Dating in 2015 is hard.
Dating in 2015 in NYC is hard.
Dating in 2015 in NYC while recovering from an eating disorder… even harder.
I could write short stories over the love affairs I’ve had in my life. Spain- Ireland- Germany- UK- Camping- Work Office- Subways- you name it, if I’ve set foot there- I likely have some tale of love and heartache that accompanied that experience.
Airports around the world have been covered in my tears as I’ve stood countlessly in the security line- waving goodbye to the 8-week “love of my life” that was standing on the other end.
2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years- doesn’t matter, I’m a love whore at whatever length of time. *Cringe, sorry Ma*
To be fair, it’s not actually love. It’s idealization, because duh, that’s the best part, right? It’s the non-commital. The daydreaming at your desk, pretending to know the future actions of a person when all you’ve ever spent with them is a night on a tarp.
I crave the heart-pattering, smile-inducing, neuro-transmitting 2am talks. The mutual friends who wink when they pass you talking. It is my personal heroin when I realize that another person is committing their night to being nearby me. I crave the instant attraction- the game of locking eyes till one gives in and comes over.
I love the moment you know it’s something.
And I love the feeling that you are free to leave if it changes.
In other words, I love the beginning of things.
The long-term commitment of relationships are often lost on me. It’s not on purpose (much to the popular belief of my family), but it is sub-conscious.
BUT….BUT… THE VALIDATION* My mind whirls when things get serious. ONE PERSON TO VALIDATE MY EVERY NEED. IMPOSSIBLE, my brain has always panicked.
Recovery is a lifelong process, sure, but what they don’t reiterate is that you’re still going to be the same person once you’re out of rehab. You are not cured of fundamental habits; but more you are just now made aware of them… and it’s your choice how you choose to learn from it.
I’m still not an ideal partner yet- it’s true. But, I also countless times set myself up for emotional tantalizing and torture by becoming involved with someone who I know isn’t going to treat me the way I want.
Some might call it karma (no doubt some exes of mine call it this), but I frankly think it’s me ignoring the reality of the situation… which is almost always ”THEY JUST AREN’T THAT INTO YOU AND YOU CAN’T ACCEPT IT.”
That being stated, here are 4 truths I’ve learned about dating in recovery… They’re honest, blunt, and my mother will likely hate reading this, but recovery is owning your truths and then learning from them. And these are mine:
1.) Dating In Recovery Is Vulnerable.
I know. Profound, right? Hear me out.
Here’s the truth: We are all vulnerable- recovery or not- But imagine consistently having to tell someone over and over again “That time I was in rehab,” or “Yeah I can’t buy cereal because I binge-eat it like a monster.”
Inevitably, there unearths that moment when I start dating someone that I have to carefully explain how my life has come to be.
“Ah yes- moved to New York in 2013… started an internship… worked at a publisher… binge ate 2 boxes of cereal at a wedding and went to rehab… you know, the normal stuff.”
It never gets easy. Do you say it over appetizers? Over wine? Do you wait 3 dates? Has this person seen my Instagram or Facebook yet… because if so, well, then they know and they’re just not saying.
Is it weird that they probably know and aren’t saying anything?
DO THEY RESPECT ME NOW? AM I LESS CHARMING?
OH GOD, WILL THEY WANT TO FIX ME?
I’ve found that it’s not necessarily hard anymore to talk about it. After having my bikini body blasted all over the internet (to both positive and negativity), there’s definitely more vulnerable things I’ve done than face a potential mate with this reality.
But, it doesn’t take away that little tick that says “now this person will not think you’re as strong as they did before. You are damaged goods.”
Rehab has a culturally negative “ring” to it, much like “cow dung” or “tinder dating”… and while I’ve never had anyone respond to this confession with anything but empathy, it’s still an event that I have to continuously “explain” in person instead of how I often rather shy off to the clicking of my keyboard.
It’s strangely more vulnerable because it’s real-time and so much of our 2015 world is pampered by living behind a screen.
2.) You’ll Likely Jump Into A Relationship Too Soon.
There’s that old saying in rehab:
“DON’T DATE FOR A YEAR AFTER YOU GET OUT, IDIOT.”
…Or something like that. And there’s a reason for it which I ignorantly ignored.
Nope, stubborn as an Ox, I jumped right back into a relationship 2 months out of rehab because I craved the safety of it.
I was fresh out and vulnerable. At at the time I was still hiding it from the world around me and defining my self-worth and reality on how others perceived me.
I met someone- and he was wonderful. Is wonderful. But, little did I understand the night this person and I sat on a porch swing – our legs brushing against each other- how much I still had left to do in recovery… How suddenly the world would appear more like my oyster and less like a bubble.
What was hard to understand was still how much “rehab” I had left to do. Like that damn onion cliche, I’d been peeled over those weeks in treatment, and learning to unearth all those emotions of my past was just the tip of the iceberg.
I have had to re-peel them over… and over… and over again.
I am still working out the various “events” that got me into rehab in the first place, and at the time I met him I was also figuring out who I wanted to be now that I was making sense of them.. and I mean on every level. I was literally still trying to decide whether or not I liked pie or cake- fitted blouses or sweaters.
