Some things we have to do in the dark.
I crept from the bed on quiet feet. I gathered my things, and left without saying anything.
I love you, I said a year earlier, and watched as he cringed.
I wasn’t really in love with him, but just enamored with the way he ran the tips of his fingers across my back before we fell asleep, the way he was kind to me when other men had not been, his big silly smile as he came barreling down the pavement on his bicycle while clutching a surfboard.
I liked waking up next to warm skin, and the sound of the ocean breaking outside our door.
I have a habit of falling in love with dangerous abstractions.
I have spent the past few years of my dating life trying to charm the player into settling down, or the vagabond into putting down roots. I realize this is an unhealthy method of self-defense. It’s an action that is precipitated to keep me safe from true intimacy, or from having to be vulnerable with someone with the potential to love me.
I engage with all the wrong men. I give them my time, money, body, praise, and I make no demands. I allow the balance of our interactions to slope unfairly until I become crooked and unrecognizable under the weight of giving and not having my own needs met. I end up staring at the celling in some shared bed, lost and unhappy.
Not this time. I left.
On the drive home, I vowed that I would change, but, how?
Most of our behaviors are habitual, and directly influenced by our core beliefs. At some point in my growing up and becoming an adult, I came to doubt my own worth. Deep inside, I felt as though I was not worthy of adoration.
Although, I know that I am smart and capable, I don’t trust my inherent beauty. In this digital age of selfies and photoshop, it’s easy to seek out attention and validation in unhealthy places. And, it’s also all too easy to compare myself to the proliferation of shiny manufactured personas and to assume I am less.
I have been looking through the lens of past relationship mistakes and blaming myself for someone else’s cheating, or unwillingness to commit. I realized I had been carefully constructing an image of myself to please the masses, and to deflect from my fear that I am alone because there is something too imperfect about my outward appearance to warrant a man sticking around.
This core belief leads me to subconsciously choose men who will mistreat me or take advantage.
To change these patterns, I have to start with being honest about what I truly want.
I want an equal partnership with someone who is not afraid to be as vulnerable as I am. And, I am vulnerable, right now.
Part of the process is about speaking up. If someone hurts me, I have to tell him or her straight away, and not worry that I am not entitled to my displeasure. If something doesn’t feel right, I have to walk away, early.
Recently, I met a beautiful boy. He seemed smart, funny, and the kind of sexy that made me want to tear off his clothes. We had a fun date that involved talking and tongues, and I was genuinely excited.
But, my intuition told me he was noncommittal. He balked when I told him that I had dated someone for over two years, and he used the word fun to describe what he was after.
This is the type of man that I would previously have chased.
But, ultimately, I knew he would break dates and eventually break my heart if I gave him the tiniest piece of it.
So, I thanked him, and I left, moving on those small, sure feet.
I have no way of knowing what’s next. I may meet someone great. I may not. What’s important is to continue to dig deep to uncover the core beliefs that keep me locked inside of unhealthy relationship patterns.
I would lie if I said that I was sure of myself, right now. I’m not. That’s okay.
Things are dark, but sometimes we have to be alone in that darkness to find our way.
Author: Kelly Russell
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Erin Stoodley-Flickr