Online Dating and the Bags You Drag
Whether you are new to online dating or a veteran partner shopper, the slim chance of you meeting Mr. Right on the internet becomes nonexistent if you are dragging around the heavy bags of resentment, hurt, anger and disappointment which so often get packed away at the end of a relationship, even a short one. The valuable lessons inherent in loving someone else are often obscured by emotional turmoil when hope and trust are lost forever, and you find yourself alone again.
Instead of diving right back into the swiping and poking and messaging, it is important to recenter for an undefined period of time while your brain processes and your heart heals. How many times have you sat through a date listening with dismay to the divorce story of a wounded soul, wondering why they would even try to meet someone else when it was so obvious they were still in the swirl of their recent heartache? Unpacking is about taking the time to sort through everything that is weighing down your huge suitcase packed chock full of disillusionment.
First, mentally set your heavy piece of luggage down on something sturdy and unzip it. It’s probably not something you really want to do, easier to schedule yet another date and move forward. However, chances are you will simply repeat the same pattern with the next Mr. Right as your subconscious is desperately trying to cycle through something and come to a conclusion, and you are too distracted and hurt to participate. Consciously begin to sort through everything in your suitcase, whether it’s betrayal, boredom, narcissism, rejection, hurtful words, abandonment. Journaling can help, certainly putting it down in black and white makes it more real. And the more real it is the more clearly you can start to see that it’s your pattern, not theirs. For instance, you might be attracted to men who chronically cheat, but there have always been cheaters and there always will be. What makes you drawn to men who will inevitably betray your trust? The challenge is to make this process all about you, not them. What you accepted, what you felt, what you did to contribute to the demise of the relationship. Once you completely own your participation and the reasons why you chose to do so, your suitcase will indeed be much, much lighter.
Secondly, as you pick through the rest of the things that have been haphazardly tossed in, you might find that some of them are child sized. Confused, you wonder why you have been dragging around items which obviously don’t fit your adult life. How much of your failed relationship repetition is just the reincarnation of the relationship you had with your parents? Take the time to sit quietly and contemplate any issues you feel are unresolved within your family. Did you always want to please? Were your parents verbally dismissive? Did you have to work for love and acceptance? Was there codependency? Narcissism? Again, this is not about disparaging your parents, who did the best they could, it’s about identifying the patterns that loop you back into relationship behavior that no longer serves you. It’s about understanding, forgiving, and moving forward.
Finally, as you stare at the now almost empty suitcase, it’s time to recognize and honor the few things left inside. There’s a little bit of shattered ego, a heart with a crack in it, and a t-shirt with a big question mark on it. Why? Why didn’t it work out when I tried so hard? Why didn’t he love me? Why did I stay? Why did I go? Why am I alone? Will I ever be happy with someone? This is Fear, and you can decide to put that shirt on and wear it on every date, or you can add it to the garbage bag you have been steadily filling. The question is not what does the future hold, the question is have I learned and grown and healed enough to be fully present, fully engaged, fully loving in the here and now. If so, it’s time to zip up that empty suitcase and slide it under the bed. You are ready to date again, and this time it’s going to be different because you are.