I’m far from a commitment-phobe, but I don’t really have many long-term relationships. Sure, I’ve been with my current girlfriend for two years, and the last real relationship before that was 4 years steady (out of 7 years off-and-on). But I tend to be a bit reserved about my feelings, even when they’re there and deep.
I’m not afraid of commitment… I’m afraid of settling.
Most of my past relationships, I bailed at the first sign of problems. I see all these things that say “You need to work them out!” and all that, but I don’t see it. Why would you work things out with someone who’s just not right for you?
I think I’m extra sensitive about this subject since that 4-year relationship took everything out of me. I kept pumping myself full of lies that, if she was still there after all the fights and all that, she must be the one. Isn’t that what Facebook says?
Too bad our fights were mostly because I wanted her to be a decent human being, and she didn’t think I deserved as much. (Yes, that exact conversation actually came up a few times.) Most of the women I’ve been with weren’t that bad for me, but the fear of being stuck in another relationship like that changed my views.
I stopped offering myself fully to people who only wanted parts of me.
I started standing up for myself before it was too hard to handle.
And I learned to move on when my intuition told me I should.
But what does that mean for you?
Maybe it makes me seem like the worst person to go to for advice when your relationship ends – but as someone who has a lot of experience saying “goodbye” before I’m ready to, I think my wisdom has earned its way.
I do believe in soul mates, but I think they come across more with our friends. I have a few “loves” in a friendship connotation and I could never accept someone who is bothered by these platonic friendships. Maybe I’ve had some girlfriends who were jealous because of what they thought was going on, but I didn’t let them tell me I couldn’t be friends with them. Why? Because girlfriends don’t always stay in your life – but your true friends do.
There have been women who told me every intimate detail of their lives. The one that had her girlfriend and her bike stolen by a drug addict. The one who almost bled to death after experimenting with a man who was too large for her frame. The one who had never been faithful to a single partner. The one who told me she got drunk every night at work (so it was no surprise when she got arrested for a DUI on her way to come see me). These women had strong promises as friends, but I tried to make it something more – and failed.
Each of these goodbyes taught me something, even if I didn’t want to learn it at the time.
What can you learn about moving on from the women who don’t want to stick around? Surprisingly, a lot.
What I learned:
I learned that, sometimes, people are too messed up to love, like the one with the bike. There might be the right time for them to fall in love, but it wasn’t my time.
Sometimes people are so uncertain of what they want that they’re willing to risk their lives for it (like the one that almost bled to death). Sure, one of these days she’ll probably come to terms with her desires, and she’ll decide what she wants – but it won’t be me.
From the one who couldn’t be faithful (and is now in a happy open relationship with someone else, for the past seven years) – I learned that polyamory is a real thing, and just because she wasn’t right for me doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with either one of us – we just weren’t right for each other.
And from the one with the drinking problem, I learned that it’s not something I can handle. Alcohol is fine and dandy on occasions that call for it, but I couldn’t be with someone who drinks every day. I’d have to wonder if I’d be second-best in that situation.
So I run away.
It’s probably not the most “mature” response in most cases, and there are still some days when I have to fight the urge to run from my current girlfriend, too. I see a glimmer of something that I can’t handle, and I think about running away before it gets worse – but instead, I decide to talk to her.
And you know what? Sometimes it works.
Sure, sometimes we have repeating conversations. (I don’t like to call it nagging.) I tell her something she did that bothered me, she says she understands, and she does it again the very next day.
But with her, I’d keep trying. It’s not like all those other women I’ve been with who weren’t worth the effort. I’ve weighed my options, and she’s not perfect, but she’s good for me – and good to me.
I think this makes a huge difference, and many people try to overlook it. If your partner requires you to be someone you’re not, you’re absolutely entitled (and encouraged!) to let her go. You shouldn’t be with someone who tries to change you, whether intentionally or not.
If you’re not the person she wants – walk away.
If she’s not the person you want her to be – walk away.
I don’t settle anymore.
You shouldn’t expect your partner to be perfect, but if you settle for something because you think you can change it – just stop. If you settle because you think she’ll change on her own – maybe grow out of a certain bad habit, or her job – just stop. People can change, but you shouldn’t anticipate that change. It’s not fair to her, because you have these expectations that she never agreed to. It’s not fair to you because you won’t be totally convinced that she really made the changes. It’s just not fair to anyone.
You should settle if the “imperfections” are something you can handle. Maybe you don’t like that she smokes in her car, but she would never dream of smoking in your car. That’s easy enough; you just take your car when you go places together. Maybe she only listens to hip-hop and you only listen to heavy metal. You can work around that.
My point is that commitment is a great thing to think about – but it’s not right for every relationship, and there’s this huge romanticism with staying with the “wrong person”. There’s a sense of martyrdom in the idea itself and that’s not what we should be striving for, ladies!
Too many people think that, if they give up, it means they were never really trying. That’s not true and it took me way too long to learn that. You can try for your whole life and the wrong person will still be the wrong person!
Relationships take a lot of work, and I think that’s why people put in so much on the wrong partners. But if your relationship feels like it’s just work, or if you’re not meeting your partner’s approval, or if they’re honestly not meeting yours, it’s time to say goodbye. Thank them for the experience and move on.