I used to wonder if they smelled it on me like a shark detects blood in the water hundreds of feet away. A normal fish would swim right past me but a shark would track the scent and go in for a fresh meal. It’s their natural instinct. I was convinced that men could detect my vulnerability in the same way.
All the abuse I’ve endured left a gaping hole in my soul. I’d constantly question was I lovable and often caught myself finding my validation in a man’s opinion of me. My lack of self-esteem drew these broken men or men who never actually wanted something serious. I put everything into these unhealthy relationships accepting a whole lot of mess hoping they’d see I was worth loving. A few broken hearts later I was finally convinced that nobody I’d dated ever truly cared about me.
I decided dating, romance and sex were not for me. Not forever, but for a while. I made up my mind that I’d be alone before someone else mistreated me. For years I remained single, afraid of another broken heart. When loneliness had me in a situation where I was being undervalued (again), I posted a vague Facebook status about “all these men are the same”. A woman from my church chimes in “no shade, but you’re the common denominator”. It dawned on me that I’d played a role in my failed relationships. Not that I ever deserved to be mistreated but I realized I had been hopping in the ocean with an open wound, attracting sharks. I may have been alone, but I never took the time to find my value. I returned to no dating. I found purpose as a single woman. Revealing how scarred I was through my spoken word forced me to truly recognize how much God had done for me. Despite everything, I was thriving. The boldness of my testimony made me realize not only was I worthy despite my past, I was worthy because of my past. I am a Psalm 31 woman ready for an Ephesians 5 man. So I thought.
I decided this year to jump back out there. It’s hard enough with twisted societal views of what commitment looks like. Add being a celibate, Christian, single mom with a complicated past and things get interesting. I swore up and down there was absolutely nowhere on earth to meet a decent man with my jam packed schedule. So I did what any independent millennial woman would do; online dating. Ab-so-lute FAIL. To the credit of all the wonderful online dating sites available, I don’t think I tried hard enough. I had a few creepers; the say I love you after 3 texts and a phone call kind. BLOCK. There were a few where the conversation just fizzled out quickly. The first guy I agreed to go out with was an hour late so I left. His apology? An unexpected penis picture (um, no?). BLOCK. The next date was nothing more than mediocre. So I stopped trying.
A few months later I met a guy at a church I performed at. He reached out to tell me my performance was amazing and gave me some much needed encouragement. We stayed in touch. He was interesting. His love for God was passionate and refreshing. He was athletic. He served at church. From what I could tell he was a great dad to his daughter (only one kid, SCORE). We had a lot in common. He was as unashamed of his past as he was bold in his present, like me. It was too perfect right? I was already trying to find every excuse to say no incase he asked me out. Despite my practice, I immediately said yes when he invited me to dinner. When he told he was most attracted to my passion for God, I knew I had a winner. So for the first time in 5 years, I was genuinely interested in someone.
Then he blew me off. Twice. The first time I was super forgiving because his schedule is crazy hectic. But time number two I was beyond irritated and told him as “Christian” as possible to screw off. Back to the drawing board? Well….. not quite.
He reached out apologizing and ensuring his interest in me. I know what you are thinking, but cut me some slack y’all. The man looks good in a snap back with a clean shave. Plus he loves Jesus. He was everything I had prayed for and I wasn’t about to block my blessing by being stubborn. With our schedules we were still having a hard time hanging out. (I know what you are thinking, just excuses right? But snap backs, clean cut and Jesus remember). We finally managed to get together a few times. And I quickly broke my rule. I went to his house, alone.
I do like sex. But I’m celibate. It’s an unbelievably hard combination to manage. Sometimes I feel like if you breathe on my neck I’m liable to go crazy. So I protect myself by setting boundaries. I want to be a wife and love someone with every muscle I have, every piece of my soul. I am not casual. Yet there I was. I was in a situation I knew could easily progress into something I wasn’t ready for with him or anyone who didn’t want forever. I ignored red flags for this man because he met my qualifications. When he kissed me, I lost my breath. So I surrendered.
I was really into him. But I was no longer sure if it was a genuine interest or the fact that just the mention of his name sent my mind into a whirlwind of lustful temptations. I pursued my desire for him anyway. After a couple months he decided to tell me he had a baby on the way. SERIOUSLY? Yet, I was willing to forgive him. But you guessed it folks, it imploded. It only took a few more weeks for me to realize we weren’t on the same page and were never going to be. I did what I should have done from the beginning, stopped chasing my desire.
I was mostly disappointed in myself. He was the first guy I’d been interested in in forever. How on earth did I find myself in a situation so similar to my past? Ready to settle. Ready to accept less than my worth. I know better, right?
