I’m not good at romantic relationships. Maybe it’s because, at 30, I haven’t ever been in a real relationship. And I only really started dating at 28. I’m sure it’s because I fed myself a steady diet of romance novels since I was 7. Or maybe it comes from my mom constantly telling me that men were deceitful and to never settle. Maybe it’s because my old church hyped the fact that women are “princesses” and men should jump through hoops to get to them. I don’t know. Whatever the reason – I suck at this romance thing.
My MO has always been to fall for someone who I know will never actually commit to a relationship. It’s usually the fun, charismatic, carefree guy who will ask to “hang out” late at night and well into early morning. We’ll talk about our deepest darkest fears and hopes and dreams. He’ll tell me I’m beautiful and amazing and a wonderful catch. I’ll wonder why he doesn’t attempt to catch me. We’re just friends. Who hang out. All the time. Deep down I know this isn’t going to work out. And because I know that – I’m free to be emotionally vulnerable. I will give it my all, because in a roundabout unhealthy way – this feels safe.
When a decent guy does come along and shows interest I have the opposite reaction. I will freak out. I may have started out liking them but as soon as they start to show interest in me I bolt. I suddenly find myself repulsed by them. I nitpick and find things to dislike and I focus on those things until I convince myself that they are completely wrong for me. Decent men liking me does not feel safe. Because deep down I know, this could go somewhere and I will have to actually commit to a relationship. I will have to be in uncharted territory. I will not be able to control whether I get hurt or heartbroken. In a way falling for the douche is better because even if I know I will end up hurt – well, I control that choice and decision.
But that can’t go on forever.
So I met a guy. Someone totally different than the fun-loving, life of the party, center of attention guy I go for. He’s serious and intense and introspective. The second time we talked he told me he liked me. I freaked out (internally of course). Old habits kicked in and I started to try to find things to dislike about him. But something held me back. I never regretted pushing all the other “decent” guys away. I could have handled things better but I was happy with the end result. With this guy – I had this strong sense that I would regret not giving it a fair shot. This was one “relationship” I did not want to sabotage.
I started talking to my best friend about my feelings. Her advice was simple – “everytime you start to panic and pull away – DON’T. Just tell yourself to stay. Be open and vulnerable.” So I did. It’s only been a month. But for the first time I’m actually powering through my baggage and dysfunction. And I’m getting to know a really good man. Who I happen to like quite a bit. And when he cleared things up for me by telling me he was “pursuing” me – I didn’t panic. I have no idea if this will go anywhere and I know this doesn’t mean my bad habits have disappeared for good. But it feels like I’m finally getting over this. Like maybe I’m finally growing up.
ps – I’m really hoping it goes somewhere.
the great big north american adventure is over.
It’s been a wonderful trip. I went there thinking this was going to be mainly about the counseling program and as a consolation prize I’d get to see my friends…well that’s not exactly how things turned out.
The gift and the blessing was getting to see my friends. Meeting new people. Being blown away and overwhelmed by how generous and kind people are. I literally spent $350 CAD during my entire month-long trip (excluding the airfare of course). Everything else was provided for – food, beds, couches, hotels. I stayed with people I didn’t know. I was toured around by friends of friends. It was amazing. It was something I badly needed – to be reminded of the goodness in people.
A bigger blessing was having the freedom to strip away everything people have told me about myself in the past couple of years and just feel free to be myself. No judgments. No unwelcome opinions. No one speaking into my life telling me what is and isn’t wrong with me. I learned so much about who I am as a person and I learned to stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will always be one of those people that straddles cultures, that is forever in the camp of the outsiders and people who are labeled “not easy to understand”. That’s OK.
Some lessons I learned on this trip:
- People that are truly helpful will just help you. I met so many people that were willing to house me, feed me, tour me around. And yes, some were old and dear friends, but some were strangers – friends of friends that had heard that a girl from another country needed a place to stay and someone to host her. It was amazing to hear people say “What do you need? Let’s make it happen.” instead of just “I’ll pray for you.”
- Sometimes, the problem isn’t me. During the course of this trip I felt free to just be myself. I would say something about how shitty I felt or how angry or hurt I was…and instead of hearing “well, maybe it’s you” I heard “that’s such a horrible thing to go through”. Or “that doesn’t seem fair”. Maybe it’s a cultural thing but back home it always feels like people are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions. If you are feeling angry or hurt or let down then you should find a way to deal with it quickly and move on. Never blame the other person. Never hold anyone accountable but yourself. It was so refreshing to be in an environment that seemed to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. All in all it was great to have my feelings validated.
- Standards of beauty are different across the world. Where I live, people freely toss around opinions like “you got fat” or “you look tired” or “your eye bags are so dark!” (because you decided to forego makeup that day). While I was in North America not once did someone tell me to go put on more makeup. I lived in sneakers and leggings for a month and never felt more beautiful and accepted – even when I noticed that I had gained 8 lbs.
The biggest thing that I learned on this trip is to be myself. And to have the courage to fight for that authentic self – that beautifully broken, messy self. So that’s who I’m going to be from now on.
The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
It has taken me 2 and a half months to actually write this down. This trip was so meaningful that it literally took all that time to process and organize my thoughts.