Any good psychologist will tell you, most of our issues and insecurities surrounding dating and relationships stem from our childhood. The term “Daddy Issues” is prevalent in society but there are many other sources of grief and confusion that can affect our psyche as it is still forming. It took me most of my life to see what my issues stemmed from, and I am still trying to recognize and acknowledge them for what they are. Society is especially hard on little girls who are growing into their bodies and sexuality. Our upbringing, parental figures or lack thereof, religion, and peers can all affect our view of ourselves and our ability to have healthy relationships. This is my attempt to describe my own experience growing up and how it has contributed to my difficulties in dating and relationships. I hope I can offer some insight to anyone who is soul searching or has experienced issues with intimacy.
I grew up a chubby, introverted little thing with the pining soul of a poet. I was a romantic from day one and cannot remember a time when I didn’t have a super intense crush on some boy. So when I hit puberty REAL early and began being bullied by my male classmates, some of them being the object of my innocent and awkward affection, I was scarred very deeply. I was either the subject of mockery for being fat or the subject of mockery for having big breasts. I got so mixed up emotionally during this time because of my gradual loss of innocence, and because hormones are a cruel bitch. I remember feeling like a monster for most of my adolescent life up through college, just because of a few mean boys in middle school. It has taken a thousand “You are so beautifuls” to undo two or three “You’re a fatass pigs.” So, that is chapter 1 for Relationship Issues Queen.
I also grew up with a very religious father and a mostly absent mother. This meant I didn’t have a nurturing mother figure around during my formative years and my father’s love, although fierce and protective, was often withholding. He didn’t want me to be vain, so he never once told me I was beautiful or pretty or gave any kind of physical compliments. Maybe such compliments are irrelevant but given what I was being told by the boys at school and by society at that age, it would have been nice to have just one voice telling me I was beautiful and loveable just as I was. Since we were heavily involved in a conservative church and youth group culture, (my older sister and I) we were also taught to remain a virgin until marriage and be incredibly modest at all times. I remember vividly a few times I got in trouble for having cleavage at church, as if it was on purpose. I was overweight and had big boobs. A thinner girl with smaller boobs could wear the same shirt and there was no cleavage so it wasn’t a thing. I learned early on that I was both too fat and too sexy, neither of which I intended to be. I was just a confused naïve little pre-teen trying to look cute and not get made fun of everywhere I went. Church made me feel ashamed of my body and ashamed of my sexuality. The boys in youth group would joke about masturbation openly, but I never had the opportunity to talk to another female about it until I was 21 years old. Even then, we felt we were discussing something forbidden and sinful.
Both of these elements; being bullied for being “unattractive” and shamed for being sexual, made me feel like a disgusting pile of trash who was not allowed to be horny. So when a boy liked me, I sabotaged it pretty much immediately for fear of being hurt or rejected. I preferred to crush on guys I perceived to be out my league because that felt more comfortable than reality. I didn’t start forcing myself to actually date until college and I’m certain my issues played a part in the failure of those relationships.
I waited until I got married to have sex and I was 24 years old. I had made out with boys, fooled around, done pretty much everything but sex, so it was all meaningless to be honest. Most people I know who “waited” to have sex did everything but intercourse multiple times prior to. Still, I got married to someone I wasn’t compatible with far too quickly, because all my friends from Bible College were getting married and I was tired of waiting to have sex. What an awful, silly reason to get married. (seriously just have sex lol it’s not worth going through a marriage and divorce over, promise) I did love him, but I did not know him well enough to marry him so quickly. I think you should know someone for years before entering such a binding agreement. We knew each other 8 months before we were married. I left him 9 times in three years, experienced all manner of emotional, physical, and verbal abuse and just to have a “husband” and some mediocre sex.
*Here comes the helpful advice you’ve been patiently waiting for*
At 30 years old, I have been re-creating my entire view on my body, relationships, and love for the last 3 years. I have dated several guys since my divorce and most have fit the stereotype of “fuckboy.” This is my first time dating outside the realm of religion, and I was pretty naïve when I first started dating again. Imagine being 27, newly divorced, and you’ve never dated any guy that isn’t a hardcore Christian. I was a deer in headlights for awhile and I was preyed upon and hurt a few times. Now I feel more like a seasoned veteran around here. I know what I want and will accept, and what I don’t have time for. I also don’t feel that a relationship is the goal anymore. I much prefer to date around without expectations of some domestic future with someone. I live in the moment. I take life one day at a time. If I start to obsess about a guy’s intentions, I either ask him about it straight up, or decide I don’t care enough to worry about it.
A huge weight has been lifted from my soldiers in the realm of relationships. There doesn’t have to be some grand predestined future with someone. If you meet someone you jive with on all the important stuff, someone you have fun with, someone you have wild sex with, good. Give it another day. Then another. Keep giving it days and days until it either makes you feel happy at least 90% of the time or if it doesn’t, you let it go. Also, have some sex. Like, even if you aren’t seriously dating someone. Stop saying you “aren’t that kind of girl.” If sex is sacred to you, I can respect that. But it is not sacred to men even if they say it is. You shouldn’t feel ashamed for being human and enjoying sex. Obviously be safe and responsible about it, but please please please don’t jump into a relationship because you are lonely or horny. We are all gonna die someday. Get your freak on, girls.
If you are single and dating right now, surround yourself with badass best friendships. This doesn’t have to mean only women. Basically anyone who loves and supports you, who makes you feel perfect and loved just as you are, roots for you, dresses up and goes out with you, etc. In order to be a happy and thriving single, you gotta have something that gives you life and meaning and joy. My best friends are my entire world and I barely have room in my heart for a romantic relationship anymore, but if I do, its gonna have to be some dank next level true love shit. They also serve as a sounding board for my boy troubles. If a guy is gaslighting me, I may not even realize it until I talk to my girls about it and get some much needed insight. My marriage was so lonely because I felt I couldn’t turn to anyone about the abuse I was experiencing. Never, ever again. You need a squad, especially if you are dating or in a relationship.
In closing, I want to offer hope to anyone in a miserable relationship or who is miserable single. Finding joy and happiness in yourself is entirely possible but it takes work just like a relationship does. It is a relationship, the most important one you’ll ever have. Find out who you are, what issues you have and why, and work on undoing any harmful lies you have been telling yourself since childhood. “I am not worthy of love because I am fat.” That was mine. I had to work really hard to stop believing that lie and forgive myself for all the self-hating I’ve done over the years. It is possible to get rid of the baggage caused by society, your family, etc. It takes time and work and learning to love yourself as you would a best friend. It is much more valuable to invest time in yourself than seeking a relationship just for the sake of avoiding yourself.