During the Summer of 2018, I decided my dating hiatus (read about it here) could probably come to an end. I had been in therapy for sexual trauma (more here) for a little over a year. I was in a much much better place with myself, my sexuality, and with men. I wasn’t disgusted by all of them, nor did I think them monsters.
What good news! Perhaps I could actually like one of these not-monster-men enough to be in a real, grown-up relationship now!
So I dove back into dating with less fear of men and more sure of my ability to set personal boundaries. But after a few Bumble/Hinge dates, I found that not much had really changed in my dating patterns. Sure I wasn’t having obligatory sex with men I didn’t like or trust, but I was still going on multiple dates with dudes I didn’t even really like.
I spent a lot of time saying I wanted a partner while all my thoughts and actions were suggesting I did not want that at all.
After a few chats with my therapist (and older married sister), I realized I must not really want a partner. I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable with a person--sexually or emotionally. Also, I was still pretty hung up on my ex-boyfriend who I’d decided was the only good man left in the world. Turns out, it’s hard to welcome a new person into your life when you have no intention of ever opening up to them and you’re planning eventual matrimony with your ex.
Ugh. I give up. Imma just buy a crystal dildo and play that Hailee Steinfeld song real loud.
Admittedly, I spent a lot of time saying I wanted a partner while all my thoughts and actions were suggesting I did not want that at all. Basically, going out on dates with a “no vulnerability please and thank you, also I don’t think you’ll be as great as my ex” mindset was a colossal waste of time. Except that it did teach me a super important lesson: If I did actually want to be in a relationship, it wasn’t the culture of dating or the guys that needed to change, it was me. I was the only one responsible for the patterns in my romantic life.
Okay, good talk Mattie Jo. So now what?
I remembered a book a dear friend of mine recommended to me over brunch a year prior. She’d read the book, implemented the tools, and found her now husband (They have a baby on the way in the Spring!). “It has a terribly cliche title, but I swear this stuff works” she told me. The book is called Calling in the One by Katherine Woodward Thomas.
So I got on Thriftbooks (A GREAT site by the way. Link here. You’re welcome) and ordered the book. Each chapter had story after story of people successfully finding a partner. Was this boyfriend witchcraft real? Could I really just read this dating spellbook and magically have a boyfriend at the end?
Unfortunately, no. Just like joining a gym doesn’t make you fit. You have to actually walk in, do the workout, and also change your mindset/relationship with food in order to achieve your health and fitness goals. So too, it seemed, with boyfriend conjuring. I needed to do the internal reflection/external behavioral correction suggested in this book in order to get certain results (But also let go of the outcome. A motherfucking paradox).
I truly believed I didn’t deserve a partner because my professional career and bank account amount are not “impressive".
Calling in the One became part of a ritual I super looked forward to every morning. And it wasn’t because I was gunna get a boyfriend at the end of it. It was because I was learning so much about me! Things I hadn’t thought about getting in my way were brought to my attention. And after being brought to my attention, I was able to consciously adjust my narrative.
For example, I truly believed I didn’t deserve a partner because my professional career and bank account amount are not “impressive.” Despite doing a lot of work in my acting career, at the end of the day I have to tell these men who are at the top of their game professionally* that I’m an actor. But since I haven’t been in anything they’ve seen, they probably think I’m “just a babysitter.”
*This is something I’m not sure people in Middle America understand. If a man is a professional in NEW YORK CITY, he is LITERALLY at the top. It is hard to compete with that kind of status when I’m still doing the same job for money I did as a 14 year old
But do I know these men see me as “just a babysitter”? Or do I see myself as “just a babysitter” and I’m projecting this perception…? Hmmmm...perhaps the issue is not how men view me, but how I view me? And I’m the only one in control of my self-perception. So I better start changing the idea that I’m just a “poor babysitter” if I want others to see me differently.
Another example: I subconsciously believed my future partnership needed to look exactly like my mom and dad’s in order to be “successful.” My parents are high school sweethearts, got married at 18, were finished having kids by 28, and basically know zero life experience (except puberty) outside of one another. My mom doesn’t even drive to unfamiliar places without my dad and refuses to use Google Maps.
I took the responsibility of finding love out of the hands of society, apps, or shitty guys and gave it to myself.
I on the other hand, traveled to New York City when I was 19, moved here alone at 22, have traveled to 11 countries in the past 2 years, have an IUD that’s still good for another 7 years, and have been single for most of these experiences. What on earth ever made me think I’d end up with a relationship dynamic exactly like two kids who met at church camp in the 70s?
I've grown into my own person, apart from another person.** I have my own personal emotional baggage, but also emotional intelligence. I have goals and priorities that are completely my own. I am so familiar with myself, I couldn’t ignore my own needs even if I tried.
**This is not to say people who get married young can’t work through their shit within a relationship. I just imagine it’s harder to put your own needs as a priority when you have another person you’ve vowed to make a priority to consider. Also there are some things that will probably only come up IF you're in a relationship and that's cool too!
What that means, at least for me, is that the work to find a compatible partner is going to take a lot more focus and diligence than simply walking to BIO 101 on Missouri State’s campus with little life experience, stumbling upon a Theta Chi who is #DTP (downtopropose) in a year from meeting in BIO 101, and just pay for the wedding on student loans NBD.
So I committed. I committed to the daily effort of showing up and dealing with my shit. I took the responsibility of finding love out of the hands of society, apps, or shitty guys and gave it to myself. Did I want a partner or not? And if the answer was yes, I had to do the fucking work. Because that is just the reality of being a grownass adult and wanting to find a partner. It takes work.
Well, y’all. I have some news. It’s Valentine’s Day and I do have a boyfriend. I’m not saying I have everything figured out (FAR from that. We’re in a relationship and I still wonder if my texts are too long) now that I got myself a boif. I’m just saying, there were a lot of blocks I needed to remove to be available to him. But I'm sure glad I did it. He cute.
And if you’re single, I challenge you not to take today as an opportunity to complain to your girlfriends over wine and chocolate about how much guys and dating sucks (which, by the way, I agree with you, it does suck. I’m just saying, it’s a waste of time and energy and you’re sending the Universe the wrong message). Instead, I challenge you to:
1. Ask yourself if you even really want a partner. We are conditioned to think that if we’re single, we must be looking. Nah. You could literally just be single and living.
2. If you DO truly want to find a partner, get to work. Start doing the work to become the kind of person you want to attract and get outta your own way. The only person you’re in control of is you, so throw yourself into being the best you you can be!
And maybe by next Valentine’s Day you’ll love yourself so much, you’ll be elated to be your own fucking Valentine! Knowing full well that you are so great and full of love, it’s just a matter of time before a partner worthy of your love comes into your life. Also maybe get yourself a crystal dildo I hear they’re great (and apparently you can buy them on ETSY!).
PS If you're interested in reading parts 1 & 2 of V-Day, they old! And not referring to Valentines Day...
V-Day Part 1
V-Day Part 2