When I was younger, I would say things like: “I’m never going to get married.” Or “I’ll be fine if I never date anyone; I don’t want to risk it.”
My cynicism about relationships was no joke.
Growing up, my dad was very often angry, and very easily pushed over the edge. I often felt like I was walking on shaky ground, never sure if the next thing I said or did would be the cause of yet another terrible day. And because he was my example of what a man is and how men act, I really didn’t want to risk more uncertainty in my future.
Then I hit the age when dating was not just a hypothetical possibility in the future, but a reality I was being faced with. Boys showed interest in me, and I realized I couldn’t ignore them forever. I came to this fork in the road where I had to choose whether I was going to give love a chance, or continue denying it because of how much I knew it could hurt.
I decided to take a chance on love.
Unfortunately, during the same period in high school when I took the plunge and started dating, my eating disorder flared up full force. ED naturally made my self-worth plummet. It also hugely affected the time I spent with my significant other because my struggles meant I found it difficult to give my full attention to anyone or anything else.
I’m a naturally optimistic person, and that served me well in some ways in dating. I simply enjoyed getting to know someone new. And I discovered that when put into practice, my cynicism about dating was largely unfounded. But I also found myself moving to an opposite extreme in my opinion of men.
My optimism made me blind to some things that were problems and should have been addressed. I so desperately wanted things to work out with someone, anyone, so that I could finally feel love and affection from a man. But it was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I stayed with certain people because they were there—not because we mutually met each other’s needs and truly had what the other was looking for.
Whether I was over correcting and dating someone who was the antithesis of my father, or being closed off from love because of my insecurities, I went through seasons of denying my desires and settling for less than I knew I was looking for.
But the silver lining—that I can now only see after much time, reflection, and experiencing a healthy relationship—is that each mistake, each dating success and failure taught me so much. And despite the things I sometimes regret and wish I could change about my past relationships, at the end of the day I know I learned something important from each one.
Yes, I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve let ED dictate my choices. I’ve been closed off. And I spent a lot of time being afraid of love. But I’m now confident in who I am and what I want. And despite everything, I’ve experienced the joys that come from letting another person in and showing them who I am.
I’ve come to a place where I can open up to someone who has earned my trust. Because the joys of choosing love outweigh my fears.