I started to feel a bit better. He would pop in and out throughout the pregnancy but it never felt like he was really by my side.
In hindsight, were there any red flags that you saw early on in the relationship?
At the beginning no, there were not any red flags, but he knew what to say and how to behave. He openly said to me once that ‘When you meet someone you put on an act! Everyone does it!’. During the earlier part of our relationship he would do and say nice things that he no longer does. As time has gone on his true colours have played out.
Can you give me some examples of how his behaviour changed once you gave birth?
To be honest, he was amazing at the birth but because he had just found a new job he wasn’t able to be around as much. We were happy for the first few weeks of our son’s life. However, I noticed that he hadn’t been as attentive and affectionate as he had been before.
We hadn’t had sex either, so I kept asking him what was wrong? I told him that he ‘seemed distracted’ and asked whether it was me or something I had done? Was it because I’ve now had our son and maybe I wasn’t as attractive as before? He wasn’t that forthcoming until I finally asked him whether he had been with someone else.
He replied and he said ‘Yeah, yeah I have!’.
I asked him when it happened and his explanation was a bit evasive. He said it was non-penetrative and that it happened when he was drunk at a house party. A random woman had given him oral sex.
I felt so overwhelmed that I just had to leave the house. I went to see a friend for some moral support and when I eventually returned he looked desperate.
He told me all the things he would do to make things right again. As he was making all the suggestions it made me feel like there actually might be something worth fighting for.
How did this revelation affect you?
It was all a bit of a haze and I felt like this was my fault. I felt physically sick and needed to just get out. I questioned myself about what I had done wrong that would make him to do this to me and why cheating is happening again in this relationship?
This was all about me. I blamed myself.
I never thought that I could hit such a low again after what happened in my first relationship that also ended due to infidelity. There is the saying that ‘once you hit rock bottom you will never fall so hard again’, but I cannot say that the pain this time around is any less.
The conversation in my mind today, is just as difficult as it was back then.
I have an amazing job and I’m a strong decent woman! However, rather than me thinking about all the positive things that I have shared with him (my beautiful home, our son, my daughter) I keep blaming myself. It’s sad that I’ve kept trying to make this relationship work because of how it would make me look! I feel like people will wonder if there is something wrong with me because this has happened again?
As a woman, especially in my situation it’s what you do. You try to make things work.
I remember sitting and listening to a friend crying about how she felt like she couldn’t be with anyone else, and I thought she was stupid. However, being in that situation now, I know exactly how she feels. It now makes me wonder how vulnerable I look and do I now become a target for these types of men?
Do you see any similarities with your last two partners?
Both had quite narcissistic personalities in different ways. My second partner was a very ‘covert narcissist’, quiet and didn’t have a very ‘out there’ personality. My first partner was a typical self-obsessed narcissist. Everybody loves him and he’s always the life and soul of the party. He has a big Facebook presence and everyone follows and entertains him. He is also very egotistical with a ‘me me me’ attitude. With him, as much as he would have done wrong, he could always get out of bad situations and turn it around. At the time because they were completely different personalities, I didn’t immediately notice the narcissistic traits. With my second partner, I was now able to be at the forefront and not have to hide in the huge personality of my first partner anymore
Being brutally honest, how does it make you feel being in your current situation? Does it make you wince to find yourself now single with two children by two different partners?
Definitely, very much so. I’ve found myself begging him to come back and salvage the relationship, but he hasn’t wanted to. The one time we did have a conversation about getting back together, he had changed his mind by the next day. Right now, I should be trying to rebuild myself, but my thoughts are almost entirely occupied by him and wondering what I’ve done to make him not want to come back?
You’ve mentioned your age a few times since we began speaking. Do you feel your age is playing a part in how you feel about yourself and your situation?
Massively! What happens when it’s the second time around and you see red flags? There’s a stigma in society about having a failed relationship (especially when there are children involved). You almost feel obliged to stay in the relationship.
My first partner was a serial cheater and even then, I felt like I had made my bed and I had to lie in it at ANY cost. I didn’t want to be the one to break or the one to say, ‘it’s enough’. I didn’t want to be that person because that’s just not what you do.
Being in university also plays a part in it too as I’m around 18 & 19 year olds who have no life experience. I feel like I shouldn’t have to hide from them what I’m going through and maybe even offer them a few pearls of wisdom, however they would be horrified and I’m equally embarrassed.
I feel like I don’t know my worth because rather than me saying ‘What can you bring to the table?’. I’m actually saying, ‘Come and sit with me, please!’.
On the other hand, when I see women who do highly value themselves, they aren’t in relationships? So, where is their reward for not accepting less than what they deserve?
My biggest question right now is where do you draw the line in deciding whether you should continue in trying to make things work?
What have you learnt following this turbulent part of your life?
You have to look after YOU! It’s the classic oxygen mask analogy! Always affix your own oxygen mask before you help your child.
It sounds so cliché, but no one is going to love me until I love myself. Getting to that point would take away all self-doubt and make me act upon the red flags that I saw but shied away from.
Come away from self-blame and move into self-love!
I need to be more aware of who I let in my life and recognise the signs as early on as possible.
However, I still have many moments where I still want to make things work, especially because I have a daughter. I don’t want her to see me going through these things.
I probably overestimated how good the relationship was in hindsight because I needed to justify staying in it.
I had been in therapy for two years prior to my most recent relationship but I didn’t really address anything other than the situation at hand. I am now at the point where I’m getting the strength to empower myself and I want to do thing for me. I decided this week to lose the extra weight I had gained since having my son and I’ve been successful so far. I’ve also begun Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help with my anxiety.
As we drew the interview to a close I asked Arja what the future held for her. Her main focus is her children, finishing her degree and turning things around emotionally. She recognises that being healthy and happy in both mind and body is key to building her self-worth and value. I’d like to thank her for sharing her most raw and intimate thoughts with Love Laid Bare.
If Arja’s story has particularly resonated with you, please have a listen to our bonus podcast. It offers a few minutes of mindfulness tips to help you towards your journey of self-love and healing. Click Here!
You can also find support services on our Resources Page.
I look forward to your feedback on tonight’s podcast so please leave your feedback or thoughts in the comments below.
Take care of yourself.