Expectations

I’ve been thinking about expectations lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how expectations can be a problem, and wondering if it is possible to not have expectations.

In one way of looking at it, everything we do has an underlying expectation. When you go to sleep at night, you expect to wake up in the morning. When you get dressed, you have an expectation of what the weather will be like, probably based on a weather report or a knowledge of how the weather normally is in your area at that time of year. As you get into your car to go to work, you expect to drive to work with little to no aggravation or problems. Even the things that we don’t actively think about, we do with some kind of expectation – I am wracking my brain to think of anything that happens in life where we don’t have some kind of expectations, even if it is unconscious or benign.

What about when things don’t go as expected? Certainly our expectation(s) play a part in our disappointment, surprise, or pleasure. If we have an expectation that an event will be boring, we are likely pleasantly surprised when it turns out to be fun. Expectations seem to cause the most problems, at least in my life and relationships, on when I expect someone to do something or I have an idea of what something like a date might be like and it turns out to be something different. No one wants to disappoint or be disappointed, but it can happen when we have expectations about another person or something involving them. Maybe you love Valentine’s day and your partner doesn’t really put much stock into the “hallmark holidays” that’s one situation that could certainly lead to disappointment due to expectations.

I suppose what I can’t figure out is if there’s a way to stop having expectations, or at least to be less affected by them. I know they’ve definitely caused me problems in relationships in the past, but I wonder if there’s ever a way to not have expectations, whatever they may be, whatever the outcome. What do you think? Comment and let me know, this is something I’m still struggling with so I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it yet.

zoltar machine outside house of blues in NOLA from my instagram feed @ladylamia

Lies, and the lying liars that tell them

I know that title is ripping off Al Franken’s book, but it just sounded like the perfect title for this post.
I’m always hesitant to use words like “all” especially when talking about people. Generalizations like “everyone” don’t do us much good. There are few things that actually everyone says, thinks or does. I can’t speak for every relationship with an active addict or alcoholic, only the for my own and from my own experiences; but typing “addicts lying” into Google brings up “About 2,230,000 results (0.31 seconds).” That’s a lot of hits.

Everyone, in fact, lies – both addicts and non-addicts. It is impossible to go through life without telling at least a “little white” lie. Even a “yes, I like your new boyfriend” or a “no, that dress doesn’t make you look fat” is a lie, even if we tell them to make someone feel better or avoid conflict. When I started dating an active alcoholic, I knew that the common thought was “addicts lie” but everyone lies. It wasn’t until months after the end of the relationship that I would learn just how many lies I did not even have an inkling about. Lying, it seemed, came as easily as speaking to my now ex-girlfriend.

Denial was always a big part of our relationship, both her denial and my own. Her denial had been a part of her life for much longer than we had been dating, perhaps all of her life. When Michelle and I had met as teens, she was already drinking and into drugs. At only fourteen, she would put herself in dangerous situations in order to get alcohol and drugs from older boys and men, which was always very upsetting to me, seeing as I was her girlfriend. Before her family moved back to New Mexico, Michelle was hospitalized at least once. She would call me at all hours, drunk and high, and say all kinds of things. She claimed to have jumped out of a moving car as the cops were taking her to the hospital to be committed. She said she passed out one night and woke up on the side of the road, tangled in barbed wire. I’ll never know which of the things she said when we were kids were lies, probably she doesn’t even know anymore. Once she was in New Mexico, she injured her hand punching a wall, she assaulted a teacher, and she ended up back in the hospital. I still have many of the letters that she wrote me from back then, talking about how she knew that she had to quit drinking and smoking pot if she wanted her life to be better.

When we got back together in 2011, it became clear pretty quickly that she would lie to hide her drinking. Going out after pretending to go to bed; saying she was out with friends not drinking when she was out with friends drinking; vowing never to drink again; promising me she would go to AA; claiming to not be using drugs… Some lies I caught her in and others she confessed out of guilt. After a while she just stopped texting me back and picking up the phone when she was drinking; I would know that she was drinking because hours would pass with no response to a text and a phone that rang and rang and finally went to voicemail. She never understood why I didn’t trust her, why I suspected her of cheating and would get upset the few times she wouldn’t text or pick up the phone but wasn’t actually drinking.
I guess I fail to see the distinction between lying about drinking, and lying about cheating.

