At 27, I found myself standing on a Manhattan sidewalk, staring into the scruffy face of yet another huge dating disaster. Lied to , mistreated and cheated on, I'd been publicly humiliated. My ego was crushed. Having loved and lost again, I felt frustrated, beaten down and so very tired of this thing called love. And I was full of the why-me's.
Why didn't he love me? Why did this happen to me? Why does this always happen to me?
Several weeks after my breakup, the pity party was still in full swing. Lying on my living room sofa, in a mess of soggy tissues and gooey Fudgsicle sticks, I was spending the umpteenth consecutive night communing with Netflix and my misery. It was ugly. But then, right in the middle of all that feeling sorry for myself, something pretty amazing happened: I heard a song. Actually, it was just one line from a song:
"It's not going to stop 'til you wise up."
It was a line from Aimee Mann's "Wise Up," and after hearing the song just once, I made it my anthem. I downloaded it to my iPod, hit repeat and then commuted to it, cried to it, showered to it… until the day I was ready to do some actual wising up. I had learned from my experience, but it took my listening to those lyrics, articulated in just the right way, before I understood it.
Bad relationships didn't just happen to me. I allowed them to happen.
And it was time to put a stop to it. I would set boundaries — a set of relationship resolutions — for myself and for those I spent time with, and I would stick to them.
I will learn to say "next!"
Plain and simple, the world is full of men. Everywhere you turn, there's a man. Look — there goes one now! A wise woman once told me that men are like city buses: If you miss one, there will always be another. I decided that, from now on, I would not assign any man too much meaning too early on. I am not going to worry that I won't find "it" again. I will not worry that I'll end up in a rocking chair surrounded by cats and empty wine bottles. I will remember that there will always be another.
I will expect more and tolerate less
Not all men are self-loathing, egocentric, cheating bastards. In fact, most people have a lot more good to them than bad, and by and large, will live up to the expectations you set for them. Not since junior high have I worried that a friend would hurt or disappoint me. But with men, it's been a constant fear. I realized that this was all because of expectations. If I did not expect — or even demand — that a man treat me right, he probably wasn't going to. I'm not talking about princessy stuff here, like buying me dinner or calling by Tuesday if he wants to see me on Saturday. I'm talking about basic good treatment. Like following through with plans. Or being aware of my feelings. Or not leaving his cell phone on another girl's nightstand and telling me he'd lost it. You know, common consideration. And when common consideration is breached? Next!
I will get busy
Because men are wired differently and may as well live in a different time zone, playing the "why hasn't he called?" game is a guaranteed express trip to Crazytown. Why hasn't he called? Who knows? But I do know that I should be too busy to worry about it. Untapped potential was like my emotional saddlebags — unattractive even if no one noticed it but me. I resolved to make plans, resurrect my hobbies and spend my time doing and thinking and being. If he calls, great! If not, I will be way too occupied with all my fabulous self-fulfillment to notice.
I will not play it cool
To keep myself from feeling exposed and vulnerable, I'd gotten very good at using the phrase "that's okay" when it was really, really not okay. There were so many times I didn't get angry when I should have, for fear of coming off as too emotional or unhinged. Well, you know what? Unhinge this! If the situation calls for it, and the difference between sucking it up and having a bit of a blowup could be months of festering in a foul mood, I'm going to let him have it. The same goes for positive emotions. If a man does something to delight me, I'm going to act delighted. Forget cool sophistication! And if he gets weirded out by all of my emoting? You guessed it: Next!
I will lighten up
The pursuit and maintenance of coupling may have made me do surprising things, but even more astounding was what it made me forget. I am pretty damn awesome. I am funny and talented, and I look pretty smokin' in jeans and stilettos. Getting caught up in the worry of trying to please a man, and working overtime to postpone an inevitable breakup is a huge time-waster. And a killjoy. A man's opinion of me is not more important that my own opinion of myself, so I shouldn't take it so seriously. I will remember to laugh more, worry less and like who I am — man or no man — and to redirect some of that energy into pleasing myself.
Unlike New Year's resolutions, which last only as long as my dieting attention span (six weeks max), my Relationship Resolutions have become ironclad. They've become a safety net and are a constant reminder that I don't need to second-guess myself or feel insecure. By wising up and following my resolutions, I might spend more time by myself than I did in the past. But on the upside, I've discovered that I like the company a whole lot more.
Heather Hunter writes the iVillage blog ThisFish.