“We try so hard to hide everything we’re really feeling from those who probably need to know our true feelings the most. People try to bottle up their emotions, as if it’s somehow wrong to have natural reactions to life.” –Maybe, Someday, Colleen Hoover
We don’t want to love anymore. We don’t want to feel anymore. We warn every person that we’re “not ready for a relationship,” or that we “want to keep it casual.” Or another variety of those phrases. We begin “something” and think that by letting the person know upfront these things, it will all be okay. We think that if we begin that way, no one will get hurt. Even though we know that’s not true. We agree and say we’re okay with this, even if it creates a tiny rip to the lining of our hearts. And every time we hear it, a little more rips. Every time we agree or anytime we say it, we try to convince ourselves more and more that it’s truer than ever. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.
We convince ourselves that that’s what we really do want. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. We want the freedom to see other people or hook-up with other people because if we do that- we won’t get too attached to another person. As long as our options are open, no one gets hurt. We know that’s not true either. So we see other people. Even though the entire time we’re wishing it was them we’re with. We feel guilty but we remind ourselves that’s what we really want. We tell them that we don’t care if they see other people, but we know that’s not true either. We know that the moment they do, that some of our heart will fall into the pit in our stomachs. We try not to care that it might hurt the other person to know that we’ve seen someone else. Because we told them from the beginning- we aren’t ready for commitment.
We keep them at arm’s length. Close enough to grab when we want to but far enough away that we can’t hold them in our arms. Because that’s too close. And we don’t want to get too close. We fear that closeness. The closer we get, the more we try and convince ourselves that this isn’t what we want. We fear our feelings. We keep them from the other person. Expressing feelings means that we’re “crazy” or “too emotional.” And why would we want that label?
We don’t want to get “that” close but we also don’t want them to be too far away. If they get far enough away, they might leave. So we create a rule book. Text them at least once a day. Never see them two days in a row. Always text. Never call. Don’t let them spend the night. Take them on a date, but never at a time or place where someone else might see you together. Keep your dating apps. Keep swiping right or left based on carefully chosen pictures. Because deleting those apps means we’re no longer looking. If we follow these rules, they won’t leave. But they also won’t be able to get too close.
We keep them a secret. If aren’t seen in public with a person, then no one will know. We whisper to each other when the sun goes down- secrets are easier when it’s dark. We whisper about our feelings and truths. We whisper that we care about them but want the freedom to see other people. Or maybe they’re not truths. But we always end the secrets with the line we began with.
I don’t want a relationship right now.
We keep these secrets where we keep the other person. Hidden away in the dark. We keep them away from our friends. As soon as they meet them, it becomes too real. We don’t want anyone else to know about them. Because, remember? We want to keep our options open. And we can’t do that if anyone knows about this person that’s constantly in our thoughts. When our friends ask, we tell them it’s nothing serious. We tell them we’re just hooking up. Or that we’re just friends.
We don’t want to be responsible for another person. We don’t want the responsibility that comes with hurting another person. And we definitely don’t want another person hurting us. Being in a relationship means we must be held responsible. It means being accountable. It means we can’t be selfish. It means commitment. And we’re not ready to be in a committed relationship. We’ve said it from the beginning.
We wait for another person to come along. Someone better. Someone hotter. Someone cooler. Someone smarter. Someone funnier. We wait for this person to come along even though we know there isn’t one. We’re told that there’s always something better out there. A better job. A better place. A better person. And we believe it. Or at least we try to. Because the second we tell ourselves that this “better” doesn’t exist, we must pause. We must pause and look at what we have in front of us. We must pause and look at what we have in front of us and admit that this is real. That this is what or who we want.
We don’t want to get hurt. God, we don’t want to get hurt. We’ve been hurt before. We’ve had our hearts ripped open and a part and in half and in millions of pieces. We don’t want to experience that ever again. We’ve experienced it too many times before. If we haven’t experienced it, we’ve seen it again and again. We’ve seen our friends unable to eat or drink because of it. Or maybe we’ve seen them sobbing as they take yet another shot to forget. We’ve seen our parents relationships crumble. We’ve seen what love can do. We’ve seen that all it can do is hurt. And why would we want to take any part in that?
We keep our hearts tinted. We can see out but no one can see in. If the tint starts to fade, we do something to darken them again. If someone begins to see in, we must bear down harder. Maybe we rolled the windows down for a split second or simply let the tint fade. Maybe we forgot for one moment that we didn’t care if someone can see in. And then we remember that hurt we’ve felt or seen.
We don’t tell the person that the lining has been completely ripped off. We don’t tell them that this is no longer okay. That we’re no longer willing to play this game. And we tell them how we actually feel. We hope that they’ll admit that they want the same thing. Maybe they will. But more than likely not. And if they don’t, we must decide. We must decide if we want to keep this going. We must decide if we want to keep ripping at what’s left. Or we must decide if we want to leave. Sometimes we decide to leave. We decide that it’s not worth it to let them begin to destroy the inner parts of our heart. They leave and we become desperate. We realize we messed up. But we still won’t admit that they’re the only person we want. And they leave. Or we leave. We feel angry when we hear that they’ve found someone else. Even though we were the ones who let them leave. Or we’re the ones that left.
So we don’t love anymore. We don’t want to love anymore. We tell ourselves we don’t want this person right now. We try and convince ourselves that they don’t want us right now either. We tell ourselves that maybe we’re the one that gets them to change their mind. We tell ourselves that this person isn’t worth changing our mind over. We let this continue on and on. And we continue to become more and more jaded. And we continue to repeat the lines over and over.
I’m not ready for a relationship.
I want to keep it casual.
I don’t want to be in a relationship.
When what we really mean is
I don’t want to get hurt.