The biggest lie of our relationship, perhaps even bigger than her near constant reassurances that she would stay sober, was what I found out in January of this year (2013) when she decided to contact me and try to be friends. That communication was based on a lie too, unsurprisingly. She said her “girlfriend” was upset by photos of us on facebook and would I remove them? I had already deleted all the photos of her that I’d had up on facebook, and I told her that. As it turned out, she didn’t have a girlfriend, she was just saying that. In the course of our conversation, she told me that when she had finally “gotten sober” after the December 2011 Christmas trip to New Orleans, the trip that had made me essentially give up on her ever getting sober, she had smoked pot every day. She was using getting high to keep her from drinking! My mind was blown, I was so shocked. I’d had no idea she was getting high, even though we talked on the phone most days. It was then I realized that we would never see things in the same way. She was not familiar with the concept of sobriety as I know it, and she never would be. She wasn’t going to work the steps, she wasn’t going to ever give up drugs because she didn’t see them as a problem, only alcohol. Michelle described herself as “the worst alcoholic you have ever met.” I think she wore that badge with a little bit of pride. She certainly used it as an excuse as to why she “couldn’t” stop drinking.

In that conversation, our last, when I told her that I did not want to be her friend and had no place in my life for her, she freaked out and told me that I didn’t understand addiction and I “shouldn’t be allowed around addicts.” Perhaps I don’t understand addiction, but I know that the millions of addicts who have gotten sober haven’t done it by lying, making excuses, continuing to drink, and getting high to keep from drinking. I do understand that my fears when I was sixteen were correct; Michelle is going to die because of her addiction in one way or another, and while I’m not longer emotionally involved with her in any way, I still don’t have to be there to see it. The problem with lies, whether they are big or small is that they send a message both to the person we are lying to and to ourselves – that the person we are lying to is not worthy of the truth. Maybe he or she can’t handle it, maybe we don’t want to hurt their feelings, maybe like in Michelle’s case we just don’t want to be hassled; there are a million reasons why we lie but there’s no such thing as a lie that doesn’t hurt. Even if the only thing that comes from it is that it alienates us from someone we care about.

lying lips via jamesaltucher

Hope never trumps reality

In August of 2011, I visited New Mexico for the first time. It was a trip to celebrate finally graduating from college, after going on and off for twelve years. I went to visit my girlfriend at the time, Michelle*, the active alcoholic that I was dating. We had been in a relationship for five months at that time, and she had relapsed four times. She called them relapses; I was never convinced that stopping drinking for a month and then drinking again was a relapse as much as it was just abstaining from alcohol for a month. It was an expensive trip, because I had to rent a car for the time I was there. Michelle didn’t have a car, her license had been suspended for DUI. New Mexico takes drunk driving very seriously, her license was suspended on her first offense and she had to see a probation officer and go to AA meetings. She lied to the probation officer about going to meetings and had been seeing an addiction counselor for most of the time she’d been actively drinking – both those things should have been red flags.

When Michelle had found me on my blog and we had reconnected, I was ready for a relationship that was going to last. I had done a lot of work on myself, in therapy and independently, working through the issues that had led to some very dysfunctional relationships in the years leading up to 2011. My baggage was checked, and I was ready to really open up and let someone in, to give a relationship my all, to trust in a way I had not before. I picked the wrong person.

For five months, I had dealt with the drinking, the relapses if you call them that, and had never stopped believing that a genuine desire to stop drinking was all it was going to take to keep Michelle sober. I thought that she should be going to AA meetings, but she had lots of excuses for why should could not go – most notably that she didn’t have transportation. It had been a roller coaster of emotions and fights, but the trip had ultimately been a very good one. Although the relationship wasn’t what I needed, or thought it had the potential to be, I was enthusiastic in my belief that Michelle had the ability to meet all my needs and the relationship would somehow magically morph into exactly what I was looking for if only she stayed sober for longer than a month. When the plane took off from Albuquerque, I looked down on the mountains and I knew in my heart that it would not be the last time that I saw those mountains. I was going to move to Albuquerque to be with Michelle one day. What a good story it was! First loves, reunited after fifteen years, perhaps they were always meant to be! When the plane landed in Dallas, Texas and I awaited my connection flight home, I was still in good spirits.

