I went on a Bumble date the other day (isn’t it funny how Bumble dates are always labeled that way? Like there’s a “date” and there’s a “Bumble date” — they’re an entity unto themselves) and had a perfectly adequate time. Nothing special, no zing, no zsa zsa zsu. But no creepy vibes, no rat tail, no sexism either. And then after the date, we both just tacitly decided not to message each other again. We had put forth the same amount of effort and come to the same conclusion: “meh.”
But what about when it doesn’t work that way at all? What about the times when you’re so not on the same page you end up crying into a bag of chicken nuggets alone in your apartment at 2am while the flickering blue light of Netflix asks you for the sixth time if you’re still there? (LOL JUST ME??)
I don’t date a lot. I could give you all the usual excuses: I’m too busy with work and my freelance job and I’m not looking for a partner right now and I’m self-sufficient on my own, dammit. And that’s all true. But the biggest reason is deceptively simple: I’m just not good at the whole shebang. All my defining romantic relationships somehow end up the same way — with me all in, 100% invested, on one page… and then the guy checked out, moved on, and finished with the book entirely.
Which leaves me frustrated, exhausted, reaching for the nuggets, and asking: why???
And I’m forced to come to one conclusion: the common denominator of these relationships is little ol’ me. I’m the through line. So what I am doing wrong? Let’s take a look at the pattern:
I go into relationships hesitant, unsure. Careful. Which possibly has something to do with my raging case of insecurity (fun) or perhaps it’s just that I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. Men often tell me that I’m “mysterious” — I’m a puzzle to be a solved, a case to unravel. It seems coquettish and intentional, but really it’s just protecting myself. Keeping my guard up. Using sarcasm (my life’s blood) as a shield. This leaves a vacuum for those that are interested in me to fill — they wear me down with effort and affection. Cute their way underneath my defenses. The key: they’re trying. It seems like they actually care. Enough for me to start to relax into this thing.
Cue the nuggets because things are unraveling fast. (Am I talking about chicken nuggets too much? TRICK QUESTION. No one could ever talk about them enough.) Here’s where my defenses are down and I’m comfortably ensconced in the warm affection of another human being and then slowly, stealthily, and insidiously, that affection is pulled away. Their interest is waning. And then all the sudden, the switch is flipped. I’m sure you know it: the moment you’re on the other side of the equation. Now it’s me trying to get ahold of them — texting good morning and wanting to meet up and excusing away all of their one word responses. And I feel like a crazy person. Like a desperate, crazy, clinging person. No more cool, mysterious girl.
And every time I think: Shit. It’s happening again.
It’s a relentless pattern. It feels like we’re starting at opposite poles, meeting in the middle, and then diverging again. I’m gradually gaining affection and interest in them and they’re gradually losing affection and interest in me. And it fucks with me. Because it’s so personal. They waited until after they got to know me to blow me off — is my personality that untenable? It makes me want to remix everything about myself until I no longer recognize this sad, confused, hurt person. Basically, at this point in the cycle, I’m knee-deep in nuggets and crying out for help.
I’ve talked a lot about this process lately — my friends are plugging their ears at this point — because I’m just. so. done. with it happening over and over again. My body cannot physically survive this anymore (lol that was a bit ~dramatic~ but you get the picture), and in recognizing that, I finally recognized that I have agency over these situations too. I’m realizing I’ve just been letting relationships happen to me — instead of taking an active role in my life and my happiness. And I think I finally (HALLELU) understand why seemingly every relationship I have goes down this inevitable road. And part of it boils down to my own actions (or non-actions). Ladies and gentleman, let’s go to the tape.
Keeping silent about what I’m feeling
I am not of fan of conflict. And when I say that I actually mean: I will avoid conflict AT ALL COSTS. Which means I’m about 100% likely to not bring up a problem or something that I’m feeling if it will introduce conflict into the relationship. Which, as you can imagine, becomes a bit of a problem when a relationship moves past a certain stage (or really, any stage). In examining my previous relationships, I realized I do this with alarming frequency without really even thinking about it. Kelly Keep-The-Peace strikes again.
Doing something I don’t necessarily want to do in order to keep them interested
Another conflict-related one (are you surprised). This is particularly insidious in my relationships because it ends up having the opposite effect of what I’m looking for. I say yes because I want to neutralize the situation (without conflict) and move on. But in saying yes, I’m actually encouraging them to keep asking. So instead of having to deal with the problem once, I’m creating a situation for myself to deal with the problem over and over and over again. NOT GREAT, believe me.
Not letting go when I know I should
Do you ever get so caught up in something that you forget why you were ever invested in the first place? I’ve been known to take things a little too personally (rare but it happens… JK IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, OBVIOUSLY) and someone losing interest in you feels about as personal as it can get. Which is why I have a tendency to let the crime (i.e., losing interest in me) overshadow the entire relationship. Was it truly a relationship I wanted to be in? Was I making my feelings, opinions, and needs heard? Were they being understood? The answer is usually a quick facial grimace — as in: oof, actually, maybe not. So why am I upset anyway? This was the natural course of things, because it wasn’t the right fit for either of us.
I turned 25 this year and it suddenly hit me (mid-life crisis anyone, where’s my red ferrari) that if I actually want a functional, healthy relationship, I’m going to have to start doing some work. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Taking chances where I otherwise would have turned away. Recognizing my own behavior as something I can actively analyze, challenge, and change for the better. And this article is part of that. It’s a little window into my soul and it feels scary — what if I’m the only one that feels this way? What if I come off as loony or desperate or (god forbid) pitiable? — because I’m opening myself up in a way that’s pretty foreign to me. But you have to start somewhere, right? Maybe opening up behind a computer screen will lead to opening up in front of a cute guy I like — instead of letting him pursue me or letting it go altogether.
So, if all your romances are ending up in the same place, maybe it’s time to look inward. Challenge yourself a little. Grab a
glass bottle of wine and go back through the timeline of events through the lens of your own actions. Are you not sticking up for yourself? Are you assuming it will go bad from the start? Are you picking the wrong men or women — the ones you know aren’t looking for the same thing you’re looking for? And remember, no matter what happens, we always have chicken nuggets. Something to keep in the back of your mind. ❤️