I get this question a lot. Admittedly, I wouldn’t mind getting this question from Captain Picard. I’m sure we’d have philosophical debate over a cup of Earl Grey, reminiscing about our youth and lamenting the loss of old-school dating etiquette.
There’s nothing like taking yourself off of the dating market for a year to discover how many people really ask this. All. The. Time. Some people take it as rude. I don’t necessarily. It actually flusters me sometimes. What I’ve experienced, is if I answer the question, it turns into a debate where the winner gets a blue ribbon prize for talking me out of my disillusioned ways.
I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a few weeks now, wondering how candid I should be. While I’m a very open person, and sometimes painfully blunt, I do tend to keep a lot of things private. I’ll share with those I trust the most when I find I need guidance.
But this topic has shaped my very existence on this planet. I think that’s half the battle right there. Admitting to how much of an effect relationships truly have had on me. When I look at how I’m of service in my human experience, I find a lot of it centers on my relationships with people. So I’ve decided to be very candid. I’m hoping that this touches others, so they know they are not alone. I’m hoping to find that last bit of clarity, lay down the last piece of resolve and really put my intention in the universe, stepping into the person that I have been yearning to become this whole time.
DECIPHERING THE BEHAVIORS
I am FAR from perfect in any relationship I’ve chosen. In fact, I’ve chosen things that allowed me to hide and not have a voice because I was wrapped in a cocoon of fear. I’ve run from things because I thought I wasn’t good enough. It’s all I’ve known how to do.
I suppose we can all go back to childhood. I was taught at a very early age that showing your emotions was a liability, that people who say they love you were lying, and that nothing I had to offer was ever good enough to keep anybody around. So I learned how to people please. I was so desperate for someone to put me first for once, I would be whatever they wanted me to be. Many times it meant doing things I hated, but I was so love-starved I didn’t know what else to do. I would be upset when the someone I was trying to impress gave someone else more attention than me, leaving me feeling utterly rejected and abandoned.
When I was 19, I got into my very first long-term relationship, having learned all of these behaviors. Unfortunately, because I was not aware that what I learned about love was rather erroneous, I found myself on a 10 year journey with someone who devalued me more than anybody ever had. I won’t get into the specifics. But in general, there was no trust, no loyalty, and no fidelity. When it was good, it was amazing – and in my mind completely justified all the times I fought desperately for it when it fell into the cracks of mental, spiritual and emotional abuse.
And I was in love. I really was. I thought he was it. And I fought for it hard.
But in reality – all it did was breed behaviors in me that I was ashamed of. I was an emotional manipulator. I was unstable. I was the “crazy” girl. I did things that were under-handing, emotionally questionable and self-destructive. It awoke another sleeping dragon of bi-polar depression and self-deprecation that was exhausting to be around.
It wasn’t working. It wasn’t supposed to work. I didn’t want to admit it. I was so sad about it, I was on the verge of giving up on life itself.
It wasn’t until someone in my immediate circle recognized this and stepped in. It was a cold, dark rainy day, typical of the Pacific Northwest. I couldn’t get out of bed. I just….couldn’t. She was my roommate and an Aunt by proxy. She spent a good 30 minutes coaxing me to just take the little step of getting out of bed and taking a shower. Then she coaxed me into a cup of coffee. And then into an outing that was scheduled that day for the local Buddhist chapter we belonged to. Luckily, I was in a place where I heard what she was telling me and decided that I needed to make a change. I always credit her for saving me.
Today, I can tell you I’m a grown-ass woman, and with that comes the notion that I am responsible for my own actions.
But that wasn’t how I always thought. However, it WAS one of the first things I learned. So while it became apparent that something need to change, it was easier said than done.
The first step was admitting that what I had learned was dysfunctional and truly seeing how I manifested that in the world around me.
The second thing I did was move out of the state. I was fortunate to have a family support system that allowed me to do that. I needed a fresh start. I needed to get away from the things that I leaned on as a crutch. I need to fix this on my own terms.
The third thing I did was break up with “the guy”. (That’s what I’m going to call him going forward. I’m not gonna use names.) That took about a year of back and forth before I finally nailed that down.
