Time and time again, Christi tried to quench her thirst from a dry well.
The analogy describes what it’s been like living with her boyfriend, Tony, for the past six years. The anguish she’s felt is comparable to someone slowly dying from thirst. Although he called her his girlfriend, his participation in the relationship was halfhearted at best.
Christi held out—hoping that some day—if she just hung in there long enough, her dreams of a future with this guy would come true. Well, that all came crashing down around her when she discovered he was dating another woman.
No question, dashed hopes and rejection are a lot to endure. Loving support from others is a welcomed comfort, but it falls short of soothing a wounded heart. Recovery takes time, long moments of silent reflection and acquiring a new perspective.
In our counseling session, I could easily see the grief and betrayal in Christi’s eyes.
“I served that man for six years!” she said. “My life revolved around him!” She went on to explain all that she gave up—what she sacrificed personally—for him.
“Christi,” I said, “I’m having a hard time thinking this guy deserves you.”
She lowered her eyes. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him,” she said with a sigh. “I guess I couldn’t love enough ….”
“Did Tony betray you or were you betrayed by a fantasy?” I asked.
She looked puzzled.
“Did you read more into this relationship than was actually there?” I continued. “Did you imagine Tony to be something he wasn’t?”
“Ye-e-s … apparently so,” she muttered.
We spent the next several minutes contrasting her fantasy against reality. He didn’t invite her to go places with him. He showed little or not interest in the things she liked doing. He wouldn’t call or text her after business trips. Rarely ever, actually. He didn’t make her birthday a special event or even get her a gift!
Where was the tenderness? Where was the concern for her needs and wants? Where was the concern for her feelings? It flat out wasn’t there.
For six years, she made excuses for him in her mind, all in an attempt to avoid the bold truth. She ignored all clues that told her they were ill-suited. And the clues where everywhere.
For years–before meeting Tony–Christi had yearned for a companion who was as devoted to her as she was to him. She imagined that Tony would be that guy. “I kept thinking if I just got it right, he would come around—he would love me better,” she said.
How sad for Christi. She had used Tony’s lukewarm interest in her as a measure of her own worth and adequacy. Instead of asking herself: Do I measure up to what he wants? a better question would have been: Can he fulfill what I need in a partner?
Enduring the status quo wasn’t wise. She should have moved on, freeing herself to seek a more compatible partner.
I let her know that what her heart yearns for is right. What was off-kilter was expecting it to come from him.
I explained that she’s seeking love in places where love is in short supply. It’s like going to the same well everyday hoping to fill her cup with water. The well is dry, so quenching her thirst is an impossibility. She returns each day, though, anticipating more than a mere trickle. It never happens.
“One of the things you need to see,” I said, “is that there are other wells spanning across the landscape in every direction, as far as the eye can see. But you tend to be blind to them.”
“I can’t argue that miserable truth,” she said solemnly.
As our session wore on, Christi started putting things together. “I can see that I don’t value myself very much,” she said. “And I’m like my mom—her life revolves around my father. It saddens me how she’s given up so much of herself just to make him happy. Well … it seems I’m no different. Hmm.”
Christi’s learned pattern is being challenged because the well did something extraordinary: It uprooted itself and left her behind, thirsty and confused in the dust. Painful as that might be, ultimately, the “well” did her a favor. She’s now forced to explore the offerings of other wells.
But before jumping into another serious relationship, Christi needs to figure out why she blames herself when love isn’t reciprocated, and why she denies herself other potential opportunities. Why does she undervalue herself?
Once she deals with the problem at its roots, the next time a well runs dry, I’m convinced she won’t stick around. Feeling deserving of more, she’ll seek water elsewhere. There will be no stopping her! It’ll be impressive.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.
(c) Salee Reese 2020