I used to bend and twist myself to fit the wants and needs of the men I dated because I feared being alone.
As I stand confidently now I can see how detrimental that was, but back then I honestly didn’t know any better - and I certainly didn’t realize that my contortionist ways were leading me right into the arms of unhealthy relationships.
A friend recently asked me for dating advice after his latest relationship ended when the woman he was seeing cheated on him. It’s become sort of a pattern for him – a pattern I know all too well.
After all, I’ve been cheated on in every one of my significant relationships.
“I seriously want to know why I attract women that cheat on me.”
“Is it something I ooze?”
“Each and every woman in my last 3 relationships has cheated on me. And always with men in their golden years like 50 years old and over. And I date women in their 20s…”
His words made me think back about my dating life as a woman in my 20s.
I was so very lost, lacking any clue of who I was. Really, I had no business dating. I didn’t know what I wanted out of a relationship aside from a false sense of security.
I lacked confidence and a career. I didn’t have any real goals or dreams to aspire to. Every day of my 20s was pretty much the same until I gave birth to my son at the age of 25.
That was the day that everything changed. I went from spoiled and selfish to selflessly spoiling someone else and it rocked my world. Every year that has passed since has opened my eyes to who I am and what I want out of my life.
The Universe has thrown many curveballs my way, and while I may miss some of them – I knock the balls out of the park that matter.
I’m not that lost 20-something girl anymore.
At 34, I know what I’m good at, who I am and what I want. I may not have a boyfriend, BUT I DO HAVE A LIFE.
I refuse to settle because I know I don’t have to.
But my guess is those 20-something women my friend chooses to date don’t know that yet. And my other guess is that’s why they end up cheating on him.
I’ve watched relationships and marriages crumble around me through the years and there has always been a common denominator in each of their demise: Someone in the relationship settled for love
There are signs when someone feels like they’re settling – red flags we sometimes choose not to see.
I exchanged phone numbers with an attractive guy at a bar recently. Truthfully I thought he was a little too attractive for me, but I digress.
When I found out he was a personal trainer I got a little anxious as I am not the fittest person in the world. When we spoke on the phone afterwards he invited me to dinner at his place which was flattering until he spoke about what he planned to make – you see, he eats “clean” so he insisted I’d have to eat a plain sweet potato with NO BUTTER. When I mentioned I liked butter, he still insisted I’d have to eat my sweet potato without.
A man telling me how to eat was a red flag for me. It made me feel like he wanted to take me on as his next project – hoping to change my diet, whip me into shape and morph me physically into the girlfriend he really wanted.
Dating me now, as is, would mean he was settling.
Though I saw the red flag I chalked it up to me being self-conscious about my holiday weight gain – so I told him I’d think about meeting him at his place for dinner.
The following day I realized I’d already made plans for that evening and sent the personal trainer a text saying so, apologizing for my short term memory loss and asking if we could make plans for the following week instead.
Red flag number two came when he sent me a huffy text back accusing me of blowing him off for another dude.
Apparently my busy schedule was a problem for him – and apparently the only thing I could be busy with was another man.
It was the second red flag that made me realize my instincts were right and that this guy was not for me.
The 20-something me would’ve felt bad about being busy, canceled my previous plans and bent over backwards to rearrange my schedule to have dinner with the buff personal trainer.
And the 20-something me would’ve starved herself and worked out twice a day on the days leading up to our dinner date trying to look more like the lean & clean-eating woman he so obviously wanted.
But not the 34-year-old me!
Instead I told him I don’t have time for temper tantrums and to fuck off – which was really pretty empowering.
I’m perfectly fine with my single status. In fact, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
I’m holding out for a love that’s extraordinary. I know it exists. I’ve seen it between people that chose not to settle.
And that’s why I’ll never settle for love. Or a sweet potato without butter on it.