I used to gravitate toward one type of guy: loser.
At least, that’s what my friends said about my dating life. Meanwhile, my therapist preferred instead to use the more politically correct word, “underfunctioner.”
Here are some examples: a 30-something guy who still lived with his parents and a forty-year-old man who never seemed to have a working car. Then, there were the men I dated who were “finding themselves.” This phrase, I have learned, is often synonymous with, “I don’t have a real job.”
To be fair and honest, I was far from perfect. In fact, these guys probably had friends who called me a loser. When we were dating, I rarely spent significant time with them. I would conveniently fit the relationship into my schedule, meanwhile insisting that what we had together wasn’t, in fact, a relationship at all. My walls were tall and wide and protected by a moat with alligators. These men didn’t have a chance, as I was a walking red flag (or maybe even a banner) myself.
On an unconscious level, now I see that I chose these kinds of relationships, because they were doomed to fail, or rather, to not even start. My best friend used to say that I was a pro at getting out of a relationship before it even began. By choosing a certain type of man, I felt safe on some level. I didn’t have to be invested or risk a broken heart. And I was ultimately in control of the relationship. At any moment, I could easily jump ship and go back to my familiar, single gal life, which I loved.
But, in my single life, I had begun to wonder, “Is there more?” If I wanted to continue to grow as a person, what might that look like? The answer I kept hearing back was, “You need to explore being in a relationship.” And this voice was not talking about with friends or family, but specifically with men. I began to see that continued growth in my life would mean facing my walls head-on and making better choices in the dating arena. I made an appointment with a therapist, specifically to talk about love and relationships. I knew that if anything was going to change, I was going to have to do things differently. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
I signed up for an online dating service. Unlike times in the past, I actually logged into the account from time to time. I forced myself to sit down and respond to “winks” when what I wanted to do was write, play guitar, or hang out with friends. I tirelessly weeded through the annoying emails to find the wonderful ones. I even sent some messages of my own, connecting only with men who I actually thought might be a match. I met some great guys—not underfunctioners. This change had nothing to do with the specific online service but everything to do with me. I was shifting my perspective and opening my heart.
And then the strangest thing happened. While I was living my life hanging out with friends (in Las Vegas of all places), I met an amazing guy. When we met, I expected my dating walls to come up and say, “You can’t do this. You will be smushed just like in a trash compactor.” Yes, my walls used to say scary things like that!
But there are no walls in sight. I don’t feel trapped. I never thought it was possible to feel free in a relationship, but I do. Maybe this difference is because I have been working on myself. Or maybe it is because I can completely be myself with Bruce (That is his real name. Please refrain from Facebook stalking!) and don’t need walls to protect me. Our ability to connect might have something to do with the fact that both of us are on a similar trajectory in life as far as career, happiness, and even knowing who we are as individuals. I am guessing it is a combination of all of this.
Everyone’s dating path is different. I don’t specifically recommend joining Match.com or going to Vegas. What I do suggest is listening to that little voice inside, your inner compass. Some call this intuition or even God. Maybe this voice is telling you to take things slowly or on the opposite end, to sign up for speed dating. (Yes, I’ve done it.) Only you know what is right for you.
Whether you are single or married and regardless of your sexual orientation, we can all learn from one another. So please share your thoughts on dating and love here. One thing is for sure: I still need all the help I can get.
All the best,