Where is the f&*%$#@ manual?!

By Staci Welch-Bartley

It only took my first experience of falling in love and having that relationship blow up like Chernobyl, to ask where the f&*% is the bloody manual?! After that experience I began down the road of thinking things like, I don’t know how to do these things called love and romance! I have no idea what just happened, let alone a clue about how I am supposed to manage it. I kept asking myself why I felt so ashamed of my failure. My religion and society imposed on me the idea that I was supposed to be good at this, and that once I experienced true love I should be able to hang onto it forever.  So, I asked myself what does it mean about my relationships do not work out? Am I a bad and wrong person?  Am I doomed to fail for the rest of my life?

After the shock and pain of it all rained down on me, how was I ever going to be brave enough to try again? I had no idea what I should do differently, because I was not sure what had just happened! And I was supposed to learn from the past? It was so difficult to get past the emotions to see the lessons in the experience, I just wanted to bury my head so deep that I couldn't breathe!

Looking back now, I can see that it took me seven serious relationships of practice to finally fall madly in love and marry someone that I know was custom designed for me! Practice, I just needed practice.

I remember things started to change for me during my relationship with Number Four. Number Four was a husband, not just a lover, and I was then in my 10th year of marriage with him at the age of 30. At that point, having had four lovers was a HUGE deal given my background of being raised a good Mormon girl in Utah. I kept this little secret close to my heart for many years feeling like a total “slut”, until one day, I had the wonderful experience of being in a room of amazing women who liberated me. 

A group of us gathered in a hotel room after an incredible empowerment workshop to spend more time together, and to share our personal experiences with one another about the workshop. Someone had gifted the group a glorious box of wine for the occasion. It was decided that we were going to go around the room with a question. And much to my discomfort, the question was: how many lovers have you had? I swallowed hard, and literally broke out in a sweat! I was horrified at the thought and decided I would need to do one of two things. Either chose to be honest and confess that I had four lovers at the ripe age of 32, or lie and say only two.  (The two lovers that the room full of women were aware of already.) And if that were not stress enough, the group’s eyes landed on me sitting closest to the door, and said "Staci, why don’t you go first!"

Shit! Was my first thought followed by a hard swallow, and a long pause! “Four” I eeked out, “Four, I have had four lovers.”  I said with my head down awaiting my dreadful judgment. Instantly the room was filled with a roar of laughter and a voice blasted through the laughter says “Are you serious, only four? Girl you don’t even have a clue! You need to discover yourself!"

That word "only" used to describe my number of lovers was a huge moment that allowed me to let go of my internal shame for my past experiences. I was even more relieved as the group sharing continued around the room, and the women confessed numbers of 15, 28, 54, and 72! Finally, I gave myself the permission to explore and learn about relationships as well as to observe how I show up in them. Oh and to practice, practice, practice. 

I was given the manual of shared experiences for love and relationships and the insights to evaluate them from a room of glorious women. Thank you for rescuing me beautiful women.  Thank you.