Save Yourself

The Silent Heart by Sulamith Wulfing

The Silent Heart by Sulamith Wülfing

Every woman I have ever known, including myself, has had to learn this one particular lesson:  your love cannot “save” anyone. No matter what their potential is, or how wonderful or smart they are, they will never come to their happiness or reach their potential unless they want to. You can lead a horse to water, even the finest and purest spring water, bottled and sold for five dollars a bottle, and you still cannot make them drink. In fact, the more you try to lead them to water, the more they may resist you. You can’t budge a horse who is dug in and sitting on his haunches.

It seems to me that it is mostly women who have this “need to save” impulse (a.k.a. “martyr” complex), but of course, men can have it, too. And those who need to be a martyr to the cause of someone else will typically find someone who appears to “need” it the most, but who will also resist the most and eventually suck the martyr dry.

I spent 12 years (Ahnna spent 7) trying to help someone who didn’t want to help himself, trying to love someone who certainly didn’t love himself, and trying to make someone happy who consistently chose unhappiness. In the early years, this obstinacy quickened my resolve to save him. I dug in. I could do it! I loved him, and this is how I would prove it.

But over time, I grew tired of doing everything for him (I even looked for jobs for him). I grew tired of pouring my emotions into a bottomless pit that either could not or would not return the favor. And I grew tired of trying everything I knew to make him happy, only to be met with a solid determination to live in anger and depression, which always had the effect of evaporating my own happiness. In short, I wasn’t making any positive inroads into his life, but his preferred mood cast a definite pall over mine.

When I realized the folly of my ways, I set about trying to help myself, love myself, and make myself happy. This changed the entire energy of our relationship. For him, it was an opportunity to choose to change, for himself. He chose not to. I chose to move on, and my next relationship was with someone who didn’t need me to save her at all. She was already saved. She helped herself, loved herself, and made herself happy. Now we do it together, and with two willing horses at the water hole, it is an easy pleasure to drink that purifying tonic called Happiness.

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