What followed was very long journey of learning how to stand up for myself, counselors, life coaches and holistic therapies.
And the fourth thing that happened was that I learned how to forgive.
My familial relationships improved. In fact, I made peace with my childhood in many ways. There were things that popped up here and there. And I dealt with them in a much healthier way. Much stronger. More peaceful.
But I still hadn’t mastered how to LOVE myself. That was going to take another few years.
LEARNING HOW TO LOVE MYSELF
It took me a couple of years to even consider dating after I broke up with “the guy”.
My dating life was still a bit of a mess. When I finally took the plunge back into the dating world, I had somehow decided, on a subconscious level, that I was not going to date anybody that I could have a real relationship with. So there were lots of shades of grey that came along with that when it came to who I dated.
I was only going to hang out, have someone to spend time with when I didn’t want to be by myself, and maybe be physical with. Or maybe not. Regardless, I never got close to them. I would keep the focus on them. I would listen to all of their stories about life. I would never get into my “stories”. It was too long and complicated. People naturally like to hear themselves talk so this was easy for me to just be quiet and listen, never having to open up about myself in the slightest, thus avoiding true intimacy entirely. The minute they told me that feelings were growing stronger for me, or that they wanted to move into a more committed place with the relationship, I would gracefully bow out.
And then before I knew it, it had turned into an unspoken rule of mine that I would never date anybody for more than 3 months.
In the meantime, everything else was great – though there were some learning curves. I had been living on my own, sans roommates, for quite a while. My career was progressing in the way that I was finding what I loved and what I didn’t. I was supporting myself and learning how to manage my financial life better. When I could get schooling in there, I did. I found myself in my work as an actor and a writer. My friendships were strong, true and loving. I was more loving with my family. I re-discovered my love for cooking and entertaining. I developed a profound appreciation and gratitude for everything and everyone in my life and that made going through the ebbs and flows more peaceful and manageable. I learned to trust in myself and treat myself better.
In each of these things, I found myself, and had more confidence in who I was.
It was a natural step when I told myself that I was going to be better at dating. I wanted to be better at it because I finally admitted that I wanted to share my life with someone now. I was strong enough as an independent woman, that I could now discern what was healthy and what wasn’t. I was scared but it was time for me to move past that and really look for a relationship, if that’s what I wanted.
And I honestly tried. There were a couple of good guys there. But I wasn’t falling in love. Instead I still found much of the same of what I was trying to stay away from. And going through the “cooling period” of saying that I didn’t want a relationship with them was proving harder. Now I felt conscious of the fact that I was hurting people.
So this past year I decided to stop dating. The intention really, was to be celibate. And I was. For a few months at least. In that time, I’d had an unprecedented amount of interest, but I said no. And I was totally inexperienced on how to handle it. Regardless, I didn’t have feelings for them. So what was the point? I was completely content to be on my own. Of course a crush would pop up here and there, but I’d wait on the impulse and just get to know the person. Eventually, I would find that the crush faded because I was really starting to look at who they were and how compatible they were with who I was and what I wanted long-term. I was really proud of myself.
I was focusing on growing me. I was really taking the plunge with my career, and transitioning out of what I had been doing to “just get by”. It was just another life experience that I was cementing myself in. And I was going to embrace it. I was going to be brave and follow my dreams, because life is too short to not enjoy it. I took on a second job to help me. I started prioritizing my life to accommodate the changes.
But sometimes lessons pop up that you didn’t see coming.
There is a belief I have, seeded by my work with the public, that people only want what they can’t have. Once they get it, they move on. In this day and age, very few are experienced in longevity, and everybody wants the latest and greatest, with very minimal work and commitment. The same goes for relationships. The grass is always greener. People think you are what they see on your Facebook profile and in your Instagram feed. It’s the magic of PR. That’s what Social Media is after all. PR.
6 months into my non-dating phase, I was thrown for a loop. I had recently turned down a romantic encounter and was proud of myself for it. Not gonna lie – they were nice, but this person had all of the baggage I didn’t need and I saw some incompatibility. But I was confident enough to say no and walk away. That was a new one for me.
