At the end of 2019, I decided I’d had enough of being the “Fall Back Girl”, I had enough of emotionally unavailable men, and I was going to open myself up to healthier relationships that would lead to a long term partnership. I vowed to get out and date, date different types of men, and not fall into the same infatuation traps as before. I started reading different books on relationships and why we choose the way we do, listened to dating coaches, dating podcasts, and just generally expanded my mind to help me end the pattern of surface level relationships.
But, old habits die hard.
A 6 year situationship came to an abrupt halt at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Years of friendship, intimacy, and mutual respect dissipated at my drunken request to be told he loved me. He was angry at the audacity of my request, and I was angry at his reaction. Over the years, he told me he loved parts of my body, but to actually love ME was out of the question. I left his home immediately, and we ceased to communicate any further. It left me emotionally damaged and beyond heartbroken. I knew this relationship wouldn’t turn into anything more than it was, but I also didn’t see it ending so harshly. It took months to get over.
And as rebounds go, I found myself entangled in a pandemic fling trying to get over my heartache. It was fun at first, but soon sizzled out when the outside opened. He wasn’t interested in a relationship, wasn’t interested in respecting my boundaries, denied our relationship in public, and gave more attention to potential conquests while trying to keep our regularly scheduled dick appointments on the low. I no longer was willing to sacrifice my own self worth for a smidge of attention, refused to repeat the mistakes of my past, so I went along my way. Of course, I had to come back a couple times to make sure it wasn’t going to work. Every encounter was less appealing than the one before until I was finally DONE. We parted friends, at least, and less of my time was wasted than the situation before, so I felt like that was growth.
Emotionally starved and a sucker for romance, I was perfect prey for my next lesson, the love bombing, covert narcissist. I was well read on this bag of red flags, but I still fell for the future faking, fast moving, depth of a kiddie pool “love” of an emotional manipulator who was AT LEAST more than willing to claim me. At first, it was everything I had dreamed of. Like a drug, dopamine surged through my veins, high on the positive attention, words of affirmation, and the accomplishment of being “chosen.” I was on top of the world. But also like a drug, the floor came out from beneath me. I found myself in the depths of the anxiety ridden despair of a dishonest, secretive partner who was unwilling to align his actions with words, and who would switch from adoration to contempt without rhyme or reason. I rode the highs and lows of this emotional rollercoaster until my self respect could take no more. I gathered the scraps of what dignity I still possessed and removed this toxic tumor holding space in my life. I had finally learned to get out sooner than later, so I was proud I spent months versus years with someone who would inevitably end up being nothing to me but a mistake.
A friend of mine asked me why I kept repeating the same cycles over and over with men. Different dude. Same shit. At some point I had to face the fact that I was just as responsible for getting into these relationships, so what’s wrong with ME??
And then it hit me: in my core, I didn’t believe I deserved it. I had a life built on trauma responses and triggers. I didn’t NEED a man, I just WANTED one. If I let them get too close, they’ll leave me like everyone else had. They’ll realize I have flaws and it will be too much. Or worse, I’ll realize they have flaws, and it will be too much. I had loose boundaries, I gave way too much grace, and I wanted to believe the best in people. I saw the red, and sometimes pinkish red, flags and thought they could be turned to green with the right motivation and support. I believed people have the ability to change, even if they didn’t see the need to. I had to reestablish the value I saw in myself, build boundaries like Fort Knox, and quit being so understanding of bad behavior. I deserved the best and that’s all I was wiling to accept.
It was time to be 100% open and honest about my recent situations. No sugar coating, no excuses for the bad behavior, no fear of embarrassment for being that dumb girl, no hiding the fact that I allowed myself to act out of character over some guy. I told my therapist, if a friend asked I was truthful, and most of all I was honest to myself. I surrounded myself with respectable women in healthy relationships and kept a “What Would *respectable lady* do/say” mentality.
I got sober so I could properly heal my wound instead of slapping a quick band aide on something that needed more extensive care. I found without the vice of alcohol, I wasn’t as easily persuaded into a sexual situation. My boundaries became solid. I didn’t have the “I was drunk” excuse. Charm and good times no longer replaced effort and intention. Disrespected boundaries were an immediate turn off. I quit idealizing, romanticizing, and constantly ruminating about these men who have shown me in every way they weren’t worth another thought.
I focused on things that made me happy and fulfilled. I continued my self development, spent time alone, got lost in my routines. I bought myself flowers, got my nails done, enjoyed a pedicure, and dressed in ways that made me feel beautiful. I went on lunch and dinner dates with friends, rebooted my podcast, and wrote poetry. I wrote and listened to positive affirmations, started a self care journal full of things that make me happy and set attainable goals.
In a short amount of time, I saw growth in my career, my relationships, and my self respect.
I’m dating again. This time, intentions are clear, effort is rewarded with my time and attention, and I’m content with a slower paced love story. It feels different because I am different.
Thank you 2020/2021 and the relationships that came with you. I finally realized, it wasn’t you, it was me.