In October I decided to try my hand at dating. I’d been single for a good many years for multiple reasons. My relationships in my early 20s were dysfunctional and emotionally abusive on both ends. I always completely immersed myself in my partner and their needs and I completely forgot that I existed.
When I think about past relationships I think about losing myself, I think about depression, I think about constant fighting, not feeling good enough and feeling incredibly lonely.
Fast-forward five years.
I discovered self-care and finally got to really know myself. I worked on the anxiety and depression and made it manageable. I discovered my self-worth and self-esteem for the first time ever and over all, I was happy. Happy with myself and happy with my life. I didn’t feel this huge sense of something “missing” but I did feel like things could be better, thus the idea to start dating again got planted in my mind. I didn’t want my past to hold me back, I didn’t want fear to stop me, I didn’t want to short-change myself by being single forever just because of a few rotten experiences, so I listened to that voice that said go for it. And I did.
I went on one date, and it totally bombed. I remember going home and thinking what a stupid idea this all was. Here I am, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and ending up with nothing but a bad-date story. Bummer. I got back on that horse however and went on a date with someone else, which lead to a second date and a third and fourth. I was excited and giddy. This was how it was supposed to be. This was why I was doing it. Something fun and new.
After just a few weeks things started to change.
I felt exhausted and drained and I wanted to sleep all of the time. This was just from texting and hanging out for a meal and netflixing twice a week. I didn’t realize how much mental work went into a relationship. I started to feel panic-y and anxious about my time and space being infringed upon. Strangely enough, when we were together I was fine and enjoyed myself, but when we weren’t I found myself being very protective about my “me” time.
I was upfront from the beginning that when it came to relationships I was out of my league and that I was very introverted and cherished time alone. We decided to take a step back and hang out less so that I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed. It didn’t really help. I kept thinking that it didn’t feel right, that I shouldn’t have to struggle so much to make things work. I was waiting for that moment where things would click and the stress and anxiety would fade away. I was so unhappy.
A little after a month I decided to end it.
I can’t tell you how hard that decision was. I felt like maybe I wasn’t giving it a fair shot. I felt like a huge failure. I felt that something was inherently wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with them, it was all me and I resented it. I was disappointed in myself. I felt like I should have been able to see that I wasn’t ready. I was even more stressed out and anxious than ever and I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of overwhelming guilt I felt at having to hurt someone that I cared about. I spent days crying and feeling like a terrible person and beating myself up.
But I also felt relief and a staggering sense of freedom.
That moment after I ended it, I can’t even say how good I felt. For the first time in awhile I felt like things were right. I felt like someone had just opened the door to a prison cell and let me out. I remember leaning my head against the wall, taking a deep breath, and smiling. Relationships shouldn’t feel like that. I knew that I had made the right decision for me. I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I wasn’t ready for someone to pin expectations on me. I wasn’t ready to change my life for someone else.
It wasn’t all sunshine afterwards. Like I said, the guilt really got to me. I knew that I had hurt someone deeply and I felt the weight of that. We tried to be friends afterward but it didn’t work out and I felt the loss of that too. I spent a lot of November doing a lot of crying and soul-searching. However, there was an undeniable truth.
I did what was best for me.
That, in itself, was amazing. I can imagine, in great detail, how Dominee-of-the-Past would have handled it, poor dear. She would have gone along with things, too scared of rocking the boat and feeling bad about it, fallen into depression and done nothing to try to make it better or she would have been passive aggressive and sabotaged things so that the other person ended it. It wouldn’t have been healthy to anyone.
Instead, I was honest from the very beginning about my needs and at the end, I was truthful and compassionate. Admittedly, the aftermath of the guilt and self-blame could have been handled better, I spent days crying and beating myself up over it, but we live and learn and at the end of the day I did my best and I am proud of that. I learned a lot.
Sometimes you just aren’t ready and that’s okay.
I can tell myself that I should’ve known better, that I wasn’t ready, but sometimes you just can’t know until you try. There’s no shame in trying. It’s better than standing by the sidelines wondering but not being brave enough to put yourself out there. I tried and I failed and it’s totally okay.
Listen to that inner voice.
I had all of my friends telling me to stick with it. They were so happy for me to finally be in a relationship after so many years of singledom. One suggested that maybe I was self-sabotaging because I was scared of being happy. I was happy, before, being single. I kept coming back to that thought. I was happy then but I wasn’t happy now. I searched my heart for the truth. Was I scared of being in a relationship? Of course I was, but I was more scared of putting myself in a situation that didn’t nourish me or make me happy.
You’ve got to put you first.
I hate disappointing people. I always have (semi) reformed people-pleaser that I am. I felt like I was letting down so many people – my friends and family, them and their friends and family. I knew what was right for me, but at the same time I like making other people happy. It is in my heart and soul to nurture other people. But what I’ve learned on my self love journey is all of that has to start with you. You can’t nurture others in a healthy way if you are depriving yourself. In the end I had to stick by that.
I’m not ready for a relationship and who knows, I might never be. I can only continue to do the work and make sure that I am happy and healthy for me, and if another person comes along in the future, that I have the right tools to create a nourishing relationship. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll be okay with it. My life has been amazingly full these last few years. Yes, sometimes I want companionship but I’ve also got a great life, a job that I love and another job that I like, I’ve got hobbies that nourish me, I’ve got great friends, and at the end of the day, I have a really good life.
I honor that and I cherish that.