I’ve had a handful of relationships in my lifetime, but I’ve never been the type to chase companionship, or need another being to feel whole. A textbook introvert, I crave solitude and am scarily comfortable in my own company. It’s always been that way for me; my Mum is that way, and my Mum’s Mum was that way, too. Bless you, Norma!
During a six year stint of being single in my mid-twenties I considered that perhaps I was asexual or hideous to look at, but the fact was - I was wholeheartedly apathetic about dating for the sake of spooning someone at night or buying me dinner. I wanted someone to light my whole world on fire, but the guys I met just weren’t cutting it.
The classic “you’re too picky!” was met with “shouldn’t we all be?!”
People often ask me why I’m 'still' single. If I asked every person I met why they were 'still' in the same job/town/relationship, it wouldn’t be polite, but somehow a gal’s marital status has become fair game.
I’m single because I refuse to settle for anything less than a unicorn, and I’m still figuring out in what form that takes.
The truth of it all is that I’m on a journey of healing from a heartbreak I thought I was incapable of healing from. And through that, I’ve invested my efforts elsewhere. Predominantly, in learning to love myself again.
This time two years ago, I was living in Sydney and madly in love with a guy I’d met through friends. Although I was initially disinterested as I was freshly out of a relationship, he persisted and I agreed to go on a date with him. Weeks turned into months and I fell hard and fast. Three months in I left on a 3 week girls trip to America that was planned long before we got together. We spoke several times a day, every day and I changed my flight to arrive home a day earlier to be with him. He picked me up from the airport - excited to see me, but distant. That same afternoon back at my apartment, foggy with jet lag, a Facebook message came through on my phone from a girl I didn’t know telling me that she had been sleeping with him - my boyfriend in the next room - for the past 6 months and she’d only just found out he had a girlfriend. She claimed to be following girl code by telling me but the truth was she wanted revenge on him and, gratefully, I got swept up in the process.
In an instant, everything I thought to be true about life and love was taken from me. He cried and begged me to stay and so I did. As so many unempowered women do.
Utterly broken but too scared to do anything else I agreed to stay together and try to rebuild the relationship, knowing full-well that wasn’t possible. My love and respect for him died that day, and, by staying with and enabling him, my self-respect did too. I spent the best part of two weeks waking up in tears as soon as the memory hit. Each day felt like groundhog day, desperately trying to stay asleep for half an hour longer, so as to have half an hour longer free of the internal misery I was in.
Over the next 4 months, I developed a romantic form of Stockholm Syndrome where the shame of staying in a relationship in which I endorsed infidelity, was superseded by the fear I had of being abandoned by my ‘captor’. What I’ve learnt on my journey is that the abandonment issues I so freely joked about in my adolescence, were still playing out as part of my broader story at this point in my life (and they still do, to this day). Too ashamed to stay, too scared to leave in case no-one else wanted me.
I got sucked into the blame and shame spiral, but the person I was the hardest on was myself. As a result, I learnt that when you blame others and don’t take total responsibility for your life, you give up the power to change it. And I needed to change it, stat.
He ended the relationship 4 months after the cheating and I spiraled into a still-highly-functioning depression; eventually referred to a psychologist. Seven months may seem like a short time to be able to endure such a heartbreak, but I’ve learnt to never let anyone downplay your pain for theirs being greater, for it’s all relative.
I’m eternally grateful to my friends for pushing me to get professional help as I don’t think I would have done so otherwise. Up until that point in my life, my way of dealing with pain was to push it down, or run from it. Other people drink or take drugs to numb the pain, but those weren't my vices. Shame was. Ill-equipped with the tools I have now to deal with heavy emotions and an innate feeling of incapacity to find happiness in the same place I’d lost it, I packed up my life in Sydney and returned home to NZ in March 2016.
It turned out to be the best decision in my life thus far and what has unfolded for me since in terms of home, career, friendships, my coaching side hustle and sense of self has been nothing short of mind-blowing.
