How Dating Has Helped Me Return to Myself

It is so interesting what happens when you actually reflect on life and when you’re able to be honest with yourself. I didn’t realize that I had actually been involved in an emotionally abusive relationship when I was 19/20. We met when working at Best Buy and the unique qualities that drew him to me were the things that he used against me. When we broke up the first time, I was under the allusion that who I was as a 21-year-old woman was deeply flawed because my boyfriend told me that that was the case. I believed him. I didn’t know any better. I thought he was my person and I was devastated.

A few years later we reconnected. Things were lovely in the beginning as they had been when we first began dating and then his abusive nature returned to the surface. He criticized me often. I remember the last conversation we had. He was shouting on the phone and he was so loud my Mom thought someone was in the house. I hung up with him and then called him again in the presence of my mother and had him on speaker phone. I told him simply that our relationship was over because I realized that the very things he criticized about me were things I loved about myself and that I was actually too good for him. He did not deserve to be in relationship with me. I know that he was likely stunned and angry and I.did.not.even.care.

To this day, he sends me friend requests via social media. He also randomly “likes” my posts on my business pages.

Prior to days of social media, he would call relentlessly. I would not pick up just as relentlessly. One day, he left a voicemail message. One that I saved to replay for my girlfriends. We listened to it while laughing so often at one point we had memorized it. In it, he apologized for his behavior. And then he told me that he did not intend to hurt me.

Intent vs impact

I hear a lot of this argument, especially in recent years. “I apologize. My intention was not to hurt you.” Let me tell you about intention. It’s largely irrelevant. The truth is that whether or not I’ve intended to hurt you, I have actually hurt you so the impact is real and present. My next step is to acknowledge that impact, genuinely and authentically apologize and then do better. I spoke with a guest on the podcast about this very thing.

The entitlement of men (who are really boys in disguise)

I’ve been dating for decades. I used to be embarrassed about that fact. It’s not because I haven’t had long-term relationships sprinkled throughout those years, it’s just that I have been increasingly intentional about dating. I’ve also been on a multitude of dating apps and platforms over the years and it’s so illuminating how men (boys) behave when confronted with a woman who is self aware and practicing self love by setting a boundary with them. I remember a few years ago, maybe 2015 or 2016 when a guy was disrespectful in his request to chat with me and I ended it. His retort was: F*ck you n**ger. You’re going to hell just like your n**ger family.

Now friends, what did I do to deserve this racist madness? Was it because I said, “Nope.”

Less than a month ago, a man messaged me. I read the message and promptly deleted it. He messaged me again to acknowledge that I had read his message and deleted it. He then bid me good luck or some iteration of that sentiment. Finally, he had had it with me. He wrote, “A$$hole!” That is when I went off on him. His level of entitlement was too egregious for me to ignore. What makes him think his lying self (he is 52 and posing as a 45 year old) who is not physically attractive to me, let alone emotionally stable enough for me and doesn’t seem to be doing any work to help himself, would be a suitable match for me? Further, I don’t owe him ANYTHING. Not one thing.

More recently, as in a few days ago. I have been asked about sexual proclivities which were beyond disrespectful and rude. I, of course, shut that nonsense down. A witty, to the point zinger, plus the ubiquitous “blocked and reported” seems to work and do the trick.

There have been times, in my late teens, early 20s, perhaps my mid-20s and even some times in my mid-to-late 30s that I allowed some things in romantic relationships that are completely unacceptable to me today and that is completely ok.

Proverbial manspreading

One man child last week thought he was being funny with a pithy note about my profile. He even had the nerve to write: I am typing while smiling. As if his irrelevant email that took my time reading it was cute and funny, friends it was not. I went to respond immediately and then thought better of it and decided to pause which is where the Divine and the power is. I decided to take a day to think about how to respond. When I was finally ready to respond, I had presence of mind to make an impact. I also was able to actually give him so good advice namely about him avoiding in the future messaging women as an emotional vampire, which is what he seemed to be. By his actions, he appeared to feel entitled to my time and energy. Further, he lied about his age which is a huge pet peeve and turnoff for all the reasons. What I am sadly seeing as a trend is that men like him take up all the oxygen in the room just with their presence. Instead of the ebb and flow of conversation of relationship building there is an assumption of, “I’ve walked into the room! Everybody stop what you are doing! Listen to me! Further, I will explain to you how you’re feeling and what you should be doing!” When I push back and tell someone, “No,” it is met with anger, defensiveness and worse sexism and racism. I have had to call the Ann Arbor Police Department a few times to determine what options I have in case there was retaliation for my rebuffs. This is not acceptable friends.

Masculinity contest culture

Peter Glick, PhD is a Henry Merritt Wriston Professor in the Social Sciences at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and a Senior Scientist with the Neuroleadership Institute reports that four key norms emerge in masculinity contest cultures (MCCs), and they determine whom an organization values most:

  • Show No Weakness (admit no mistakes, show no tender emotions)

  • Strength and Stamina (champion physical strength and workplace stamina)

  • Put Work First (work long hours, let no obligation interfere with work)

  • Dog Eat Dog (ruthless internal competition, destroy the opposition)

MCCs can lead to widespread dysfunction and misconduct in organizations, ranging from minor off-color comments to illegal behavior. 

If we look at dating (both online or offline) or even interacting within general culture, one can see how these MCC behaviors exist and are problematic. When I have said NO to a disrespectful man child, I have been met with anger, hatred, racism and harassment. So what can we do collectively and individually? In terms of collectively, I encourage others who have been the victims of this type of behavior to speak out against it, if that feels right to them. Additionally, when I see misogynistic behavior I definitely call it out and also do my best to call the perpetrator in. I am not always successful, yet I am willing to do it as long as it feels right and safe to do so.

In terms of individually, we all have our threshold on what feels right and what leads to our awakening.

The awakening

I love that this image says: I don’t care what I allowed in the past, try me today. I’ve become more unapologetic as I get older and wiser. As I continue to surround myself with folks who see me, who are invested in my spiritual and personal growth. They remind me of the truth of my experience and also that I am valued and loved as I am because I am a member of humanity. For this, I am truly grateful. I am also seeing greatness within myself. I don’t say this from a prideful or arrogant place, but from a place of deep gratitude. I’ve been loved on with words of affirmation from my circle of folks and from perfect strangers and to be able to see myself as others see me is a gift. At this point, I’ve never been more “me” and as I continue to breathe and move, growing in comfort and love with my own skin, I realize that while I did allow certain trash in the past, try me today. Actually just don’t. And if you do, like the man children I shared about, I will bring my whole and best self to the table and unleash this bold, beautiful brilliance on you and you may regret hitting ‘send’.

Today is a beautiful and perfect day to return home to yourself. Find your people and allow yourself to show up as authentically and transparently as you are able. Continue to love yourself as you are able. Extend grace to yourself because I don’t care what you allowed in the past, today is a new day.

Chidimma Ozor2 Comments