Waves were crashing on the cliffs, drawing improbable curls. I was lost in the contemplation of those movements when my boyfriend’s voice snapped me out of it:
– Are you OK?
– Sure? You’re quiet.
– I’m looking.
I still remember my smirk during that mindful instant. Unfortunately, I couldn’t relish it.
– You’re sure you’re OK?
I tried to reach plenitude again, but I could feel how anxious he was. After a couple of minutes, I gave up and ordered:
– Let’s go!
– We can stay if you want …
But it was too late, the seed was planted: that relationship would not last.
Anyone who has ever ended a relationship can pinpoint the exact moment they thought their couple was doomed. Sometimes, it takes time, because we refuse to see it, because we hope, because there are so many things to be taken into account (a mortgage, a marriage, even kids) or because we are convinced that we know our partner better and the image reflected by our loved ones doesn’t fit the one we have created in our minds (admit it, the utterance “But I know him/her better than you do” sounds familiar). Some people are so scared of being alone they won’t admit they are caught in a toxic dynamic. Others… I don’t know… but me, I would much rather be alone while waiting for the right man than pass time with one that does not suit me.
I see it coming, I can hear you already: “You are too demanding.” Well, I am 41, I am not afraid to be honest because I’m desperate to fit in; I can agree with you and not be ashamed. I am demanding. Even more so as that pseudo-derogatory demand is something entirely different to me: it is self-respect. I am looking for an intellectual and emotional relationship, a true exchange of values on top of the chemical and physical connection. I refuse to sell off because it would be time for me to find someone to share my life with. Although I almost did… not too long, just enough for me not to forget again.
I knew within 2 weeks that our personalities were not compatible. I tried and reasoned with myself, I demonstrated maturity and communicated; I assumed that maybe this was what a relationship looked like at our age, with our baggage. Maybe a lasting relationship is one where we are irritated by the other until we get used to those idiosyncrasies? He did have qualities I had never found in my ex’s, I could maybe show tolerance and patience for the rest.As soon as I was alone, I would think about all the red flags I had seen, and I would be overwhelmed by anxiety. I felt stifled by this relationship in such a literal way that the panic attack diagnosis needn’t be made. When I tried to explain this all too confusing feeling, he had concluded: “I know what this is: you’re afraid of being heartbroken!”He was so proud of having figured it all out… he was so wrong. I snorted: “Not at all. I am not afraid of that; I am used to it”
Yes, I know, it’s horrible. It would mean I have been hurt so much I have become insensitive. Or so you’d think. I don’t see it that way. Yes, there is some “Go on, hit me right there; I’ve been working my heart muscles for years.”, but there is also a lot of “I have never lost hope”. I have been heartbroken so often because I have loved. Not just once and not a little. Enough for me to hit brick walls, but also to know I will survive.So, yes, this last short relationship was anxiety inducing because I am a solo mum (there is no dad, in case you did not know) and I had to get over the guilt of making my daughter share her mother. Yes, I have obviously learned lessons. I have, yes.But I also almost did not listen to myself and it is another memory that called my thoughts to order 5 days ago.
Nearly 10 years ago, my co-worker who had been dating a guy for less than a month, was telling me about their umpteenth argument. I cared for her and I could feel my eyes filling with sorrow as she grasped for validation:
– It is normal the first month, isn’t it? Everybody does that. We’re getting to know each other. Right?
I didn’t dare say what I truly felt, I couldn’t be that blunt, hurt her so much: “No, it’s not normal, not the first month. The first month, you’re supposed to be on cloud nine, not arguing every other day.”I knew she was fragile and chose cowardice, playing the ignorance card: “I don’t know. I never argued with my ex’s… look where it got me.”
That memory reminded me of the times I hadn’t said what I truly felt about the man a friend or another was seeing, scared I’d be wrong, terrified I’d lose them. It reminded me of the times they had done the same.The noose tightened again when I admitted to myself what I wasn’t telling my loved ones and the reason I wasn’t. I was afraid they wouldn’t forget that detail I deemed vile/ horrible/ disgusting and that they would think about it when they saw him.
And finally came the light: I would not forget neither. Never. If a woman had told me what I had been listing for 2 weeks, the one I am today, the one who’s not afraid of losing friends, would have asked: “Why are you staying with him?” So I decided to be the best friend who does not fear my reaction and I finally listened to myself. Once I accepted my fears did not stem from the idea I might miss a true opportunity but from the idea I’d accept a relationship that was not up to my standards (personal and thus valid standards, never forget that, ladies, whatever they tell you), I could breathe again.
So, I am still single and I feel fine. I never planned on remaining alone, I did not swear celibacy, but I did promise myself I would not be with someone for that mere fact. My daughter is the ultimate proof of my drastic refusal to be with a “second best”. I do not want any man to settle for me for lack of anything better, so I would not inflict that on someone else.
He will come. I will not argue with him the first month, I will feel light and crave his presence every day. I will be in love, I know it. In the meantime, I remain alone and that is fine.