“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Many of us would have heard these words leave our lips or penetrate into us at one time or another in our lives. We associate those words with the end of a relationship and the ensuing discomfort.
The growth in popularity of online dating sites and dating apps has provided fast and effective remedies for nursing wounded egos, broken hearts or even just serving the hunger for physical intimacy. The flurry of faces and interactions, if it doesn’t exhaust us entirely, numbs us temporarily with a distraction.
If you are in the camp of the walking wounded, you are more than likely in search of affirmation: I am likeable. Depending on how devastating the pain of your previous breakup was, you are possibly one of several folks in search of affirmation. You are OK. You are going to be OK. The world will return to normal.
A connection on the infamous dating app Tinder, or an inviting message on an online dating site, might just go a long way to helping us feel OK. The suggestion of a stranger’s interest in you, however subtle at first, is enough to help a bruised heart (or ego) move towards recovery. Someone, anyone, out there thinks you’re interesting, attractive…potentially even loveable.
If this is you – then it’s highly probable that on more than one account, you are emotionally unavailable.
That old saying: you can’t love someone else, unless you love yourself? It’s worth considering. Appreciating yourself without the need for positive affirmation from others, is an essential foundation to being able restore confidence, address insecurities, and ultimately –maintain and nurture the integrity of your own voice, in a healthy relationship. Let me clarify the last point because many of us tend to forget it.
Even in a deeply intimate and high functioning relationship, they (your special other) are them, and you are you, and furthermore, you don’t NEED them. You are grateful for their company and connection with you. You respect them. However, you feel secure within your own self. You are confident of your abilities regardless of how they respond to you. That they love you is a bonus; a wonderful warm gift. You maintain your essential qualities, and stay true to yourself.
Easier said than done – is another old saying.
Relationship counsellors suggest that being comfortable in your own skin is a necessary foundation to nurturing your emotional availability, while in and certainly outside an ongoing relationship. Be OK with who you are, and be OK being alone with yourself – even for just a little while.
The hard reality is: everything from failed dates that were once promising encounters to breakups and then rejection – hit our confidence, leave a dent in our self- assured amour; reshape us, even if slightly. No man is an island.
As we respect ourselves and others more; as we evolve the self- reliant and self- assured individuals that we strive to be, some of us do get emotionally invested in our connections. They are after all, not mutually exclusive. It is even a legitimate stage of maturity to be able to actively acknowledge the existence and interests of ‘the other’ and let ourselves respond to those accordingly. What a stranger, let alone an intimate partner, thinks of us sometimes matters more than it should. And this is OK.
“Yes, I like who I am. I am comfortable with what I have achieved in my life, and where I might still go with this life. I am ready to be open to a wholesome emotional connection with someone else, to share the onward journey…I will compromise appropriately.”
When we reflect back on relationships, and memories of connections we have made throughout our life, there is this other question that we may consider asking ourselves at some point. Have we ever been completely emotionally available?
Unless you have lived your entire life in social isolation, chances are that your relationships with others, have left a deep impression on you. That is one that you carry into the future.
Unless you have been able to perform a lobotomy on yourself, chances are that even if you have moved on from all your previous romantic relationships – there is always going to be a part of you that remembers an experience or person with fondness. There are going to be bittersweet memories that linger and are not far from your thoughts on a lonely night or long weekend drive. There’s also the recollections of deep hurt, even if you don’t feel the sting as much now.
There is the pleasure or pain you are reminded of former connections when their name pops up on a social media news feed, or their face appears in a crowded room (or not so crowded room), or even one of those arbitrary memory triggers.
We may have moved on. We may be over it. We may have had time to grieve and recover, and a new person in our lives may give us happiness we never dreamt we could experience. Or we may be open to receiving that level of happiness. Still, to suggest that we can de-link each and every ounce of our feelings to the past – seems a bit ambitious. To unplug ourselves from the old us, from the impressions they made on us – impossible.
It is in this sense that perhaps at any time we are mostly available at best, and very minimally pre-occupied by past hurt. Each and every experience changes us, positive or negative whether we like it or not. We carry it all into the future, because this is what life wisdom does.
Photo courtesy of the author