Is it me or have you heard “You have to love yourself first before you can attract real love,” too many fucking times to count? I remember hearing that and then I would see others around me in love, knowing that those folks were not necessarily loving on themselves firstly. It would leave me feeling so confused I would give up on the thought and continue life as usual…either single or dating someone incredibly abusive also not forgetting the abusive friendships and family relationships that continued endlessly.
I can’t say that I found a way to love myself “first” what I can say is that I decided to research what love really is. Theoretically speaking of course. I had plenty of experience with what it wasn’t. I had done the work of discovering where love was missing when I was a child. The roots of my abusive past I exposed regardless of how much I believed denial of them would help me live a better life. No matter how afraid I was of the potential pain I might experience I told myself that this was going to be the way to a different life.
I guess what I concluded in the end was that love was an action or more like a series of actions. The act of love builds trust, confidence, respect, hope, and a foundation for a life experience that could include many positive and happy experiences. A form of stress relief and food for the feels.
I have to say as a 36 year old single mother of two raging feminist daughters there a few things in my life that show the generation I come from. One of them is my disdain yet love of the technology. I remember there being very little of it as a kid. However I remember it coming on the scene…dial-up internet, chat rooms, the introduction of social media, online gaming, cellphones then smartphones. As an avid health pursuer and someone who remembers early life without tech I am conscious of its effect. I also remember the intro of online dating, hearing about people who were meeting new partners in online chat rooms, having affairs and darting for the U.S. to meet their new trucker husband in Texas leaving their families behind. I mean I am sure it still happens, but I remember when it was a new thing.
When I found myself single after my divorce I had younger friends, the truest of the millennial batch, encourage online dating. At the time I was also discovering my queerness in an isolated northern town where bigotry, discrimination and sexism were alive and well on the daily. Ultimately there were no women for me to date discretely in my hometown, so I ventured down the scary and strangely unsafe, if you do it wrong, world of online dating. Over a 5 year period a couple of those dates turned into relationships. One lasting 2 years the other about a year. The others were learning lessons and great stories to tell and laugh about. By the time I made it to Montreal I had become skeptical that love could be found but loved dating adventures and was playing around with that. I met a guy at one point that I dated for a few months whom I will identify as the “Cult Leader”. I learned how to light a mean fire and survive in the woods and was pushed to figure out how to end the cycle of abusers I was so drawn to. I read books, prayed on it, created and exercised daily mantras, held myself to account and chose to be vulnerable with those who, as Brene Brown taught, were out there getting their asses kicked in life’s arena too and getting up to try again when they failed. I chose a few people’s opinions to hear out as I respected their courage, expertise, vulnerability, honesty and zest for life. I gave nobody else that kind of power. I created boundaries on who would have influence on my thoughts and opinions. Those that qualified had to be willing and accepting of the fact that I may differ and may not come over to their side. No more power giving to people who were unqualified to have it. I began to listen to my intuition, speak my truth and show up for me. I began to ACT!
I lived this way for months. I continue to live this way.
Back to online dating…
I have this personal trainer and naturopath that I started working with and continue to work with, since my journey in Montreal began, that encouraged my online dating adventures. She was of the belief that it was something social for me to do and that I might luck out and find someone I dig on there one day.
One day I matched with a man who is 9 years younger than me so I figured that at minimum we could have some fun and his jokes were super fucking terrible so naturally I was interested. He was a cooker…BBQ genius or so he claimed. I was willing to challenge him to prove it to me. He also wasn’t interested in sharing his kitchen space with anyone so of course I wanted the challenge of finding a way to let him let me cook with him. (I am a fucking fabulous cooker too!) He ended up arranging our first date in a gin bar, I was pretty mind blown because I was expecting this young man to not really get it right but I am a gin whore and he listened to what I loved attentively and made a great first date for us.
Over the years I was really good at getting attached to shitty partners really quickly and thinking I was in love and then getting whisked down a path of lust and abusive cycles. I knew that about myself and I wasn’t prepared to do that again. I spent some quality time working this out with my therapist because I made a fucking promise to myself that I would not be going back to my old patterns. If I was going to have another bad relationship, I was at the very least going to have a different kind of bad. I wasn’t expecting that I would get it right the first time. I was open to getting my ass kicked in the arena and having to get up again.
As I continued to see this man more, I started to realize he was kind, loving and gentle and completely lovable. He was showing up to the arena prepared for battle. He had been knocked down and continued to get up and remained kind, loving and gentle. His soul was absolutely beautiful. I remember telling him at the beginning when I realized this that I knew I would begin to get used to this and that I really feared losing it. I really struggled at first with the idea of losing him. Both of us were uninterested in having a “relationship”, we were both and still are dealing with our own lives, our own journey and not really wanting a committed responsibility to another human being.
I continued the path afraid, but I told myself I was going to be vulnerable with those who are deserving. I told myself I was going to choose those people carefully and this man was one of them. My mind was fucked for months. I was in shock. I continued the path anyway and my trainer continued to turn me to my path when I was losing it a little too much for her liking.
I fell in love with him because I continued to act in the name of self-love even when I was getting my ass kicked. I continued to rise above my self-defeating fears. I reframed bad thoughts with what I had control over and I never gave up.
I don’t know what will happen to us or where we are headed but what I do know is I can identify what love is instead of what it is not and I can show up for myself in ways I was too afraid to even try to in the past. Maybe I did love myself first…maybe not. I think that sentence is incredibly vague and lacks a how-to roadmap and anyone who says it should be slapped for the shittiness of the cliché it represents.
I think that it’s easier to act in self-love because this man was and continues to be kind, loving and gentle however I can say with every confidence that with or without that I choose to act out self-love with or without him and that is nothing but magical.