Reaching just under 324 million users in 2021, interest in dating apps has skyrocketed since 2016, according to a quick google search. Despite these numbers, however, another search reports that only half of current singles claim to be looking for a romantic partner. The other half don’t want relationships at all.
I look at these statistics and find myself contemplating the reason for the apparent trend to remain single. Is it actually a preference or is there something else going on here? Is single life actually better or just safer? I have friends who say they do want relationships, but it seems like they run from them more times than not. Why do they do this? Lack of attraction or common values? Perhaps. Yet, I also imagine that (on occasion) people run from relationships because we are afraid of losing self-control. We are afraid our emotions will run away with us. After all, it’s scary to fall in love. It’s also particularly difficult when feelings aren’t reciprocated or when a person find’s himself unhappy with his partner through no real fault of either person involved. Maybe painful experiences in a person’s past trigger a latent fear or mistrust. Even recognizing that the issue is with one’s own self and healing and not the other person may do little to help. In fact, recognizing this can make it worse, because now one feels the pressure that comes with another person’s love.
So, what does a person do? Does he risk being a fool or lashing out? Does he risk abandonment or risk desiring what he can’t have? I would say that most individuals don’t set out to feel like fools or become aggressors who either treat someone poorly or can’t take “no” for an answer. Considering these options, managing one’s own emotions seems like the best course of action and retreating from a situation provides an accompanied sense of control. Our experiences, in particular, may tell us that anyone remaining in an imbalanced situation is just asking for heartbreak, a fight, or an unhealthy attachment…..and that all relationships come with these risks. No matter what we want to believe, people can and do leave, say mean things, and grow distant. To think that we can control what others feel or do in any scenario is simply unrealistic and maybe even self-delusional. Sure, some may seek control of their fears through threats and manipulation, but they usually find (inevitably) that this doesn’t work. We can’t control our own emotions by controlling others or our external environment. So, what actions do we take instead? We either attempt to control what happens to us by limiting the risks or we focus on controlling the effect a situation has on us all together. If either of these solutions mean we need to emotionally or physically distant ourselves or run from a situation, this is the course of action we take.
Yet, perhaps there’s more to all of that, as well. Maybe it’s also the fight or flight response in us that determines whether we run, stay, or chase. If so, this explains a lot about me, personally. In physically threatening situations, I tend to take to flight about 90 percent of the time. To say that my survival instincts are strong would be putting it lightly. If ever I’m forced to fight, in fact, I annihilate. Anyone backing me into a corner is going to be sorry. Perhaps this is why self-control is so vital. Emotions are powerful and I’m guessing I’m not the only one afraid of what may happen if unleashed.
Regarding romantic relationships, specifically, my own emotional expression (if allowed) could be the stuff of dreams. However, let’s say that I’m in a relationship with the love of my life and everything is wonderful beyond imagination. Don’t these types of situations end too? Countless times I’ve seen people so wildly happy to be together one minute and then tragedy strikes the next. Or, one person is wildly happy in the relationship and the other is only pretending…..hiding and harboring dissatisfaction or resentment. One person believes, perhaps, that the situation is a win/win….not realizing that the other person feels like it’s actually a “lose” for him/her. Although many people may not mind a win/lose scenario as long as they are the ones winning, I believe there’s a handful of us out there who are always going to want a win/win. Sure, if one person is going to have to be the “loser” in a situation, I’d rather it be me. However, I prefer a “no deal” to that option and rather than hurting another person in any capacity, I’m going to want to run.
Knowing all of these things about myself, I suppose, is what leads me to consider my actions over the past two years. I believe what I have been doing, in fact, is running from all of the rejection I have suffered in my personal relationships. I never want to be the “loser” in a situation, but I don’t really want to be the victor, either. Contrary to what some might think, discarding people and relationships is not at the top of my list of fun things to do. Relationships aren’t battles to me, comprised of winners and losers, and adopting this mindset is asking for a lifetime of struggle. Therefore, if a relationship is off-balance, I will take the hit for both of us. This is my preference and it’s better than a continuation of something that just doesn’t work. However, the past couple of years have been especially challenging, even while providing some of the best moments of my life. I’ve made some pretty big attempts to put myself out there, even momentarily moving to another state and telling someone “I love you” for the first time in my life when I actually knew what I was saying and meant it. It’s been a lot and while I have (indeed) taken the hit on more than one occasion, there is a good possibility that I’ve been trying to run away from the full impact of these hits ever since my last longer-term “relationship” ended in 2020. I’m running from the overwhelming pain and, sometimes, even the joy of certain moments. I’m saying “no deal.” I’m not accepting the loss. I’m not completely falling for any win and I’m maintaining control. I’m “over-coming.”
What a joke. The reality is that no matter how I spin it, I’ve been running from everyone. And because of this, I’ve been a complete let-down. I’ve been a disappointment. I’ve been a confused woman wreaking havoc. Rather than accepting the losses that have come my way, I have attempted to avoid them. I’ve been avoiding the pain of direct and clear rejection and I’ve been avoiding it even in instances in which the rejection was merely perceived. In addition, I’ve been avoiding the times when I’ve been strung along, intentionally or otherwise. After all, some people care more about themselves than their intentions with others. They care more about their options and their own needs than they care about respecting and considering the needs of another person. And then there’s those who just lack the ability to put themselves out there at all. After all, courage and honor seem to be pretty scarce character traits these days.
Not that I’m not guilty of some level of cowardice or selfishness, myself. I definitely am. I haven’t fully opened up…..just a beginning of it in one instance. Neither have I tied myself down to one person since my last longer term involvement. Instead, I’ve often been a mess of confusion, possibly at the detriment of others. On occasion, I’ve merely tried to leave myself open to changing and evolving feelings. Other times, I’ve simply made efforts to be more fair to myself. This seems a logical course of action after having remained steadfast and loyal to several people who were unsure about me. People who, for whatever reason, found themselves in a place where they didn’t want to “tie themselves down.” People with who I spent years involved in their projects and activities with their bands, children, etc.
I suppose we all have reasons why we are not “ready” for one person/situation or another. We all have reasons why we are afraid…..reasons why we run on some level. For me to judge anyone else for their actions as a result of these reasons would be just as unfair as anyone judging me for my own confusion or hesitation. We all battle fears and even our own shallowness. We all doubt (at some time or another) the truth of our own feelings, as well as those feelings expressed by others. Although, I do know who I care about and love, my actions may be just as confusing as anyone else’s. I’m no different, just because I think I know how I feel. I’m no different just because I’ve made a choice….just because I awake every morning and decide to experience the day alone rather than with someone who isn’t the person I really want to be with. I’m no different just because I believe my feelings come from a deep inner truth and knowing. I’m no different because even if the truth reveals itself to me and in me in no uncertain terms, it is still my individual experience. But mostly…..
I’m no different because I’m still running.
Sure, there was one moment in more recent memory, perhaps, when I didn’t run. I expressed my feelings….my truth. However, even in this particular moment, I wonder if I would have continued to hold back on some level if feelings had been reciprocated. You see, feelings and steadfast loyalty mean almost nothing when one doesn’t surrender fully to love and another person. I’ve been a woman of feelings and loyalty before. Perhaps these are important to someone who’s at a different place in his/her overall evolution. However, I’m looking to surrender, fully…..and I’ve found this to be personally and particularly difficult. I suppose this just goes to show, that no matter how deep we dive into ourselves, we can still find that we are battling something…that we are resistant. Maybe it’s the other person. Maybe it’s an overwhelming feeling of love that wants to express itself and find its home. A win/win sure sounds great, but how many of us have any real experience with that? How many of us really believe in it….believe it exists? How many of us can take ourselves out of survival mode?
There was a time last year when I didn’t rush myself to come to any conclusions about my own feelings or direction beyond the moment. I figured that time would reveal all…and it did. But maybe, what was revealed was no more a conclusion than anything else determined in any other moment. Maybe we get “answers” and a sense of direction in the moments we need them…..but not for any known and absolute end. I mean, if we are really going to allow the universe (or whatever we want to call it) to have its way with us, then we need to allow it. It will have its way, by the way. We can think and decide all day long, but (ultimately) we are not in control.
Sure makes me feel pretty foolish, now that I remind myself of this and think about it. If I’m not in control, why am I running? What are my reasons? Why am I holding in all of the love that I am? Am I afraid feelings of rejection, resentment, and guilt will get the best of me? It kind of seems like they already have, doesn’t it? The only thing to do now is stop it….stop the nonsense and just surrender already.
It’s interesting to me how much I prided myself on the woman I once was and how much I may still fear what others think of the woman I now am. Perhaps this fear just doesn’t ever go away or it’s leftover from my marriage. My late husband, after all, would probably not like the woman I am now. He would despise the two tattoos I’ve gotten. He would likely look at me in disgust. I can see the look, actually. Any value I have as a person would be non-existent in his eyes. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about or concern myself with what he thinks, but I have to consider that somewhere in me, these kinds of fears are still possibly swimming around.
So, what if I stop running? What will happen if I take a seat and relax. What if I don’t use travel to run away? There’s no doubt I love to travel for its own sake….exploring, seeing, experiencing new places and returning to old favorites. However, perhaps I should start asking myself whether I am traveling because I am running away or for some other reason? Thinking back, my trip to the Pacific coast this past June may have contained a smidge of running, but there was also a much larger purpose there. At some point earlier this past spring, I realized I do believe in something. Or more specifically, I believe in someone…..and I felt to act on that belief. That trip was my part to play, so to speak, so I took a leap of faith.
And maybe that trip was also the beginning of a surrender to something bigger. I used to say that if there was another person out there looking for me, I couldn’t give up trying to find him. It wasn’t just me who would lose if I gave up. I imagined this other person, too, relying on me to keep going. It was the two of us….each relying on the other to stay strong and do his/her part. This other person, assuming he existed, was counting on me as much as I was counting on him. It didn’t matter whether I had met the person yet, I believed I could feel him somewhere out there.
Just as I believed, earlier this year, that I was to take a trip to the west coast. I could see it….my camper, Gloria, on the Oregon coast. What I had to do became instantly clear…..an answer in the moment. So yeah, maybe I’m not the same woman I once was. Maybe I’m not the woman people have seen the past two years or the woman anyone thinks I am now. But the woman who would rather fight a battle with her partner rather than against herself or her partner? This is the woman I’ve always been.
So, I just want you to know, whoever you are…..that I’m not going to run anymore. I’m going to stay and fight. I’m going to do what I need to do, for us…..for a win/win.
I’m going to annihilate.