How dating commitment-phobes helped me reevaluate my self worth

One day, my best friend sat me down and said “I’m sorry, but I just can’t hear about your love life anymore.” Why? I was telling her the same damn story over and over and over again. The guy would change, but it was always the same plotline: I was devoting all of my time and energy to someone who wasn’t giving the same time and energy back to me. I was drawn to unavailable guys and my friends were sick of hearing about it.

There was the guy I dated for five years who “couldn’t find a label to define our love.” (The label is girlfriend, you bozo!) There was the tattooed hipster with long oily hair who was in an “open relationship.” There was the married guy (I didn’t know at the time!), the man who just got out of a relationship and wasn’t looking for anything serious “right now” but liked me “a lot” and definitely thought it was going “somewhere.” Finally, there was the guy who believed in polyamory and suggested I read the book Ethical Slut after our first date.

I went into most these relationships knowing that the man was unavailable, but it didn’t stop me. If anything, it made me more interested. In my heart I thought that if I made our chemistry so rare and different, I could be the girl to change them. And then, inevitably, when the relationship did not go my way, my self-esteem would plummet and it was all Domino’s Pizza, dark rooms and duvet covers.

But hey, chasing unavailable men was thrilling. It fed some dark tendency to control and manipulate others into loving me. And I was good at it. Just like Taylor Swift, I could make a bad guy good for a weekend. Maybe even three months. But each time I realized I would never actually get what I wanted (love, a relationship or validation) I would get depressed and question my self-worth: “If I was more perfect, or more like his ex, or funnier, or weighed less, how would things have been different?” I’d ask myself.

The problem wasn’t with the guys I was dating. (I mean sure, it partly was. They really really sucked.) But more so, it was my attraction to them. My desire to force things that didn’t work, ignore red flags, fantasize and try to change people. It was all to seek validation from those who didn’t want me.

So, I decided to take a look at myself—the only constant in my life, and the person I had to get to know, love and make the priority—instead.

It’s a me thing! (It always is, sorry)

I had no idea who I was in relationships. In real life, however, I was an odd duck with a unique personality. I had tons of interests, quirks and TV shows I could talk endlessly about. Why then did I subconsciously shrink when it came to my relationships with men? I never asked for what I needed or flaunted my individuality, instead, the conversations would go something like this:

Him: “What do you want to do tonight?”
Me: “Whatever you want!”
Him: “What do you want for dinner?”
Me: “Anything is fine!”
Him: “Do you want to see this movie?”
Me: “Sure!”

But there were lots of things I didn’t feel like doing that night, there was that one restaurant I really want to try out even though it was 45 minutes away, and no, I really didn’t want to see that movie. I would never actually say those things, though. I was a yes woman. I was like Julia Roberts in The Runaway Bride—a serial dater who always took on the traits of the man she was dating, including how they liked their eggs for breakfast.

It was time for me to decide how I liked my eggs. It was time for me to realize that I deserved just as much as my partner did in a relationship. The only way to do this was to find out who I was, what I liked, and start being honest about it: Maybe I was addicted to commitment-phobes because I was a commitment-phobe myself. And maybe I was a commitment-phobe because I thought that I was unworthy of the kind of love that would last. Vulnerability, authenticity and asking for what I needed and wanted, all these things terrified me because they involved speaking up for myself. I’d rather be single than step up to the plate. I’d rather buy myself flowers and kiss cuddling goodbye.

But the truth of the matter is, I want flowers and I love cuddling. What I hate is inconsistency, unreliability, and playing games. I hate when its someone else’s world and I’m just living in it. I hate having so much to offer, and being too afraid to offer it.

Aha! I finally knew how I liked my eggs. By spending years figuring out all the things I didn’t want, I’d started to get a grasp on the things I wanted in my life, the person I want to be for myself and a future partner—should he be out there (if he’s not, that’s fine too.)

These days, I am learning to practice the art of detachment. I don’t want to beg for love, force it, or change myself or my own life to make the puzzle pieces fit. I don’t want to wait around for it, rearrange my schedule for it, or as Maya Angelou has said, make someone else a priority when to him I am only an option.

For the record: I like ’em sunny side up.