**Warning, f-bombs ahead!**
The relationship issues that start to fester in high school and college, and then follow us into our 20s, seem pretty harmless at first.
You dated a bunch of losers, nothing that lasted more than three months, and you’re waiting for the right guy to come along?
What a cute, normal story.
You just had a bunch of drunk hookups so far? Nothing serious?
How funny and not a big deal!
You had one boyfriend in high school for two years who ended up being gay?
The boyfriend you have now, you cheat on every Saturday night after you down too many two dollar mixed drinks?
Then, suddenly, it finds you. Thirty. You’re now 30, and it’s no longer cute or funny that your ex boyfriend lived 600 miles away, broke up with you when you offered to quit your job and move, and oh, you cheated on him two times with your coworker (who isn’t looking for anything serious).
Now many of your friends have successfully transitioned into relationships—marriage, even—and you’re kind of thinking they must be magicians. They’ve successfully settled into monogamy and motherhood? They have a relationship with one guy and don’t fuck it up for a really long period of time? They are happy like that? Are they fucking wizards?
I’m 33 now, but just a few years ago everything still made sense. It’s like the last thing I remember I was drinking on the weekends with my friends, and we were all in and out of relationships, talking about bad dates, funny sex and hopes for the future. We were figuring it out together, then I went to bed, woke up, and everyone suddenly had a mortgage, a husband, and a baby on the way.
What the fuck?
One second we were all in it together, and the next they’re 3,000 miles down the road, and I’m squinting to see if I can still make them out while I look around at the same place I’ve been for 10 years with new, bewildered eyes.
Inevitably, you start to question why your friends are making families and you are not.
I told myself until I was 29 that I just hadn’t met the right guy yet, but when I turned 30 that didn’t hold up anymore. Then I started talking to a therapist, and my worst fears were confirmed, I’m kind of fucked up. I am petrified of intimacy. It happened slowly, over time, and I didn’t even realize.
I fell hard for a guy my sophomore year of college who had everything on the list, and he was so attractively packaged I wanted to ingest him, but it wasn’t just the way he looked and dressed, he was also an awesome person. He wanted to join the Peace Corps, he never bought shirts that weren’t from Goodwill, and he hated girls who wore too much make up. He was everything I thought I wanted, and I allowed myself to fall for him, and opened myself up to him.
He lost interest. It took about six months. It was probably because I’m too quiet, or maybe because I made fun of him too much (I have a really sarcastic personality, but doesn’t that make me smart and witty?).
The next half-dozen men I dated lost interest too, and that was too much for me. I couldn’t take being rejected one more time. It hurts too much, learning all the things about me men don’t like, becoming so aware of my flaws and how they are viewed by the opposite sex. Around the age of 23, I quietly came to the conclusion that I am not what men are looking for because I’m too quiet, too melancholy and too weird.
I spent the next seven years breaking up with guys the second they wanted more, because I knew once they got to know the real me they would leave, but it was always because, “they weren’t the right one” or, “I wasn’t attracted to them” or, “they wore too much Hollister.”
I get it now. I get that I need to change if I’m going to find a meaningful relationship, and I’ve been working on myself. It’s liberating to realize I have the control to fix these issues, that love is waiting for me if I can just make some tweaks, but it’s been hard, because I have to face the things about myself I don’t like.
I practice a particular self-love technique I made up. It’s awkward to do at first, but it gets easier. Well, it’s awkward every time, really.
I write a letter to myself every night and say something about myself that I like. I try to focus on the things I happen to feel insecure about that day. If I notice I’m trying to hide from people how emotional I’m feeling one day because I feel embarrassed, I’ll write a letter that night saying how much I appreciate my sensitive personality, because it makes other people feel good to be around me.
This practice is helping; I’m coming around to the idea that maybe I am lovable.
Maybe this strikes a chord with you. Maybe you’ve been single for a while and you’ve been chalking it up to not meeting the right guy, but you suspect there might be something more going on.
I encourage you to get curious about that and ask yourself if you’ve been avoiding real intimacy and opening yourself up to love and it’s counterpart, rejection. If so, maybe a therapist would help, or maybe you might also find a way to practice loving yourself that works for you—or maybe you already know you’re the bomb!
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Author: Sarah McInerney
Editor: Toby Israel