The More I Heal, the Less I Date
I once heard Dan Savage say, “There’s no such thing as The One. If you’re lucky, you might find a few 0.67’s -- You just gotta pick one of those fuckers and ROUND UP.”
Six years ago, I crawled into a 4th therapist’s office on my figurative hands and knees, a broken, anxious, walled-off mess. Hiding behind perfectionism and intellect and achievement, I was recovering from a very unexpected and painful divorce and nothing and no one in the world felt safe to me. It was my 3rd divorce, so, you know, riding a bicycle and all that. But also the bicycle was on fire and the road was on fire and it was hailing fire from the heavens. I was constantly en guarde and felt so lost and shattered inside. I just wanted to feel loved and safe again. I did not know how to make MYSELF feel loved and safe, and so I outsourced that job to other people in my life, seeking attention, validation, affirmation from whomever would give it to me. Unfortunately, the desperate, fear-laden subconscious signals I was sending out into the world were attracting everything designed to hurt me more. It’s like I was covered in second and third degree burns and still running back into the burning building, as though my healing could be found in the wounding itself.
It turns out, this tragic pattern of re-wounding myself in search of comfort and safety had been playing itself out my entire life, and it led to a condition called complex PTSD as a result of recurring and cumulative relationship trauma. Certainly this manifested in romantic relationships, but it was showing up in friendships and workplace dynamics as well. I eventually had to admit to myself that there was a common denominator in all the drama around me: ME.
It’s true that there were lots of wounded people in my life, and “hurt people hurt people”. I knew that certain people in my life were toxic. I wish I could say that I’m a smart cookie and I figured out that my problem was that I was a total nut-magnet and that's why I sought help, but I was squarely in the camp of blaming everyone and everything around me. What’s that saying? “People in therapy often go to therapy because of the people in their lives who won’t go to therapy.” That’s the premise that drove me onto a healing path. That and the painful total-body burns. Hey, whatever gets ya there.
Turns out I was a nut-magnet because I too was a nut - birds of a feather etc etc. Not just any old nut either - those first 3 therapists didn’t get the job done and I needed the Healer of all Healers with a particular set of Superpowers. I finally landed with a Queen who had the patience and the formula and the heart that would unlock me. I don’t have language to describe my gratitude to her for taking my hand and walking with me through the darkest, scariest secrets in my soul. For teaching me how to love and treasure myself by modeling it for me. For shining a light on what I needed to heal and for holding me through the entire messy, gut-wrenching, victorious process. Because of her, and because of my own courage and determination to heal, I now know how to make myself feel safe and loved, and I no longer abdicate responsibility for that to another. I can spot healthy people and I can share love and security with them and I don’t give toxicity access to me ever. Whatever I’ve paid her, it wasn’t enough.
”I don’t give toxicity access to me ever.” I want you to let sink in, Sacred Sisters.
There are many levels and kinds of toxicity. We have all been culturally conditioned to co-sign a whole shitload of toxic behaviors in the world (that is a whole ‘nuther blogpost). Of particular interest here is the behaviors we see too often in cis-het men who have been programmed by the patriarchy to treat us, themselves, and each other in ways that are CLEARLY DESTRUCTIVE and in no one’s best interest. It worked for centuries, and women have been oppressed, demoted, disenfranchised, and even killed in service of keeping men in power and in deference to their demands.
Some of the more obvious assaults -- like voting rights, financial rights, employment and education rights, bodily autonomy rights -- have been and continue to be dismantled by brave Warrior Queens and their allies who have fought and sacrificed for women's Sovereignty and Dignity in a world built for men (particularly WHITE men). These battles will continue for generations to come and men continue to struggle HARD against this progress, but the scales are tipping in spite of them. I have hope for my daughters' generations (if the planet isn't destroyed first).
The subtler affronts have been in my headlights these days, however. Using my Divine Feminine Power and sexuality to manipulate men was the strategy I (and maybe you) have repeatedly used to turn their misogyny against them -- to gain the upper hand and make it a fair fight. But this pours kerosene on a fire I don't really want in the first place. I think men find it confusing when we say "don't sexualize me, don't objectify me" and then we use those very things to try to take some of our power back. It works in the moment, but at what cost to ourselves? Now we are down a convoluted rabbit hole of consent and mixed messages, and men who have already been programmed by society to sexualize and objectify women can't find their way out of this trap even if they want to.
