This weekend, I was taking one more look around the basement to make sure I had already taken all of my stuff that I know my husband will not claim during the division of goods and properties in the divorce. I found a tote in a corner that I had forgotten about. It was full of things that I was supposed to use during my volunteering work for an international, Christian organization that implements programs for children in developing countries.

That’s when I realized that was yet another thing that I had given up for my marriage. I used to attend events promoting this organization’s work. These events were meant to bring awareness of their children sponsorship programs. Being a sponsor myself, I know first hand the difference sponsorship can make in these children’s lives.

I wanted to do more than just make my monthly contributions and write letters to my sponsored children. Therefore, years ago, I signed up for one of their volunteering programs that promotes sponsorship. The organization had sent me marketing and promotional material. I even underwent background checks and training as a volunteer. I did everything they asked for, participated on their events, and even put some of mine together on my own. The materials for those events were in that tote.

It kind of broke my heart to find that tote. It was another thing that I used to do that made me who I was before getting married and during the first years in my marriage. I enjoyed and loved participating of the organization’s efforts. I loved volunteering. All of a sudden I realized that, while I’m still sponsoring my children, I have not really stayed in touch with them as much as I used to. This is another sign that I have let another part of me die in order to save my marriage from doom.

I took the tote to my car and promised myself right there that one day, when all this is over, I will call the organization and start volunteering again. I didn’t get paid a dime for doing that work, but I did get paid in other ways, more important than money. There’s no higher form of payment, at least to me, than knowing you are trying to make a difference in this world, no matter how small your effort or reach.

This whole situation also reminded me that true love makes our capacity to love even bigger. A good marriage should do that for you. You should not have to give up things that make you happy or allow you to give your time and talents to others in need. As long as you’re not neglecting your family and other responsibilities, there is nothing wrong with volunteering, working for the community, and helping those who need help. Your spouse should support you, even if it’s only by providing you with spiritual support or encouragement.

It is funny because my husband never participated in my sponsorship activities. And that’s okay. It was my thing. But he never really encouraged me, either. He once came with me to one event only because he got free admission to a concert where I would be working a booth for the organization. However, he was also very quick to include my donations in our taxes so as to get a deduction. He would also make a point of telling other people how generous we were by sponsoring these two boys. Yes, we were, weren’t we? We? He never contributed in any way. It’s interesting how narcissists can turn things into ‘we’ and ‘us’ when it’s convenient for them; when it gives them an opportunity to look good in the eyes of other people. It’s all part of keeping that false self.

Anyway, my whole point, a person who truly loves you will support you in activities like the ones I mentioned above. You would not have to give them up. You would not have to choose between that person and the activities you love. The problem is, a narcissist does not like you being independent. He or she does not like you to have other interests apart from him or her. Those activities present competition to him or her. He or she may also feel threatened by the fact that you have some independence. They need to control you and by you having activities outside and away from them, they lose that control and they lose their much-needed narcissistic supply.

Don’t make the same mistake I made and give up those things that make you who you are. Like I said, someone who truly loves you, will encourage you to pursue what makes you happy and they will be happy because you’re happy. They will rejoice in your happiness as if it were themselves the ones who do those activities. If someone is forcing you to give up something you’re truly passionate about and choosing between them and you, then they do not really love you. At least that’s how I feel about it.