I Don’t Know How To Be In A Relationship
I don’t know how to be in a relationship. I know how to be a friend, I know how to be a daughter, I know how to be a sister but I don’t know how to have a partner — someone who is included in my day-to-day life, someone I go on vacations with and for whom I’m willing to travel to some horrible town to meet their parents. I’ve dated people before but it never turned into anything substantial. I pushed my lovers away until they had no choice but to end it themselves. I was petrified every step of the way. Of what, I’m not sure, but every time I started settling in to some routine, I’d retreat. It’d be easy to write myself off as a commitment-phobe or as someone who just hasn’t met the right person yet — both of which could be true — but it’s also something deeper, something far more serious than just jitters or dating a string of Mr. Wrongs. It’s a failure on my part, a type of shortcoming. Some people aren’t good at sports or have trouble understanding math. Maybe this is my weak spot. Maybe I just legitimately don’t know how to be in a relationship with someone.
The frustrating thing about all of this is that I actually want companionship. I want to lay in bed with someone and give all of my love to them. I am a very loving person. I’m an excellent friend and a thoughtful co-worker. All signs indicate that I’d be a fantastic girlfriend. But I’m not. I’m terrible. The second I start dating someone, I start to feel suffocated and look for a way out. I break plans, I make excuses, and for what? A movie night with my best friend? To be alone in my bedroom? To work? Why am I so quick to deny myself something I clearly want? It has always been self-sabotage. Nothing else. I’m so locked inside of myself at this point and I’m not sure if anyone will ever be able to get me out.
I want to be better but I don’t even know where to begin. I look at my relationship experience in comparison to other people my age and feel totally pathetic. My best friend, for example is an expert at having relationships. She thrives in her role as a girlfriend. It makes sense for her. She’s experienced. I, on the other hand, have no idea what it’s like to even have a toothbrush at someone else’s house. And we’re getting to that age where it’s downright bizarre that I’ve never been in a serious relationship before. You can no longer blame it on bad luck. It’s me. I’m the problem. I’ve had people who were ready to love me, ready to be my plus one, and I ran away from them screaming. In my head, I would rationalize it as them just being bugaboos and me wanting to be an independent woman but let’s be real, I’m just insane. I have intimacy issues. Something happened to me that caused me to go into my shell but I’m not sure what it was. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by an abundance of love from family and friends, so I’m not exactly sure where it went wrong but it did. I’m wrong, broken, damaged goods, whatever.
I want to know how to be someone’s girlfriend. I want to know how to love someone so completely without being crippled with anxiety. I want to get over whatever it is that’s holding me back from achieving this but I also have to face the reality that I might not ever figure it out. People do end up alone. It’s a thing! Months turn into years and all of a sudden you’re the one who never found love. I’m at a crossroads. Either figure it out now or get used to living life alone. Love is like a muscle and if you don’t use it, you’re going to forget how to do it. You’re going to forget how to love and then you’re going to be forgotten.
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It started with a right swipe, a little green heart. Tinder of course.
Though I acknowledge and appreciate the differences in human experiences, and while your heartbreak is (and always will be) uniquely and completely your own, I must urge you to consider that I have been where you are.
With his hat cocked back, body tilted away from his cane, and right forefinger pointing directly at his audience, Joseph Ducreux commands the attention of those viewing his self-portrait.
I was born in 1990; he was born in 1973. I’m 23; he just turned 40.