Dating at any age isn’t easy. You’re looking for that one person out of billions that compliments your personality, your quirks, your morals and beliefs. You want that one person that makes you a better one just by being with them. Some people, like four of my friends, are lucky enough to have found that person in high school and are happily married now. But what happens after you date for three years only to find the ones that leave you worse off than before you began? What happens when you find out that some people think you owe them your love?
For example, one of my favorite websites I’ve discovered since moving to Dallas is called Nextdoor, a website designed to connect you only to people in your neighborhood and/or the surrounding ones. A few days ago I posted my West Elm rug for sale on this site and not too long after I got a private message from a guy just about my age. “Cool rug Melody. Not interested in it but thought it was pretty cool.” After I thanked him, he immediately took that as an opportunity to ask why and how I moved to Dallas, about my life, what I do, where I hang out. In the eighteen hours we messaged, he asked me out three times. The third time I turned him down because I already had plans, he snapped at me. “I’ll just quit trying then,” he said. “What?” I asked. Four hours later, he asked me if I was even interested in meeting him. “I have no interest in dating you. I’ve been busy every time you’ve asked me out.” He claimed he had no interest in dating, either, and that he was probably being annoying but wasn’t trying to be. Right here was the first time he tried evoking sympathy from me. After I called him on snapping at me, he told me that once I meet him and “hear his story, things like that will make more sense.” I ignored that and reluctantly agreed to meet.
So I said yes. And then the next morning, no. (HOORAY! BACKBONE!) Specifically, “Hey! I know this is rude because I’ve already agreed to hang out, but I’m very uncomfortable meeting. I don’t think your intentions when you messaged me on Nextdoor were just friendly. We don’t even know each other and you snapped at me for not being available enough to you. I don’t owe anyone my time or conversation. Good luck in school! I wish you the best.” The second time he tried evoking sympathy was when he told me that this was nothing new to him because every woman leaves him. When I again told him no one owes him a date, he claimed all he ever wanted was friendship and that I obviously don’t want anything to do with him. That’s the third attempt to elicit sympathy from me, if you’re keeping score at home.
You see, the problem with this is, well, a lot of things. First, no matter how pure he perceived his initial intentions when he messaged me, they were not. Six years ago, or even probably one year ago, I’d have fallen for it. I’d have said yes, met the guy at Chipotle because he doesn’t drink, and hated myself for all of it. The problem with Gary* is that he expects anyone (girl) to say yes. That because he took the time out of his day to send me an unsolicited message, I owe him some sort of token. A date, my body, my conversation, my sympathy, my love. Second, the problem isn’t just Gary’s. It’s generational. There are countless stories just like mine. I’m limited to the scope of my generation, but I’d be willing to bet this is just a people problem. Third, Gary was disrespectful. So much so in fact, that he didn’t want me staying committed to the plans I’d already made before he ever messaged me. He didn’t respect my time enough to let it be just that. Mine. He had already claimed my time as his own before meeting me.
2016 Melody won’t stand for this. I’ll let 2014, 2015 and early 2016 Melodys speak for themselves.
2014 Melody was unstable. And by unstable I mean I dated a guy that flat out told me in a Papacita’s that he wasn’t done cheating on any of his girlfriends just yet. I squirmed in my seat and my brain literally blocked those words out and didn’t let them process. I intentionally ignored everything he was saying because I wanted to believe he was good. You know what? I STUCK AROUND. He made wild promises about the future, mentioning marriage and a house and even named one of our future kids Thomas. He’d have red hair like me and long eyelashes like him. (I’m serious, you guys. This was my life.) A month later when he broke the shocking news to me that I was not the only broad in his life, I couldn’t believe it. When he looked me in the eye in White Rock Coffee smelling of cologne and dressed for a date with another girl and told me he’d been seeing her for two years, my body literally turned rigid. How could he? I loved him! Didn’t he love me?
The next day, I’d set up an appointment at the Apple store where he used to work and talked about all.the.time. because my iPhone’s lock button was broken. Coincidentally (NOT), this other girl worked there, too! (No wonder he talked about it all the time!) You know what ol’ boy did? Told her I was coming so she could handle my appointment. He set up his two girls so they could meet. Isn’t that sweet?
2014 me was dependent. My formative years were spent dating someone else. A serial monogamist, some would say. So when I met my ex-husband, I thought it was the natural next step. Get married! Have kids! Be happy! I desperately wanted those things to come true, I just didn’t know you had to work at them. When everything finally fell apart, I was able to see just what I was: a co-dependent child that hadn’t done anything for herself. That might be a little harsh, I mean, I did finish school on my own, bought my own cars, took care of a dog. But emotionally, I was stunted. For whatever reason, a relationship was the only way I knew how to be whole. Course I wouldn’t come to fully realize this until a little while later. And not really until I’d dated all these other yahoos.