I had a layover that was several hours long. I called her to let her know I had landed in Texas, and I was surprised that her phone went directly to voicemail, but I wasn’t concerned. She had ADHD and was forgetful, so it was possible that she had just let her phone die again. I’ve always been ashamed at how long it took to occur to me that she was drinking. In hindsight, I shouldn’t be ashamed. I trusted in her 100%, it didn’t matter that she didn’t deserve that trust. After a couple hours of doing what I always do in airport terminals: walking the terminal from end to end, exploring the shops, sitting in a restaurant and eating, even talking to a friend on the phone, it dawned on me that something was wrong. Suddenly when I called, her phone was ringing but going to voicemail. It clearly was not dead, but what was going on? Finally, after multiple calls, she picked up the phone. When we had both left the airport, we had been in different places. I had so much joy, and hope for the future. She had gotten a ride from a friend, went back to their house and started drinking. All of my hope came crashing down around me in that moment.

I probably should’ve broken up with her right then. She wasn’t sorry. She didn’t even get why I was so upset. The word “relapse” was enabling to her, she was surrounded by people who told her that every time she drank it was ok, because she was an alcoholic. She couldn’t control it, and she shouldn’t be expected to. What the enablers expected would get her sober I don’t know. Perhaps a “power greater than herself” but she was and is an atheist, she believed in nothing beyond herself except science. She didn’t believe that a power greater than herself could restore her to sanity, because there was no spiritual presence in the world. I’ve often wondered how atheists who are addicts work the steps, when step two goes against their worldview. I know that some of them manage to make AA work for them, but at this point Michelle hadn’t gone. She said that she had gone in the past and it wasn’t for her. Clearly, sobriety on her own wasn’t for her either. That day, in Terminal D of DFW, I experienced shame in a way that I had never experienced it before. I stepped away from the other people waiting at the gate in the almost deserted terminal, standing outside the closed Bennigan’s as I tried not to scream into my phone about my disappointment, how I had trusted her and she had ruined it, and how could she just leave the airport and go drink anyway?

The saddest thing is, that when I finally boarded my flight back to Mississippi, I was coming back to the most positive situation that I had ever been it, career-wise. I had finished up my internship and the non-profit I had been working with found me so invaluable that they had created a paid position for me. Granted, it was part-time, but it was something. Little did I know that a staff position at that same organization would open for me just two months in the future. I had graduated from college, finally. I had just visited Roswell, New Mexico, a place I had dreamed of visiting since I was a child, and had hiked down into Carlsbad Caverns and been awestruck by the beauty of the caves. I should have been celebrating everything in my life at that moment, but it was all overshadowed by a bottle of beer and a shot of whiskey, and everything that followed it. It wasn’t even my drinking, it was someone else’s.

I said “I wish” a couple times in my last post and I am realizing that these posts are going to be full of “I wish”es. I wish that I had boarded that plane in Dallas and never looked back. I wish that I had seen that my whole life was in front of me. I had worked hard for what I had achieved, and I was going to continue working hard. I have all sorts of reasons why I spent the next three months not giving up on my relationship with a woman who clearly loved alcohol more than she loved me – if she had the ability to love me at all. Or why I would invite her to spend the holidays with my family and allow my parents to spend hundreds of dollars on gifts for her. Or why I would still refuse to let go of the relationship after a blow-out fight in the Marriot hotel of New Orleans over Christmas, a fight that had led to a break-up and an angry alcoholic going out to walk around on her own in the city of booze. Why did I try to mend things, even then? In hindsight, I realized it was December when I gave up, yet I kept on until April of 2012, lending her $2,000 to buy a car that I would never get back and even going to visit her again. Perhaps I thought that letting go meant failure. I had failed at my relationship, I had failed at being the reason that she finally got sober. Maybe I thought that I could show her the life she could have, without alcohol, and that I – and all the perks my parents could bring (paying for school in Mississippi! buying a house!) would be enough. In the end, I’m very glad that she never moved here. She could’ve easily used me just for the perks and money, and for some reason I would’ve let her. Even now, my parents pay for her cell phone. A year after we broke up.