I had no business attempting stability in such an unstable world of mine.
But this person, with all their stoicalness and strength, I found someone that could put up with all “this” that was me.
Little then, did I understand that our futures wanted different outcomes… and that I would grow out of that original self-pity and angst of “post-rehab” vulnerability.
I wish I could talk to that girl, standing there with her arm around his waist at a wedding- and say to her “My God little one, you are choosing to ignore reality when you know you should let him be free.”
In the end, I was wrong and it was messy. In the end, it was painful and I made promises I didn’t keep.
I changed. I grew stronger. I began to shed the calluses of my self-doubt and fear. I realized I wanted what I wanted and he did not. That I valued a career and for now, had no business being a wife or a mother.
In the end, I was just starting over and I had to let him go.
3.) You Will Question Your Fundamentals
Seriously- Don’t worry about this one. You’re questioning everything else about you- it’s normal to question the fundamentals of what you look for in a partner.
Maybe I want a Banker? An Apple-picker? A Gingerbread maker? A bearded flannel-bearing Hipster?
So what if you end up dating someone who’s a staunch Republican though you’re a flaming Liberal? So be it. You’ll likely end up fighting over the social rights issues- question each other’s moral fiber- and end it thinking to yourself “Christ, I knew I wasn’t going to end up with a Trump.”
It’s part of the process. We’re questioning what makes us whole- we’re clean slates- so we get a “Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free” card on this one.
4.) There will likely be a Manbun. Forgive Yourself.
My friend said to me the other day- coffee in hand, sunglasses pulled down her nose:
“You know what you can’t trust,” she paused. “A Manbun… or like anyone that has ever lived in Brooklyn.”
I giggled then- stereotyping is a prototypical convo between women- but at that moment I understood her ounce of truth in that statement as it pertains to my own life.
Likely, you will date someone wrong for you in recovery, and at one point or another you will find yourself being pathetic over it.
I’m telling you now: forgive yourself in advance.
We got a lot of growing to do in recovery, okay? We don’t come out being strong and self-assured- the opposite actually. We come out baby-skinned and vulnerable to the light around us.
We emerge knowing we have a chance to make it all different- but in having that opportunity, we often forget that just like newborns we’re learning how to crawl again.
While it’s true that I’ve been the one at fault in my dating life numerous times, I have also been the girl who stays too long; the one who turns a blind eye to poor behavior.
In therapy I’m still working out why I recently let someone get away with such piss-poor actions. Why I countless times chose to validate those late-night texts or allowed this person to disappear for weeks before turning up with the casual ”oh hiya you- let’s hang out soon.”
Likely, it has something to do with accepting the agonizing conclusion that this person just didn’t find me as alluring as I’d (so obviously) tried to be.
But what I’ve also noticed as a pattern in my life, is the people I truly find myself “idealizing” are 100% not permanent figures. I often don’t find myself pining over someone unless there’s an end date already given to me. (i.e. this person was leaving for a tour.)
I tend to “fall” for people who I find unreachable, or worse “exotic.” People who live on different continents for example, or people that were raised by-say- Buddhist monks. People who I’ve deemed more interesting than I could dream of being, and have lived the road “less traveled” even if they haven’t (which is typically irrelevant to me once I’ve decided they have.)
Why is this- I don’t know. Humans are such funny animals. We are so often tantalized by the things that are self-destructive because these exact people are the ones who subsequently bring out my deepest insecurities of not being ”interesting enough.”
The truth is I know when someone is into me. You just know. You feel it. You know because it makes you feel into you.
Yet it so often happens that the people who bring out all those insatiable little insecurities in me are often the ones I find beating myself up over trying to gain their validation.
How counterintuitive- but it happens. It’s like I’m having a bad day, but instead of dealing with the emotions of whatever is internally going on, I give the power to external ways of making it feel better.
And I’ll be damned if it didn’t feel good when Manbunn-ed Enigma texted me to tell me they’d been ”thinking of me.”
Yeah, you’re thinking of me, I’d smirk – texting back something seemingly “aloof” (subtext: desperate)- but really I was just relieved to have an external validation to whatever insecurity I was feeling before that.
Overtime, I allowed this person to make me feel less than desired when he disappeared for weeks, but I didn’t say a word. I refused to acknowledge the reality of the situation because I chose to play the “chill-girl” card instead of *GASP* be thwarted with the reality that “this person just ain’t that into you”… (and also, is leaving.)
I stuck around at the cost of my pride because I’d put weight on this person’s ability to make me feel good and I couldn’t quite accept the reality that I was never going to get the validation I so addictively crave.
It’s only now in retrospect, that I wouldn’t put up with that behavior in just quite the same way.
Hence, this is why we learn. We fall down, bruise a tailbone, limp around for a bit- and then it heals.
Will I likely go through another situation where I am “wronged”? Yeah. But with every time it happens, I grow more and more aware of the outcome… and as I grow stronger, I understand that I’m worth more than a “Netflix Sesh.”
…Sorry Buddha. I climbed a 14er in Colorado by myself…And you just ain’t dat cool.