I’ve been in relationships since I was 14.
They were mainly long-term (not counting the “going out” and holding hands period in middle and early high school days), though they got shorter over time.
I was with my high school sweetheart for nearly seven years, followed by an almost six-year relationship with the man I started seeing immediately after. From there, I managed to get down to the 1.5 to 2.5-year range with the last few. While there was good to be celebrated in each relationship, they’ve ranged from not-so-great to unhealthy to toxic, traumatic, and abusive.
But they all have one thing in common, which is taking up huge periods of my life.
Anytime I was single, I was dating (or men were “trying to date me,” as I put it when I was still gutted and healing from the most traumatic relationship of my life). There’s always been a hook and attachment with a man to some degree, even when I tried to pursue platonic friendships.
My last relationship was healing in so many gentle and nourishing ways, but it was also maddening like I’ve never experienced.
It was honestly the healthiest relationship I’ve had, yet there were many things happening that made it downright crazy-making. I questioned my sanity, sense of reality, and experience, even though I was never actively being gaslit by him.
It forced me to learn a deep level of trust in myself, how to have my own back, and gave me the strength to prioritize my needs.
It broke something inside of me twice.
But I desperately needed these particular fractures because they helped me find so much more of myself in the depths of grief, loss, and complete confusion. They helped me identify and clear out so much of my core wounding, subconscious stories, deepest fears, and oldest traumas. They set me free.
With my last relationship coming to a place of finality, I feel like I’ve rapidly graduated from a level I’ve been hanging at for well past my time.
I’m rooted in myself and who I’m becoming. I’m clear on my wants, needs, boundaries, and tolerations. I trust my experience, no longer gaslighting myself away from what I know to be true, regardless of anyone else’s perception or experience.
I value myself so much more now.
And I learned in a backward, indirect, roundabout way that I matter.
My life, how I want to live, my wants, and my needs matter. I deserve to be a factor for consideration. I deserve to be a priority, not a “nice to have” when everything (and everyone) else is taken care of. I deserve care and support in the ways that feel caring and supportive to me, not just how other people are willing or able to provide it.
And I’ve learned that just because someone can’t meet my wants and needs, prioritize me, or show up and support me, it has absolutely nothing to do with my worth or who I am. It’s not about me, it’s about them—which is neither good nor bad, it just is what it is. And I get to decide what I’m willing and unwilling to accept.
With this heightened sense of self and immense clarity around who I want to be and what I want my life to look like, it feels easy to choose to be single for a period of time (not necessarily celibate because full self-expression involves many things).
I’m giving myself at least one year to be intentionally single, knowing that I have so many things I want to create between now and then in my health, life, relationships, and work.
That doesn’t mean I’ll start dating in a year; it just means that’s the minimum.
That’s the time I’m giving myself to focus solely on me and what wants to come alive inside and out. It means I’m going to very consciously hold boundaries and give myself a ton of space to swim in the magic that is my life right now.
In addition to healing what’s led to repeatedly co-creating relationships that don’t serve me, let alone factor me in, I’ve been doing work around de-centering men.
The short is:
I’m unpacking the patriarchal imprinting and messaging that’s messed me up my whole life (as it has for many women and men), untangling from the ways I unconsciously seek approval from guys (or care what they think), and really centering myself and what feels good to me.
My right person will have to come into my life in a completely different way, create a partnership with me from entirely different motivations than most people base relationships around, and fit into or alongside what I’m creating for myself.
Period. Full stop. Nothing less.
I’ve not met that man, and if he shows up tomorrow, then he’ll understand why he needs to wait at least a year and will be happy to build a friendship first.
Truth be told, all of my relationships have been up for review with this up-leveling, as they have been at every major point of growth in my life.
If it doesn’t add to my life, what am I doing in it?
And it’s not just about how someone else thinks they’re adding value, but whether it’s in a way that deeply considers who I am and what a value-add is for me.
There are so many instances where people quickly bond to me because of what I bring, but they actually never factor me in. They relish in the experience of relating with me and decide we have an amazing connection. We’re soulmates and best friends… but really, they haven’t even considered if I’m feeling it too. They haven’t asked themselves if they’re giving to me in the ways I give to them.
This is a common issue in relationships of all kinds.
The reality is, most find temporary solace in codependent roles or are content to swim in the feeling of being important or needed to someone else (even if they’re not actually feeling happy or fulfilled in the relationship).
I certainly used to do this in my relationships.
“Who cares if they’re not adding to my life, at least I’m ‘special’ and ‘important’ to someone,” was my constant line of unconscious reasoning.
But it comes at a cost, one I’m not willing to pay for any relationship ever again.
Not many people have the skill to truly consider others in ways that aren’t just fruitful for themselves or based solely on their perception and experience. I would rather have one amazing friend and live alone on my farm as a cat lady than ever settle for less again.
It’s wildly freeing, if heartbreakingly hard at times.
But there’s always a next level when we’re committed to growth and healing.
Next level experiences, people, and opportunities. There’s no shortage. So while it may feel heavy and isolating to do this work at times, it’s always worth it.
It’s important to note that people not growing with us to the next level doesn’t make them wrong, just like our outgrowing a level doesn’t make us wrong.
It’s just where we are, and we deserve all the joy, expansion, and possibility that comes with our present place, ways of being, needs, and desires.
This is my journey.
Take what resonates and leave the rest.
But know this: If you desire more and better, you deserve it. You matter. Your wants and needs matter. You deserve to be factored into the equation in ways that truly honor who you are. You deserve care and support in ways that make you feel loved.
People with this skill ask a lot of questions.
They do the work—on their own—to understand you as fully and completely as they can, and they never stop trying or go into autopilot. They’re present and able to attune. They show up, even when you don’t ask. They make sure you know you’re valued because they’re not taking you for granted. They make you a priority without you having to demand a place on their endless to-do list. They don’t use manipulation tactics, consciously or unconsciously. They make space for your feelings and experience without immediately negating or countering with their own. They’re curious and open, able to receive feedback, and willing to talk things through or problem-solve so the relationship can grow.
They exist, really.
And if you’ve yet to find yourself with people like this, it just means you have work to do. Work that looks like setting boundaries, no longer tolerating anything less than you desire, and showing up as vulnerably and openly as you can. Making requests that are hard and scary and being clear on the consequences when people repeatedly disregard you. Understanding that no one gets to define things on your behalf based on their perception or beliefs, and anyone who tries can find their way out the door immediately. Building your self-trust muscles so that you can say “no, thank you” at the first sign of a red or even orange flag.