In Relationship: Cowardice Masked In Courage.
It’s been strange, peculiar even, the amount of times the topic of relationship has been showing up in my world.
Yes, in Workshop, but also in conversation and in observation. The topic is weighty in the SINGLEDOM world and is mostly based in a conversation of extremes: i'm miserably single, or i need freedom. Rarely do we begin in a middle ground scenario, one that includes vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency. It's very unusual for someone to say: here's where I stand on relationships, here's why, here's how I communicate my needs/wants/desires, here are my boundaries, here's what's worked, here's what hasn't, here's how i speak my truth, here's how it's reciprocated, here's how I got here, and here's where I'm going. RARELY does someone say I AM ACTIVELY SEEKING THE UNKNOWN BY COMMITTING TO A PERSON because well, commitment -traditionally speaking - doesn't really seem that Unknown. But I'd like to argue that - we'll get to this.
For someone like me - a human whose ring finger is tattooed with a line reminding myself of my aversion to the institution of marriage - these conversations have certainly shifted my perspective, as group-talk often does. I've learned a lot by actively listening. Things are bubbling up that are making me question my tattooed line and the reasoning behind it. After all, when something causes a reaction to surface in a strong manner - ie; getting my finger branded - one has to question why?
If I felt as cool and collected and goooooood about being single and to my aversion to marriage, then wouldn't I also feel as cool and collected and goooooood about being open to exploring a relationship? Even one that could lead to (scary) marriage?
When you're grounded in your Truths - really knows them intimately - one tends to lean away from extremes. Usually one is a bit more fluid because we possessed the wisdom to understand that things are not so black and white. They are not so set in stone. They are not one way or the other. They are ever-changing. They ebb and flow. We evolve even while standing grounded in our Truth.
So why the aversion? And why the extreme? And why is my Cowardice Masked in Courage? And why are there so many single people looking to be in a relationship but can’t seem to find one in this world?
As you can see - I've been thinking (SHOCKER!). I think this will get you thinking too. I've packaged this neatly for you in little topical blurbs because I know how hard it is to READ ANYTHING LONGER than a tiny paragraph. I'm not judging - simply stating a fact (tell me I'm wrong).
I've probably missed a myriad of scenarios otherwise this would turn into one of my pages long essays and nobody's got time for that. However, I am willing to address other concerns you've got something to share. Tell me and I'll write about it in the next Relationship post.
Something tells me we'll be talking about this for a while.
I'm not the Relationship Type
Fine. I'll believe you. But what does that mean? Do you know what that means? How do you define that? How did you come to this conclusion? Have you always been this way? Usually the answer is something along the lines of citing a parents' divorce, a broken or traumatic past relationship, a need for freedom, indifference, lack of reason or explanation, narcissism, a parent-enmeshment, an addiction to control, or my favorite: look around you...the world is changing...we're not cut from the same cloth as our parents.
True. But we also haven't lived as long as them so we can't possibly know how our DESIRE for relationship avoidance is going to affect us in the long-run. What if we're wrong? What if what they were doing wasn't so bad after all ( if done in a healthy way -- continue reading below). I'm not necessarily advocating that we have to be in relationship to lead a fulfilling life but if one looks at the facts, we are a social species, we thrive in community, and life expectancy / happiness does increase significantly when we find ourselves in a healthy, longterm relationship. The 'building something with someone' aids in the building of life as a whole. Perhaps where we get it wrong is that once we're in a relationship, we shut our doors to everyone else: friendships, families, individuality. There's a balance here that can be created, one that continues to develop personal wealth + well-being but it takes major self-awareness and mindfulness, and most importantly, communication (more on that later).
I wasn't ready then
I recently sat down with a 44 year old man. An old acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen since my Barclays days in 2012. Back then he was in his late 30’s. He was riding high. I remember speaking to him about his world of relationships. It looked like this: I’m wealthy, I have a great job, I like good food, I travel, I have a beautiful apartment, I dress well, I’m relatively healthy — why can’t I show up with a new beautiful woman to every event? My answer always was: you can..anyone can, really (if they try hard enough .. or not at all) but what are you getting out of it? “FUN”, he’d say. “I’m not looking for anything serious.” This past week - over a cocktail - his tone changed. In his paraphrased words he told me, “I have it all. Everything. Literally everything anybody would want to be ‘happy’. But you know what, Alyonka? I’m unhappy. Really. Miserable.” Why, I asked. “I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s because I’ve got nobody to share this with. I’ve got nobody to call that truly cares. I’ve got nobody who understands me, loves me, supports me without ALL the STUFF I've spent the better part of my 30's acquiring.” Mmmm, I said. “And it’s not about me feeling unfulfilled on my own, or lonely, or in need of co-dependency, no! It’s just, well, it would be nice to share this with somebody".
