There’s just something about love that terrifies me.
It’s impossible to put into words. One word. One thought. One feeling. One moment of anxiety. It can’t be covered. It can’t be explained. It can only be experienced. And to experience it is terrifying.
So I don’t let myself feel it.
Instead, I breathe through it. I ignore it. I tell myself that I don’t need it. I tell myself that flowers are a waste of money and date nights are incredibly awkward. Instead, I tell myself that romance is for girls who are unhappy with themselves. Those girls need romance in order to love themselves. But I love myself just fine without a man.
And it’s true. I do love myself. I know exactly what I’m worth and how valuable of a person I am. I also know that I deserve good things. No man, no amount of singleness could ever tell me that I’m not worthy of good things.
I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but if you are, you know it’s easier to love yourself when you’re alone. I understand how totally different of a concept that is for some people, but this article isn’t for everyone. This article, accurately titled for a reason, is for the girls who can’t fall in love. We’ve tried… and it nearly killed us. We felt it once and it was possibly everything we thought it was going to be: all the stars, all the butterflies, and all the long nights of staying up late and skipping sleep just to keep talking. But it was with all the wrong people.
The problem with falling in love with the wrong person is that it does, what feels like, irreparable damage to your heart. Once upon a time, I was a girl who loved flowers and romance. I dreamed of getting dressed up, holding the arm of a gentleman who would smile with pride at the thought of getting to spend time with me. But then a boy who promised me the world didn’t follow through and I found myself slowly lowering my expectations. Relationship after relationship, no longer did I expect the world, but eventually I stopped expecting for my hand to be held or my chair to be pulled out or my car door to be opened. Eventually, I stopped expecting to be special.
Fast forward several relationships, a boy came along who believed that I was beautiful and I couldn’t believe him. He would me text in the morning simply to wish me a good day and I would wonder why he was so clingy. He would ask if I wanted to see a movie sometime later in the week and I would tailspin into anxiety because committing to a movie date would obviously imply that I wanted a relationship. He would send flowers to my office and I would tell my coworkers that it’s “nothing serious” even though they wouldn’t believe me. We would spend weeks together without labeling anything because “labels create expectations and we just don’t need that.” And in the end, I would become so panicked by this man’s affection that I’d grow irritated. How could he come into my life and throw his feelings at me and expect me to just want it?
I didn’t. I didn’t want any of it. It was easier when it was just me. No one could break my hurt if they weren’t close enough to hurt me.
Long have I lived in the days of post-romance. Sure, I dreamt of companionship and of that perfect relationship where someone would walk into my life and magically fit into every nook and cranny of my world without actually affecting me and the fortress I’d built for myself. I’ve grown accustomed to Me. I am the girl who picked herself up off the floor when he promised that it was the last time he’d lay a hand on her. I am the girl who looked herself in the mirror and saw black rivers of mascara day after day, telling herself that she didn’t deserve to be called that horrible name. I am the girl who swore she’d never allow another man to take advantage of her body like that. Did she fail a few times? Of course she did. She’s human. But after all of those failures, that girl built a wall. She built it high, she built it strong. She became impenetrable.
I am also that girl who told herself that no man will ever make her as happy as she could make herself. I’ve enjoyed years of doing what I want, when I want. I have stayed up late or slept all day, all at the leisure of just me, myself and I. I have ordered whole pizzas and not shared with anyone. I have laid on my couch for hours on end watching the movies that I wanted to watch. I’ve said the words “I just really need to spend some time alone right now” as a rejection when asked on a date. I wasn’t lying, I did need to spend some time alone and figure out who I was and what I wanted. I’d made the mistake of going from one unhealthy relationship to the next. But that decisive year I spent as a single woman turned into two, then three… then five. Eventually, it became an excuse of fear.
I didn’t want to date because dating terrified me. Love terrified me. Love only led to disappointment, failed expectations, hurt and a broken heart. Why willingly subject myself to that kind of pain again? “One day, with the right person maybe…” I’d tell myself. But every time a seemingly right person would come along, I’d find a reason to push him away.
Sure, I dated. I even had a few relationships sprinkled in there from time to time. But how could they ever expect me to compromise myself again? I swore to never do that again. Not after I’d spent so many years sacrificing parts of my heart for Mr. Bad Attitude, Mr. Wrong Priorities, and Mr. Manipulator. I’d taken my scars, put on my armor and unknowingly turned into my own monster. My body had healed, but that was about it.
But until I could accept that the men of my past didn’t have to reflect the men of my future, I’d never heal. I’ll say it again, I know what I’m worth. I know that I am lovable. I know that I am beautiful and I deserve good things. But changing the pattern of our broken hearts and redirecting ourselves to actually accepting the love we deserve is a very different story. A million times I’d told myself that when I met the right man, I’d know. But life doesn’t always work like that. I’ve met plenty of amazing men in the years since I walked away from the worst days of my life, each one of them showed me what patience, grace and kindness looked like. Do you know what I called them?
Boring. Lame. Naive. Clingy.
Now I know that that was the residual damage of unhealthy relationships talking. I’d pushed away wonderful men who saw the girl who yearned to be romanced and wooed and treated well. They’d seen her under all of the scar tissue and behind the impenetrable wall she’d built around her heart. She just wasn’t ready for them yet.
But that doesn’t mean she isn’t trying to be. Slowly, with shaking hands, she’s chiseling away at the wall from the inside. Every time she takes a deep breath and allows herself to read the sweet text message he sends her, the wall cracks. Every time he grabs her hand or puts his arm around her, the wall cracks. Every time he tells her that he understands and that he’ll gladly take things slow, the wall cracks. Each and every day, that impenetrable girl becomes a little more vulnerable in the best way possible.
And this time, it’s for the right guy.