We’ve all been there. The person you’re dating has gone rogue for seven consecutive days and then out of the blue you get a long-winded text from them about how they’re not in the right headspace for a relationship and are needing to take a step back (or worse, they’ve fully ghosted you). Your heart sinks to your stomach. You replay your conversations and mentally kick yourself for the weeks that you spent being vulnerable and sharing parts of yourself reserved for those that are closest to you, but then realize that’s the risk you take when seeking out the ultimate reward; that crazy little thing that Queen spoke about – love. You notice that a pattern is beginning to emerge in your dating life. You’re plagued by entanglements with emotionally unavailable people. They don’t seem to be that way from the jump, but as you delve further into each other’s history and learn what makes each other tick, you’re suddenly stonewalled when bringing up anything truly deeper than surface level. You start to seriously consider that there may be someone out there with a voodoo doll of you, piercing the heart over and over, and over again. You pour salt in your own wounds by watching Bridget Jones’s Diary for the hundredth time and ruminate about being an unwed spinster for the rest of your life. You ask yourself, why does this keep happening?
*deletes dating apps*
*redownloads dating apps*
While dating during the pandemic has presented all of us with a set of new challenges, like getting creative about date options and vetting probable sweethearts with questions about their stance on masks, vaccinations, and social distancing protocol, I’ve found that the population using the dapps (dating apps) hasn’t changed much throughout the past few years (which is something that I can verify because unfortunately I have been using dating apps on and off since 2016). As an observation, I believe that a lot of the people using the dapps really have no business being on them. It’s riddled with people looking for a quick stroke of their ego. They swipe without intentions of real engagement, using it like it’s a video game. Then there are those who seemingly have substance, but they’re in the middle of convincing themselves that they’re fully healed from their latest break-up. I get it. I’ve been there too. But I’m at a point in my healing where I’m aware that I shouldn’t be dragging someone else through that mud with me; that’s how codependence rears it’s ugly head… and if I’ve learned anything from my last relationship, it’s that I want no part in that type of relationship dynamic. This is not to say that it cannot work out, but the whole savior thing is something I’m really trying to evade this time around. If you’re going to work on yourself, I’m happy to support you, but I will not be the one pushing you to. That’s a choice you have to make and fulfill on your own. Knowwhai’msayin?
Does this outlook sound familiar to you? It’s where I’m at right now. After months (okay, years) of fruitless dating, where I was pursued heavily in the beginning stages, then left on read after a couple dates, I find myself sitting here like Carrie Bradshaw, furiously pawing at my keyboard, wishing I hadn’t been perceived at all! I’ve shared stories with those that I wish I hadn’t, been intimate in ways that I wish I hadn’t… to put it lightly, I have a few RAGRETS. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve reached a point in your dating career where you don’t need to add anymore lifeless, luke-warm connections to your relationship repertoire. While I usually submit to the whole men equating to garbaggio bit, it’s come to a point where I can’t continue to point the finger in the opposing direction. It seems absolutely futile for me to waltz into yet another talking stage only to find a month later that my energy directed outward, should’ve been directed inward that whole time. So, rather than continuing to cast my net out in hopes of finding my very own rainbow fish, I believe it’s time I start to take a deeper look at the ways that I might be contributing to this issue.
First and foremost – BOUNDARIES. They’re not my strongest suit. Boundaries are a concept that I have been working on for the entirety of my life. As a people pleaser in my youth — never wanting to rock the boat — I’ve found that my adulthood has been a series of unlearning and amending the behaviors which helped me to feel safe when I was growing up. Since my Mom had a gambling addiction which pushed her to stay glued to slot machines for days on end, and my Dad used me as a liaison between them when he’d try to get her to come home, I quickly came up with a ploy to win them over; I became a perfectionist in order to ensure that the things I did weren’t pushing them away. My mentality became this: if I do everything in my power to yield to someone, or a situation, then I can be certain things will not go awry… but that’s not the reality. I’ve gone against my own desires, wants, and needs in order to control outcomes, only to find myself mystified that they can’t truly be controlled! Who would’ve thought?! I’ve been run through the mill with all the different types of relationship scenarios I’ve accepted so that I can simply have a person continue to be a part of my life. Which I’m sure has not been sending out the clearest signals to the universe about my intentions. That’s the thing, though – I’m so cautious about getting into another relationship because of my clouded history, that I feel like I don’t know what my true intentions are with an individual until it’s hitting me right between the eyes. Regrettably, the last time I had a what-are-we-talk with someone that I really cared for, I dissolved my boundaries and expectations in an effort to seem chill. I acted like I was unsure of what I wanted because I felt that I didn’t know enough about his life to be certain just yet. I didn’t want to go full steam ahead without even having seen the inside of his refrigerator (which we all know is a clear indicator of whether or not someone will be a good partner – ha!). But that was a cop out. I wanted to be with him and I was just being way too guarded… and you can guess where that landed me. My own inability to discern where I should draw the line put me exactly where I did not want to be; let go of.
Second – I can be overly critical. This circles back to what I was saying above. Since being in a seven year relationship, which escalated to marriage, a divorce, and then unknowingly devoting myself to a relationship with a narcissist shortly thereafter… my flag finders are now on high alert. This means I might be quick to dismiss someone over things that seem trivial (like Jerry Seinfeld in the Bizarro episode when he starts dating a woman whose only flaw is man-like hands)… but it’s a preservation tool for all involved. Additionally, I really know what I want out of my next relationship. I know how I want to feel with this prospective person, and if that’s not there, I don’t want to take ‘em for a test ride just to end up breaking hearts. That’d be really unfair. So it sounds like I gotta be more concise and questioning during initial talking stages. While, I’m generally a big proponent of gunnin’ for an in-person meetup and then figuring out compatibility (or as the kids call it: ~*ViBeZ*~) from there, my history is suggesting that I should start asking better questions early on and save the real face time for those whose values and life trajectories truly align with mine.
Lastly, I think we’re all aware of the whole “you’ll find love when you least expect it” outlook. When I sit with that perspective I see that I have been spending quite a bit of the last year in search of something outside of myself. Although I had my YES YEAR in 2019 where I really focused on giving myself everything I wanted, desired, and pushed myself in ways I didn’t think possible, the isolation that came in 2020 really thrusted me into the dating app scene again; enter Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. However, I’m really a romantic that’s attached to the lofty idea that I’ll find someone organically. I daydream about meeting a cute guy at the grocery store as we both reach for the same mango while Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” blares on the overhead speakers. A girl can dream, right? Sigh. *Begins manifesting by using affirmations seen on Tik Tok*
Say it with me now: “I don’t chase, I attract. What is meant for me will simply find me.”
All things considered, I think the person I’ve been searching for this entire time is myself. Relationships just bring me closer to knowing more of that. Every time a relationship challenges me, I end up taking what I’ve learned from it and redirecting my energy inward. The pursuit of finding myself, and relearning who I am without the veil of my traumas is a relentless exploration that I believe interpersonal connections help me to get closer to. So, for the moments shared, however long or short, I am thankful. It’s all bringing me one step closer to figuring it out.