A few months back, I was unceremoniously dumped by a guy I really cared about. There was SO much about him that resonated…he was a good dad, he had a steady job and was generous with his resources, we lived near each other, we liked theater, art, and the same music, and bedtime was rockin’. He was the first to profess love, and drew me into his life, introducing me to his family and friends, and my friends to him. Things were rolling along, at least in my head. I ignored the myriad subtle distances he enacted after about two months, the inexplicable sighs, and the emotional withdrawal. The complete blowing off of Valentine’s Day. All the ways he behaved like a man who is disinterested, but still enjoys sex. Eh, he is still healing from his almost-twenty-year-marriage, I surmised. I remained supportive and kind, but the love seemed to come with increasing reluctance, while the sex seemed to come with increasing intensity. I ignored how tempted I was to walk on eggshells, thinking that was what I was used to. I tried to keep myself calm as he withdrew, even though I grew hungrier and hungrier for his regard.
One night, we had an absolutely gorgeous date. We made love, went to a museum, met friends for dinner, and then came back and made love again. We had delved into each other’s lives and were spending the night three times a week. But that night, I had an epiphany. “You aren’t in love with me like you said,” I declared to him. He said he didn’t know, and I felt my heart sink into places of the past that I had no idea were still so tender and sore. He said he was confused, and he wasn’t ready for relationship. And then he ran. I ran after him, very slowly and with kid gloves, for in moments like this you “make no sudden movements”. But he was inexplicably done, and had been way before me. The night we were supposed to talk, St. Patrick’s Day, he could not talk to me about it because he was too drunk. Although we both initially cried, he completely shut down and the whole rejection ended up being detached and sterile.
Talk about an attachment theory cluster fuck. I turned into an anxious mess. I barely ate. I could not sleep. I could not stop crying. I spent the first week in a funk, the second week eating a meal or two, and the third week starting to become stronger as I realized this was ancient pain from the past. This was not about an intense, quick, idealized love affair-this was about rejection from my dad. This was why I kept choosing men who could not love me back-hello, DAD issues. Hello, fucktard repetition. I felt so stupid for thinking he actually loved me. I felt used. I felt so very sad.
But I spent time on fuck-it mountain. BIG time. I got embarrassingly drunk. I called an old lover who welcomed me with open arms and spent one night sobbing for two hours in those arms. I tried to have sex with strangers but ended up sobbing and doing my own running away. I danced with a man half my age, and could have taken him home but did not have the heart to. AND, as an aside, he was a good kisser, which is my dating Kryptonite. I had dates every lunch and every dinner for a whole week with different men. I wasted way too much time trying to prove I WAS attractive and desirable and lovable through the attention of men, which I have never had trouble getting anyway. But you know, when you are rejected, you feel like worse than horse shit. Someone stopped loving you, on purpose, and that just SUCKS MAJOR ASS. I was a hot mess.
And then I retreated. No one can spend that much time on fuck-it mountain without losing their cunt AND their soul. I had extra sessions with my therapist, and got to the heart of the matter, which was the hurting little girl inside me who was not seen, not heard, and not accepted. I had to have the rejection of a lover to help me find her, bring her out, and help her heal. In that way, my runaway lover became my teacher.
In navigating attachment theory, I know that there are many people to whom we can securely attach. We have many viable choices in our lifetime. Some of that is simply instinct and base desire. As a teacher of mine was fond of saying, “the limbic system drives the bus.” In other words, we love who we love. I hear so many stories of men who say they aren’t ready for a relationship, and then bam, three months later they are getting married to the love of their lives. Or women doing the same thing. It is a harsh reality that you were not the one, but tolerating rejection is one of the finer superpowers you can have in the dating world.
It seems that dating has become one long Shakespearean tragedy? comedy? where what I love does not love me back and what loves me I have no regard for. Navigating those limbic impulses and infusing them with good sense and the trajectory of my healing has become my goal. I want to love deeply, and with passion, but it is no fun if my love does not also claim me as his love, nor is it fun to be passionately loved by someone you truly care about but do not have that same level of feeling for them . What fun is it when love is one-sided? And then I need to give myself permission to allow available men into my life, men who value and adore me, men who are clear about where they are and where they are going in their lives and relationships, men who appreciate my generous spirit and unique gifts, too, and settle with the one who becomes most significant and attuned.
In the end, attachment is about attunement. Keeping myself clear of the past, and on a healing path, will hopefully help me be more present and open to developing that love. Not all men are fucktards, and some even deserve to be given a chance.