4 Things I Learned After 1 Year Of No Dating
I have always felt pressure to date or seek a partnered relationship my whole life, but there has been a particularly intense pressure since I started talking about polyamory online. Perhaps I have imagined it all but I honestly feel like there is something about being polyamorous and single that invites all these bizarre questions from monogamous and non-monogamous people alike. Disclosing I am not dating anyone often leads to a bewildered look from monogamous folk struggling to understand how I, a heathen could ever be without someone to fuck and non-monogamous folk immediately assuming that I identify as a solo polyamorist
I actually have found myself just accepting the solo polyamorist title when people ascribe it to me, because I feel a deep sense of failure as a polyamorous person for not having been partnered so long after my last relationship. But the truth is, I am a hopeless romantic that often craves partnerships and what I understand solo polyamory to be is something so far away from who I am and what I desire for myself.
While actively pursuing partnerships I found that things were not going well for me at all. My last relationship, as you could probably tell from my posts, and then lack of posts, and then my extended disappearance from all digital spaces.. Didn’t really go very well and left me, to be frank.. Pretty emotionally damaged.
I would go on dates, and find myself frightened of people, frightened of men specifically actually. Feelings as though I needed to perform whatever version of myself they were attracted to so to avoid disappointing them and suffering consequences later. I was almost always terrified that what happened before was going to happen again, the relationship chaos and my subsequent year long depressed state and self imposed isolation. I had the uncomfortable realization that even though I had moved on from all that went wrong in my romantic life, I had yet to really confront my personal role in creating the space for that shit storm to occur in the first place.
Now this is not at all to say that I deserved what happened to me in anyway, but If I am to get the healthy partnerships that I desire I must explore what led to not only my last relationships but all my epic dating failures - Why have I always found myself holding hands with abusive men? Why have I always found myself in adversarial relationships with other women? How could someone like me who loves people always have such a hard time connecting with people in a healthy way?
What was going on with me that I continuously for most of my life have found myself in highly toxic situations? Was I cursed? Did the Gods or the Universe just simply have it out for me? Was I born as a bad seed? Bad little black girl undeserving of good relationships? Or was there something else going on, something directly in my control, that I needed to examine?
I’m quite stubborn and mostly a brat so I knew accepting that there might be some not so charming traits about myself that required some heavy work on that I may discover, accept and then actually work on was not going to be an easy task.
I decided I would give myself a year. One full year without sex (sigh) without dating, without getting into any sort of intimate interaction with any person. I would spend my time in therapy, back in school, and focused on deep personal work to unpack and explore everything that has made relationships so challenging for me so that I may learn things about myself that were creating barriers for me cultivating the healthy romantic relationships that I so deeply desire in my life.
Learning my stuck points are the fucking key to everything.
Stuck points are any strong negative beliefs that create uncomfortable emotions and unhealthy behaviour. We all have stuck points, but they don’t look the same for everyone. Sometimes stuck points can be formed if you have had a prior negative belief, and a traumatic situation happens that confirms or reinforces that belief - I knew nothing of Stuck points before I began Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. When I started, my therapist had me write down a list of negative beliefs which would be my stuck points and told me to give each one a percentage based on how strongly I felt it - below you’ll find a small glimpse of what I wrote.
After I had identified what my stuck points were I was then to complete something called the A-B-C Worksheet (for each stuck point) Here's how it worked:
Column 1 ( A ) - Activating Event ( “Something happens”)
Column 2 ( B ) - Belief/Stuck Point (“I tell myself something”)
Column 3 (C ) - Consequence (“I feel something”)
After I finished filling out the columns, I then had to answer two questions.
Are my thoughts above in “B” realistic?
What can you tell yourself on such occasions in the future?
I did this for all my stuck points (and continue to do it to this day even though I ended therapy months ago) Being able to see my negative beliefs all laid out in one space while being (gently) forced to challenge them was probably the most difficult but most rewarding experience I’ve ever had in my life, as it relates to my personal growth and healing. It seems obvious, but it's really not. Understanding and acknowledging that my own thoughts can be barriers to healing was the first step for growth and change for me and it laid the foundation for all a myriad of lessons and opportunities for change throughout the year.
2. I must know my love languages to clearly communicate them.
I’ve heard people talk about love languages before, specifically Dr.Gary Chapman's five love languages (Words Of Affirmation; Quality Time; Receiving Gifts; Physical Touch) but I had never really examined what love languages looked like in my own life, and how my not knowing what I needed in my loving relationships was actually a big barrier to healthy loving relationships.