The lesson for me has been this – there is no such thing as failure. Especially not in relationships. Life isn’t that black and white. A success can be a failure, and a failure can be a success. It’s true, I succeeded in prolonging my relationship, had a few more months to continue the charade of being in a happy place, but that was a failure because I was miserable. Maybe the perfect job is less than perfect, maybe the less than perfect job is exactly what you need. There is good on paper, and then there is the way it really is. If you believe everything happens for a reason, as I do, then Michelle came into my life to teach me things that I had not learned up until this point. Maybe I just wish I was better at learning. I know that I will never go back to that place – I will never compromise my happiness for the false security of a “in a relationship” tag on facebook. I will never think that good on paper is the same as good. Yet I had to spend thousands of dollars, and millions of heartbreaks to learn that. If life is the journey, not the destination, then I am continuing to LIVE, all in caps, but a pray that I have learned my lesson this time.

*not her real name

The codependent and the addict

The title of this post sounds almost like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Once upon a time, there was a codependent who was looking for a relationship. She met an addict, fell in love, and they lived happily every after. Actually, only the “happily ever after” part is a fairy tale, people who are codependent fall in love with addicts every day and I am no different. It’s taken me a year to become ready to write this post.

In the last week of March 2011, I was feeling lost.
I had just come back from a Spring Break trip to visit a friend in Austin, Texas. It was my last Spring Break as a college student and I could feel graduation looming over me, like a villain manically waiting for me to fail. I had an internship lined up but had not yet begun it. I was overwhelmed the night that I drove down Lakeland Drive in the pouring rain and lightning storm, tears ran down my face as I tried to figure out what the f*** I was doing about anything in my life. I had driven right past my house, just kept driving, wishing that I had someplace to run to, as though graduation from college wasn’t in itself a new beginning. Finally, the clouds cleared from my head although they had not yet cleared from the sky – I decided that if I no longer felt like myself, I should start thinking like I had back when I felt like me. “What would seventeen year old Stacey do?” I asked myself, as I drove slowly toward home.

The timing of that question was eerie. When I arrived home and checked my email, I had a message on this very blog. A message from my first love, from when I was fifteen years old. She had posted her cell phone number and asked me to call her. What would seventeen year old Stacey do, indeed.

What transpired from that first message she posted on my blog until our break-up in April 2012 was a relationship that will most certainly go down in the history of my life as one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. Bad choice after bad choice after bad choice led to a year of misery, fear, guilt, and lots of anger on both sides. There is a lot to say about that horrible year, and I’m sure I will say more as I finally begin to work through some of the deeper emotions and motivations surrounding it, but here’s what I want to say right now: there is no good reason for you to be dating an addict. Not you, not me, none of us.

I wish someone had slapped me in the face and said that to me, but it wouldn’t have done any good. I wish I could remember where I heard or read someone say that the addict is cheating on you with their drug of choice. That is certainly how I felt throughout my relationship with Michelle (not her real name). There was a big love there, but it wasn’t between Michelle and me, it was between Michelle and booze. I felt like the other woman, the one who sits by the phone waiting while the married person is home with the real family and can’t sneak away. She spent time with booze, without it ever having to ask for attention; when she wasn’t drinking she thought about drinking; drinking or (briefly) sober, alcohol was the center of her life, her thoughts, her devotion. Sure, it was a love/hate relationship but it was a lot stronger than whatever it was she felt for me.

Addicts have no place in their life for you. There is only room for themselves and their addiction, you are a bystander. No matter how much it affects you, the active alcoholic will never see it. This is where your codependency kicks in, because at the point where your needs aren’t being met someone who’s not codependent would stop accepting the behavior. Someone who is codependent sees the behavior as further proof that the relationship is exactly where they need to be, because that’s how much the addict needs saving! No one is going to help her if it’s not for me; no one else sees the potential in her, how smart she is, how capable she is of doing so much more with her life! I can help her get there, because I love her that much. I will be the hero of both our lives and get everything I’ve always wanted. My partner will leave the wife and come be with me, the “other woman.”

