Have you ever been sitting on the kitchen floor, ice cream tub and spoon in hand, crying your eyes out over a failed relationship? Christine Arylo (and many others of us) have been there! She found herself completely broken after a fifteen year relationship came crashing down leaving her with “a heart torn to shreds”. What added to her heartbreak was knowing that she let the most important relationship in her life fail – the one she had with herself.
Christine realized that the ending of her fifteen year relationship was really a new beginning. This new beginning allowed her to heal all her wounds – the ones from the relationship with her “ex-person” and the ones that were there from her childhood. Just like anyone else, Christine spent weeks crying while throwing out old pictures and going through past memories, but when the dust settled, she saw that she had put her needs, wants, and desires aside to make her relationship work.
Anyone else feeling like they are looking in a mirror…?
Christine’s journey to “choosing ME” brought her one very crucial insight: it takes a village. It takes the wisdom from others and the insights that fellow women can provide to help you in choosing ME! It was the support from Christine’s “troupe of angels” that inspired her to share her journey with us in “Choosing ME before WE: Every Woman’s Guide to Life and Love”.
As women, we are oftentimes known as “the glue” that keeps things in place, but what are we truly trying so desperately to keep together? And why are we the only ones who seem to be capable of doing it? Because we, as women, tend to put ourselves aside. We are the first in a relationship to stop “choosing ME” and start putting other’s needs first. Many people believe that it’s impossible to have it all, but Christine would be the first to tell you that is not true! Only a few months after her tears and ice cream moment, she found the man that is now her husband. She is in a loving, supportive relationship that allows her to love herself and have a life that is limitless and full of possibilities. Her hope is that her journey can inspire ours to be full of “choosing ME”, so that we can choose the right “WE”!
Here are three insights that made an impact on my journey to choosing ME!
- Settling for less means that you are telling the best parts of yourself they don’t matter. So, let’s start with why we settle. As women, we are told that “sacrificing” our goals, needs, wants, and happiness is beneficial to the health of our families and partners. Society perpetuates this concept by saying that our sacrifices make us heroes. And that is true! We are heroes, but not because we sacrifice our desires. We are heroes, because we have the ability to accomplish our goals AND have dinner ready if we need to!
In all seriousness, we are never going to feel completely happy with the weight of our “sacrifices” looming over us. Another reason women settle is because of the “Race to the Altar”. For some of us, all we can think about is what we don’t have right now: a ring, a husband, and a child. Constantly obsessing over what we don’t have or what we think we need will cause us to settle for whatever we can get our hands on. We think that if we don’t just pick one soon, they will all be gone. Like, all of the sudden, every decent man will be spoken for, and we will be left with nothing. The belief that good men will somehow “run out” or go “out of stock” leads us to settling for someone who will never fully see us or appreciate every part of us.
Settling for a relationship is what Christine calls a “half relationship”. It’s made more out of contract than out of love and appreciation for one another. You get the warm body to share your bed, the second income, and the ring, but you lose out on the emotions, dreams, and self-expressions. Not having these essential parts of yourself recognized and appreciated will lead you to feeling lonely despite having someone right next to.
So let’s recap: you might settle to avoid being lonely, but settling will only lead to being lonely in a relationship. When it’s put so plainly, it doesn’t make any sense, so why even waste your precious time on settling for less than what you want? Or as Christine says, “honor yourself enough to choose nothing less.”
- Part of choosing me is loving me.
Christine insists that one thing a woman MUST learn to do is to love herself. In order to love yourself, you have to learn everything about yourself and find ways to love the bits that you might not like at first. Most women tend to look for someone who will love every part of them, but what they are truly seeking is someone to love them so they themselves don’t have to love themselves. If we think that we have a partner that loves every part of us, then we don’t have to do any deep soul searching to get to know ourselves or learn to either accept or change the parts of us that we aren’t so fond of. The truth of the matter is, once we learn to love ourselves we learn exactly what we need in a partner.
