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Lessons in Dating With Anxiety

Dating in your 30’s is not a whole heck of a lot of fun. But dating in your 30’s when you suffer from anxiety, well that’s when shit gets real interesting, folks. I’ve recently taken it upon myself to find shiny new ways to oscillate between self-destruction and self-preservation, when it comes to matters of the heart. And when I first thought about it, I hesitated in even writing this post. But then I realized that I started this blog to help people, with not only their physical health, but also with their mental health. And with that said, cue the need for transparency and vulnerability.

I wanna say something kitchy like, “I haven’t really had the best of luck with relationships” or “I just haven’t met the right person yet”, but to be honest – those statements are a stinkin’ pile of horse manure. Because I have met incredible people and I’ve even spent years of my life with some of them. I’ve met amazing potential partners who have turned into even better friends in the end. And yeah, I’ve also met some shitty ones too, don’t get me wrong. But everyone had or still has a time and place in my life, for a reason. And well, luck or lack thereof really doesn’t have that much to do with it. Reciprocal and mutually-shared effort sure the heck does though. And that just wasn’t always aligned, as it happens sometimes in life, and that’s okay.

I will admit, however, to not always making the best choices for myself when it comes to love. And yes, lessons have been learned along the way and then filed away somewhere for safekeeping. But I’m still working on others and might have a long way to go on them yet, until I’ve been taught whatever the heck it is that I’m meant to learn. And this is all a normal part of the ebbs and flows of any relationship. The one thing that throws me off the most though, is my anxiety. And I get it, people can experience bouts of anxiety in many different stressful situations – but, I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about what it’s like to live every single day with that proverbial dark ball of potential chaos following you around… and then trying to date.

I met someone in January. And gosh darnit, he’s a wonderful human. Just not always a wonderful human to me. He’s got so much going for him. Physically, he’s the man of my dreams – I can’t even begin to describe how absolutely gorgeous I think he is, in every aspect. He’s smart, funny, talented, driven, so easy to be around, someone I can laugh and be goofy and be myself with, and so much deeper than he can come across initially. His laugh is one of the best sounds in the world. And listen, I could have easily fallen for him, without even a second thought. But, it was pretty apparent in the beginning that this wasn’t going to be a “relationship” in a conventional sense so-to-speak, regardless of how amazingly well we get along. But we still choose to see each other casually – more physically to be honest, with quite a unique dynamic (but, I’ll save those details for another time). And the sex, oh my god, the sex – it’s the best I’ve ever had (sorry to all my exes out there for that one – actually, no I’m not sorry at all… cause it’s that amazing and he’d certainly agree).

But you see, I have this thing I like to call my “perpetual guilt complex” and with this comes the constant need to please others, to make others feel like I’m not in their way, to make sure that they feel 100% appreciated, or that they always know I care. My anxiety makes me feel bad a lot. Not necessarily because other people are making me feel that way, but because I inherently just feel like I’m a burden on others. I don’t know where this stems from, but it’s something that I work on trying to shift every single day. So, with anyone new that I meet on any romantic-level, I immediately go into it with the idea that they won’t want me to get in their way or that I’m going to be a drain on them somehow, so I default by completely accommodating to them and their needs. It’s super healthy… right?!

With him, I’m literally the most accommodating and forgiving human on this entire planet, hands-down. He’s even acknowledged it several times, which might be the worst part, because he freakin’ knows it. The stories I could tell you about the times I’ve gone out of my way for him without any reciprocation, the times he just hasn’t shown up after making actual plans with me (like, literally telling me he was on his way to my place and then no-show and then I wouldn’t hear from him for days), has toyed with my emotions, or just stopped talking to me for weeks at a time, used me, shut me out… and yet, I’ve soldiered on and haven’t even so much as addressed it with him – because I just don’t wanna be in the way. And for some reason, even at his worst, I still want him. It’s strange, because I have a serious blind spot for this person and I have no idea why.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know if I actually want a relationship with him and he doesn’t seem to want one with me either – which in all honesty might be pretty great all things considered. I naturally let things go because I don’t expect anything out of him, which to some of you may seem a bit backwards – because at the least, I do deserve some respect. But my rationale is that setting expectations on one another can be limiting on both sides and that the only ones I should ever set are on myself, regardless of the arrangement. We don’t really owe each other anything and I kind of like it that way, at the point I’m at in my life. And also, I feel the need to constantly remind myself and other people, that we aren’t together.

He’s been the best and the worst thing for my anxiety. He’s taught me, unknowingly, that I can’t control what happens, but that I can control how I react to it – which is a huge one for me. And yeah, sometimes the way I react isn’t the best, but I’ve felt a lot more empowered by the idea of actually recognizing it. I can’t and I won’t pretend that I haven’t had really bad moments reacting to a situation I’ve been put in with him, potentially by him. But, I’d like to believe that it was all a lesson, one way or the other.

I love that I don’t give up on people easily. I love that I can find the best in someone, regardless of their faults, because it shows me that I can still see the beauty in the world. I can still find the good. But I don’t love how easily I can justify someone’s shitty actions – once again, an example of the blind spot I’ve developed. I don’t love that I have a hard time letting go sometimes and I don’t know why. And I don’t love how I don’t know if this is my anxiety talking or if this is just who I am, because the two tend to intertwine sometimes and get a little mixed up.

Now, you might be reading this thinking the same thing that all of my close friends and family who know all about my current situation are thinking and telling me on a regular basis… that I should cut him out of my life and move on. But, for some reason, I’m just not there yet. I’m a logic-based yet creative person, who has anxiety but also compartmentalizes a lot. Meaning I have moments of emotional turmoil, which I talk myself out of, and then shove into neat little drawers in my mind, dust myself off and then get back up again all shiny and new until the next wave comes along. So, for the most part, I’m totally fine with what’s going on, because I can step back and see it for what it really is. I’m not naive, I fully recognize that this isn’t great for me though.

The idea that one day I’ll just meet “that” person – the one human, who will change everything… feels like such a hot load of crap. Mostly because I’m already “that” person. I’m the one who will change everything for myself. And if someone wants to come along and join me for the ride, that’s freakin’ awesome, hop on board. But I’m not of the mindset that I’ll just meet this unicorn of a person and everything will magically fall into place like some frilly little fairytale. I’m tired of people perpetuating this idea and then regurgitating it to me as a form of dating advice. Like they think it will make me feel less alone, or satiate some idealistic part of my psyche. Relationships take work, they take sacrifice, they take compromise, they take understanding and compassion and empathy and friendship… and then love. Because if I’ve learned anything about relationships, it’s that sometimes love just isn’t enough.

I know one day soon, I’m gonna look back on this post and maybe I’ll laugh because all of this is in the past and I’ve moved on to bigger and better things. But you know what? Me and my anxiety are just gonna ride this one out for now. With each new day, I’m gaining a deeper understanding of how truly resilient I have the potential to be. Despite the anxiety, I’ve learned how to release the idea of how I think something is supposed to turn out in my head. And as much as it still sucks sometimes, the fact that I know I can still love and be loved regardless of the pain, is why I will never stop trying.

xo

Catherine

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