Without much thought, I immediately knew that Quality time is one of my love languages, and a really important one that I have deprived myself of. I’ve never had more than three partners at one time, but I typically date people that have way more partners than that. I find myself giving up quality time, telling my parents that I don’t need to see them that much even though it's not true. I never want to take up too much space or time of another, perhaps it's because I feel undeserving of time? Wanting to be the most agreeable person that “gives” and never “takes” But I am left always feeling quite empty and undesired, and eventually pretty resentful. I need quality time and I need to communicate that need. Nobody asked me to sacrifice my needs, I just decided that I didn’t deserve to have my needs fulfilled and that is a problem. I have now moved into a space of self love where I understand that I need and deserve Quality Time, it is not something I should give away or deny myself of, and it is something that I need to communicate to my partners if I feel I am not receiving it.
At first, I thought my other love language was Words Of Affirmation which is described as “ language that uses words to affirm other people”. But after further thought I realized that what I require is a bit more detailed than that. I talked this over with my therapist in that because of various traumas in my life how people speak to me is really important and it's far more layered that simple words of affirmation, I require non-violent language. It was then that she introduced me to the work of Marshall Rosenberg and Non-Violent Communication (NVC)
NVC is a method of communication that focuses on honest self expression; empathy and self connection. In understanding my stuck points, I realized that I struggle with negative beliefs about myself and the world around me, so often when I am interacting with people and the way in which they communicate with me is coming from a violent space, it tends to reinforce negative beliefs I’ve already had and that is no good for anyone. Yes my stuck points are mine to work on and constantly challenge, but I don’t need anyone to enhance the amount of work I have to do to access healthy thoughts. In my loving relationships I need and deserve Non-Violent Communication
3. I don’t like casual sex
I love sex. I think it's fantastically wonderful and exciting and fun. But for me, it can only be those things if I am comfortable, if I feel safe, if I feel secure. And in my understandings of what casual sex looks like for most, I can’t be all that comfortable in that interaction. Though I’ve known that I don’t enjoy casual sex for a very long time, this is the first time that I haven’t felt shame about it. I used to think that because I love sex; crave it ; enjoy it and live a polyamorous life that I must be open to all expressions of sex, that casual sex was something that I should like - and if I didn’t, it meant I was being dishonest about my other identities.
Finding myself in a play party, and feeling obligated to engage in the way that everyone else engaged, ignoring how much I just wanted to smoke; tell crude jokes and hangout. There are so many things a person has to know and understand about my body before I feel safe in them touching my body, and I do not believe there is anything casual about that interaction. And there is no shame I should feel about it. I’ve been told that those things are “too much”, that “nobody wants to deal with that level of intensity”, and I’ve been discouraged from communicating what I need to feel safe sexually as if learning what makes someone feel good is a turn off ( makes me wonder what sex is exactly about for some), and I internalized that for a long time and pretended that I liked and even desired casual sex, it's not true though.
Not understanding that you deserve to get the healthy things you want can really put you in a dark and dangerous place. I was there for a while and nothing good came out of it. So much about my trauma is about things being done to my body, and many people haven’t had those same traumas or they don’t require the things that I do to feel safe - and that is okay. But for me, honouring what works; what doesn’t and what I need to feel secure has been such a glowing experience in my healing process and I am thankful that I am finally listening to myself and am no longer concerned with how intense I may seem to some. What someone may interpret as a lot of work to get to know me, become disinterested and leave my life, creates the space for another who is going to be appreciative of my ability to communicate what works for me and what doesn’t. I don’t like casual sex, and I am no longer going to pretend like I do.
4 . Romantic love can and does exist in my life outside of partnered relationships, and that love is valid.
I used to only put value on the romantic love that existed in my life within my partnered relationships. Only actually through the process of rewriting the manuscript for my memoir No Filter did I actually begin to examine how so much of my life has been about romantic love outside of partnered relationships. I haven’t had a lot of partners in my life, but oh have I had a lot of love, a lot of intimacy, a lot of interactions; relationships; and friendships with people who loved me deeply and intimately, and I loved them just the same. These are relationships that have changed my life, relationships I have depended on and helped build a loving energy within me (that sounds really dramatic eh?) and I really need to honour those relationships.
It seems simple and obvious but I don’t think it is, not just for me but for everyone. Just like we are conditioned to be monogamous, and have that monogamy look one specific way, I think we are all (even non-monogamous folks) conditioned and encouraged to only see romantic love as valuable within a “couple” context. I don’t need to do that anymore and I don’t want to do that anymore. And quite frankly its a magical feeling when you sit back and look at all the love you have in your life, and begin to respect and value that love. I highly recommend trying it out ;)