Me First, then You, Maybe
“I just want to get myself on a solid foundation before I get into anything” or,
“I don’t want to be tied down to anything before I’ve found myself” or,
“I need the freedom to explore because I’m hunting the unknown” or,
"I'm deep in work right now" or,
"I'm healing me before I open my doors to anyone"...
I find these comments quite amusing. Why? Because from the age of 21 to 30 (after a brutally painful relationship experience) I would toss up these phrases on autopilot. I can't be in something or begin to be in something until I've FIXED myself, until I've FOUND myself, until I've TRIED THIS and DONE THAT, and ACCOMPLISHED THIS LEVEL OF SUCCESS. I roll my eyes at my naiveté.
Before starting these Workshops, I’d often cite my neeeed to be free of relationship with these gems; to access the unknown, to explore, to get shit out of my system before I committed to anything, intimacy issues, timing, the list goes on.
Once I began my Recovery and started SHOWING UP for the work I had to do on myself (Workshops included), I've had an entire shift in perspective. I’ve come to realize that all of these phrases were not stamps of my individuality, self-awareness, and freedom of choice. No. They were, in fact, the complete opposite. All of these phrases were stemming from an obvious space of FEAR and the at-all-costs avoidance of the ultimate Unknown: a Commitment to someone (which includes loyalty, responsibility, accountability, vulnerability, intimacy, connection, respect, communication, etc) based on a timeline and emotional trajectory I couldn't predict ie; I was out of control.
Fucking around? Easy. One night stands? Casual flings? Dating? Trying on people? Leaving them. Ghosting. Juggling multiple so-so situations? Being alone? EASY. EASY. EASY. In all of these scenarios...I AM IN FULL CONTROL: of my feelings, of the duration, of the outcome.
COMMITTING to someone, on the other hand - no matter the timeline - is TERRIFYING, as it's a full SURRENDER INTO THE UNKNOWN.
In THE UNKNOWN there are multiple variables to juggle, multiple emotions to process, multiple thoughts to weigh in on, and most of these decisions are done (if you're not a sociopath) with the other person in mind. So, for example, committing to someone for an unforeseen timeline might raise these thoughts: what if I stop liking them, what if they stop liking me, what if i'm attracted to someone else, what if they're attracted to someone else, what if they're fucking me over, what if i'm fucking them over, what if it ends, well what if i end it, but what if they end it, can i end it without hurting them, what if they hurt me, what if i can't commit in the way that i though i could...
It's exhausting typing these but you get what I'm saying.
Authenticity, my ass.
I'm just going to ride the wave.
I don't want to scare them away.
I don't want to push too hard.
yadda, yadda, yadda.
Really, though. What bullshit! Who are we kidding? This fear! Of Speaking One's Truth! I will say this again: WHEN YOU SPEAK YOUR TRUTH, THE RIGHT PERSON STAYS (wrong person leaves). We've become so fearful of stating our needs, desires, our boundaries, our non-negotiables, it's literally paralyzing us in our tracks. It does not allow us to get clarity on the trajectory of something and leaves us in-limbo, of neither here nor there, causing us to miss out on potentially great humans, all the while chipping away at our confidence and self-esteem, at the cost of "protecting our image and ego".
COMMUNICATION, people. If your needs, your desires, your "baggage", your fears, your boundaries, etc etc etc are a cause for someone to walk away? GOOD. A Genuine Human - one who's identified they want to be in a relationship - is WILLING to have the difficult, vulnerable, intimate conversation. They want to get to know the WHOLE you because they, like you, are investing in something here. They are, more or less, committing. The non-committal person, the wishy-washy 'I don't know what I want' or don't give you clear answers, is one foot in / one foot out. If you're seeking a Relationship - this person is NOT for you.
Respect yourself enough to Speak Your Truth. Not only to free yourself of what weighs you down but to use it as a tool to better understand the situation at hand. Ask Questions. TALK. No, it does not take away the romance, or the magic, or the sexual build-up. On the contrary, it ENHANCES the overall experience because there's a layer of safety and comfort being established.
TAKE THE RISK while you're still developing or RISK BEING BURNED once you've already placed roots into something that wasn't meant to be seeded.
Traditional, Ain't For Me.
I'm not going to go into the whole world of polyamorous relationships and underground sex parties + clubs. The topic of sex and sexual exploration/freedom deserves it's own post. I'm not so sure that we're really understanding sex. Meaning, we explore and push ourselves into these extremes before really having a conversation about why we're doing it in the first place.