Christine reflects back at one of the biggest realizations she had at the end of her long term relationship: her lack of self-love had created her reality. By not fully loving herself, she did not see that her partner was not the man she needed in her life, so she continued to settle. Along with knowing and accepting yourself, Christine explains that “living as the fullest expression of your real ME” is also a part of truly loving yourself. Lastly, attracting and allowing people and situations into your life that support your journey to loving yourself and “choosing ME” is crucial. This is not the time to be best friends with a pessimistic “negative-Nancy” type. She’s going to have to find another parade to rain on because we don’t have time for that! On our journey to self-love, we need people who will lift us up and rejoice our bravery for finally choosing ME!
- I’ve chosen ME… now what about that WE part?
After all of this ME talk, let’s take a look back at the title of Christine’s book: “Choosing Me before WE”. The word “before” is very important to note. Just because you have chosen yourself does not mean you cannot also have a partner in your life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! After choosing ME, you have just prepared yourself to be the best partner you can be and you are now equipped with the knowledge of what you deserve and expect in a relationship. Christine provides what she calls four “shortcuts” to creating authentic partnerships while avoiding unhealthy relationships.
Number one: avoid unhealthy attraction and choose authentic partnership. You may be wondering what these two things look like. Well, we’ve all seen “unhealthy attraction”. It’s a whirlwind romance fueled by alcohol and lust. It’s two people who have fallen in love with the idea that they are in love, instead of actually falling in love with each other. Christine’s advice: “choose a dynamic, life-affirming connection based on intimacy, respect, trust, truth, unconditional love, and friendship”. That sounds nice and all, but where do you go to find a partner will all these amazing qualities? Take a look back at when we were discussing loving ourselves. We attract what we exude. If we are exuding a sense of self-love and self-worth, we will attract someone who will love that about us!
Number two: authentic partnerships take more than love. You can be in love with your partner and still not have an authentic partnership. This might be a tough pill to swallow, and Christine is well aware of that, but without self-awareness, intimacy, trust, or respect the relationship just doesn’t make the cut.
Number three: love alone is never a reason to stay. Have you ever heard someone say, “I love them and they love me and that’s enough”? We usually hear such a phrase after that person has just vented to us about the problems in the relationship. Christine believes that “love should never require sacrificing one’s self”. What tends to keep us in these types of relationships is the fear that we will never find someone else who says they love us. We tend forgo joy and happiness and believe the falsehood that our partner will change and become the person we can be in an authentic partnership with.
Number four: ending a relationship is not failure; failure is trying to keep a dead one alive. Christine believes that we are conditioned by society to believe that ending relationships, no matter the circumstances, is failing at the relationship. She instead looks at relationships as lessons: “some can be short and painful, medium and sweet, long and empowering, or never-ending and continuously torturous”. The important part is determining if the lesson your teacher (your partner) is giving is healthy for you or not. Having the wisdom to stay or leave is not shameful or embarrassing, but we can be grateful for the lesson and go our separate ways, if necessary.
This enlightening read will challenge you to be painfully honest with yourself as you search your soul on your journey to “choose ME”. Christine provides a safe space to explore your heart and learn how to truly love yourself. With helpful questions and challenges along the way, she will guide you as you navigate the rocky and emotional terrain of self-realization and “choosing ME before WE”. It’s time, ladies, that we pick up the emotional baggage that we have carried around with us for so long and begin to sort through it so we can learn to love every part of ourselves and learn to “choose ME”!
P.S.! Share your journey with one another! What you learn on your journey to “choose ME” might inspire someone else’s journey. It was the advice from Christine’s friends’ that inspired much of her journey! Let’s take down our own walls and share the hard parts, so that others know they are not alone!
Madison Rodriguez is a contributing writer for Inspiration Rising. She is a student of the world – striving to learn about other cultures through the eyes of the people who live there and dedicated to ocean and habitat conservation. When she’s not writing or managing content, you can find her at SoCal beach reading The Help alongside her trusty, four-legged friend, Boots. During football season, she loves cheering on her brother who is an offensive lineman for the Dixie State Trailblazers. Recently, she earned a B.A. in English Literature from California State University, Fullerton.