Finding Your Healthy Self to Find a Healthy Other

Relationship Coach, Jenna Ponaman, shares her personal story of finding self-acceptance and authenticity within herself to be open (and finding), the best possible partner for her.

Have you ever found yourself in a relationship where you try so hard to make it just how you pictured it would be, only to have it end in total disaster? Me! Me! Soooooo me! I knew exactly who my soul-mate would be (Would have been Orlando Bloom, but I’d settle for his Doppleganger) and what my relationship should look like, and so anytime I would get into a relationship with someone I would almost immediately try to take control to get what I wanted—I’d plan dates without giving him the chance for any input, I’d call or text him all the time to “check in,” telling him I loved him (even though I didn’t really feel that way) just to hear him say it back, and I even found myself constantly being the one to seduce him to make sure we had a healthy sex life.

I was checking off all the items on my laundry list of requirements, only to find the relationships ending way too soon. I didn’t realize that—let’s be real— I was being bat-shit crazy. But truly, I lost sight of who I was and what really mattered in a relationship. I had gone so far down the rabbit hole of the fairy tale of falling in love, that I forgot about what love actually meant to me.

My “ah-ha” moment unfortunately came when the person I was trying so hard to change turned out to be an abusive partner.

The more I tried to control him, change him, or fix him, the harder it was for me to see that only thing that needed change or fixing was me. I spent so much energy trying to control the situation that I lost control of myself—I lost my voice, my strength, my identity—I lost it all. Being in an abusive relationship was hard and traumatizing, but the silver lining became so apparent when I realized this man was reflecting to me exactly what I had become, and exactly what I no longer wanted to be. If I didn’t feel comfortable and safe in my own skin and safe with who I was, how could I create a safe environment with another person? I realized then that the key to creating the relationship I wanted with a partner was to first reclaim the relationship I wanted with myself.

So how in the hell do I do THAT?! Even after going through heartbreak after heartbreak, knowing I wanted to make the change, control was still so hard to let go. I wanted love, and I wanted it now. As hard as it was to control my relationships, change was even harder. This is my life we’re talking about here, how will I know it’ll work?

The first thing I had to do was stop focusing on the negative “What if’s”—What if it doesn’t work out? What if I don’t find anyone? What if I’m not good enough? Etc.—and start focusing on the positives, such as what qualities of myself I am really proud of. Then I asked myself, “What would my life be like if I could redefine “perfectionism” as being exactly who I am, quirks and all, and really taking ownership of that? What kind of relationship could be created if I had the courage to stand in my authenticity, and be completely detached from whether or not that person is attracted to who I am, because I know I am perfect as I am, and I deserve to be with someone who sees me as just that, and will not settle for anything less?

This was my ultimate empowering moment. When I was finally able to embrace my uniqueness, everything changed. Sure, I had some relationships that still ended, but they were far from unsuccessful. Each relationship, no matter how long or short, was a beautiful experience where I got to be exactly who I wanted to be, and my partner was able to express who they were in kind. We shared laughs, we shared cries, we shared openness and created memories we each, to this day, treasure. I still maintain friendships with some of these men, because the bond we had was so great from person to person. The moment finally came when I met my current partner, and with that partner I have created the exact relationship I, deep down, wanted all along. He is not my Orlando Bloom, he isn’t anything on that first check-off list—he is a reflection of the love and happiness I have discovered within myself, and he is pure, unconditional love, quirks and all.

My life is full, and my life is abundant, not just because I found my partner, but I found me.