2015 me was alright. I’d dated a very professional lawyer that doted on me, saved and bought a new car and was finally saving to move to Dallas. After Lawyer, I was in my first serious relationship after the divorce in ’13 and was learning a lot, even though he was dealing with his own divorce. I loved him, he loved me and we did the best we could. I learned how not to be passive aggressive. I learned how to better communicate, how to express to someone I loved that what they were doing was hurting me. I got to experience what it was like to date someone not living in my parents’ house (!!!). I had someone to rely on, someone to call when things got hard and someone to complain to about how lonely it was moving to a new city. When we broke up, I learned again how to deal with heartache, this time on my own. I learned how to reach out and ask for professional help when talking it out with friends and family just wasn’t cutting it. I learned how to let go and forgive. I learned even more about what I need in a partner. I learned that breakups can be healthy and they can be really good for you. A really shocking revelation to me at the time as a co-dependent person.
Honestly, I still attribute a lot of my growth to this dude. Even though he’s long gone and we’re not even in the same city, I’m afraid I’d still be just like 2014 Melody if it weren’t for him. So thanks, Jon.
Late 2015 Melody, though, that’s a different story. As a classic serial monogamist/co-dependent gal since age 14, (I know) I started dating someone “seriously” three weeks after my nearly nine month long, very serious relationship. Totally healthy. He was kind, affectionate and generous, but constantly left me places alone if his mother called. We were waiting for a table once at a nice restaurant in the middle of a conversation when his phone rang and he excused himself for ten minutes while I stood inside alone. This happened at least twice every.time.we.went.out. Two months in, I caught him texting another girl all the time. He claimed she was a friend (a good Facebook stalking revealed they had seriously dated for over a year) and vowed to stop talking to her if it made me uncomfortable. A month later, when I caught him again, he got very quiet when I asked if she knew he was dating someone. When I broke up with him the next day, he told me not to think that it was my fault. Great! I feel so much better that you texting another girl isn’t my fault. Whew!
He taught me that I was not a top priority. Leaving me alone places to answer a phone call or letting his phone light up with another girl’s name taught me that I was not enough for him. By this time, at least, I’d learned enough to know that I am worth something and had the guts to break it off.
Early 2016 Melody isn’t much better. There was the time I met someone and three days later they moved four boxes and three duffel bags into my house behind my back, the time someone abandoned me at a concert at midnight without my keys in what used to be a bad part of the city, the time someone else wanted to marry me after knowing me for four days, that time the same person told me I was the biggest girl he’d ever dated but he “didn’t date ugly girls” then showed me a full body nude of his ex, the countless times I was emotionally manipulated and called worthless, in so many terms, and the time a guy told me I shouldn’t be on a dating site if I wasn’t ready to get married. (Those sound really traumatic when you string them all together like that. Woof.)
Now, look. I’m not blameless here. Yeah, a lot, and I do mean a lot, of the guys I have dated are not good for me, but I chose to be with them. I chose to put myself in those situations. There were red flags in the very beginning of ALL of these “relationships” that I willingly chose to ignore because I thought that’s what I deserved. That’s what my divorce taught me; it shamed me into thinking I deserved someone that didn’t really love me, someone that wouldn’t show up for me and someone that wouldn’t fight for me. I let that become my reality and my idea of self-worth. I played into the manipulation and games with men nearly ten years older than me in some cases and counted that as love and commitment.
No one in these stories is blameless, but these guys deserve an emotionally healthy life just like I do. I want the person that doesn’t believe anyone will love him to realize that he’s already loved. I want the person that treats women like objects to realize what a treasure people are. I want that person that abandons their girlfriend in a restaurant to realize that some things can wait. I believe that everyone is worthy. Maybe that’s just me being sappy to a fault, but I think that’s true. No one on this planet is inherently worthless.
So, how, if you aren’t inherently bold like me, do you break the cycle?
First step, realize you’re worth. Realize you’re worth something more than whatever person said you were worth. If someone called you dirt, realize you’re the flowers coming out of that dirt.
Second step, let that permeate every part of your being. It’ll bleed out into everything you say and do, and when someone steps to you like Gary here, you’ll have the courage to step right back to them. No one, listen to me, no one gets to tell you what you’re worth. Do you hear me? No one.
The last step? Surround yourself with people that lift you up. People that’ll fight with you and for you against those that call you something other than worthy. Real friends that encourage you, believe in you, love you. The ones that’ll drive three hours in Temple, TX traffic to see you for one day. The ones that’ll still love you after everything you used to be, especially when you were 2006 Melody. (Yikes.) Surround yourself with people like that.
Current 2016 Melody is good. Really good. I deleted my profiles off of both of the dating apps I had, blocked numbers I shouldn’t be texting, spoke into the universe that I was fully single, and asked God to make my heart stone for a little while. Just until I was ready, really ready, to date again. It’s been about six months since then and despite missing that emotional connection, I’m okay. I’ve realized that I can want to love someone and know that I’m just not ready. I’ve realized that I can pour myself into my friendships instead. I can have year long crushes on someone without acting on it. Most importantly, I can be happy sitting alone on my couch at night.
In the end, know that you are loved. Even if only by me, someone on the internet whose writing you’re reading. But most, most, most importantly? Love yourself.
*name changed to maintain anonymity. still a dumb name, though.