And right after this happened, someone ELSE crossed my path. I was a little blind-sided, to be frank. The more I talked to this person, the more I found that I liked about them. We were similar in age. Though I hadn’t really gotten to spend much time with him at that point, he was someone I shared circles with but that was about it. Despite that, there was familiarity there that I hadn’t felt with anyone. He was smart. He was funny. We shared similar life experiences. Loved all the same movies and music.
The further I got into it, the more I realized I wasn’t feeling casual about it. That scared me a bit. But I just let it ride. I didn’t think he was on that same page. But then he made a move, I was stoked! But I didn’t want to give myself away. I wanted to play cool. Inwardly, I was anything but. Things escalated rather quickly. I got caught up and went too fast. I took the chance.
Soon I found that it wasn’t gonna go the way I was hoping. I couldn’t fault him. He’d been nothing but honest and clear and I had just let my feelings get the better of me. It didn’t take the sting away. That’s what surprised me: how much it affected me. Some of it was ego driven, not gonna lie. I’d gotten used to being the one that backed off, not the other way around. This one though, somewhere, somehow had gotten to me. What I needed to see about this, was the context of my self value when with someone I really did like.
It triggered a lot of self-introspection.
I was confronted with that age old fear of not being good enough and only being something beautiful until I was conquered. Then I was left behind. “As usual” I wasn’t worth staying for. It triggered all of those age-old tapes, that I hadn’t quite released.
So I dealt with it. I put on my tough girl facade. I let that be the one slip-up, all the while secretly, silently hoping maybe it was temporary blip between him and I – that I, in my newly enlightened state, couldn’t have misread everything that badly.
I believe everybody comes into our life for a reason. While I was at a loss as to what to make of it, I did consider that maybe he was just a catalyst that was supposed to help me move past some of my old tapes. So that’s what I focused on.
I gave up the idea that I was a bad girlfriend. That I was crazy when I was in a relationship.
I started valuing myself more. I started LOVING myself as a person on my own, not waiting for others to validate that love for me. I stopped beating myself up for taking the chance on someone that I liked but didn’t return the feelings. I forgave the whole entire situation and let it go. And in the meantime, I found all of those old outdated energetic memories and I shed them like a horse sheds its heavy winter coat.
Now, when the insecurity pops up, I remind myself, I’m the first one that has to prioritize me before anybody else does.
The more I went through this process, the more the attention came out of the woodwork. I was honestly surprised at some of the sources. I soon realized though, it was a “test” of sorts from the universe. I’ve stayed open and a couple of times just found it wasn’t for me.
When you love yourself, others will offer you the same value. You have to be comfortable in accepting that gift but also be secure in letting it go if it’s not for you. You don’t have to be mean about it. But don’t hold onto out of fear for what’s next. Just be gracious. Don’t give up.
I’m fully focused on getting to know who a person is. No rushing in. No casual hook-ups. I have to take the chance to get to know the person but also letting them fully know me. That means putting some things on hold while I do that. I have to be secure that if the physical is all they are in for, then they’ll just phase themselves out. That who I AM will be just as loved and wanted – that I’m worth more than just my body. Women have had this interesting dynamic to deal with of being taken seriously as independent beings, while embracing everything that is beautiful about them, bodies included. It kind of leaves us in some grey areas sometimes when it comes to our worth in the eyes of society and the dating world.
I have goals in life and I want to be part of a “power couple”. When a man wants to be part of that, he will be. And if I want to be part of his journey, I will be. Neither of us need to chase anything. Love happens when it happens. And it’s mutual. If it’s one-sided, then it’s not meant to be.
In the meantime, I’ve rediscovered in me, the young girl who used to dream of finding her Twin Flame. Only now, I now have a lot more courage and self-confidence to filter through the “casual” as I make my way through a world of empty physical hook-ups. Now I’m brave enough to look for the meaning and the love that can be in that kind of a union. They are rare, but they do happen.
And until that happens, that folks, is why I’m still single.