Most of my pre-adult and adult life I have been consumed by relationships, all of which, sadly, have failed.
This endless trail of unsuccessful relationships with men is probably a result of the neglect toward what should have been my most important relationship, the one I should have been giving all of my attention to… the relationship with myself.
As I reflect back over my faulty dating list, often forgetting people (okay maybe I am purposely blocking them out), I realize that I have dated all types of men. If he had a pulse and a penis, odds are likely that I probably would have dated him. And the reality is, my dating roll call didn’t fit into a specific category of sorts.
I have dated men and boys; 10 years older, seven years younger, beer belly, balding, blonde, brunette, broke, well-off, homeowner, homeless (I mean if I didn’t let him move in with me I’m pretty sure he would have been homeless), tall, short, wide, narrow… I could go on, but you get the idea.
And through all of these encounters, somehow, I repeatedly found myself in the same place—-fetal position on the floor. Sometimes it would take me days to get up off that floor, weeks even, figuratively speaking. But I always managed to peel myself off and slowly, very slowly, push myself up, knees wobbly, legs shaking, as I would gradually regain my balance.
Having courageously survived the countless tears and heartaches over the years, I can now acknowledge my personal progress along my (at times, very bumpy) dating road.
Five Lessons I have learned through dating in my 20-somethings:
1. Push Pause on Pursuit. If he doesn’t call you, don’t call or chase after him. Instead, thank the Universe as you have most likely just dodged another douche.
2. Check-in with Yourself. Periodically check-in with yourself and note how you are feeling within the relationship. Are you living in accordance with your values? Is your gut or intuition trying to tell you something? A great way to check in with yourself is to take a self-compassion break. While alone, laying down or sitting, close your eyes and place one hand over your heart and ask yourself, “what do I need right now?” Then wait and listen.
3. Value Yourself. Enough to Walk Away. Recognize your worth; if you are not being treated the way you want to be treated, know that it is okay to walk away. While, in that moment, it may feel as though there is no one else out there, know that that thought is fear speaking, it is not a fact—we live in a world with over seven billion people, of course there is someone else out there. Besides, I can attest that it is far better to be alone than it is to be in a relationship where another is mistreating you.
4. Maintain Your Sense of Self. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of a relationship, but it is extremely important to maintain a sense of self, while in a relationship. Have your own hobbies, interests and friends and take the time to engage in these, sometimes with your mate and other times without. Maintaining a sense of self also helps to build resiliency if the relationship ends—it enables us to bounce back quicker as we have our own hobbies, interests and friends to, literally, fallback onto.
5. Have Fun. Trust that things will happen as they are meant to then allow yourself to fully embrace the moment. Laugh and be silly—don’t take things so seriously all of the time. Lighten up and enjoy the moment for what it is. Be present. No need to worry about where things are going or when you’ll get there: learn to enjoy the ride.
It’s been a long, mostly uphill, journey for me thus far; but I can confidently say that I am beginning to see the ways in which I have contributed to these, sometimes, horrendous relationships.
Through many hours, upon days, upon weeks, upon months of self-reflection, I have a discovered a new level of self-awareness in which I hope to call upon to break old habits and patterns and begin to engage in more healthy and loving relationships, both romantic and platonic.
While I have had my fair share of awful encounters, fortunately, not all of them have been horrific experiences. And looking back, heartache and all, I can honestly say that I don’t live with a past full of regrets, after-all how could I regret anything that has lead me to this very moment of my life.
Author: Melinda Quesenberry
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Nadia Morgan/Flickr