At thirty years old, I’ve done my fair share of dating. I don’t have a huge plethora of relationships under my belt [long-term ones, at least], but I’ve gone on plenty of dates and had several short-term relations with guys. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 17, and I didn’t have a serious boyfriend until I was 18 – so, my dating years have pretty much been crammed into a 12-year period of time.
It’s safe to say that the first 18 years of my life were very shy and sheltered [of my own doing – my parents constantly encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone]. While this hindered my dating and relationship experience, it did, on the flipside, allow me silently grow independently and to objectively observe how other people acted in their relationships. It gave me the opportunity to learn what I did and did not want in my own relationships.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed in my short thirty years on earth is that many women stay in relationships that they know are toxic – not only for them, but for the significant other as well. We waste years of our lives on boys [sorry, can’t refer to these individuals as “men” – they haven’t earned that title] who treat us horribly. When there’s a breakup, we take them back when they come groveling. When they abuse us, whether physically, verbally, or emotionally, we forgive them when they apologize and swear it’ll never happen again [and yet, it always does. and we know it will keep happening again and again and again].
My question is: why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we consistently stay with individuals who treat us so horribly? Who have absolutely no respect for us as women or as human beings? WHY? I know every single one of us has warning signals – there are always signs telling us to GET THE FUCK OUT, and yet none of us listen to them. And none of us get out when presented with opportunities. I mean, we literally allow these relationships to hit rock fucking bottom before the light bulb goes on and we think, Hmm, maybe this relationship SUCKS ASS.
And, going hand-in-hand with the self-degradation of staying in these relationships, is this feeling that we need somebody else in our lives to feel whole. This is a HUGE problem, especially for women who start dating so young – we become dependent on our significant other. Teenage and early twenties are crucial growing years in our lives. We’re all on this hormonal roller coaster, we’re experiencing all kinds of milestones, and instead of growing independently and learning who we are and how to deal with conflicts, speed bumps, and curve balls on our own, we end up leaning on somebody else for support through trying times. And someday, when these relationships inevitably end [because young love generally does], we come out so lost and disoriented that the only thing we know is to jump into another relationship. Instead of having our own identity, we become who we date. We define ourselves based on whose bed we happen to be sharing [okay, not the best reference, but you get the idea].
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t lean on somebody for help and support when times get rough. Of course you should! That is absolutely what friends, family and relationships are for [among other things]. The worst thing you can do is keep things to yourself when they’re causing you unmanageable stress and anxiety. BUT, first and foremost, it’s important to know who you are throughout the entire process. Don’t lose yourself in somebody else’s identity. Know that the people in your life are there to support you and to love you from beginning to end – and the people who aren’t need to be given the boot.
Ladies, we have worked TOO DAMN HARD in these first world countries to be reverting back to the Victorian era and beyond. We fought tooth-and-nail for a voice, for the right to vote, to be able to work alongside men, to be able to fight alongside men. We’ve come so far from the days of arranged marriages due to social status, being forced to stay in bad relationships due to guaranteed social ruin from divorce, no right to vote, have a voice or have a say in our finances or really our own lives. Why in the world would we ever want to willingly go back to that life? To stay in a relationship that’s unhealthy and degrading when we have a choice not to? Do we like feeling like shit? Feeling like we aren’t good enough? Is it something in our water?
I speak from experience. Despite all my years as a shy woman, growing independently and learning from other people’s mistakes, I still ended up dating a dude with no respect for women or himself. He was controlling, manipulative, insecure and just an all-around jerk. All of these things stemmed from family issues, and yet he took them out on me. I justified my relationship with him – I would be broke if I left him. We have fun together. He’s got a boat and nice cars. He’s got that bad boy thing going on. The list goes on. Nine out of ten of my friends have been in similar situations – guys who don’t respect them and treat them horribly. They’ve all done the same thing; made excuses about their boyfriend to people around them, which ultimately meant they were just trying to convince themselves. But at the end of the day, you shouldn’t have to justify your relationship – it should just BE.
Just remember that it is NEVER TOO LATE to get out of a bad relationship. And regardless of how long you spend dating an idiot, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman. We all make mistakes, we all have to go through our own experiences and motions in life in order to learn lessons. Know that you are not alone out there. You are not the only or first woman to try pushing through a shit relationship. There are always other gals out there you can lean on and relate to when you’re feeling alone in the world. So don’t suffer through this sort of thing alone! Reach out to others – me if you’d like! Believe me, there are more of us out there than you think.