A few years ago, when I first poked my head into the world of online dating, I was perplexed by the seemingly global "no drama!" admonition I was seeing on most men's profiles. As someone with a rather animated personality, I was certain that the no-drama-dating-deal-breaker and its no-emotional-baggage cousin were signs of most men's self-centered, commitment-phobic nature. In fact, I was certain of it.
"Why do virtually all men's online dating profiles emphatically disavow drama?" I asked my date one evening. He responded that not all drama was good, and that there were some women out there who were carrying around excess emotional baggage, and what was worse, they were often indiscriminate in their projection of said baggage. "Well, maybe the cumulative effect of years of men's emotional unavailability coupled with their unceremonious departures results in said emotional baggage, which then causes some women to become drama queens. Did you ever think of that?" I responded to this man on our first (and last) date.
Most of the women I know have spent the bulk of their lives in search of some magical relationship formula that promises a lifetime of lasting love. The formula that most women seem to have settled on, and that's supported by about 500 of our favorite romantic comedies, involves the rather traditional notion that men are by nature, hunters, and the nicer a woman is, and the more available, the more bored a man gets in a he's-just-not-that-into-you sort of way.
It was based upon this premise that I formed assumptions about the various men in my life, and the reasons for my failed relationships. Perhaps I was too nice, too accommodating, too available, I told myself after each break-up. I didn't even have to ask my partner whether I was correct, because I already knew -- I was a victim of the universal male fear of the emotionally available women.
A few years ago I made a decision to start living my life more authentically, with increased transparency. I began this journey by making the commitment to, at the very least, be more honest with myself about my true feelings, my true fears, and my true agendas. I pursued this path because I was feeling an exorbitant amount of fragmentation and stress, and I determined that it was because I was wearing too many masks in my life. I had no place, and no space to just be me.
And then one day I had a really scary thought. Maybe I was wearing masks in my romantic relationships too. And maybe my excessive kindness was one of these masks. Hmm. I did not like where this was going, did not like it at all. Could I have played some active role in the demise of my past relationships, other than the benign act of being too giving? Were my victim-situated, self-indignant tantrums ever truly justified as I had repeatedly argued? Was I (gulp) an emotional baggage-toting drama queen?
With a lot of soul-searching, I realized that the answer to these questions was probably yes. The truth was, that often I gave gifts of excessive kindness and was overly accommodating not because I was the better partner, but because I had holes in my heart, and I looked to my partners to fill them. I hid these expectations though under layers of shame-induced false bravado. Over-focusing on my partner's needs masked my own emotional unavailability.
Admitting this was difficult, but it was also a little like taking my Spanx off after a very long date. I felt like I could finally breath.
So it is with these acknowledgements in mind that I must apologize to most of the men I've dated (and married) over the years:
I'm an educator, author, blogger, artist and mom. I came up with the idea of my Aging Naked blog when I hit 50 and my need to be more transparent and authentic overcame my fear of being more transparent and authentic. I'm on a journey, and love the idea of it being a collective one, so let me know if you're here, and feel free share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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