Why is it that what anyone else sees as healthy, good boundaries, and self-care, the codependent sees as “giving up” on the addict? We are really disrespecting ourselves when we think that to be a good person we have to completely ignore our own needs for those of the other.

I don’t know if it’s true of all addicts, but Michelle was like a black hole of NEED, sucking everything around her into this hole that could never be filled. When I look back on it, I feel her desperation in a way that I never could’ve in the moment. It wasn’t just attention from me or alcohol that she overdid trying to fill up the hole inside herself, it was everything. She did everything to excess – she ate to excess, it was like she could never get full; her drinking binges could last for a day or more; she couldn’t tolerate anything in my life that kept me from giving her every bit of my attention. She needed it all and all of it still wasn’t enough. I was just beginning the internship required for my graduation from college, an internship that I hoped might lead to a job. I would wake up at 6am and text her “Good morning” and the phone would immediately begin to ring. She’d been up all night again, drinking. She’d be incoherent, whether she was happy or sad; she would repeat the same things over and over again and become agitated if I pointed it out, insisting that she had not said whatever it was before. Even though I was the sober, newly awake one, she wouldn’t or couldn’t believe she was repeating herself. There were many mornings that the conversation began when I awoke and did not end until I was outside the office where I was interning, parking my car. She would become angry or cry when I told her that I had to get off the phone. Nothing, it seemed, should have been more important in my life than listening to whatever her rambling, drunken mind had to say at 8:30am after a night of heavy drinking.

She didn’t remember a lot of what happened those mornings after she’d finally passed out and slept it off. She never believed me when I told her that she’d kept calling me over and over again while I tried to go to work (check your phone!) or that she’d been repeating herself. She would either not believe me or say that she did remember and she hadn’t been repeating herself. I don’t know why it matters now. I suppose it matters because that was at the very beginning of our relationship, April and May of 2011. That was supposed to be my red flag, my sign that this was unhealthy, to get out as quickly as I could. There is nothing selfish about self-care. I was in no way obligated to continue being in an exclusive relationship with an alcoholic who lived over a thousand miles away, but I felt like I was. I felt like ending it, “giving up” on her was somehow a reflection on me. I had a lot of guilt about how our relationship as kids had ended, something that she reminded me of time and time again – how I’d abandoned her when we were kids. I realize now that she used my guilt to manipulate me, to make me feel that I somehow owed her for cutting off all contact when we were teenagers; because then as now, my needs didn’t matter to her. It didn’t matter that a fifteen year old, sixteen year old kid isn’t equipped to deal with being in love with an active addict and worrying about getting a call that she is dead. Thirty year old me wasn’t equipped to deal with it either, but she helped me convince myself that wasn’t a good enough reason to end a relationship that was clearly doomed from the beginning.

The relationship with her was important, I realize now, because it sent me to Al-Anon. In Al-Anon I learned more than I had learned in 12 years of therapy; or maybe I learned how to better interpret all the things I’d learned in therapy. I sat in a room where my feelings came out of other people’s mouths, where things I dare not even speak aloud were being spoken. My pain, my fear, my shame, these people shared it, they knew what I felt because they had been through it themselves. Al-Anon changed my life, I heard “Let go or get dragged” for the first time in the dimly lit room on the fifth floor of a downtown church. Not “let go and let God” like I’d heard before, but “let go or get dragged.” I had breakthroughs there about things I didn’t even know I felt. I wish there had been a way to get me to Al-Anon that hadn’t involved me dating an active alcoholic. I have a lot more to say about all of this, but for today, this is it.

If you have a family member who is an addict or alcoholic and you need support, find an Al Anon meeting near you. It will help. And keep going back, it works if you work it.

femme isn’t a four-letter word

for a while now this has been churning in my head. i think what really set it in motion more than anything was a post secret postcard that i saw on sociological images:
girly

there were times in my life that i could’ve written that post card. it’s really difficult being who you are if who you are is a feminine feminist lesbian. i love high heeled shoes, they’re sort of a fetish. it’s not because society tells me i have to, it’s just who i am. i’ve always loved fashion, since i was very young. it doesn’t mean that i wear high heels all the time, or makeup every day, but i like to for special occasions. it makes me feel good, and i do it for no one but myself. i have had partners in the past who like shoes or how girly i am, and that was a bonus for me but i never did it for them anymore than i did it for society. i am who i am, and who i am happens to be a well-rounded person who is more on the feminine side of gender identity/presentation.

