Memory is a weird thing. Some people’s are good, some people’s are bad, some remember names, and some remember faces. When I think of my own memory, it’s like Google. I think up a search term, mentally hit “enter,” and memories pop up in order of most to least relevance.
Unlike Google, sometimes we don’t even have to submit any search terms for memories to come flooding into our brains. It may just take a certain smell, song, or, you know, a few too many drinks and then WHAM! Memories right in your face. Doesn’t matter if you want ’em or not.
Last week I had my first apple cider of the season, and even before the delicious caramel-colored liquid hit my tongue, I thought of my grandma. As soon as it was autumn, my grandma would have cider in the house. And I don’t mean she’d have it a few times throughout the season. My grandma was incredibly habit-based when it came to what drinks she purchased, and was maniacal about keeping the appropriate liquid stocked.
Available year-round: Barq’s Root Beer, milk, and water.
1-2 months after every trip to Ohio: Barq’s Red Cream Soda**
Summer months: pink lemonade — never yellow
Fall months: apple cider
Winter months: egg nog (gross)
**I’m not sure why, but this variety wasn’t sold in my home state. This meant that when my grandparents drove to visit my aunt and uncle, they would intentionally leave room in the trunk so they could load up on Barq’s Red Cream Soda before they came home.
Needless to say, memories of my grandma’s house will forever be linked to root beer, cider, and red cream soda (it really was delicious).
This train of thought about my grandma’s drink habits started me thinking about my own habits. Since I was also trying to think of a good topic for my blog post this week, naturally my mind went to dating habits.
When I first think of dating habits, I think of people who have a “type,” physically. I don’t think I have that — the guys I’ve dated have had a variety of hair color/height/build/etc. (I guess they have all been white. But don’t worry, I’m not one of those ‘I’m only attracted to those within my race’ girls. How do I know? Because Michael B. Jordan. Don’t know who he is? Look him up. You’re welcome. )
Anyhow, because the guys all looked different, I always thought I didn’t have a “type.” Enter Dan Savage — the Relationship Advice King. He often talks about how if all of your exes are “crazy,” then you need to consider who was been the common denominator in all of those relationships (hint: it’s you). Now all of the men I’ve been interested in haven’t been crazy, but many of them have been unavailable in one way or another.
Examples: One lived halfway across the country. One was much older than me and didn’t have his shit together (I don’t mean he just didn’t have every detail planned, I mean he often didn’t have a job). One had a long-distance girlfriend (I KNOW, I’M TERRIBLE. I was young, please don’t judge me). One told me that while he liked me and was happy to be friends with benefits, he didn’t see us dating. One was incredibly charming and so enthusiastic about our potential relationship whenever we talked, but he would only talk to me once or twice a month.
I’m not a person who has ever needed to be in a relationship in order to be happy, but I would like to have a partner to share things with, so I sat down and took a hard look inside myself. Sure these guys weren’t all unavailable in the same way — I wasn’t ONLY going after men who had a girlfriend, or ONLY going after those who just wanted to bang — but something was attracting to men who, if I was being honest with myself, I knew would never give me the kind of relationship I wanted.
So why did I keep waiting around for them? Maybe part of it is that I’ve watched too many romantic movies and read too many novels where if you just keep hoping things will work out long enough — just past the moment when you should probably let go — then everything will fall into place and be easy. I can’t say that never happens in real life, but it sure hasn’t ever worked that way for me. Regardless, I wasn’t satisfied with blaming my unfortunate habit of betting on something I knew would probably fail on that simple fact that Hollywood conditions us to think that romance is “beating the odds to be together.”
There is the classic, “women with shitty track records with men have daddy issues,” trope, but my father is wonderful, so I knew that wasn’t my issue.
Pinpointing the ways in which you’re keeping yourself from finding what you want to find is hard. It’s hard, in part, because it’s always hard to uncover habits that may not even be conscious ones, but it’s mostly hard because it can be difficult to admit to yourself that you might be the reason your relationships aren’t working. It’s easier to blame it on the other person, or those ten pounds you need to lose, or timing, etc. Making an excuse and believing it doesn’t involve unearthing a characteristic within yourself that you maybe don’t want to know you possess. And let’s be honest, once you acknowledge that an unpleasant attribute exists, it’s nearly impossible to go back to pretending it isn’t there. So most people don’t go looking.
If you’re brave, and if you’re sick of falling into relationship after relationship that doesn’t turn out the way you want it to…start that search. Maybe you’ll excavate all of your subconscious feelings and worries and insecurities, and none of them will have anything to do with why your relationships haven’t worked — maybe your exes really did just suck, or the timing really was off. That’s possible! But don’t be afraid to check. You might find something that does matter, and that is impacting your relationships.
So what was my issue? I’m scared of not being enough for someone. This may sound silly, since, to some degree, everyone is scared of showing their true self to someone they like and then having that person walk away. However, I was so scared of not being enough that I developed a habit of starting relationships that are doomed from the beginning. Why? Because then when they end, it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the actual and obvious reason(s) it never would’ve worked out (e.g. he lived halfway across the country, he already had a girlfriend, he wasn’t a steady communicator, etc). Not a great game plan, but one that makes sense if the person making the plan is a people-pleaser who finds the idea of personal rejection absolutely horrifying.
Now that I know this, I can do a better job of checking-in with myself at the beginning of a new relationship to make sure I’m not continuing to engage in this habit. And theeeen, hopefully after a while, my (bad) old habit will be replaced by my (good) new habit of paying extra attention so that my anxiety over being rejected doesn’t lead me into stupid relationships! Yay self-improvement.
Sorry this wasn’t a hilarious story! I’ll do one of those next time, I promise! But dating isn’t all about the crazy stories of other people being ridiculous/horrible/weird. Sometimes it’s about getting to know yourself more in order to find a good match. 🙂
P.S. Thought tangent about staying in unhealthy relationships — Isn’t it kind of incredible how long you can survive on brief blips of happiness in a relationship? How those blips can keep the embers of hope alive through extended periods of hurt and confusion? It’s absurd. I’ve definitely been there. For me the cycle only ended when one day, the pattern went on too long and I realized the bad times weren’t just something I had to endure in order to get to the good part–in order to deserve the happy ending. I woke up to the fact that, no, this is what it is. This is how it’s going to go. This isn’t “what we’re going through”…this up and down mess of a situation….this is…it.