I'm not in any way saying it's women's fault when men behave badly. I'm not letting toxic men or toxic male behaviors off the hook. I'm just saying the ONE THING we can control in this big ole hairy knotball is OURSELVES. I have started checking MYSELF - what low value behaviors am I allowing (or even encouraging) from men that actually do not honor and respect my Highest Self? What is motivating me to allow it? Am I thirsty for attention? Am I bored? Am I re-enacting some familiar stories, subconsciously fantasizing that THIS TIME I'll be able to write a better ending? Am I afraid of rejection? Am I just being lazy? If we, collectively, stopped tolerating bad behavior, I promise that men would level up.
I think what men need most from women today is clear boundaries.
(Disclaimer: I'm not talking about dangerous men - these assholes need confinement and years and years of deprogramming and healing through therapy. I'm envisioning an island where we send them all to work on themselves and they can't come back until a Queen says they pass the sniff test and don't smell like an asshole anymore.)
Boundaries determine who gets what kind of access to me. I am a kind and loving Queen, and I've learned I don't usually have to be a bitch about it either. Boundary setting can be perfectly respectful and courteous. That doesn't mean the other person will like it though! They say the only person who doesn't like your boundary is the person who benefitted from you not having one. Ohhhhh you can tell SO MUCH about a person by how they receive a boundary! Queens, sit on your thrones and observe. Boundaries take courage - you risk rejection doncha?? That's okay....this is how we keep the toxic out! The best way to find out how much a person actually cares about YOU and YOUR NEEDS is by watching their reaction to your boundary.
So this is how I wound up dating less:
I fucked around and got So Super Awesome in a Consciously Aware Way that I finally saw my Phenomenal Worth and I wanted to protect and conserve that for someone who actually deserved and valued it.
I started getting clear about what kind of behaviors from men (and myself and anyone, really) that did and did not align with my Highest Self.
I started checking in with myself when my body said "ick" or "ouch" or "grrrr" or "NOT TODAY!".
I started setting boundaries for myself to keep ALL THAT SHIT OUT.
Guess what happened, my Sacred Sisters? Mmmmm it's so yummy, I can hardly describe it. Lots of broken, unhealthy people got turned around at the gate. Sorry, this is VIP access only and you haven't earned a pass.
The more I value and protect myself, the more I feel so much better about me! Suddenly, I feel safe in the world. It wasn't someone else's job to make me feel safe - it was my job to make myself safe. It's a muscle and I've had to do a lot of reps to bulk up, but damn that shit WORKS! I no longer feel the need to manipulate men in order to steal some of my power back. My boundaries empower me in ways men cannot, and men who encounter me are crystal clear about what will and will not gain them access to me. I like to fantasize about a world in which all women do this ❤️.
But I want to circle back to Dan Savage. Dan's point is well-taken. Stop looking for The One. It's an idealized version of a human that sets us up for disappointment. Yes I'm holding out for a King that Does Not Exist in Nature, but I'm not expecting him to be perfect. I'm expecting him to be growth oriented.
Perfectionism never served me well. It always left me feeling "not enough". I had to let go of the magical thinking that if I made myself perfect, that would tattoo my worth and value on my heart. I've learned so much compassion for myself over the years, gently admiring my scars and defects from a place of love and acceptance. And this has mysteriously opened me up to a rather lovely balance in how I experience others. Yes I have standards. Yes I set boundaries. Yes I deserve to be met. But insomuch as I honor myself with both my awesomeness and my imperfections, I also honor others in the same way. Compassion for myself has given me compassion for you, too.
We are all just here learning together. I'm not going to wrestle with a stubborn pig - we'd both get dirty and the pig enjoys it. But if you're teachable, mistakes can be forgiven and we can love each other through the humanity of it all.
And that, my friends, is how you take a 0.67 and round up.
Peace and Love to you all 😘