In the past week or so, I’ve been thinking heavily about why people stay in bad romantic relationships. Why do we keep chasing that person that’s involved in illegal activity (This one boggles my mind)? Why do we hold on to that person who takes on debt like it doesn’t have to be paid back? Why do we keep waiting for that person who has no ambition to flip that switch?
For me, it’s been the woman who is paying me no attention. In particular, when I was in college I didn’t understand how to separate my self-worth from how a woman responded to my advances. This means that if a young woman was leading me on, I kept pursuing because I needed her response to my romantic interest to be ‘yes’. If it was ‘no’, which was often the case in college, that somehow meant that I was a terrible human being, unworthy of love. I knew this was the wrong way to look at it.
‘You should value yourself…’
‘You should love yourself…’
‘You’re a good catch…’
My friends would tell me these things when I was struggling back in college, but they seemed like hollow phrases at the time. I wasn’t ready to deal with the intricacies of my own psychology. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I didn’t think highly of myself. Ironically, continuing to allow myself to be taken advantage of by women who clearly weren’t interested, only reinforced that narrative. It’s a vicious cycle.
There was one young lady who I finally decided to stop chasing because I was tired of the emotional roller coaster. I let my hurt feelings over this young woman affect my course work and I ended up failing a class that semester. That failed class was a wake up call that I needed to accept reality. She had no romantic interest in me. I had a realization of the old saying, ‘I can do bad on my own’. If trying to be with her was going to make my life worse, then why am I trying to be with her? Seems so simple in hindsight.
Once I realized that I was better off alone than in pursuit of this woman, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I could think about other things again. It still hurt. I still didn’t understand why she had to take advantage of me rather than just saying, “I’m not interested.” But, I had learned my lesson and I was back focused on school, working out, and just becoming a better person in general. I began to feel good again. Eventually, this young woman wanted to start talking again. I agreed because, truth be told, I still liked her. Infatuation is a beast. Again, why do we want things that clearly aren’t good for us?
We went on a date. It was nice but I discovered something. I had no interest in trying anymore. It was a weird feeling because I knew how much I had liked her before. She had apologized for leading me on and we genuinely had a nice time hanging out for the first time. This girl had been on my mind 24/7 just 6 months prior and now I couldn’t muster the energy to send her a response to a text message. Ultimately, I realized that I had lost respect for her. I didn’t want to be with someone who’s first instinct was to take advantage of another human being. It was a was a huge turn-off for me. I was a straight shooter and she wasn’t. In my mind that was a clear mismatch.
Maybe that’s why I kept chasing her for a whole semester. In college, all the relationships I saw involved these little games people were playing with each other. I didn’t fully understand it. Little lies, manipulation, withholding communication, etc. There was even a point where I thought I was immature because I didn’t instinctively think to do these things. I was a straight shooter and I gave my attention to one woman at a time. As this young lady was leading me on and taking advantage of my interest, I thought that I had to learn how to do the same thing. I thought that I had to learn how to play that game that I kept seeing between other people. I realized I couldn’t. It’s not who I am.
I hadn’t grown up with the understanding that one should play games with another person’s feelings. My own experience with abuse and bullying had taught me how much having your feelings trampled can hurt. Far be it from me to do the same thing to someone else, in any context. At least not intentionally. I had a lot of friends, male and female, tell me I should stop pursuing this young lady. For that particular semester, I just couldn’t hear them. I think it’s fair to say that we often have to go through things in order to recognize what we are not willing to tolerate. That’s what happened to me in this case. If a woman is not ready to be honest and take the risk in investing her energy into the situation, then I have to move on. But people tolerate chaos in romance all the time and I still don’t understand why…
Maybe self validation is just too hard for some people? (How strong would we be if we didn’t need any external validation in order to be our authentic selves?)
Maybe being single is too hard for some people? (I suspect that lot’s of people confuse love/commitment with the fear of being single.)
Maybe some people have high thresh-holds for emotional pain, so they can wait forever for that other person to get their act together? (But, Damn! How long is too long?!)
I don’t know.
I do know that you don’t need help from someone else to do bad. You can do bad on your own.