i suppose it’s never been a big issue for me because i have never seen it as a societal mandate to be stereotypically feminine. many of my style icons as a kid were drag queens, i grew up idolizing ru paul. i liked the playfulness of drag, i have always loved extremes. i also loved androgyny and drag kings, but for me that side of the spectrum just never felt natural or like who i am. my mother was never very femme, and she didn’t like me and my sister to use makeup and rarely used it herself. she hated wearing skirts and didn’t seem to understand why my sister and i turned out as “girly” as we did. the first time i wanted to shave my legs, my mom discouraged me saying i had plenty of time for that later on if i wanted to. it’s not that she wanted to keep me a little girl, it’s that she hated doing things like being required to shave, wear skirts and pantyhose, and she couldn’t understand anyone choosing to do so.

in my adult life, it has often been the same. i had straight female friends who couldn’t tell the difference between the 3 or 4 pair of shoes i owned that were just slightly different. i don’t just pass, i’m fairly certain that no one has gaydar that picks me up based on appearance alone. it makes dating difficult and it also puts me in a category that i’m not comfortable in: “defenseless female”. you see, when you look at me in a pair of high heeled shoes and a dress, the only thing that tells you about me is what i like to wear, how i choose to present. it doesn’t tell you anything else about me – any assumption you make based on my appearance as femme is just that, an assumption.

because the non-feminist non-queer world has gotten an education over the last few decades. women can do whatever we want to do, whatever we set our mind to. we can have a career and a family both if we want. we can wear high-heeled shoes and change the oil in our cars. society has changed their minds because feminism has forced them to, and that’s great if you’re dating society at large. i’m dating lesbians and lesbians seem to believe that my wearing a dress means that i can’t take care of myself, i can’t hammer a nail, and i want to date super-butch women. none of these assumptions are true and if you assume them based on how i look, i feel like there’s a lot more wrong with you than there is with me.

expecting a person to be a certain way because of their gender or sex is wrong. however, expecting someone to do the opposite of what society deems appropriate for their sex or gender, just because it is mainstream, is just as wrong. i have gone through phases where i felt like i needed to “butch myself up” because i’m a feminist and a lesbian. it never felt right and i wasn’t truly happy because it felt like a costume, an act. i tried to grow my leg and arm-pit hair out in high school because i wanted to be like ani difranco. my hair doesn’t really grow much and after 3 months my arm pits looks like i had just forgotten to shave for a day or two. what’s important about that is that i was doing it because i wanted to be like ani difranco, not like myself. if i am more comfortable shaving, there’s nothing wrong with shaving. it doesn’t make me less of a feminist, it doesn’t mean i’m conforming to society because i keep shaving even though i haven’t been in a relationship in 6 months. no one would notice if i didn’t! i do it because that’s what is comfortable for me.

that should be all that matters.

“involved”

you likely did not hear it here first: there’s no such thing as dating anymore. i first heard this years ago, as women’s magazines and blogs began lamenting the demise of the date. “what happened to going out to dinner or a movie?” they asked dramatically, “now it’s all hanging out and hook-ups.” this didn’t seem especially relevant to me or my life, because as a lesbian-leaning pansexual (ie, i’ve only ever been involved with two men and one was trans) i and the majority of my friends never really dated traditionally. i’m not really sure what a traditional lesbian date looks like. years ago, when i was talking to my friend katie (who is straight) about this, she explained the concept of dating to me. “two people are attracted to each other,” she told me, “they go out for drinks, maybe dinner, they hang out, they have sex. eventually it either gets more serious or it doesn’t, and no one’s feelings have to be hurt.” i pondered that for a second and replied, “really? in my world, things are over when someone moves out.”

