I would like to create an animation of how most women look at love and romance, versus how it mostly is in reality.
The cognitive dissonance.
A clip capturing our actual experiences versus how we envision our relationships will be when we meet a person who fits our idea of who we should be with.
We might not be aware of when it happens, but we do immediately assign characteristics and expectations to men we desire, without even knowing if they possess it or can live up to them.
We also tuck red flags that cannot be hidden, into corners of our minds. Only to bring them out much later, after the relationships is already underway.
We do this over, and over, and over again.
Are we insane?
After repeating this cycle for most of my early twenties, I finally caught myself. Why was I insistent on repeating the same mistakes? Why was I quick to ignore telling signals or justify problematic actions if I liked a person? Was I not relying on intellect to make decisions on who I allowed access to my life?
In the process of questioning myself, I found that my views became more radical. It started to feel like men and relationships were not worth the trouble.
After a short time dating, I found myself unable to pretend that with time, problematic behavior would change. I was surprised at how easy it became for me to walk away from men who looked good on paper. How easy it became to look past their shiny exterior in favor of how I felt instead. I lost my desire to be treated badly by men. Once my mind latched on to using my intellect to choose men, It became a hard habit to shake.
Why wasn’t I giving more chances? Because he doesn’t deserve it.
Why wasn’t I being patient? Because I was wasting my time.
Why wasn’t I playing the waiting game? Because what was the point, his actions had spoken for itself.
Why couldn’t I just pretend to be happy, to justify not losing my relationship? Because I would really rather be happy.
Why wasn’t I asking myself questions that already had answers? Because I did not want to lie to myself.
Swinging between my actual observations, and the picture perfect illusion of what could be, I started finding that being real with myself made me feel more in control of my life.
Questioning myself, led to an acceptance of my personal happiness as an indicator for engaging and staying in a relationship.
No matter how deliciously perfect a man appeared, if I didn’t feel wanted, appreciated or treated the way I required, I would walk away, and life would go right on.
It began to make my dating life incredibly easy. It began to help me understand what I needed from a relationship. Being present in making the decision on what I knew would serve me in relationship, regardless of how attracted I was to the idea of a person, made it easy for me to always choose myself.
I found myself no longer engaging in my own delusions. Actions spoke louder than words.
I would be cognizant. I would not let myself be carried away by physical attraction, “marriage material” qualities, fear of being alone, and pressure from family and friends. I would instead make choices that were suited for me.
I would properly categorize my dating options. I wouldn’t fool myself.
If it looked like a duck, walked like a duck and talked like a duck, it was a duck.
If it said it wasn’t a duck, and acted like a duck, it was a duck.
If i wanted it so bad to not be a duck, but it still persisted in being a duck, it was a duck.
If it started off not being a duck, and then midway became a duck, it was always a duck.
It became about me.
And making it about me, made it clear where it had always gone wrong.
We have a tendency as women to romanticize men & relationships. We are not fully to blame for this, society conditions us from birth to look to marriage as a form of completion. Being single is considered a form of purgatory for women, a transitory period we celebrate when it ends.
Hurray! you have been freed from the agony of your own company!
Anything else would be more favorable than you simply enjoying your own life, without a man by your side.
It has caused us to continually accept less than what we deserve.
How many personal experiences do you need to have to see men and relationships realistically?
How many more friends and family members do you need to see hurt or betrayed by men they love and support?
How many excuses do you need to hear friends and family make to justify why their lovers/boyfriends/husbands deserve a second/third/fourth chance?
At some point, you have to become self aware.
At some point, you have to snap out of your tendency to delude yourself.
At some point, you have to quit tapping into relationships, and begin tapping into your self.
There is beauty in finding fulfilling love and being happy in a relationship, but never bank your happiness solely on finding love and being in a relationship.
Once you are able to get the fairytale gleam out of your eyes, you will begin to view men clearly as they present themselves to be, as often scum. And relationships will appear as they often are, dramatic, difficult, draining, heartbreaking and often the cause of immense pain to many women around the world.
Once you are able to proceed pragmatically, you are better prepared to save yourself and not your relationship if your partner betrays you. Or if your relationship implodes on it’s own.
I want women to understand the reality of how easy it is to lose ourselves when we are not prepared to walk away based on how we expect to be treated.
I want us to always choose ourselves.
Because, I am tired.
I am tired of seeing brilliant women become drained and reduced versions of ourselves because of men.
I am tired of men embarrassing women they claim to love, turning beautiful, intelligent women into insecure, anxious messes.
I am tired of seeing women lose themselves and lose respect for themselves, because they are too weak to break away from a man.
I am tired and I want women to be present. I want us to be pragmatic in how we approach men and relationships, to prepare ourselves selfishly before choosing to engage.
So many of us are still locked into an idealized mindset. We are seduced by the idea that there is this one special person in the world created for us. We are seduced by seemingly happy couples on TV and social media, we look at weddings wistfully, and wish for the day it will be our turn.
Why wouldn’t it be so, when the world constantly tells us our wedding day will be the happiest day of our lives?
I will be the woman who tells you the truth. Your happiest day can be any and every day in your life. You don’t have to wait till your wedding day to live joyously. You don’t have to bet on just one day that requires the participation of another, to celebrate YOUR happiest day.
Once you discover that happiness belongs to you,
Once you begin to protect your joy,
You find that you begin to control what you let hurt you.
It becomes hard to let yourself be broken. To lose yourself in an attempt to save an idea that does not exist anymore.
Another common tendency we engage in as women, especially if we are religious, is to bestow divine attributes on the men we want.
We are told from childhood to pray for our future husbands, to pray to God to send us a good man, a God fearing man.
Every married woman who is religious prayed just as you do. They prayed for the husbands they received, yet, some still married demons. Some prayed fervently and still ended up with the worst types of men.
This should tell you another truth, you are the one who does the choosing.
We are humans and we are not always able to make the right decisions for ourselves. Absolving ourselves of our own accountability makes it very difficult to fix our problems.
Your intention was not to choose a flawed man, but it happened.
Knowing that you made this choice, and that your prayers were for God to guide your decisions, and not necessarily send you a person, helps you break away from relationships that don’t serve you.
It is not your life long burden to endure maltreatment. It is not your destiny to suffer emotional and physical neglect from a man because you said yes to being with him.
Choosing yourself simply means being able to step back and reassess your happiness, just as you would with a job that doesn’t serve you, just as you would with a friend who is treating you unpleasantly, just as you would with a program that isn’t working out for you.
We often change other situations in our lives that make us unhappy, why do we believe that we are supposed to endure pain and suffering from men?
We must choose ourselves because we become fuller and deeper when we do. Our strength is unparalleled when we know our worth. We can change the world by simply loving and choosing ourselves.
Expending our strength to nurse men who drain us is counterproductive.
We use our inner strength so frequently to practice forgiveness not realizing that we are inadvertently turning wretched men into Gods. Turning men into deities who can fail us at our time of need, but still receive the chance to get our love, gratitude, support, and devotion, when they do not deserve it.
We hold the key to our own happiness.
Suffering is not our right.
We are complete as we already are.
We must make choices that reflect that.
We must be pragmatic and use our intellect to make decisions that serve us.
We must always, choose ourselves.
Thank you for reading!
Words: Doreen Caven
Image by James Barnor