Refusing to Shrink for Love #SingleWithLeah

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I am in a mood, y’all. A MOOD. Why? Because last night I was so stressed out about my romantic life that I developed a rash. A LITERAL, PHYSICAL, REAL RASH. I called it my dating rash.

I tried to show my mom but she was telling me that I was being dramatic, a statement that was met with the response of me throwing myself (carefully-I’m not 22 anymore) on the floor and laying there, dropping not-so-subtle hints about my dating woes while she continued to search for vacation properties on AirBnb. Thank you, Mom, for your overwhelming concern.

While expressing concerns about dating to my dad, I told him that because of my ability to write and communicate, people assume that I am very smooth in dating situations. “And I am not smooth, Dad,” I said. His response? “Don’t worry, Leah. I have never once thought that you were smooth.” Another incredibly solid validation. So thankful.

I sat in my car this morning outside of work asking myself a very simple questions: “Leah, what is your freaking problem?” I was so deep in self contemplation that I almost missed a meeting. Then I spent the entire meeting nodding in agreement while I inwardly asked myself things like “What is life?” or “Who am I?” or “Why are long, pointy nails still a thing?”

Right now you are probably SUPER thankful that this is the woman that you get to take dating advice from. I clearly have it all together and am on a solid path to emotionally stable marital bliss. Or maybe, I’m just average and not afraid to tell you about it. Either way, here I am, showing you how crazy I am or maybe how crazy you are not. Sometimes you just need to know that you’re far less of a psychopath than you think you are. You’re welcome.

So what exactly is freaking me out? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. I am terrified of being somebody’s everything.

Gosh, that looks silly when I see it on paper. I mean, isn’t that what we are all aspiring to be? I am patiently (depending on my cycle) waiting for the day when a man will come into my life who simply cannot live without me. Isn’t that the goal? That one day I will be writing a blog from my honeymoon and will be like sorry, suckers, you’re on your own. (Because Lord knows I will be so obnoxious when I finally get a guy).

I guess the best way that I can describe my weird terror about being somebody’s everything is that I feel like I have worked really hard to be the woman that I currently am. The thought of being somebody’s anything, much less everything, makes me disappear in terrified wonderment about whether or not I will lose myself in love.

There are a lot of songs and poems and shaving cream commercials about the beauty of losing yourself in love. I don’t know, maybe it’s beautiful. Maybe it’s wonderful and inspiring and just blissful as crap. But what I do know is that I once lost myself in love, and it was the most awful experience of my life.

When I fell hard for this guy, I fell really, really hard. He knew that I was falling and let it happen. He didn’t ever compliment me, but would tell me little things that he liked. Curly hair. Headbands. Plaid shirts. Looking back, I think he was describing Mallory from the Babysitter’s Club, which should have been a red flag because I am the world’s worst babysitter and would definitely have never made the club unless they were looking for somebody who was legal to sneak wine coolers into their meetings. Then, yeah, I would’ve made the club.

So here I am, this dark haired, Armenian queen-of-a-woman trying to squeeze into this guy’s preppy white girl fantasy, and somewhere along the way I completely lost myself.

I traded in all of my leather jackets and high heels for canvas boat shoes and neat little sweaters and, of course, headbands. And even worse, I traded in all my spark and fire and gumption to be this meek little version of myself who waited around for him to text me and give me a spark of validation that I could somehow use to light my path through my day.

When that relationship ended, I realized that I was a crumbling structure next to the monument of a woman that I used to be. So, I rebuilt. It was a slow, painful process. It was a brick-by-brick, never ending cycle of rediscovering things that I didn’t even realize I had lost. It was almost more painful than the breakup, if we’re being honest. And the shame, y’all. I had allowed him to tear me apart, brick by brick. For any strong woman, that realization is almost unbearable.

You’ll do anything when you’re lost in love, and I think that’s what scares me. I am afraid of giving the parts of me that I have put so much effort into rebuilding over to somebody who doesn’t understand how hard I’ve worked.

There’s risk in rebuilding. What if all of my hard work gets knocked down again? What if I build things incorrectly, and have to redo it? What if I don’t build it strong enough, or worse, what if I build it too strong, and nobody can ever get in and I can never get out?

But, dear reader, let’s not forget the most vital and most important part of the rebuilding process: letting people back in. This renovation of your soul should be celebrated! Tell your story. Open the door and welcome new friendship, new ideas, or maybe even new love.

There are risks to starting over…to taking your vessel and jumping into the water again.

I’m not afraid of love. I love love. I am afraid of the headband-fetish-wolf hiding in love’s clothing. I don’t fear being someone’s everything, I fear being somebody’s only thing, and feeling the perpetual need to keep them happy. I spent a year of my life trying to keep a man happy who wasn’t happy to begin with. And that really, really sucked.

I’ve worked hard to rebuild and reinvent myself, and I want a man who is also strong and complete without me. I don’t want to complete him. I want to compliment him. Add to him. I want us to stand next to each other, strong and whole together. But even more important, I want us to stand strong and whole apart.

For me, the risk lies in him not letting me be, well, me.

