I am married now, and have been happily so, for over 15 years. Thank God I finally got it right. Or, it was my husband that got it right for me. All I can say is that I have travelled that path that 99% of the population takes. For me, that path was through lots of trials and a ton of errors.
I have not dodged the concept and physical act of dating, relationships, love without earning my Purple Heart. Okay confession, I’ve earned many Purple Hearts in this venue and have been deployed, gone to battle, and waged many a war. Sadly, I cannot say that I have not gone unscathed. The battlefield of traversing a love minefield has left me with shrapnel imbedded in my being, wounds that have left deep scars, and PTSD that is just now starting to fade.
I’ve had 5 serious relationships and have casually dated 20+ men while in the trenches. Eight years of trying to figure it out, figure me out, and try to make sense of this crazy journey towards “love” that we are all on.
It’s an instinct in us all – to crave love, to be loved, and to give love. It is what makes the human experience that much richer, in my opinion. But sadly, that “rich” experience can turn to heartache, despair, loss, and confusion for many of us, more than once.
I’ve always been boy crazy from as early as I can remember. Even in Kindergarten – I had a crush on a boy named Caleb (my first born is named Caleb, not because of that innocent crush, but in his favor, he never tainted the name for me either). I also grew up an extreme Tom Boy, so I was surrounded by boys more than girls most of my early school years, playing all the ‘boy’ sports. Being around the male gender was my comfort zone, I guess one could say.
I am also not one to shy away from challenges, experiences, anything new really. I go into this mindset with excitement and eagerness. My motto in life is “I’ll always try something once” (there are a few boundaries in there, keep in mind). I like this side of me, but this mindset has tripped me up in the dating arena.
That could be the reason why I got into so many relationships that I never should have entertained past a first date. But, that girl in me that loved new challenges, forged on. See, I am not one of those girls that ever tried changing a man. Instead, I opted for something far more detrimental. I changed and altered myself to be right for that person I was with at that time. I guess you could say I was a chameleon of sorts. I sadly did not have a strong sense of who I was, so I became what I thought would work out well in the current situation I chose to commit to. And let me tell you, that mindset put in the wrong hands of another person, made me moldable like clay. I abandoned my inner gut, my sense on what right from wrong was, and the ability to have my own back. To gain love from another, I stopped loving myself… all so I could feel those small moments of another finding value in me for very short spurts of time, on their time. And I sadly waited, patiently, for them to fill my cup.
I dated men that never found me to be of much value. I dated men that had no problem telling me that. I dated men that were not faithful. I dated men that were emotionally and verbally abusive. I dated men that were emotionally unavailable. I dated men that had so much baggage that at times, all of it seemed to become my fault.
Trust me, I am not bashing men here, I love the male gender. It takes two to tango and I easily volunteered to go down that madness ride with them. There were great moments in those times as well. But the sad part is, I didn’t know that love is supposed to have an ease to it. I was never given those tools to articulate life’s experiences. I created my own tools, and as much as I had to use them, they did not serve me well.
The main ingredient missing was self-love. It sounds so cliché, but it is so true. If you don’t know who you are, know what you stand for, what you desire, what makes you cringe, what lights you up, and what tears you down, then life will give you those paths to get there. Life is funny that way, unless and until you are ready to learn the lesson that is being taught, the universe will see to it to keep sending you a repeat lesson, packaged in a different form. My lesson was not being learned, thus being shown to me with different faces, time and time again.
I remember how odd a feeling it was and how alien it felt to have a man not try to mold me like clay. But it was only that one time did I internally say before committing to date this man, “I am going to be ME, 100% across the board, no matter what”.
I could give my significant other all the kudos in the world for showing me the way, and in many ways he has. But the real truth is is that I finally decided to claim who I was 100% in bravery and in love. In doing that, the Universe no longer needed to keep giving me the same lesson plan over and over again.
I cannot say that claiming yourself 100% with love and respect will win you the right person to commit to the first or second time out of the gates. That road is different for all of us, we all have our life lessons to learn, according to what we need to learn. But I will guarantee this, keep that internal compass pointed to strong north, and in time, you will be shown that a significant other isn’t “needed” but it sure makes the ride more fun when two can ride it together.
I don’t look at my life’s experiences as a mistake, or anything to be shamed about. It is what it is. I did the best I could do with the knowledge and skillsets I had at that time.
Just a few weeks ago (while washing my face in the bathroom), I was able to gain full acceptance of that journey – the twists, the turns, and the detours. And in that moment I felt immense gratitude and appreciation for those exact experiences. Because in those times, I have found that the the kindness, the loyalty, the truth, the respect, the honor, the love is that much sweeter and richer and I will never take it for granted. I have also gained full love of self, and enjoy being me 100% of the time… good days and bad.
A dear friend of mine told me this not long ago, “There are two sides to every coin. To know lightness, you must know darkness – you can’t have one without the other”.
Well, I have known both. And I can joyfully say now, the lightness is so immense, that I need sunglasses.