Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
“I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I tend to attract controlling, unemotional types. How should I go about seeking love interests without getting myself hurt? It’s a struggle.” — Lakynn
It sounds like you have people in your life who have noticed a pattern in your love interests. It’s always good to have honest and reliable people around you. It seems that the answer to your problem is a simple one: boundaries and alone time.
I know what you’re thinking — “I’m tired of being alone, just tell me how to fall in love! Aren’t you supposed to give love advice?” Self-love is necessary in order for you to decline these unemotional, controlling types. Of course, these people being attracted to you isn’t your fault, but how much of this treatment we allow is often dependent on how much we value our time.
So, for the time being, the way to invest in good relationships is to not seek romantic relationships at all. In my own observations, we often allow toxic affairs to continue because we’re desperate to prove that we can love, that we can fix people, that we can somehow change them. Maybe if we just put up with a little more, then others will see that we’re capable of love! We allow this because we are empaths by nature, but often it can blur the lines between what we need and what we just think we need. I’m assuming this unequal dynamic pours over into your friendships and familial relationships as well. Let’s sever those ties to people who don’t invest in you. Here’s a simple start: delete Tinder, Bumble and whatever other app you’ve redownloaded for the hundredth time. Stop posting pleas for help on social media expecting that one person to see it and respond to you. They don’t care.
How about we stop using social media as a tunnel to reach people who aren’t good for us? Allow yourself to be alone. If you’re scared you’re “never going to find love,” my honest reply is that we’re not in middle school. We have our entire lives ahead of us and to think you’ll never find love is not only a dramatic statement, but it’s insulting to your personhood. You’ll find love, but if you want to invite good, uncomplicated love, you need to develop boundaries.
Let’s reflect on where you learned your definition of love. What model of romantic relationships did you grow up around? Sometimes, those who had abusive parents grow up to be pushed around in relationships. You’re trying so hard to not cause conflict that you end up causing conflict by not establishing your own needs. Begin by listing everything you didn’t like about the relationship that was modeled to you as a child. Next to that, create a column that acknowledges how you have continued this cycle of trauma, and next to that, write how you plan to overcome this cycle so you won’t pass it down to others you meet. Sometimes, changing your life for the better can be as simple as writing down a well-thought-out plan.
You know what else we need in this column? A Grand Theft Auto analogy. Imagine it: I’m a young girl with refined taste, living her dreams of living in New York vicariously through a video game where I play a Russian narc. Being poor meant we hardly ever got new games, so I replayed GTA IV countless times to save myself from the boredom of yet another uneventful summer. In fact, I played the game so many times that eventually I memorized the missions, the dialogue and the actions. I learned that when someone insulted me in the game, I needed to physically fight back to make up for my character’s inability to properly express himself. Likewise, since childhood, we learn what missions are meant for us, what dialogue we should use and the actions that are “appropriate” according to the standards of those who raised us. It’s important to realize that we are the writers of our own story and are thus capable of changing the narrative that’s been passed down to us. It begins with you, and it begins when you decide that the cycle of toxic relationships ends with you. I can’t wait for all the growth you have coming!