I have dozens of times a day where I stare at my phone, computer, and most importantly, other people with a blank stare, because I did not send for them, and yet, they came for me (or someone I love).
The one thing people keep coming for me is around being single and having the audacity to desire a romantic relationship; and GET THIS, actually actively work towards having one. Oh, and then when I get dumped, ghosted, catfished, or another date goes horribly wrong, most times, I actually feel some type of way about it – sad, angry, upset, disappointed, despair, and a little hopeless about my love life. You know, normal shit when your heart breaks or cracks a little, normal HUMAN emotions, that all humans feel, or so I thought. Because apparently, you’re not allowed to feel these things, or should let the dust fall off your shoulder, because if not, that is indicative of the fact that you haven’t spending enough time working on myself, focusing on my career, and loving myself.
Maybe you’re confused about what I mean here, because I did just kind of ramble off a bunch of thoughts. I’m talking about whenever you communicate your desire to have a partner, frustrations with the process, and wanting to be loved by a romantic person in your life, people hit you with well-meaning cliches that insinuate your lack of self-awareness and growth. Things like:
“You really should take this time to focus on yourself and grow, so you can be ready for him.”
“This time in your life should be focused on your career/education/financial/health/physical growth, not a man.”
“You can’t expect anyone to love you until you love yourself.”
“Maybe the universe/God/Buddha/Allah/the Saints are telling you that you are not ready, you need to do more work on yourself.”
“Fix yourself first.”
Fine. Whatever. Good advice in its own right. You SHOULD always be focusing on yourself and growing, EVEN when you’re in a relationship. And sure, there are some people who are not ready for a relationship for all kinds of reasons. However, what you’re not going to do (or shouldn’t do) is ASSUME this is true for everyone, including myself. Hardly any of my gorgeous, handsome, talented, intelligent friends are sitting at home solely focused on a mate, not pursuing or haven’t pursued further education, not thinking about and improving at least one of the three types of health – spiritual, physical or mental, skipping work, and not going out, or only doing those things to catch a partner. NOT ONE.
And I know myself the best, so I’ll share about myself. I workout, I have been in therapy to better understand the supposed brokeness that folks have said I needed to fix before a relationship (still not fixed, btw, but improving and will be lifelong), I have a masters degree and a great job, and am always looking to grow my career and have moved 3 times in the past 5 years to pursue my dreams with no thought of not taking a job because the dating pool is hella small in upstate NY or Wisconsin. I strive for excellence in my job and am always looking for ways to grow (I guess I’m kinda working on the professional thing). I travel. I go out with friends. I go see friends and enjoy laughing with them. I do things alone – anything I want to do! I spend time reading and writing. I think about my spiritual self and where I want to go with that and how (still figuring that out, but lots of work being done there). I cook, craft, bake, and write, aka I have hobbies. I leave my house often. I meal prep, take my meds, read about ways to improve my health and take actionable steps. In other words, I am working on my damn self and have done a helluva lot of work on me. Me 5 years ago, is dramatically differently than me today, and this is wholly positive. I have learned lessons from prior relationships and heartaches, and I know what I want, need, and deserve from love. I am not looking for anyone to complete me, but rather complement me, which is a big lesson we all could learn. I still have my challenges and areas of growth. But guess what? I could work on myself for 30 more years and I promise, will STILL have those. Working on yourself, loving yourself, that is not mutually exclusive with wanting a partner and dating and loving them. They are two processes that inform each other at times, yes, and perhaps you need some baseline of self-efficacy to not be co-dependent, but they are not mutually exclusive.
One thing that I will share is that those phrases I listed above hurt, and at the very least, annoy people. For a long time, I carried a belief I was so inherently flawed, that no one could love me. Some of this was due to a history of trauma. And I worked and still work really hard to not allow that trauma rule my life, and especially my love life. The work I continue to put into myself around this is one of my greatest personal accomplishments. I am so very proud of myself (another post, another time). And when people say to me, “perhaps you should work on yourself first, instead of seeking a partner,” all I hear is that the work I have done is not good enough, that my flaws will always be too big for romantic love. Maybe you think that is dramatic or indicative of my own issues, but I’d ask you all to consider that before you say that to someone. You have no idea how much work people have put and are putting into themselves to make themselves better. To tell someone when they talk about the very real and very human frustrations of modern day dating and the human desire to have love, that they should “use this time to work on themselves instead” is to say to someone, “you are not good enough as you are. You must be perfect to be loved,” which ultimately denies them their humanity.
So, please miss me with the fix yourself first BS.