There is so much strength and beauty that come with knowing who you are and what you want in life and in love. Everything I’ve been through in the past year and a half has made me acutely aware of who I am as a person, what makes me happy, what I want and deserve, and the type of life I want to live. It’s incredibly empowering to walk through life with this knowledge, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. As per usual, I’d like to talk a little bit about the shitty side of self-actualization…
In my twenties, things seemed so easy. I was still figuring out who I was, but ever the optimist, I was certain everything would magically fall into place. Fun fact: that’s just not how life works.
In my thirties, with a 7-year relationship and subsequent divorce under my belt, I can walk confidently through life with a clear understanding of who I am and what I want. In terms of dating, this has translated into a series of what are commonly referred to as deal breakers. So here are a few of mine:
- Babies. I want kids. This is the big one. I want to be a mother. I am 99.9% certain this desire will never go away.
- Equality. I’m looking for an equal partnership. Someone who is as career focused and ambitious as I am. Someone who is willing to be an equal partner in all things, from child rearing and life responsibilities to social interactions and career goals.
- Dogs. This might seem dumb, but dogs will always be in my life. I will always and forever treat my dogs like family. I will always want to adopt all the dogs. The person I end up with needs to accept this and find it endlessly charming. I demand it.
- Religion. I’m an atheist and just cannot fathom getting serious with someone who is super religious. I don’t think I need to end up with an atheist (though I’d prefer it), but I won’t get married in a church, baptize my kids, attend church, etc. The person I end up with needs to be okay with this.
- Politics. I don’t necessarily have to be with someone who agrees with all my politics, but let’s just say that I could never take a Trump voter seriously, and therefore would never date someone who voted for that racist old pile of orange, rotting flesh that currently occupies the oval office.
Deal breakers are important. They help us set boundaries for ourselves and help us protect our hearts. But what happens when you meet someone who checks all the boxes except one very important one?
It sucks. That’s what happens.
Few things in this life will make you feel more like you’re trapped in an adulting nightmare than making the decision to walk away from something amazing because your rational brain knows it will just hurt you in the end. Sure, everything feels fabulous now, but eventually you know everything will go to shit because you just cannot get on the same page about something that means the world to you.
So you talk about it, like adults. You cry about it alone in your bedroom, in a way that would put 14-year-old you to shame. You spend hours and days attempting to rationalize the inclination to forge ahead—deal breakers be damned—but ultimately you come to the conclusion that there’s no way to make this work. And that sucks.
Because this is what adulthood is. It’s setting boundaries and cultivating responsible relationships that ultimately support the life we envision for ourselves. It’s protecting our heart from the kind of anticipated pain that can only come from the shitty life experiences that have shaped who we are and who we will become.
So what now?
Now, I start over. Again. I try not to lose hope. I attempt to gain some sort of life lesson from this experience. I remind myself that I’m only 32 and I have my whole life ahead of me. And I channel my inner optimist, then remind myself to be grateful for all the good in my life.