So we left off with me swearing off dating for a while in Part 1
After my last relationship in high school, I wasn’t in a relationship again for 8 years. 8 years. Now this isn’t necessarily such a bad thing and I did go on a couple dates here and there, but the real reason I wasn’t allowing myself to enter into any relationships was because I was afraid and had a lot of unresolved issues that I had yet to deal with. See, previously I had been prone to fall very easily in and out of feelings and relationships but now I had become over scrupulous about every possible scenario and person and about myself and thus wouldn’t allow myself to fall into a relationship. MxPx’s “Lonesome Town” kinda became my theme song. Two thoughts kept entering my mind: 1) Maybe I’m just confusing friend feelings with relationship feelings 2) The next person I actually date/call my boyfriend, I will probably marry (not as a defeatist or settling thing, but like I wouldn’t enter into a relationship with a person unless I felt that marriage was a really strong possibility).
Giving my heart away so fully so young to someone who not only wasn’t offering the same in return but who wouldn’t even give us the dignity of a title, of a commitment, really damaged me. That boy liked me for who I was but couldn’t commit to me; now, while that’s more his problem than mine, it made me start thinking that maybe I wasn’t worth committing to. If you can see me fully for who I am, like me for who I am, but not commit to me, maybe who I am isn’t worth committing to. This was compounded by my next boyfriend committing to an idea of me instead of me (part of the whole “getting friend feelings mixed up with relationship feelings” bit). Two things can come from this line of thinking: either I’d have to stay me but stay single forever or I’d have to change me so that I would be worth committing to. I tended to lean towards the former but definintely flirted with the latter throughout my singlehood.
One thing about not dating for a long time is that, although it definitely offers lots of opportunities to work on yourself and get closer to God- really find your peace and purpose- it also allows a lot of opportunities for fear to seep in. Dawn Eden, in her book “The Thrill of the Chaste” says:
The longer you’re out of a relationship, the easier it becomes to forget that your ability to enter a relationship is dependent on your ability to get over your fear. It sounds like a paradox, and to some extent it is; being attracted to someone includes in its nature the desire not to be separated form that person. Yet, it’s possible to cultivate a fear of rejection to the point where it becomes effectively another person in the relationship. And like the imaginary lover in my dream, the more you hold on to it, the lonelier you become.
I found this to be so true in my life. I wasn’t lonely because I was single- in fact, I think I spent my singlehood very well by using every available opportunity to become closer to God and to learn more about Him and me (it helped that I majored in Theology), I was active in ministry and volunteer work, and didn’t squander my freedom/unattachment but used it to travel to new places, see new things, and have a lot of really wonderful experiences. I also made a lot of really wonderful, solid friendships with guys and girls and was pretty social. I was lonely because I was afraid- afraid that I wasn’t actually made for marriage, afraid that I would never find a man to spend my life with, afraid that past sins would keep me from being able to find a man. While I was still unattached, many of my friends were dating, getting married and starting families, entering the priesthood or religious life- starting to live their vocations. And I was afraid I never would.
Two significant things happened during this period of my life, one more significant than the other but the latter ended up being an alleyway that eventually led to where I needed to go, an alleyway that was initially attractive because taking it meant I didn’t have to be visible or face my fears. The first was that I overcame my addiction to masturbation. I’ve written a lot about that journey here and here so the only thing I’ll say about it now was that overcoming that was absolutely necessary for me to find my husband, to live my vocation, and to enter into a real relationship with God. This isn’t because masturbation is an ugly sin (which it is) but because I fell into that addiction because of fear and overcoming it meant overcoming some fears. One more unresolved issue dealt with.
The second thing that happened at this time in my life was that I joined CatholicMatch.com at the urging of a friend. The problem, initially, for me with it was that it allowed me to escape into fantasy about finding love and vocation without forcing me to actually do that. I didn’t take it very seriously and used it as a screen instead of a door. Like I said, though, it did eventually lead me to where I wanted to be, it just took awhile.
And that will lead nicely into Part 3 😉 I’ve decided this will be a 4 part piece, so we’re halfway there!