I have dated a lot and for the most part had a lot of fun doing it.
I wasn’t one of those girls who dated “the same guy.” But, as soon as it became “serious,” things got complicated (or at least I made them complicated).
I admittedly spend a great deal of time living in my head—it’s a strange habit for someone as seemingly extroverted as I am. I’m not moody or withdrawn, just very analytical. I like to figure out what makes people tick. It’s a great game to play when people watching, but is a sure death sentence when trying to foster a new relationship. The real, honest-to-goodness truth is that you can never really know how people function.
That fact didn’t stop me from trying, though. In recent months (after my last post-mortem relationship analysis) I realized a startling fact about myself: I am insecure. I have found that throughout my life I have used my analysis of people to identify what I thought they needed from me and tried to fill that void. I did this without ever taking into consideration my own personal needs and wants.
I wanted to be wanted so badly, that I tried to make myself indispensable.
Somewhere in my brain I had evaluated myself as “not enough,” so I became the girl that I thought they needed me to be.
When I was 23, I became a follower. This guy was not a bully by any stretch of the imagination. But, he was particular, and I was naive. I let him steer the ship. He criticized small things, unintentionally making me feel like I needed to try harder. He barely ever touched me. He told me I was too skinny. By the end of our relationship, I was barely eating due to anxiety.
I promised myself I would never be that girl again.
When I was 24, I thought I was in love. I spent several months attempting to convince this man that he wanted to be with me. I enmeshed myself in his life. I became the quickest, wittiest, brightest version of myself in hopes that he would fall in love with me too. I assured (and reassured) him that his uncertainties were understandable, and that I was ok with him taking his time. But in all earnestness, it killed me. I smiled through it. I convinced myself that he was worth waiting for. I begged him to change his mind when we broke up.
I knew I didn’t want to be that girl anymore, either.
When I was 25, I was a glorified babysitter (for lack of a better term). While this boy was very fun, I quickly realized that the party wasn’t stopping. He was sweet and meant well, which is why I stuck around, but I found myself in many ways acting like the grown up. I folded his laundry. I took care of him when he was sick. I was his perpetual designated driver. I made excuses for him when he routinely chose his friends over me. I was Wendy to a tribe of Lost Boys.
I sure as hell never wanted to be that girl again.
It took a great deal of introspection, but I decided to put myself in a dating time-out. I was able to reorganize the way that I saw relationships and myself in them. I gained a greater understanding of how and why things “went wrong.” I realized that my friends were full of shit when they told me the failure of my relationships “wasn’t my fault.”
When I let insecurity guide my choices I allowed myself to be twisted and contorted into unfulfilling and unrealistic versions of myself. The reason that despite my “best efforts” my relationships were doomed to fail is because I wasn’t really present.
The girl that those guys dated wasn’t real and on some level they could all see it—even if I couldn’t.
A few weeks into my first relationship with this new personal framework is a strange and unfamiliar landscape. I have nowhere to hide. It is absolutely terrifying, in that exhilarating, “what the hell comes next?” kind of way. It is because the honesty I’ve developed with myself that I can be honest with him. I feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.
I’ve found a comfort in embracing my insecurities and trying to move past them than I ever would have found in hiding behind them.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise