This may be a little ranty, but a good rant does people good sometimes. (You know, when your mom gets really pissed off, loses her shit, and you finally clean your room. But wait…you’re an adult and that doesn’t happen anymore, I hope.)
Of course, we all do this from time to time, some of us more than others. I’m active in a number of Facebook groups that discuss divorce, relationships, dating, etc. And the thing that is making me bonkers lately is when a woman posts something like, “I met this guy, fell really hard, and now I don’t know if I should let my ex-husband of ten years see him at our kid’s baseball game. What should I do?” or “How long is the right amount of time after a divorce to start dating?” or “How long should I wait before having sex with the guy I’m dating?”
Now before you jump all over me about why those questions are perfectly valid, hear me out. I know there are exceptions to the rule, but these women are turning the decisions of their lives over to a bunch of strangers. Yes, of course they have the final say on whether they listen to the advice or not, but there’s something about the way the questions are being asked that tells me they are genuinely looking for the right answer. In the wrong place.
What Is Right for Me Is Not Right for You
Let me tell you a little story. I’m in the middle of a breakup. Or, rather, in the aftermath of a breakup, really (more on that another time, but stay tuned, because it’s fascinating). And one of the things I told myself a week or so ago was that sometime in the next couple of weeks, I needed to get back in the dating saddle. Go out. Enjoy some male company. Flirt a little. Don’t get too caught up in the desire to find a life partner, just remember that I like finding connection with people.
This is what was right for me. For some, after a breakup, it may be that reconnecting with girlfriends feels good, or journaling, or taking time to yourself, or eating an entire carton of ice cream in one sitting. (I’ve done all these things, incidentally, but this time what I needed was different.)
I knew the thing I needed at this time was to get back out there. And I could also see that not having the sexual nourishment I’m accustomed to was taking its toll. So I was out for some light-hearted physically-oriented fun.
Enter: one-night stand. A stranger I met on the internet came to my house after I met him at a bar and we decided that going home with each other seemed like a decent-enough idea. (I was pretty stoked to lose my one-night stand virginity, but I have to say, all in all, not really my thing.)
I’d seen plenty of Facebook stories in the last week of women detailing how they perform background checks on every man they date before meeting in person, or saying that they don’t have sex until they’ve seen STI results in print, ad nauseum. Those things are all fine and good if they are right for you, but they are not a prescription for how to avoid getting hurt, screwed, or murdered on a date. They are false reassurances that the “right” choice has been made. Regardless, I felt the defensiveness of them start to creep in. Was I being careless? Irresponsible? Downright stupid? Was I doing it right?
Guess what? When I stopped to ask myself if what I was doing was right with me, it actually was. I set and enforced my boundaries, had solid communication, and then pursued what I wanted.
It’s Not What You Think It Was
Ok, that’s a lie. It’s exactly what you think it was – but better. Was he an axe-murderer? No. Did I get taken advantage of? No. Was there connection? Yes. Did I enjoy myself? Yes. So really, I experienced the best possible outcome of an event such as this.
I find that when I trust myself, the following is true:
- I don’t waste time playing out a whole bunch of worst case scenarios.
- I’m not looking for external cues of whether something is right or not, which means I’m not waiting to make a move (on anything).
- I also means that when I say yes to something, I do that with full responsibility. When I make a choice, there is no one left to blame for how it goes. (This works for me, given that I see everything that happens as something I need to learn, and also that how I react is always my choice in any situation.)
- I don’t get too attached to how things turn out. I just trust that what is right for me is available to me.
How to Start Trusting Yourself in Three Steps
There is a heavy weight that keeps a lot of my clients from trusting themselves and looking externally for the “right” advice instead. It is the self-flagellation of poor choices of yore. (You bet that I just used “yore” in a sentence!)
Listen up. When you were a kid, did you ever touch a hot stove? Drink water out of the toilet? Other dangerous or disgusting things? Of course you did. Because you didn’t know better.
I fundamentally believe that when people know better, they do better. No one intentionally makes bad choices. The only bad choices that one can make, in my opinion, are those based on not asking yourself what is right for you and going with whatever Suzy or Bob says is right.
Step number one to start trusting yourself is to forgive yourself. When I was going through a particularly rough phase in seeing lots of my poor choices stacked up, I repeated the mantra: you did the best you could with what you had. (Now it’s present-tense: you’re doing the best you can with what you have.)
That weight is not doing you any good. And, in fact, it probably has you continuing to look outside yourself for guidance, which likely is leading you to make more choices that are wrong for you. Drop it off. You don’t need it anymore.
Step number two is while you’re dropping off that baggage, thank it for what it has taught you. If you don’t know, take a good hard look before you let it go for good. Why did you make those choices? What did you think would happen if you didn’t make those choices? Were you afraid of being alone forever, or unloved, or considered a bitch, or something else that felt excruciatingly painful?
If we don’t learn from our choices, we repeat them. Consider it a gift and take the lesson.
Step number three takes a bit more practice, but is the easiest once you’ve cleared the other shit out of the way. Instead of asking other people what they think or what they would do, ask yourself first! When someone asks you if you want to go to lunch, or grab coffee (as a potential suitor might do), don’t just say yes.
Ask yourself the same question and see what it feels like. Try to tap into the emotional reaction (or what your body is telling you) here instead of the logical reaction – they produce very different results.
I’ll talk more about how to listen to yourself in subsequent posts, but for now, woman, use that intuition. Use your internal knowledge about you and what is right for you to start making your own decisions. No one else has to walk in your shoes except you – it’s time to experience both the responsibility and the joy of the power to create your path.