Trauma, Tragedy, and Tinder

As if dating wasn’t hard enough.

Let’s be honest. We put our faces and bodies in closer proximity to new faces and bodies and try to mash our bits and our baggage together and see if we can stand it.

It’s exhilarating; it’s exhausting.

And my baggage got real heavy for a while.

As if dating wasn’t hard enough.

The delicate dance of wanting someone to know you, but not wanting them to know too much. Gauging if they can be trusted, and if so, with what? With everything? How do you know when you’re sharing or oversharing? Are they listening? Do they want to leave?
I dated someone for about 9 months. Our entire relationship had been a carefully-woven fabric of delightful bullshit.

As if dating wasn’t hard enough.

I was tired. I had invested so much and I lost big. (There’s so much more to this story.)

I went on a terrible date with an extremely drunk, angry lawyer and his equally angry dog attacked me.

I was very okay with being single, but I really did want to meet someone new. People from my past hovered and reminded me of all of the mistakes I had made, all of the pain, that blurry, nauseating time in my life where I couldn’t find myself in the fog.

I wanted to date around, something I had never really successfully done. I also never wanted to leave my house. Strange combination.

I went on one more date with a new match. I gathered myself up, told myself the only thing I had to do tonight was have fun being out, even if in the end, it was just with myself.

I felt a flood of confusion when he wrapped me up in a hug on our first date and it felt safe. I felt a flood of confusion when I opened up about my history and he kindly listened and shared some of his pain as well. I felt a flood of confusion when he clearly told me he wanted to be with me and that was an easy choice for him.

The steadiness of his love continues to bewilder me at times.

On our fourth date, he gently asked if I would be okay if he read my book. On our fifth date, I slipped him a copy.

My best friend had some concerns.

No! Don’t hand him the cheat codes! 

It was true. The Corner Chip was where I wrote out all the shame and guilt and grief and put it out in the world in hopes that it would do good for me and for others. Giving it to someone who wanted to be intimately tied to me was scary. But, I wanted him to have those cheat codes. Because now I was better equipped to identify when someone was going to use them against me. And if this one was for real, I would know after that.

There were lighter things, too. Slowly sinking into a broken bench seat at a grimy bar but being too polite to mention that his ass was going numb.  Or giggling and snorting. Or running out of things to say so you hit them with “so, are all your grandparents dead?”
Normal stuff.

Actually, normal is scary for people like me. The absence of chaos is terrifying. I’ve been a perfectionist people-pleaser for so long. I recently learned about fawning and the bell of clarity clanged around my brain for days after reading about it.

What do we do with ourselves when the world gets quiet for once and there’s no direct impending doom? There’s nothing for us to fix because we’ve removed the connections that don’t serve us, there’s no need to fawn because you are already loved and accepted.

Most of my bonds have been trauma-bonds, keeping me in cycles of abuse and manipulation and on and on and on.

But now, things are quiet.

Some days are extremely difficult still. It’s not like you just meet someone and everything melts away into bliss. You still have to do the work. You still have to learn how to ask for what you need. You will fuck up. The right person will give you the right amount of space– just enough space and silence to start to see your terrible habits and shitty patterns.

And lately, I find myself returning to my partner weekly with a new batch of shit I’m working through. Some days, I feel like I’m presenting the worst side of myself to him.

My last relationship exhausted me beyond what I thought was possible. I had been manipulated so deeply that I laid in my bed almost perfectly still for what seemed like hours. That’s how disempowered I had become.

Arriving at this place where I can look at my partner with tears in my eyes and just say “I feel bad and I don’t feel okay.” And know that it’s safe is massive. He normalizes those feelings. He reminds me of my value as a person, not as a possession, not as a trophy, not as a prop.

Growth is extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know why I always had this image in my head of growth being angelic and for some reason, I thought more sunflowers would be involved.

But no, it’s kind of ugly. Wiping off a layer of dirt is thrilling until you realize that you are in a giant mud pit and one layer of dirt doesn’t make a difference but IT DOES. It DOES make a difference.

Knowing that you have a lot of uncovering and cleaning and healing to do can feel insurmountable. You have to do the work, but surround yourself with people who can hand you the brooms for cleaning, the tools for uncovering, and tons of love and support for everything else.

And your job, your main job if you’re just starting out, is to accept that. Is to allow the right ones in.


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