Like I said, this deserves a post of its' own. What I'll say is this: I know my boundaries, my okays and not-okays, and they are, more or less, non-negotiable. Unless, I'm in something that has proven to be a "safe" space for me cultivated by our mutual respect for one another, at which point, there is an opportunity to have a conversation on what it would look like to explore. This includes all non-traditional relationship options. That's me. This doesn't have to be you. But don't kid yourself into being a person who's 'down for anything' when deep down inside you know that you're not.
For this one I'll go ahead and say the Me First, Then You mentality is not a bad practice: get to a place where you know what works / doesn't work for you -- and then learn to Speak Your Truth.
“Literally everyone is getting a divorce”
It's a common phrase I’ll hear in my circle of peers (we’re in the age range of 28 - 40), followed by a “what the f is going on?” and, “I’m never going down that route” and, “clearly they married for the wrong reasons”. It’s not not true. A lot of my peers are going through a divorce. A lot of my female peers are dating divorced men. A lot of my older male friends are divorced and dating my female peers. It’s this circle of people who’ve done it, “failed” and are looking to do it again but this time differently. This time for "the right reasons". Not like last time because, well, failure. C'mon - there is nothing worse.
Usually, most times, what is talked about in terms of the said failure is that the two people weren’t compatible, or, two people became one and lost their individuality, or, two people weren’t the right match forced to marry because of (societal, familial, etc.) pressures, or, on the occasion, there is infidelity. The point is this: people talk about other people but rarely are the divorced talking about themselves, which means we’ve got a whole lot of singles speculating on the potential demise of their non-existent relationships, instead of actively giving it a shot.
If you ask me: this is a dangerous rhetoric to toss out into the Universe. We're quick to squash because it's 'proven' not to work, instead of investigating on our own. The "why even bother if it's clearly not going to work out anyway" isn't good for anybody. The divorced included (remember: they're hurting!)
Generation Instant Gratification
I went to see the documentary on RGB. Aside from the multiple brilliant takeaways on her career, the one BIG thing that stuck out to me was her incredible relationship with her husband, Marty. Decades of marriage, of support, of calling out each others' bullshit, of balancing out each others' weaknesses and strengths. Of many losses, wins, and dealing with THINGS. WORK, people. IMMENSELY DIFFICULT, GRATIFYING WORK. Like anything else that is rewarding and meaningful.
We live in a world where we can have ANYTHING at a moment's notice. If we don't like it? We can swipe next. Or, add another DM to the stream of on-going DM's in our threads. No response? No worries; i'll send X a message. Canceled? I've got somebody else in line. It's an ever-swirling door that leaves in running in circles.
Even when we choose to COMMIT to someone (and lord knows that's a mountain few of us want to climb), once the honeymoon phase is over, once the #instabf and #instacouple and cute travel photos and stories, etc. fade into the mundane. Once the going gets tough..most of us are OUT.
I told you this wasn't going to last! I told you this was going to be hard! I told you it was a mistake to date -- sustaining happiness in a relationship is impossible.
We forget that life ebbs and flows. We forget that it takes work. I'm not sure when we decided that things should be easy. I'm not sure when we became believers of a life that falls gently, neatly-packaged, and instagrammable into our lives.
Of course - if this sounds good to you - more power to you. If this is the life you want to lead, lead it. Just make sure you communicate it (try to be a good person) and then make sure you're heard. And have the decency to let somebody know that they're not getting the message when they keep following up unprompted. Ghosting ... don't get me started.
The Real stuff: when things gets Ugly + Scary
Recently, a female friend of mine in her 40’s received a health scare. Melanoma. Immediate surgery. This on top of the empire she’s running and the 24/7 on-call lifestyle had her feeling emotionally ill. We sat down. She talked. I listened. After releasing all of her fears she followed up with, “I’m just so lucky to have Rob (changing name for privacy). I don’t know what I would do without him. Just being able to call and to say that I’m scared, I’m overwhelmed, I’m falling apart, how will we get through this … and to hear him stand firm as a rock in support of me eased a million of my pains away immediately.” Mmm, I said. That’s big. “Yeah. He won’t fix it but that’s not the point. He’s there at a moment’s notice. Exactly when I need him and not an ounce more.” Their relationship is one that is built on TWO individuals working alongside one another. None of the "two become one bullshit" we so often hear. It's unfortunate but it's become a breath of fresh air to see someone I admire - a female mentor of mine - lean into her pride to source her "man” as a pillar she can lean on, instead of the usual feminist rhetoric I hear.
The truth here is this: if you happen to experience severe health issues, oh boy, do you quickly get to see the true colors of the people in your life. The texts stop. The DM's go away. Your inner-circle dwindles. There are one, maybe two people in your life who will go out of their way to aid you when you're ailing. I'm not suggesting that we should find partners so that we've got someone to take care of us, but, by putting yourself in the shoes of "having less than the human basics", suddenly the MORE MORE MORE mentality slips away. I, for one, believe that that's where we reallllly hear our truths. That's where community, love, relationship really starts calling.