But even still, I set out with the risks in mind, and I traverse the potential waters of love once more, with no knowledge of what direction the wind will take me. But this is what I do know:

The waves are not unsurmountable, and the wind will no longer knock me to my knees. Why? Because I know my vessel. It is strong. I know how it works, inside and out. I know what directions it is headed, and when it gets off course, I know what to do to guide it back.

And most of all, I know where home is. No matter where I travel or wander or drift, I know the true desire of my heart and the real reason why I fight the waves, sometimes calm, sometimes unbearable, and the reason is clear:

Because right now, in this moment, I am a rebuilt woman.

And reader, right now, you are every single thing that you have set out to be.

Choose your bricks wisely.

 

leahLeah Barterian works as the Youth Program Director at Grace Christian Church in Metro Detroit, Michigan. She is extremely passionate about singleness, Red Wings hockey, social equality, and late-night snacking. She loves baked cheetos, puppies, and laughing at videos where people slip on the ice. She inexplicably hates black beans and humidity. Follow Leah on Twitter and Instagram @Leahbarterian. Explore Leah’s blog at withleah.com.

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10 Comments

  • I personally think that romantic love is something that you integrate into a full life, not something to build a life around. And I spent a year trying to please a dissatisfied man. It was nearly 30 years ago, and I still remember the pain of putting myself back together.

    • It is SO painful, you’re right. I will never forget the feeling of loneliness that I felt on a daily basis, even when I was with him. I could be in a room next to him and feel totally alone. I tried so hard to make it work…to make me work…when he was the one not working for any of it! I see that now, but when you’re lost in the moment and inside of the situation, it’s hard to see.

      Thanks for reading and for your insight into this situation. I love what you said, “I personally think that romantic love is something that you integrate into a full life, not something to build a life around.” That’s so true, and made me stop and say, “Dang!”

      Thanks again!

  • I definitely lost myself during the first two years of my marriage (we just celebrated four). I was raised in a super patriarchal home, and believed my whole life was supposed to be about supporting my husband. My personality and self-confidence practically evaporated as my husband and I tried to act out how we were told to live by fundamentalism. After two years our marriage was barely hanging on, and we made some serious changes. We’ve totally abandoned not only patriarchal values, but the whole idea that everything about your spouse has to be super romantic and perfect, and that you can rely on that person to be everything you need socially and relationally in life — it’s an unfair burden! Being less attached to one another and feeling free to be my own person has drastically improved our relationship. We no longer feel guilty about leaving one another at home or pursuing completely different interests and activities, and it has made each of us more attractive to the other. We actually enjoy doing more things together now than back when we tried to force it.

    I’ve really enjoyed your guest articles here, even though I’m not single. I’ll have to check out your blog. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Anna! I appreciate the insight and support. It’s funny how so much of my outlook of marriage has changed just simply by waiting to get married and being single well into my 30’s. While there are moments when I want to metaphorically die, I am very thankful to be in the place that I am, and even more than that, I’m thankful that I didn’t marry the wrong person.

      I’m glad that you and your husband chose to not give into “Christian norms” and just do what works for you guys. I know that’s what Jesus would have wanted. It’s always cool for me to see marriages take a turn for the better when people take rules out and put just plain old understanding in the center. It gives me hope. I don’t want a perfect marriage. I want a real marriage.

      So thanks for reading and for the feedback. And yes, please check out my blog! It’s not so much relationship stuff as it is just my random ramblings 🙂

  • If he doesn’t love YOU, with all your strong, beautiful characteristics then
    he’s not for you. What I hear is maturity gained from being the “phantom”
    GF in that silly relationship so that you can be YOU in the right one. If your heart is set on God AND you determine, set your course, to NOT walk down
    the isle with the wrong guy…..what? what then? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. But one thing for sure, you will be true to yourself. And if marriage is in your future, it will be an authentic, non-headband/boat shoes marriage. But there may be some falling on the floor wailing moments:)

    • First of all, Betty, this comment made me smile and feel all warm! “Non-headband/boat shoes marriage” was the best combination of words that I’ve ever witnessed. THANK YOU. It’s been a verrrrrrry long road getting here, and the road still stretches for miles in front of me, but honestly, I’m just happy to be on it and am trying to enjoy the journey, dating rash and all!

      Thanks for reading and for the support!

  • I’m coming up on my 25th wedding anniversary. Don’t worry, beautiful girl. Next time around you’ll be wiser, and more clear-eyed than before. The right man will meet you, SEE YOU, and immediately think he’s won the lottery. 🙂 He’ll celebrate exactly who you are and who you’re becoming. And you’ll want to do the same over him, because you SEE HIM and who he is created to be, and you know that your bricks together will build one amazing Life! Hang in there, keep hope, and LIVE fully every single day- except those days when you just eat chips on the sofa and watch daytime television and wear your oldest yoga pants, because everybody needs a day off now and then. 😉

    • Lisa-Anne, what an amazing encouragement! Thank you so much for not only reading but for all of your kind words. I just read this out loud to a friend because it meant to much to me. Your words are so timely and so appreciated! Thanks again!

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