It was always the same story. Three relationships in a row ended, and after a few months, I always ended up right back with them, only to realize that it was a huge mistake shortly after. A failed relationship hat trick.
Three times I heard from well-meaning friends that re-dating someone was never a good idea. And three times I completely ignored their correct advice and focused on an often fictional and unattainable trope of not realizing what you had until it’s gone, and then winning back the love of your life and living happily ever after. Why was I stuck on avoiding real life examples and firmly grasping written stories that literally play into the psyche that got me here in the first place? Because I was a lovesick douche-noggin, that’s why.
I got the “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” speech three times in a row, citing that it was really just an issue of our relationship running its course. I wanted so badly to call bullshit, to tell them that while, yes, this happens, it’s hard to believe it could happen in a year’s time. The traditions of bringing home their favorite dessert from Magnolia Bakery or going to the same restaurant on Tuesday nights were no longer bullet points in the Pros column of our relationship.
The second time around always lasted about a third of the time of the actual relationship, and yet I continued to hold out hope that this time would be different.
If my relationship history was a scene in a movie, it would be shown as a quick montage of happy relationships set to an ambient indie song. It was stacked split-screens of melancholy breakup conversations on twin-sized beds that would then lead to make-up scenes in dimly lit dorm rooms and apartments. Successive, easily fast-forwardable moments that made me want to face-palm after the second time and yet, I would continue to do it all over again.
I know that many women have had a similar experience to me, thinking that maybe they missed something the first time around, and with crossed fingers, dive back in twofold. For some, it’s that push that kickstarts a chain reaction and the fire restarts like a motor that finally turned over. For others, me for example, you settle back into the routine that caused the breakup in the first place and ultimately fizzle out completely.
For a while, I was convinced that there was something wrong with me, that I was this trophy that guys only viewed as a notch in their relationship belt. I was a stepping stone in their path and not the end result (or at least a memorable notion). I felt like I was more of an idea that men wanted rather than an actual person.
The funny thing is that there actually was something wrong with me, but it wasn’t that I was a better idea of a person than an actual person. It was that I was ultimately doing to myself exactly what these men had done to me. I was taking myself for granted and not giving myself enough (or really any) credit. I watered myself down to fit back into a relationship that wasn’t successful in the first place because it was sufficient and more comfortable than being alone and forced to actually try and better myself. It’s much easier to self-deprecate while in a relationship than when out of one, but that doesn’t make it less harmful. When you’re in a relationship and you belittle yourself, it’s seen as humble or modest. But when you’re single, it’s pathetic.
It’s something that so many women before me, and many women after me, have done and will do. It’s easy to default to something being inherently wrong with yourself, because that way, you have an excuse. You are the excuse and you just end up selling yourself short. The difficult part is realizing that you need to do better by yourself than other people. You need to be present in your own relationship with yourself, just as much as you need to be present in a relationship with someone else. And after months of making excuses not to be, I finally started.
After years of not realizing that a lot of my relationships hinged on my complacent ignorance of being taken for granted and my incredible ability to shit on my own existence, I am now vocal when I feel under-appreciated, and it’s not met with an eye roll or empty promise to be better; it’s taken as a serious conversation (albeit uncommon because, frankly, I feel incredibly appreciated and loved in my current relationship, something I definitely didn’t think I would be saying a few years ago).
Re-dating helped me come to terms what the fact that my last-ditch effort to save my relationship wasn’t about saving the relationship at all — it was about avoiding a deeper trust issues in relationships that I finally was able to correct. I was finally strong enough to take a step back and say “Listen, it’s not you, it’s me,” and actually have it mean something.