that’s not to push the tiredsome old stereotype of lesbians and a u-haul, that is to say that in my experience up until that point “dating” went like this: you like someone, they like you, you hang out, you’re “in love”, you move in together, things go bad, you break up, someone moves out. that’s kind of how it went for most people i knew as well. the other one that i was familiar with (though never experienced first hand) was the: you’re with someone but you’ve both known it’s over for a while, you meet someone else and start sleeping with them on the side, but you don’t break up with your partner because it’s just easier not to. neither of these scenarios are especially healthy, but hey – i’m just telling you what i’ve either experienced or seen. in lesbian world, “dating” means “in an exclusive relationship” so no one dates. however, as we get older most of us have more and more baggage. we’ve moved too fast, we’ve divided furniture and pets, and we know that we don’t want to end up living in a two bedroom apartment with a complete stranger that we used to have sex with, so something had to change… what we should’ve done is learned how to date the way straight people used to. instead? we started getting “involved”.

i can’t tell you when exactly i first heard the term “involved”. i know the first time i remember hearing it, in a sentence that a friend uttered to me: “no, i’m not dating her. we’re just involved.” i’m going to tell you what i told her, that it could not possibly end well and it didn’t. i realized though, that “involved” was a murky quicksand that it is much easier to become trapped in than i knew at that time. recently, i realized that the last time i was actually in an official relationship was four years ago. it’s not like i haven’t been involved with people in the last four years, i have; and therein lies what i believe to be the problem. i blame it all on that word, “involved.” when we get involved, the reasons for doing so are as unique as the people getting involved. perhaps we really like the person and think it will turn into more; maybe we are afraid of going too fast by defining it; maybe we are horny and lonely and don’t actually like the person that much but they like us a lot; maybe we are getting over someone else; these are just a tiny sampling of the reasons that someone might get involved. over the past four years i have realized that there are two sides to involvement however: there’s the person that wants it to be more, and the person that for whatever reason doesn’t.

i have been on both sides of involved, and neither of them are much fun honestly. unless you are a sociopath, no one relishes having someone that genuinely likes them who is willing to wait around while they figure out if it’s more than just sex, companionship, and something to do. when it comes to undefined relationships 99.9% of the time, someone is going to get hurt. i can of course only speak with authority when it comes to my non-relationships. each was very different, and each didn’t progress for very different reasons. it got me wondering though, can “involved” ever really become more? don’t we know – if we are honest – pretty early on whether or not someone is going to be serious relationship material? sometimes we can have the best intentions, but i think if we are really honest with ourselves, no matter what side of “involved” we are on, we know where it is going to go and more often than not that is nowhere.

the first person i got “involved” with, everyone knew it was a huge mistake, including me. she and i ended up having one of the most intense bonds i have ever had with a friend or loved one, and in that situation i knew that it never became more because of things that had to do with her, not our feelings for each other. see, sometimes “involved” happens because we meet someone when we aren’t ready for something serious but we know we are too connected with them to just be friends.
the second time i got “involved” i was trying to move on from the first time and i genuinely thought that the person and i would end up dating. it was only once i was in the mess that i realized that she was an abusive sociopath with a drinking problem and anger management issues that used women to fulfill whatever needs she had, and to get ahead. i have no doubt that if i were rich or of use to her career that we would still be in that whole mess. a year of weekly therapy got me straight on what i needed to learn and know about both of those situations. i’m sure age and maturity played a big part as well. then, i got to be on the other side of “involved”. i’m fairly certain that again, everyone knew it was a big mistake. i knew that it was, in fact, i knew really early on that she was not going to be “the one”, but i was on the other end of it this time and i thought that i could handle it.

honesty, you see, was what i thought the solution to “involved” was. if you just let people know where you are, if you are open, if you are truthful, then it doesn’t have to turn into the screaming, crazy, hot mess that my first two experiences with “involved” were. it was naive of me, but i can see why i thought that. the first two women that i got involved with, they were both honest yet secretive in their own ways. if you ask either of them, they will both tell you that they are the most honest person you have ever met. yet, they are neither one of them open. one had an ungodly number of women on the hook, and all of them thought they were the one. the other had “relationships” with people who could benefit her in some way and people on the side/in between who would be there until the next person that was either rich or influential came along. one used people, the other never pretended that she wanted a girlfriend. i really thought that i had learned the hard lessons from both of them, so i got involved. it was shortly into that next mess that i realized: when you get involved, sometimes you don’t even know what you want. i tried to be honest, but what i meant yesterday wasn’t true today. the more i got to know the person, the more i realized that she had the same characteristics that had frightened me about the last woman, she just hid them better. some people seem really nice when you only know them superficially. some people, you only see the anger once you’re intimate (whether that is emotional or physical intimacy.)

