For almost a decade, dating was a welcomed distraction and something I had dreamed about since I was a little girl. Whenever old diaries happen to surface, my pages are filled with dreams of being loved by someone and obsessing over men.
By the time I was sixteen years old, I had begun the pattern that would continue for the next ten years, jumping into relationship after relationship.
All of my relationships had a common theme. They were almost always with men that were either damaged or toxic.
It took many years and self-reflection to realize that something within me was attracting these partners. These are the reasons why I kept attracting toxic partners who were either damaged, emotionally unavailable, or abusive.
I grew up in a very volatile household.
While growing up, there was always tension between my parents, who are now divorced. My father struggled with his temper, and there was always a point, usually every six months, when he would blow a gasket.
Because of that pattern, I began always trying to keep the peace. My desire to constantly appease ended up leading to my relationships with some irate men.
There is one moment I remembered in particular on one New Year’s Eve many years ago. My boyfriend at the time was screaming at me outside a bar because I had stopped him from getting into a bar fight. Instead of walking away or telling him that I wasn’t going to continue the conversation, I spent almost an hour trying to calm him down and appease him.
I was in a constant state of flight or fight.
When things wouldn't work out, or a traumatic event happened, I didn’t wait to reflect or heal from experience. Instead, I wanted to jump into another relationship to focus on the rush from the initial infatuation with someone new.
A prime example of this behavior is when my first love and I called off our engagement. Instead of mourning the two years we spent together or the fact that I had lost someone I had believed I would marry, I immediately began a fling with an old crush.
When that didn’t work out, I was single for a time but still went on dates and sought out attention. Deep down, I told myself that if I didn’t slow down, the memories couldn’t ever really keep up with me. With that in mind, I kept replacing one heartbreak with another.
I didn’t know how to be alone.
There was a time in my life for around five to six years when I was literally never alone.
I had a college roommate; I went to class, went to work, saw friends in between, and almost always had a man I was dating or talking to. There were years of my life when I ensured that I was never alone because when I was alone, it felt like I was suffocating.
When you don’t want to be alone, you don’t have to work through anything because you are constantly distracted. It wasn’t until my last toxic relationship that I finally began taking time alone. At the time, I didn’t understand why trauma began hitting me all at once when it was because I had pushed it down for so long that the floodgates were finally opening.
My trauma caused me to believe I was not worthy of anything good or healthy
Right after graduating college, there was a night that I went on a date with a kind, funny, and stable man. I remember thinking that he was too “normal” for me as he talked about his amazing family dynamics.
Then, I dated someone who put my life in danger and stripped me of every sense of who I was. When I left that relationship, I realized that this pattern would continue for the rest of my life if I didn't make a change.
I stopped focusing on relationships and finally focused on myself. I learned how to be alone to the point where I need at least a day a week now with time to spend however I want. I focused on healing my codependency and went through several years of intense therapy.
After a time, someone came into my life that was healthy, secure, loyal, and everything I could have ever wanted in a partner. I’m not going to say that it was magical, but I truly could not have imagined I would attract someone I am so compatible with.
Because I was in a better place emotionally, I began attracting healthier friends, a healthier workplace, and eventually a healthier partner.
The decision that I made to begin working on myself was the moment that my life finally began to change.