So in the past week I’ve been asked out on a date by a man who has been asking after a date with me for 9 years—which I reluctantly accepted and then canceled a few days later—a stranger on Instagram asked me through private message whether I’m married, and a male co-worker at my day job told me that he has a “little crush” on me. I smiled and said “thank you for telling me” when he said it, and then texted him hours later to tell him that I also had a “little crush” on him but that it’s just a fun thing & that I think it would be nice to just “let it be what it is” for right now. He texted back: “Agreed.”
I should mention, this co-worker of mine is in the midst of a very volatile, on-and-off relationship with a woman who threatened suicide last week because he wasn’t giving in to her, a situation in which I tried my best to give him calm, straightforward, “tough love” advice about what emotional abuse looks like. This woman, who has cheated on him twice, is also married to her husband of 13+ years with whom she has 2 children.
It’s…a mess. And even though I find my co-worker attractive, charming, and charismatic, I feel extremely hesitant to even try to touch this situation with a ten-foot-pole. The whole situation is ripe with opportunity to completely wreck my own heart with frustration, unmet expectations, and rejection. So, I’m very conscientiously taking a step back and allowing myself to have a crush without feeling like I need to do anything to act on it.
Needless to say, my first full week of being single has been kind of challenging. In good ways. I still catch myself wanting to cover up my feelings of loneliness and boredom with dating apps, and I often feel restless because of the lack of distraction provided to me through notifications on my phone, but with each day that passes I feel better and better about giving myself some time and letting my love life take a backseat.
This really feels similar to my first few weeks of sobriety. Really. Perhaps the actual withdrawals are different—I’m not puffy-eyed and fatigued, nor am I experiencing pounding headaches or rapid mood cycles—but the process of trying to re-conceptualize my life through this new lens of singlehood is really challenging. I feel like this is perhaps a strange thing to be going on about, but never in my adult life have I been so intentional about protecting my own heart. I used to think that the best way to protect my heart was to find someone else who could help me hold it; judging by the way my life has gone, that hasn’t exactly worked out for me so far.
Instead, this time around, I am finally able to see that I’m the only one who can protect my heart, I’m the only one who can hold it. There may come a time down the road when I can share my hear with someone, but it wouldn’t be fair to myself or anyone else at this point to jump back into dating without learning how to keep a firm grip on my heart.
Most of all, I just want to feel at peace. I’ve been slowly coming to a greater sense of peace within myself, but it feels like a moving target sometimes. It’s getting better though. I don’t know if this ability to slow down and find peace is the main characteristic of my sobriety or just a side-effect of it, but I appreciate it. Instead of searching for constant external validation, as I was doing so often with my ex, I am learning to validate myself and my own efforts with small moments of self-praise. I am continuing to learn how to be kind to my body and to my mind. Heck, I’m even starting to feel attractive again.
The adjustment has been strange, but I’ve enjoyed most of it so far. There’s no doubt in my mind this time around that leaving my ex was the right thing to do—for both our sakes (but mostly mine). I’m excited about what else is to come.