All my life I’ve had a recurring theme with men: They commit. I don’t. They’re all in. I’m not. They want more from me than I want from them.
There have been a few exceptions. Andrea and Bendik come to mind— two guys who friend-zoned me before I could say “sexy foreign man.” (Rot in hell dirtbags. Jk they’re two of my favorite people in the world. Hope y’all die lonely tho.) But otherwise, I’m usually the one disappointing hopeful guys.
Here’s what happens:
We meet. We find each other fascinating. We spend more time together. Then something shifts. He begins to let his guard down; he begins to allow himself to feel love for me, confide in me and, in some cases, imagine his future with me. And almost always, this means that he begins to develop an attachment to me and expectations of me. In other words, he needs something (time, commitment, certain behavior, etc.) from me in order to feel happy or okay or secure. That’s when I have to decide whether or not I want this relationship long term. (So far, I have never (in my adult life) wanted a relationship long term.) At this point I feel a responsibility to gently but clearly end the relationship and, when possible, transition it to a friendship.
Then he’ll kick himself for letting his guard down. “I never should have given you my heart.” Or “I guess that’s what I get for opening up and letting you in.”
I’ve heard this story a bajillion times, from men and women. It’s one of the main things my friends consult me about: she let her guard down with someone—she confided in him and invested in him— and then she got hurt or disappointed.
I dedicate this article to folks who get hurt and disappointed by romantic relationships; people who keep a guard up and often regret letting it down.
Why do people have their guards up in the first place?
People think they’re at risk. They think that if they don’t protect themselves, they’ll get hurt. They think that their heart is this weak, traumatized, vulnerable creature that needs to be defended. So when they become interested in someone, they hold back or put up a facade or “play the game.”
Then, at the same time they start letting their guard down, they develop expectations and conditions. “I’m no longer protecting my heart against you, so you need to protect it for me by treating me a certain way and calling me regularly and not flirting with anyone else and building a relationship with my family and… “
In other words, when the guard comes down, attachments go up.
Oddly, it’s not very familiar to me. I only know this experience because many men have had it with me and many friends have told me about it. Not to mention it’s on TV and in books and everywhere else.
I have a better relationship with love and romance than most people I know.
I never have the love issues so many people seem to have. I never get hurt by partners or lovers. I never want more from someone than they want from me. I never have a guard up and I never get attached. And yet I love fully. I love people unconditionally, even when they cheat on me or treat me poorly. And then I love the shit out of them when I’m breaking up with them. My guard stays down, I stay without attachments, and I continue to love them. All of my exes remain close friends.
I feel wise in this aspect of my life. I feel like I understand something that other people are avoiding. When people are hurt or disappointed or depressed because of their relationship with love and partnership, all I see is unnecessary suffering.
Here’s what I understand that most people don’t:
1. I feel emotionally secure.
Socially, I’m good. I don’t need anything circumstantially to feel safe or worthy or comfortable. I know, with certainty, that I am the only person responsible for how I feel. This means I never have a guard up. I never even consider protecting myself or guarding my heart because I’m the only person who could hurt it. This means I’m open and transparent and authentic with everyone I date.
People who feel emotionally vulnerable are not taking responsibility for their sense of security. They’re outsourcing their sense of safety. Because these folks feel at risk, they’re more manipulative of their circumstances and the people around them. They need things to be a certain way in order for them to feel safe and worthy and comfortable. Their mood is attached to specific circumstances and outcomes. Their thoughts and emotions depend on their external reality.
Here’s the irony: The only real risk is when you link your experience to something you can’t control: your circumstances and the behavior of those around you.
2. I’ve learned to love my life
I’ve taught myself to take full responsibility for how I experience my life. I’ve taught myself to love my life for what it is right now. I love being alone. I love writing or working with my team. I love having time to spend with my family and friends. I love dating occasionally. This means I perceive no “voids” that need filling. Socially, there is nothing missing in my life. (There’s nothing missing in yours either. This is a mindset; not a physical result.)
I would love to be in a committed relationship with someone who resonates with me, but I don’t need that and I’m not looking for it. It’s kinda like how I would love to be on a first-name basis with Oprah but I’m not missing not having it. And in both cases, I feel comfortable and confident that it’ll happen. And if it doesn’t, that’s cool because I love my life right now. Unconditionally.
This means my bar is very high. I never stay with people because we have history or because he loves me or because of all the good times. I’m comfortable and almost a little eager to end relationships that don’t meet my standard of life. I actually love my life. And if a relationship doesn’t thrill me the way the rest of my life does, it’s a no.
This also means that when I am interested in someone who is not interested in me, it’s effortless for me to transition to friendship. I need nothing from anyone. This frees me up to love freely, in whatever form; without neediness or stickiness or attachment.
When I say “I need nothing from anyone” I don’t mean the “Fuck you, I’m independent I don’t need you or anyone.” connotation. That person is hurting. Their guard is up. They’re not engaged. They don’t know that their resistance will only hurt them worse.
When I say “I need nothing from anyone,” I mean it literally: I love you no matter what; I don’t need you to love me back. I’m happy no matter what; I don’t need you to spend time with me or want me or be happy with me.
Thanks Melo for the photo you beautiful, talented fuck.