I think I’ve been trying to find home for a long time. For most of my life, even though there were a lot of uncertainties in my upbringing, I had a home in my faith. I belonged to something bigger than me, so when I was overwhelmed by my fear, uncertainty, or loss I could turn to God and let go. But then in my thirties, I lost it — the anchor that held me my whole life. It was terrifying in its finality. It was a death, and I didn’t know if I could like myself, trust myself, or even know myself. All I knew was that I was utterly lost and had to find my way forward to something that felt like home because what was behind me was gone.
What followed was a series of bad relationships. Almost all of them were abusive in some way. I find myself now, having to take a serious look at my patterns because if I ever find love again, I want it to be the real deal. And as much as I would like to point fingers at the men in my past for the ways they harmed me, the big common denominator is me. So, it’s time I stop and pay attention. These are the biggest patterns I have noticed so far, and I think they are pretty common for people who find themselves in an endless cycle of bad relationships.
1.I force it.
My sister says I can talk anyone into anything. I’m relentless when I think something is right. In relationships, this translates into an unhealthy sort of determination to “win” the relationship I want. When I look back at the past 6 relationships I’ve had, they all have this in common. I pick someone, feel a connection, then relentlessly pursue the relationship until it happens. Either I convince my partner that this is the relationship they have been waiting for, or I convince myself. Usually, I convince the other person first, then have an “uh-oh” moment where I realize I’ve “won” something I might not want, then double down on committing to it out of duty. It’s messed up, and I’m not sure why I do it, but I’m working to figure it out because I don’t want to do it anymore.
2. I give disproportionately.
This is especially true in the beginning. I am liberal with compliments, time, and attention — wether I receive anything back or not. I become highly attuned to my partners moods and try to accommodate them to make him comfortable, even to the neglect of my own needs. This tendency to “love bomb” is, in hindsight, a tactic to secure relationships. And the unhealthy “giving more than I get” extends to sex as well. I will use it too soon, feeling like it is expected and like it will make my partner feel closer to me. It is damaging because I don’t always want it, or even feel that level of attraction for my partner — but I decide to do it anyway.
3. I nurture the belief that being single reflects negatively on me.
What it comes down to is that I feel like a failure. I haven’t been able to find a good match. I’m worried that people feel sorry for me. Focusing on that confirms the worst thoughts I have about myself: I’m not pretty enough. I am boring. My life is too hard for anyone to want to share. It is all nonsense, but it is hard to see that when I am in the middle of the sting of rejection. All of a sudden, I feel this compulsion to prove my worth, to be proactive and put myself out there, and to “find the love I deserve.”
Here is the thing though. I have never once found a home that was safe or loving or consistent inside a relationship. Often times, when I’m in one, I am bored, anxious, or downright miserable. So why do I keep going back to the dating pool and repeating the same mistakes? I think it comes down to two things for me: 1. security. And 2. The desire to be seen.
It’s ironic because I have always taken care of myself. In every relationship I’ve ever had, I’ve had to take care of myself. I think I’m just tired of it, and scared that at some point, I’m not going to be able to cope anymore. That is scary without a backup. But when I look at my life, there is no reason to feel scared. I am capable. I can depend on myself and trust myself.
I heard this speaker on social media talk about a thought experiment. He said, “what if you were to wake up in your body tomorrow for the first time — with no recollection of past mistakes — just the notion that this was your body and your life and you had to make the best of it. What would you be grateful for? What would you change?” My initial thought was that I would be stoked. I have a beautiful house and a great job. My kids are absolute sweethearts who actively express their love for me. I am healthy and have all the things I need. It was kind of a shock, actually. I realized that the focus I had been putting on finding the right relationship to make me feel secure was kind of ridiculous.
2. The desire to be seen
Being seen is really at the heart of love — to know and be known. I guess I crave that like everyone else does. I want for someone to see me and want to know me. The thing is though, I have this in a lot of ways already. I have wonderful friendships and family members who love me and know me. I am close to my children and am good at forming connections and making new friends. I don’t need to try and force a relationship so I can feel seen. It isn’t real if it’s forced. It is just a mirage.
I guess what it boils down to is that it is difficult to avoid the trap of bad relationship habits when you don’t feel at home within yourself. And getting out of the dating pool feels scary — like time is running out, or I’m sabotaging my happiness, or something equally as dumb. It is a lack of control, this self-love thing. I can’t try to steer anything or make anything happen. I just have to pursue my own happiness and love myself. It’s crazy how hard that is, but I’m glad I’m doing it. I quit all my dating apps for the summer and I’m focusing on doing things I love and filling my life with the love of those around me. It’s difficult, if I’m honest. Relationship hunting is an addiction. I feel withdrawals, panic, and sometimes it is overwhelming. So, I’m giving myself grace for mistakes — though I hope they are few and far between.
And this home I’ve been searching for? I’m realizing that maybe I don’t need to be a part of something bigger than myself. Maybe I am enough. Isn’t that a novel idea?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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