Several months ago when going through massive personal upheaval, I had an epiphany about my own dating history.
As a teenager, my relationships were brief, often turbulent, and each more disappointing than the last. As with many young girls, I often found myself attracted to the “bad boys.” While exciting in the beginning, the relationships never turned into anything with substance. It always took very little to end them, and not one of these bad boy types were going to make the effort to keep me when the going got tough.
Looking back years later, I finally realized that there was something operating beneath the surface of many of my dating decisions. I had no idea it was there, and it came as a shock to me, but the cold, hard truth is this: I dated the bad boy because there was absolutely no way that I could screw it up.
There. That’s it.
When I was with that kind of guy, I knew that they would be the one to let me down.
It was inevitable that if a heart was going to be broken that it was going to be mine—and I guess there is an odd kind of freedom in that. I knew that there was nothing I could possibly do to really hurt them because they weren’t that invested in the relationship in the first place. I didn’t have to worry that I would scare them away with my intensity or that I would mess it up with my insecurities or my tendency to over-think everything. I could just do my perfect girlfriend thing and know in my heart that if it ended I could know absolutely that I was not to blame.
I can honestly say that I never saw it in quite that way before, but after coming out of a long-term relationship and back into the dating world, I found that there was a fear in dating. I knew that I would never again date my previous type, and I know now what I do and do not want in a relationship. I’ve found that the scary part of dating someone who is genuinely kind and considerate and truly wonderful is that I can screw it up. I absolutely can screw it up! All of my moods and my intensity and my insecurities…all are fatal flaws in a relationship with someone who might actually give a damn.
Now to be fair, my good points, I think, far outweigh my bad. With that being said, it is terrifying to think that I can find someone I enjoy being with and then have to be afraid that I will be my own worst enemy because I don’t have experience operating inside the bounds of a relationship in which I am valued or respected. Part of me is anticipating all of the negative behaviors I’m used to and the other part is trying to figure out how to take all the right steps so that I don’t ruin something precious.
I’ve always heard it said that women don’t want to date good men, and I actually want to disagree with that statement. The truth is that we do want to date good men, but we’ve found that they are difficult to find. Most of the women I know have had to put up with being lied to and cheated on and ghosted in the current dating world.
We’re not seeing a lot of courtesy or kindness or actual interest in our humanity. We’ve seen self-interest and disregard for our feelings many, many times. Most of us will tell you that we’d love to find a good man, and not just any good man but one that we can connect with and enjoy being around. I certainly identify as a feminist, but I still like to have doors opened for me and appreciate all of the other courtesies.
Perhaps the good men can ask their not-so-good friends to step it up, to stop disappointing good women because they can’t be honest about what they want. Those behaviors make it so difficult for us to keep getting back out there with our vulnerable hearts.
As a divorced single mom in my 30s, I’ve met my share of each type. Now that I recognize the patterns that attracted me to the wrong type of man, I’m actively working to change them. It’s so difficult to open up my heart again, and now that I’ve forced it to remain open, I have to worry that I will let someone down.
I try to be careful with the feelings of others, and I try not to let my own fears and insecurities take over. It is certainly a struggle.
I wish I could tell you that I found a good man and didn’t screw it up. I wish I could end this with some happily-ever-after sort of testimony to dating. Instead, I will tell you that there are good men out there. And I will tell you that I’m trying really hard not to screw it up. I’ll also tell you that when you date a good man you will never be able to go back out there and accept the treatment from one who does not treat you well.
It will change you, and even if it ends, you will be grateful for that.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Renee Picard
Image: Angel Monsanto III at Unsplash