Here's why I believe we're in what many are calling the 'Singles Epidemic'. It's a work-in-progress sort of list.
Why are there so many amazingly single people out there?
There's no one way to answer this but here's my two cents on it based on the examples I've provided:
People are afraid of Commitment (even if that means short-term) because there's too much of The Unknown ie; it's safer to be single and in control
People are afraid of Communicating their Truth because of the potential for -- rejection, abandonment, not being good enough, letting someone down, hurting someone in the process, changing their mind, fear of being alone, etc. -- getting hurt
People are confused with the changing currents of the relationship world. Nobody knows what's right, what's wrong, and what they should believe in, so we source what everybody else is doing and follow suit without thinking
People are distracted by the world of instant gratification, are in one way or another addicted to the hit of dopamine a new DM, a text, or a new face immediately feeds, or are constantly looking around the corner; the 'there must be someone better for me' and 'the fear of missing out'
People are masking their desire for Connection with a defense-mechanism known as "me first, then you, maybe", "i'm not the relationship type", "i'm not ready, yet", "i need time to explore me", etc.
People are truly meant for and set on Singledom and they're either a) not communicating this clearly, or b) are not being heard // we've all got to do a better job of hearing and believing what the other person is saying, like, the first time, and not after you've gone through the process of trying to "change them" and feel disappointed once you realize that they had zero intention of changing
People are feeling shame for wanting an old school, old generation type of love and therefore pretend to be someone they're not
People are too focused on showcasing an Instagram relationship vs. Being Present in the Present Moment (sans social media) and fully discovering one another (i've literally had people say that a prerequisite for a potential lover is someone with a large social media following)
People are quick to bounce when things become difficult, lackluster, not as hot as they used to be, insert here ___________ anything that makes you leave at the first sign of DISCOMFORT (ahh, so scary, right?)
People are quick to bounce when past traumas are triggered, the 'i'd rather be ignorant to it, than to have to face it'
People are not being their authentic selves and are therefore false-advertising // some tread on sociopathic tendencies -- i'm not focusing on those in this post
People are resistant to Commitment because SEE! It doesn't work anyways. Divorce, duh!
People are chasing to be in something just to be in something, instead of figuring out why they want to be in something first
People are doing the personal work and exploration first, before adding someone into the equation, not realizing that the personal work NEVER ends, and that the "right" person could actually aid and enhance your exploration for the time being (nothing's permanent, remember?)
People are too focused on finding "the one" versus exploring the good that's right in front of them
People don't realize how difficult it is to find a person who matches majority of your fundamentals, jumping ship at the slightest characteristic that doesn't fit "the list"
P.s. do you know your fundamentals?
CONTROVERSIAL: people's lives are so stable, so good, so secure (ie; we have food/water, shelter, some sort of a job, healthy ... i'm not even including our ability to travel, connect with people from all over the world, have access to internet, clean water, healthcare, education, NO WARS, no FAMINES, no ILLNESS, etc.) that we've lost track of Gratitude for genuine, wholesome connection, where nothing is good enough and we want (and feel like we deserve) more, more more...
Do I need to continue? There are a million and one reasons that I could list. I'm sure you're sreaming at me right now: ALYONKA, YOU FORGOT THIS! Yes, maybe. Perhaps.
In my opinion the biggest reason of all is that we're Cowards. We're afraid of being Seen, of being Heard, of Being Loved, of Feeling Belonging, only to have it taken away at a moment's notice, or for walking away ourselves and being labeled as a shitty person. Somewhere along the way we've forgotten that things aren't permanent. That Life itself isn't permanent. It changes in the ordinary instant. And with that, we've forgotten the true meaning of Courage: the taking a LEAP OF FAITH, of Showing Up Boldly, of Speaking Your Truth, of taking a Risk, of holding oneself accountable, responsible, respectful. Of being Honest and Kind with yourself and the other person involved. Of Communicating transparently. Of Being Human.
You know...good ol' fashioned work that so many of us avoid doing. We've become a people that is steeped in a belief that a Relationship needs to be Magical, Shiny, Brilliant, a feel-good HIGH - the kind we see on instagram. We forget that getting to the magic takes tremendous work once we've aligned all of our fundamentals in order to create something sustainable; something we can be proud of in the cleanest sense of the word.
Don't call me old fashioned because i'm not - remember the tattoo? - but I feel that I've been masking my COWARDICE for COURAGE, and I'd like to change that. I'd like to challenge myself to really step into The Unknown and to FULLY Face my Fear and embrace my Discomfort.
I want to do the work. What about you?