Are We Ready to be in Relationships?

07.29.20 by Jefferson Ellison

I won’t lie to you. I’ve been having a hard time. I’m not sure if it’s the pandemic or if I need to adjust my therapy dosage but I have been feeling incredibly… “heavy”. I’m overly sensitive, borderline fragile and I’m constantly asking someone to hold space while I process some trauma from my childhood. To be fair, I am stressed. Work is intense and I’m freaking out about COVID-19 but I’m also just unhappy. Not chronically, but consistently. I’m not feeling like myself.

At first, I thought that it was me and I was confused. Not because I’m perfect but because I have already done this part. I’ve started the journey of self-love and understanding, I don’t usually bring myself down and if I do, I know how to place it. But this particular type of unease felt foreign, external. Through a few pointed conversations and perhaps too many glasses of wine, I realized that it wasn’t me standing in the way of my own happiness, it was the people surrounding me. I had allowed my circle to fill with hot air and distance pleasantries rather than the energy of intentional companionship. Even amongst my closest friends, I began accepting complacency rather than asking for - or better yet - requiring, fulfillment, and engaged love. And while most of my friends don’t need me to require their focus for them to love me as they can, there have been exceptions. And I’ve been accepting them. And it was doing me harm.

Being the “cracked plate” that I am, I need to be loved in a certain way. I need consistency, communication, validation, and quality time. I don’t do well with those “friends” who you only talk to once a year and it’s like nothing’s changed. For me, something definitely has. So after talking with myself and praying to my God, I checked in with those around me. I re-prioritized my acquaintances, I did “the work” with my friends and dove deep with those closest to me. And you know what happened? I lost a friend.

My best friend.

I lost my best friend.

The man who anchored me to my childhood held me with shaky hands. Being the trauma victim that I am, I jumped at the sight of hesitation. And rather than catching me and dusting off my pain, he let me fall to the floor. And believe me, I am shattered. I am gutted. I’ve spent the last month oscillating between jaded bitterness and lonely tears.

At one point, I was just sitting in my friend's kitchen at 2 AM sobbing “I’m tired of trying to find people to love me”. She held my back, she wiped my tears and she told me that everything will be ok. The next day, we woke up and over coffee, I thanked her for seeing me. I expressed my gratitude for her companionship but more specifically for her ability and willingness to meet me where I was, each and every time. Not because she had to but because it was what I needed. Naturally, as I’m pouring my heart out over $7 iced lattes I expected some form of declaration. How it’s us against the world, how we’re connected at the soul, blah blah Disney channel moment. But instead, she looked up me, sighed with a grin, and said “Everything is fine. This is what friendship is. The issue you’re facing is that most people don’t know how to be in relationships so they won’t do this part. But if you aren’t willing to do the work then you aren’t ready to have an actual relationship and those are the only ones I want to have.” It was said with such clarity I couldn’t even respond. I nodded in agreement and went about my day but the thought has followed me ever since. Most people aren’t ready to be in relationships. Am I ready to be in relationships?

Relationships - platonic or romantic - take work. Especially if you’ve been in one for a while or if you’re trying to get into a new one. It’s not just about a meeting of the minds, it’s a commitment to the lifestyle. If we’ve decided to be in each other’s lives, we’ve essentially decided to live a life together. And if your ability to live that life the way we want to, changes, then it’s my job to pick up the slack. If the tank you run on, runs dry, it’s my job to pour into you. Why? Because that’s what I signed up for when I told you I’d be “your person”. Fun times and cute pictures are always in vogue, but what about acts of service? How can you claim to love someone if you’ve never put them first? What does it say about your emotional capacity and your intentions, if you can’t plan to make a sacrifice? It says that you, like most people, aren’t ready to be in a relationship. And that’s the barometer, we should all strive to meet. Myself included.

I’ve recently been texting a man. Tall, employed… you know the type. Through witty conversation and flirty emojis, he learned of my affinity for smoking. CBD, of course, but a couple of bottles of red wine and American Spirits are a staple at the table. I thought nothing of it because my circle is full of smokers but I could tell that he was bothered. I asked about it, and he told me that he couldn’t date a smoker. It wasn’t just the smell or lingering taste, it was the principle of the matter and essentially I had a choice to make. Stop smoking or stay single.

The independent woman in me told me that I couldn’t possibly change myself for a man. That I had every right to kill myself slowly and if he couldn’t love me at my worst then he didn’t deserve me at my best. And then I heard my friend in my head…. Most people are not willing to do the work to be in a relationship. But I’m not most people. And yet, here I am actively choosing to protect a habit I should’ve given up in high school over the chance to spend time with possibly the only man in the last year that I’ve met who can hold a conversation and spell at a 10th grade level.

Fuck these cigarettes. Do the work.

I told him I couldn’t make any immediate promises but that I was willing to make changes

if and when we decided we wanted to hang out in a more official capacity. And do you know what happened? He called me sweet. He said he was flattered and now I’m one step closer to my country home and 2.5 kids. Intentions matter. Communication is important. And relationships are hard work. All of that is true.

What is also true is the fact that humans are complicated, egos are fragile and the only way to honor them both is to lead a life without fear or pride. To wander into dark spaces and feel around for the path, knowing that you may stumble or fall. We must blindly go forward with conviction. If I have to shatter myself on the floor, to loosen the grip of a man I don’t trust, so that I can be swept up and glued back together by someone who truly loves me, then that’s what I have to do. If I have to humble myself and break my vices for the chance to enjoy the company of another human and honor their boundaries, then that’s what I have to do. I’d ask nothing less of those looking to be apart of my life, so I must be willing to do the same for others. Because while most people aren’t willing to do the work, I refuse to be that common