How A Relationship With A Married Man Taught Me To Uplift Myself

Registered Yoga Teacher By Rebecca Butler
Registered Yoga Teacher
Rebecca Butler is an E-RYT 500 yoga teacher, writer, inspirational speaker and retreat leader.

I debated including this story for a number of reasons, mainly: (1) I’m not proud of this chapter of my life, and (2) It could potentially derail the message. 

I once engaged in a relationship that was less than healthy. OK, let me back-track. Many times I've engaged in relationships that were less than healthy, but I want to speak to only one of them today. I was dating an older man, who, despite his unorthodox circumstances (he was married) and our eventual demise (because he was married), still gave me some significant pearls of wisdom.

One thing he helped me understand was how relevant my energy levels were to my own mental state. For example, from time to time we'd spend long weekends together. They were blissful, as his wife was away with her boyfriend. (Yes, this was a mutual arrangement for them in which they each permitted one another to have other relationships.)

I adored these weekends. He was well off and had endless resources. We would eat extravagantly, rest judiciously, take long hikes in the hill country of Texas and indulge one another’s every whim — from seeing live music to swimming in heated pools and staying up to all hours talking in the hot tub.

However gorgeous these weekends were, they'd always come to a close. When they were over, I'd travel back to suburbia, picking up my single mom gig, and get back into my endless routine of work. I'd work to make the house comfortable, work to make sure the bills were paid, work to create the time to play with my son, work to further my career, and so on. Even though I enjoyed my life, it was hard work. At the end of those weekends with my lover, I'd sink into despair, longing for things to be different... perhaps with just a little less work. Often, I'd become inconsolable, at which point I'd feel guilty about our relationship (because he was married). I would decide I must end it.

Usually in a high-pitched state of emotional turmoil, I'd call him and have an absolute fit. He would hear me out, then ask me gently, "Have you eaten?" This would enrage me further. What does that have to do with being married?! "Rebecca," he would plead, "Please eat something. Please rest. And then, let’s talk."

I would be irate, but after I rested and nourished myself, I could usually have a more rational conversation. I ultimately broke up with him anyway, but I did it far more calmly than those tumultuous, energy-deprived moments.

However painful this process was, it was breakthrough information — I learned when I'm open to being irrational and highly emotional. If I'm sleep-deprived and hungry, I can easily slip into high drama.

This was the point in my life at which I discovered the importance of energy levels and how they impact not just how hungry you are, but your overall wellness — mental state, physical state, emotional state. Yet it wasn't until I had freed myself from this destructive relationship, created a new life for myself and did much, much more work on forgiveness and healing that I began to assemble the process of how to actually uplift myself.

Once you catch yourself slipping into downward spiral territory, where do you go? It’s helpful to have a handy list of self-affirming beliefs. I’m not talking about generic affirmations; I’m referring to black-and-white accomplishments of which you are proud. Let me give you an example.

Fast forward many moons. I'm now in an entirely different career, one I could have never fathomed possible, doing what I love: writing and teaching yoga. I'm married to a dedicated man who adores his family. But I have a whole new cadre of fears.

This weekend, I'm presenting at my first yoga conference. I’m nervous and excited about this all at the same time. When I'm tired and hungry, here is what my internal dialogue looks like:

What if no one shows up at my workshop? Worse: What if a ton of people show up and I choke? What if, in my absence at my studio, I dole out my classes to the teachers and they become better than me? What if I get hurt? What if I gain weight and become fat? What if I'm too old to make a difference? What if I can’t ever make enough money doing this? What will I do?

And here's what my self-affirming voice says:

Bah! That’s self-limiting propaganda. Stop feeding yourself fears. Start feeding yourself exhilaration. 

The facts (my self-affirming beliefs):

  • In two short years, I've created a successful, donation-based studio in a town where people swore up and down that no one was generous enough to support this model.
  • Simply by being myself I've attracted unique, genuine, beautiful, strong, amazing, soulful women to join me and teach yoga in a similar fashion.
  • These women are now teaching every day. Together, we're mindfully, authentically changing lives. With joy. With love. With kindness. We're creating a passionately alive community in a part of the world where people typically are numb to life and are afraid to be themselves. We're creating a community where yoga teachers can hone their skills with support and awareness, where they can manifest their dreams and ideas with acceptance and encouragement, where we all uplift and celebrate one another for our perfections and our gifts. It's a hotbed of change — a place where we can make an honest living doing what we love, in an industry known for not paying enough for survival. 

So this is what I humbly offer you: Learn to recognize the moments at which you are susceptible to fear and self-loathing, then learn the words that help you turn it around, the words and actions that help you uplift rather than degrade yourself. Life is too short to live any other way. And if you're in a situation that's making you less-than-proud, free yourself and forgive yourself — begin the path of healing, begin the path of uplifting.

It is so worth it.

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