so here i am, 29 years old. i would like to think infinitely more evolved than i was at 25, and yet while i have changed it appears that situations have not. i am in the best place i have ever been in. i feel i truly know myself; i have a pretty good idea of where i’m going in my life, what i want; my progress some days feels like two steps forward and one step back but hell, i’m doing my best. i am exactly the person that i have spent my life wanting to be and becoming. i think i see myself in a pretty realistic light, and anything i want to change i am actively working on changing. i struggle with depression and anxiety, i likely always will, but nothing gets me down for longer than a day. 🙂 it’s a pretty awesome place except for one tiny problem – i’m alone. now, anyone that knows me or has read my ramblings probably knows that i am a hopeless romantic. i really do believe that there’s someone out there for everyone. i like happy endings! when i get down about the search for “that one perfect person” i look to the relationship i respect the most, that of sally & tracey, and i remind myself that sally didn’t meet tracey when she was 30. do you realize, if you are 40, you could meet someone today and if you don’t die until you are 100 you would be with them for 60 years? that’s the majority of your life, and that’s pretty amazing to think about. oh shut up, i’m a romantic!

so what is the point of this rambling? the point is, don’t get “involved”. no matter what side you are on, just don’t do it. you can tell someone you don’t want a relationship, but if you falter on that a little bit they are going to believe what they want and that is that you secretly do want a relationship with them. i’ve been on both sides of that. sometimes, whether we want to admit it or not, we take what we can get. maybe it’s because we are lonely, maybe it’s because we are horny, but the fact is that nothing ends well that you didn’t go into with complete openness – not honesty, but openness. sometimes honesty is just cruel. “i don’t think you are the one” might be an honest statement, but it is cruel and you can get away with saying it in not so many words and still be honest; but you’re not being open. we all have needs, and for me, maybe i can meet those needs with a piece of chocolate cake, a vibrator, and a glass of champagne (or twelve). is whatever drama comes from getting “involved” worth what you get out of it? in my experience, no. not on either side of it. so if you’re involved or you thinking about getting involved, i want you to remember these things:

1. you actually deserve a woman that can give you most of herself. not all, because can we ever really give all of ourselves? but don’t confuse 40% with 90%.

2. whatever she says that you don’t want to hear – pay the closest attention to that. “i love being with you” doesn’t mean nearly as much as “i’m not ready for a relationship right now.” don’t let “i love being with you” make you forget that this woman said flat out she’s not ready for a relationship with you or anyone.

3. don’t take what you can get. you can get way more than what someone who’s not that into you, or who is into you but is working through her own stuff, is able to offer. a taste of this “ms. right” is not worth passing on what a real relationship with that cute woman who wants to have coffee might be able to offer. after all – the one you are waiting on isn’t going to wait on you when someone better comes along. really.

4. get cool with being alone. it does suck. as much as i love living alone (my sister stayed with me and drove me nuts by pushing the shower curtain back to the “wrong” side) i do want to live with a partner some day. that day probably isn’t going to be tomorrow. spend some quality time with yourself, if you can’t, why the hell would someone else want to?

5. don’t stop believing. yes, it’s cheesy and i do sing this song in the shower. try it and you’ll feel great, get the shampoo lather going and sing it out: “just a small town girl, living in a looooonely world!” there are a lot of benefits to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be. one of them is that when you do find that right person, they won’t have to put up with so much of your annoying shit. don’t think you have annoying shit? talk to your ex-girlfriends, odds are you are friends, and odds are they can tell you what sucks about you (even though they love you! just in a different way now.)

the fact is, we all have baggage. we are most of us working on becoming the best versions of ourselves, who we want to be. you are going to hit some bumps in the road to being the best you and in the road to love; but whatever you do, don’t settle. we all deserve someone that makes us want to dance and sing, who makes us believe in ourselves, who is wonderful. even if you find that person, don’t just get involved with her, because if you do, it’s 99.9% of the time not going to end in happily ever after, and believe me, we all want to be that exception.