Men...a lesson in love consumerism.
I wrote this a bit ago when I decided that it was time to stop dating...that the compulsive seeking of a man as a source for happiness had to stop. As I write this, it feels like I quit dating years ago...but in reality it has only been a little while. I forced myself to go through a dating detox to recover from being addicted to a feeling. Men have been the vehicle by which I have exited Erin (there have been many avenues throughout my life). But men (well boys in the beginning) and I have been in this addictive cycle since I was about 13.
At first there were boys (totally appropriate that I was not dating men at 13); I needed them to want me so that I could stop the feelings of less than. Then they were just a means to an end. I needed them and spent all of my time chasing them, engaging with them, then leaving them. It was like they were a bucket with a hole that I dedicated my life to filling (I did not know I was dedicating my life to this quest and I also didn't know that I was the bucket...). It was exhausting. But compared to being alone, consuming boys/men seemed the better course. Sad to say that over the past 36 years, until recently, there was always a boy/man lurking somewhere in my recent past or coming future. I was obsessed and it drove my life.
Since I put the plug in the ever leaking man bucket a few months ago, I have gained a new perspective on myself. My willingness to clear the man deck and sit alone has been wonderfully hard. Being able to sit with these broken parts of myself; watch how they operate in my life has taught me a lot. I have been able to see the progression of how this particular obsession through its drive and force, changed me into someone that I didn't really like or respect. Maybe you can relate...
It all began as an exit which somehow morphed into an entitlement. Men were something I deserved. I was owed. They were consumable and there for the taking. When one didn’t work out - just find another. I can’t believe the number of years that I wasted on this process. I was always concerned with how they made me feel, what they were willing to give to me, embarrassingly, I spent little to no time ever thinking about what I was giving to them.
I thought that once I stopped the compulsive man behavior that would also end my sense of entitlement. However, the cessation of dating did not end my feelings of entitlement. Instead, the dating suspension, showed me the ugly under current of all of my intimate relationships...this belief that I deserved to be rewarded with love, hot sex and adoration despite my complete lack of ability to give the same. Oh I thought that I was willing to give all of that but in truth, I wasn't capable of giving all three to the same man. That was just too intimate...
It never occurred to me that demanding what I could not reciprocate from a man was a complete waste of time. If I was not capable of giving it, then it didn't matter what he brought to the table...I couldn't have accepted it because I wasn't not capable. My life up until now was barren of thoughts of what I might be asked to give...laser focused only on what I was going to get. I spent very little time thinking about how my relationship with the man du jour would cause me to be placed in a position of giving. I cared about what I was going to get. Loving was a receptive task - I would give to receive and all would be well. Like my friend June said, "I thought that I would act as if I didn't care and they didn't matter and one day the guy would say I love you and can't live without you, and I would say me too."
Truth is that I was afraid. Terrified that in the giving of love, sex and adoration that I would somehow disappear. It feels like the biggest set up ever: seeing and believing that I want to love someone totally and completely and not being able to accept less than that, while all the time feeling like I needed to hide and not give all of myself to any one person. Turns out that I am not all that great at either giving or receiving. I was always giving to get - I would give so much that I would disappear.
Looking back now, I can see that I was never up for the task of loving a partner. I was selfish and incapable of being intimate. My last relationship moved me closer to being ready but even in the love that I felt for him, I was still lost and looking to be filled. I am pretty sure that is why he left. He had his own demons for sure, but my quiet demand that he right all the wrongs done to me by others and to make up for all the slights along the way - was a downer. I think he knew that he could never, ever live up, so he quit trying.
This man down time has created some space for me to see my actions in this area more clearly. What I have learned in my man desert is that I do not deserve love more or less than any other person on this earth. Love is like gravity it applies to everyone equally. Some are not more deserving than others. We all need and want that big love but so much of what happens to us while we are waiting interferes with our ability to love. We get warped along the way and then have to do a lot of soul searching to get down to causes and conditions. I can see my part in why I am alone. It has nothing to do with worth as I feared. It has everything to do with what I have to offer.
I have not been a woman that was capable of really loving myself or anyone else. I have been a woman capable of conquering, controlling and acquiring. I am learning that love is patient and will wait to be invited in. I did a pretty horrific job of creating a space for love to grow and flourish. It makes me feel badly for all the men that were so damaged that they mistook the place I offered for a good idea. But I am grateful for them - every one of them. They moved me a little further down the path of coming to know myself. They helped me change and clearly see what and who I am. I have been a taker who uses giving so that you never really get anything. It is an endless loop that always comes back to me.
I still have hope that one day I can be a partner to a man that I love with all my heart and soul and body. I pray that I can love like that someday and be loved in return similarly. I can see how much work I need to do though and it makes me cautious where I have never been cautious before.
Loving is risky and I have been a love chicken. Afraid to really give of myself because of this innate belief that I have nothing truly valuable to give. That if I did give you everything I had and you decided it wasn't good enough, I wasn't sure that I could survive. Turns out that you get what you give.
I have also been a love consumer if you will. I have been more concerned with how it looks and packaged than the product on the inside. I am super sure that I cared more about my packaging than the goods inside. I was never really putting me into the package...just dressing it up on the outside so that it looked like something of value. Equally, I was concerned with the outward presentation of whatever man I was with - then being horribly disappointed when the insides were lacking.
I am doing the work now on the inside stuff and trying oh so desperately to let go of my belief that I deserve or should be rewarded with a man. I think what we all want is to be seen. If I am not willing to see people in my every day life - how am I ever going to see and be seen in my most intimate life. It is about practice. Practice seeing people as people: not as consumable goods that will reinforce an erroneous belief I have about myself.
I have this amazing life that I have been using to acquire and shelve beings. This is the first time that I have been able to stop. To talk to people and be interested in them for no other reason than to be interested in this other person that stands before me. Not for what they can give me. It is hard to confront how much of a user I am. Really hard. Painful even.
The idea that you are not required to make me feel better about me is revolutionary. The idea that I am not required to make you feel better is humbling. The idea that love is about something greater - about being willing to be touched and hurt and seen. To look at this is brave and terrifying. I am not sure that I can do it. Old patterns die hard. And that is what I am doing here - dying hard. Parts of myself being allowed to die off while holding off the urge to immediately fill up the space with the next...
I still have hope that one day I will be able to give myself to that other person - I pray that I have something worth offering. For now, I am starting with giving to myself and those closest to me. Giving without demand for return is the best kind of love. Being of love service is what I think it is all about. Giving with a kind and loving heart for fun and for free. In truth, I am terrified but I know that all of my best growth as a human being occurs right at that place that I am willing to move just outside my comfort zone. For now, I am grateful for the love lesson and a new resolve to do the work on me without the promise of getting anything in return...except perhaps a willingness to be more present and become more of what I would ask for in a relationship. Feels like I need to work on letting go of this shrink wrapped version I have been peddling all these years and be willing to open up and see what I have to truly offer. I am coming to know that men do not contain my happiness, I do. A partner can only exemplify, magnify and augment what is already present...