Life didn’t immediately improve when I moved home - about 6 weeks in I suffered my first ever panic attack that resulted in a late night trip to A&E. I wrote about that in my first blog post. That was almost 18 months ago now and I haven’t had one since, but it still irks me to this day, that the only treatment I was offered was a prescription for beta-blockers. We have a health care system that is well-equipped for treating mental illness, but not so much for maintaining mental health. I’m committed to addressing that so it’s why it underpins so much of the coaching and personal development work I do with clients today.
Fast forward two years, I’m (still - OMG) single and I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life. I occasionally consider about whether or not I should be freezing my eggs, but the truth is, my priorities are elsewhere. I've given Tinder a solid nudge and have some great stories to tell from 25+ dates. There was the guy who text me 3 mins after I left our date to ask whether I'd like to keep it casual (he was parked behind me at the traffic lights); the cop who kissed like a horny 13 year old at a disco; the yogi with B.O who made me pay for my own coffee; the NRL player who met me at a bar and made out with my friend; the hippy who lived in a commune (which I went to on our first date); the Dad who outwardly hated his ex-wife; the guy my Mum's friend set me up with; the art-gallery owner who was all about the "orkshuns"; and then, finally, the emotionally unavailable divorced father of a 4 year old who very clearly came into my life to mirror and heal the parts of my life that hadn't been. It became evident that I had been falling in love with the idea of a man rather than the man himself. His physical body was just a skinsuit for the potential I gave him in my minds' eye, and I would attach myself to an outcome of healing whatever childhood wounds needed healing through this person.
I’m committed to learning more about the human condition and healing the parts of mine that were woven into my story and held me back. I’m learning about why we as women put ourselves through so much suffering, why we think we’re not enough, why we play small, why we let the hurts of our past become our limiting beliefs which in turn harm our relationships; most of all, the relationship with ourselves. I’m constantly observing, questioning and learning. I'll forever be a student and that shit takes time. Earlier this year I flew to LA to do the Bridge Experience - a transformative leadership workshop led by Alexi Panos and Preston Smiles; and as a result, and through the work that they do, shifted an entire lifetime's worth of luggage in me over the space of a weekend. In a couple of months' time, I fly to the Gold Coast to complete the Bridge Experience Advanced, and cannot even imagine how life will unfold after that.
It would be easy for me to play the victim of my Dad not being around in my formative years and other men in my life who let me down, but who does that benefit?
It would be easy to shut myself off from dating for fear of being hurt again, but again, who does that benefit?
It would be remiss of me to blame all men for the actions of one man who was doing the best he could. I truly believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.
I find peace in knowing that everything is happening as and when it should, and I know I have a universal assignment that is far bigger than me now. As I heal others, I heal myself and I'm guided by my internal wisdom.
So, if you’re reading this and you feel stuck in the same way, I can offer you this:
Whatever you’re feeling, it will pass
Commit to being single and falling in love with yourself again. Time isn't running out if you're the one holding the clock.
Express gratitude to the people who have hurt you because they have also shaped you. You don’t win some, lose some you win some, LEARN some.
Don’t let what has happened to you define you. It’s not who you are; it’s who you became when whatever happened, happened to you. Playing the victim won't serve you.
Quit comparing yourself to others and stay in your own lane. This is your ride; stop giving other people free tickets to it.
Trust people until they give you a reason not to. Somewhere out there there’s an incredible guy who’s been waiting his whole lifetime just for you. Do the work now so you can be ready for him.
I’ve learnt to be thankful for the closed doors, detours and roadblocks on my dating journey, as they have protected me from paths, places and people not meant for me. It would be pretty easy for me to sit here and talk about what dicks they all were, but that’s not entirely true. They each played a role in teaching me something about me, and gratitude trumps fear any day. I'm grateful to my ex for showing me my resilience and my resolve.
I’m absolutely open to dating again, but they would have to be pretty fucking standout for this gal to down tools. For now, being able to eat like nobody is going to see me naked is a pure joy and a gift. This is the best part of being single: the only person who is disappointed when I take my clothes off is me! (That’s a joke; I love my body).
So, future boyf, if you’re reading this - thank you for your patience - I’ll be ready for you soon. I don't care what you look like, who you support or what car you drive, I just want you to be a nice human and to love animals..
And, to all my single thirty-something gals who are struggling with self doubt in relationships, add a comment below or send me an email and let me know how I can be of service to you.