Growing up I had a particular idea of what romance should look like. Like most of us, this idea was shaped by Disney and Hollywood films, a conviction that there will only be “The One” and a deep believe that it will be a painful and rocky process of finding this person and starting the relationship I was meant to have.
As a teenager, I did not date around. I did not snog cute guys whilst drunk at a party. I didn’t want to waste any time on blokes who weren’t my “One”. I got married at the tender age of 21 and thought I had found him. I was 28 when he left and while I am very happily divorced now, my world came crashing down at the time. I believed I would not be able to ever be with anyone again. I had used up my “One”. That’s it, done. I’ll never have sex again either, because you can only do that with your One as well.
Only life turned out differently and I used the next 4 years to experiment a little. I still did not believe I would be in a relationship again, but the sex was better than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t feel the need to cook anyone breakfast, let alone doing their laundry and cleaning up after them. This was actually pretty good. I was getting MY needs met for a change.
But of course you don’t shake an entire belief system quite so easily and when I went back into the dating game, I put up with some shady characters. From being catfished to being made the “other woman” without my knowledge, I ignored some pretty blatant bad behaviour and put up with way more than I felt comfortable with. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the ideas of open relationships and polyamory. However, I do think those concepts only work if everyone involved knows and consented to the terms though.
Attending Hayley Quinn’s Commanding Love blew my mind. While she taught actual techniques to get into a conversation with the person you fancy, it was the little side comments that really made a shift in my mind and got me to realise that I did not know my own boundaries and what I wanted in a relationship.
Know your boundaries, what you need from a relationship, and if they are not giving you that, move on.
This idea of “The One” had clouded my vision and caused me to hang on to anyone who ticked a few boxes and looked good “on paper” even though I was not getting from them what I was looking for in a relationship. When Hayley told us just how many hundreds of thousands of single men were out there in London alone, it was clear that she was not suggesting to not ever make a compromise. What she was suggesting was revolutionary in my eyes: Know your boundaries, what you need from a relationship, and if they are not giving you that, move on.
So when I think back to the time I wasted a whole year on a bloke that would talk to me on the phone DAILY but made every excuse not to meet in person (including a diagnosis of lung cancer, stage 2) I sat tight, tried to be there for him even. At no point did it occur to me that I would be allowed to put my needs first, which includes meeting someone in the flesh. Someone who wanted to spend time with me in person. That was my boundary and it is ok to want that. He was not meeting that need and so I should have moved on within a few weeks rather than so many months.
You might think I am a little bitter, accusing him of not only making up excuses but even a diagnosis of cancer to avoid meeting me. Of course, there is a chance that he was being honest. Maybe he did have valid reasons not to meet. Maybe he was just scared or shy. Maybe he’d embellished who he was to get me interested and now he was worried I would not like him in person. We’d gotten pretty close over the phone (go figure if you speak for hours every day for near enough a year). Maybe he was even diagnosed with cancer.
Gracefully let them go.
But here’s the thing: It does not matter. If we don’t get our needs met, we don’t have to justify the other person’s behaviour. We are allowed to move on. We are allowed to keep looking until we get our needs met.
We don’t have to make any relationship, whether it be a friendship or romance, work at the detriment of our own needs. Relationships will always involve some aspect of compromise, but at the very core it should fulfil our set of minimum requirements at the very least. If it does not, there will be someone else out there who will. It is ok to not hang in there whilst being miserable and doubting yourself. Did you say something wrong? Did you move too quickly or too slowly? No! They are just not showing up how you need them to. So it is ok, as Hayley put it, to “gracefully let them go”.