A couple months later I found myself in yet another “situation”. I’d started to catch feelings for a friend of mine. We’d been acquaintances for a while. When I reached out to him for help with some goals I was setting for myself he graciously obliged. Our friendship quickly evolved. And let me tell you, he is attractive. You know the kind of fine where you get stuck staring, drool on your lip, while you fight away inappropriate fantasies fan girling over him? Yea, that kind of fine. At first, other than the fact I found him gorgeous, I wasn’t interested. As a matter of fact, circumstances told me I wasn’t allowed to be. Let me clarify, he has a girlfriend.
Somewhere along the way I realized my interest in him was way deeper. He is undoubtedly one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. He’s talented, motivated, kind and a list of other great qualities that would make any girl think twice. Of course he’s not perfect. His honesty about his faults made him even more desirable. He made me laugh, he listened to me and he trusted me to listen to him. I didn’t want to want him. Can I for once!have a regular male friendship that is platonic? Or does my desire for love from a decent man have to get in the way every time? But when I felt like he was hinting he might feel the same, my heart did a million back flips. I was sure he was going to be single eventually anyway, so hey.
We finally hung out, just us. Keep in mind other than some very ambiguous comments and flirting, neither of us had declared anything more than friendship or actually “crossed a line”. But hanging out with him I couldn’t hide the fact that I was ecstatic to be in his presence. I walked away happy I got to spend genuine time with someone so important to me. Then almost immediately, his demeanor toward me changed. I automatically felt like I did something wrong. So when I finally said something to him about his behavior, the response I got was a hard pill to swallow. He assured me I did nothing wrong, but he also said he had no idea how I felt about him. He faulted himself for flirting too much. The implication was he wasn’t interested back. How could he not have known? I thought back over our conversations trying to figure out am I really so desperate I read that all wrong? Or was I just some distraction from his problems? I know what you are thinking guys, he’s unavailable. I know you’re faulting me, and that’s ok. I guess in my mind I thought I’d place myself comfortably in the friend zone and hope that when the door opened he’d remember me. But that response was a pretty clear indication that he wasn’t going to see me. The rejection stung. I tried to have another conversation with him to save our friendship convinced distance and boundaries were all we needed. But it got worse. Our communication no longer felt welcomed from him but rather like an obligation. And I felt disposable. Every time I see him (unavoidably) and he barely even says hello like I’m not the same girl whose positive energy he spent so much time pulling from, I feel disposable all over again.
I started thinking back on my attempt to open up romantically. My brain went into overload. How did I fail so horribly this year? Thoughts started flying around my head faster than I could stop them. “You brought it on yourself. No one will ever love you. You are not valuable. No man will ever see your worth. You get too wrapped up because you are too desperate. You are too easy. What makes you think that men that look like THEM would ever want to be with a woman who looks like YOU. A woman who has struggled with her weight her whole life. You might think you’re worth it, but they never will”. I started to question whether or not I really was datable or was I still just this damaged girl who will always be ready to settle.
In neither situation did I consult God first. I had gotten so excited with the fact that I found someone with potential that I forgot that ANYBODY has potential. When I did get some kind of red light from God, I ignored it; I just wanted to be seen. But I was chasing things that didn’t have my name on it.
Plenty of people will read this and blame me or even pity me. Some will think I am indeed too damaged to be datable. But I beg to differ. I am not the same girl who saw no value in her reflection. I am not the same girl who lost herself seeking validation from the world. I do in fact know I’m valuable. But that does not mean dating will be simple or I won’t make mistakes. For the rest of my life, the things that I went through will be a part of who I am. I’m probably always going to be overly excited at the possibility of a new relationship. I’m probably always going to be ready to dive in head first. So I have to remember that no matter what it looks like on paper, I have to seek God first. Maybe more so than other women, I have to stick to my boundaries. I have to rely on him as my strength when I am feeling weak. Now more than ever I have to hold on to my worth. I’ve learned to love myself. Even if I make a mistake, if I fail, if I am rejected, if someone else doesn’t see me in the same way I see them, I have to remember He has still deemed me worthy. And if I end up with another broken heart, I have faith that he will put me together again.
So I haven’t given up. I’m still a hopeless romantic. There is no way I will let fear from a broken past prevent me from fighting for the kind of love I deserve, the kind of love that I king’s daughter deserves. I still believe that God has designed a man out there for me who will completely understand my complexities. He will invest his time in me because he sees I am worth fighting for. He will understand my passion for love and the delicacy of my heart and therefore take his time and handle it with care. Because he knows that once I have surrendered it to him that I will love him unconditionally, stand for him always, respect him firmly, care for him gently and strive to keep God at our center.
And when he finds me, I promise I’ll write and tell you all about him…