A couple of weeks ago, in her perpetually optimistic way, Goldilocks suggested I give Finn a call.
“No. Absolutely not,” I responded.
“But why?” she pressed. “You guys got along so well. Maybe his schedule has eased—”
When I told Pandy about the suggestion, she replied that she would be in agreement with Goldilocks.
But here’s the thing:
As I see it, one of two things happened. Either I did have significant personal value to Finn, and he wasn’t able to communicate that or to make time for it (for me), or I wasn’t worth to him what he had previously indicated, and he wasn’t able to communicate that and bow out respectfully. Either way, he all but stopped reaching out to me. Even when I questioned whether his schedule would allow time for dating me, he assured me it did. But then it didn’t, given his line of work and the time of year. Rather than say, “Hey, I’m really sorry this is the exact thing I assured you it wouldn’t be,” he just let it drop until I made the call to see other people. Although I said I had no intention of cutting him off from contact and would still like to hear from him, there was nothing from him. After a month of radio silence, I did indeed add him to the ever-growing list of IGNORE THIS ASSHAT contacts in my phone and put him on permanent DND.
This was wholly indicative of much of my dating life the last five years. Sure, potential relationships dwindle, and other things are more important sometimes. Sometimes people realize they aren’t as interested as they’d initially believed. I’ve been on both sides of that. I’ve had dating plans hijacked by daily logistics.
And I admit to having ghosted on people, though never anyone I’d been dating for several weeks, as Finn and I had.
There’s no justification for my own cowardly action at times. Reasons, not excuses. Yes, it’s hard to say to someone that you’re just not feeling it, especially when you know first-hand the feeling of rejection that comes on the other side of that exchange.
But to say to someone that they are important, that they matter, that you enjoy your time with them and want more—with only them—and to then just let it dwindle is cowardly. That person must either keep putting up with feeling like an unimportant option because of your actions, or the other person must be brave enough to admit that their worth is higher than the value of your passive-aggressive rejection and make the call to end it.
That’s exactly what I did. Given my history of holding onto decaying relationships far past their natural expiration, especially to the detriment of my self-worth, it was strange to make the decision and carry through with it. It was uncomfortable as hell and felt a little arrogant to say to someone that their actions were unacceptable and to stop accepting them.
Breaking that cycle, not doing things the way I always have and letting the relationship drag on ad nauseum, is part of my redemption of my past. I can’t control what other people do. I have some control over what I feel about it. But I have complete control over how I react to their actions.
Part of the pathology of anxious attachment style is a repetition of the past, of constantly striving for some kind of cosmic do-over in which it eventually doesn’t turn out the same way it always has. Another part of the pathology is being attracted to emotionally-unavailable men—especially those who want desperately to believe that they are available and thus initially convince me that they are. But if I am always doing the same thing, so are they.
I’m by no means the first woman to be hurt by those men, and I likely won’t be the last. And here’s where I am trepidatious of my dating future. I don’t know what it will take for me to believe that someone else is telling me the truth—not some hopeful aspiration, but honest truth—that they 1) are willing and able to engage in a healthy relationship and 2) can maintain that healthy relationship when things get complicated and difficult, even if the relationship has to come to an end.
I am more jaded now than I was five years ago, and that’s part of the reason I’m choosing not to date right now. It’s not fear of rejection or disillusionment with love or men in general. I don’t want my jaded perceptions to establish expectations of others before I’ve given them an opportunity to truly engage me. I don’t want to go into a date with a half-hearted, cynical view, because it would never give that other person a fair shot at getting past my other defenses.
I get that I tend to dive inward deeper than most people are ever willing to go. My expectations of my own self-discovery and -exploration are so high that it would be unreasonable to expect that same of anyone else. But dammit! It irritates the hell out of me when people are too afraid to try to move past their pasts, to be too afraid to confront their own failings and shortcomings and to try to learn from it.
It’s hard as hell to admit that you have a role in the demise of your relationships. In my experience, it is never only one partner’s fault. Ever. No matter the circumstances. But to choose to hide your eyes and cover your ears to avoid your own truths, especially when you know it will mean you’ll continue to make the same mistakes over and over, hurting other people in the process, is utterly nonsensical to me.
Right now, I am reticent to believe that I will ever meet that man, who is brave enough to choke down his fear and really face himself, especially if it means having a clearer view of me. Right now, I’m not sure I would even recognize him. I don’t know that I could see past my own jaded expectations to see someone else clearly, and I’d likely end up right back in that same cycle of infatuation and rejection and hurt.
So I’m taking the time change my own views, which includes evaluating my own worth only through my own lens. I can’t adequately gauge my value by someone else’s metric. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s a little lonely.
But there is also freedom from expectation, of my self or of someone else, and so there is hope that I will be able to do it all differently, someday.