As my most involved romantic relationship to date came to an end two months ago, I must admit, it left me feeling lost. That’s not something most personal growth bloggers and gurus would like to admit, but I’m trying to honor my previous resolution of embracing vulnerability.
However, what I began to find in my last relationship was myself hitting some of the limits of embracing vulnerability. I knew this would happen at some point, and it was more painful and uncomfortable than I would have liked. Such is life.
Of course, the entire reason we don’t always embrace vulnerability is that we’re vulnerable. Life itself is never guaranteed. We are mortal. We have weaknesses. Our bodies, and even our minds, can fall apart – whether it be by a car crash, schizophrenia, dementia, or something less defined, less understood. We have limits, we have boundaries, as physical beings. With physical things, such as eating food and exercise and physical pain, the importance of knowing our limits is more clear than with the mental, emotional, and spiritual realms. But those limits are still there. The purpose of “embracing vulnerability” is to lean into our limits, or where we feel (fear) those limits are, to discover our boundaries and sometimes push them. To push ourselves. But the limits don’t go away completely and there are even limits to how far we can push our limits.
I am not a very assertive person in general. And as such, when I try to become assertive I sometimes go overboard or get angry because I don’t like feeling like I have to be assertive to get my point across. This is something I am slowly working on. But it has led to problems in relationships whereby I’m not good at setting firm boundaries. Or when I do finally get firm about it, I might word it too strongly and it could be heard as an ultimatum. Really it is just that I am wanting the other person to help me in setting my boundaries more firmly because I feel that I cannot do it. Yet in some cases, my partner did not want to help me set those boundaries or perhaps did not want to see that I had those boundaries.
I also don’t like saying no to relationships themselves – I don’t like ending things. At all. I know that I need to work on this, and frankly, I’m not really sure how, other than to get into a new relationship and work on it with that person.
But what I did take away from this last relationship is that is very difficult to lean into that vulnerability when I am unable to say no and unable to set firm boundaries. I don’t know when I will be able to really work on this in an intimate context, beyond some relatively minor situations, so I’m not going to set a resolution exactly. But I do have a new goal of really exploring this topic, of boundary setting, when I have a chance. Probably after I finish school, I’ll go to some personal growth or nonviolent communication events and explore it. Perhaps I will explore it with my current therapist. I think this is a big topic, for me at least – because it’s so challenging. For example, I will have to figure out to do with my fear of being alone, which is one of the main reasons I have such a hard time saying no and letting go. That’s a major thing in itself.
And on that note, I made a resolution some time last week or so to try to be as social as possible for the rest of this summer, until my next and final school term starts. I’m an introvert, and I tend to spend a lot more time at my computer than with friends in person, unless I’m in a relationship. I do have a major social hobby, dancing, but my other hobbies have been more introverted: studying languages and reading books. I also seem to only be compatible in relationships with extroverts, so my last relationship (which was intense and not entirely committed), I became very anxious with regard to the fact that my partner always found time to spend time with others, while I didn’t. While dating me she found people to kiss in random places without even (ostensibly) trying, while I never do. We were both busy with school, and she would try to guilt-trip me for distracting her from studying and homework, but then would still somehow always have time to go out without me, meet new people, and hang out with close friends. Meanwhile she was my closest friend by far.
So in order to overcome the loneliness, and alone-ness, I have become more extroverted in a way. For now. So far, it’s working out well. I am a very social introvert: very selective usually with how I spend my time and with whom, but constantly craving better and deeper connections. I’m also a relationship-oriented leader. And recently my work schedule has made it easier to socialize. So I’ve surprised myself with how well it has gone so far, and how much I still feel like going out. The loneliness has gone down a lot since I made this resolution. I have met a lot of new people, caught up with some friends, and made a couple of significant new friends.
I’ve even turned one of my introverted hobbies into a more social one – well, to be clear, it is inherently a social thing for me on some level, which is why it’s been one of my hobbies since I was 13. That’s the languages. After completing the Italian course on Duolingo, I got bored of the website. Last week I caught up with my French neighbor, chatting with him in French for an hour. Then on Friday at a discussion group I met someone who speaks French and who I felt a connection with. This Tuesday we went to a Francophone meetup together, and then I went to another Francophone meetup the next day.
I’ve also been dancing a lot, both club dancing and partner dancing. I’ve been able to attend a few queer women’s events. Had a coffee date and got a friend to give me a tango lesson last week. Got up the nerve to start dancing with someone I thought was cute at a dance over the weekend, she came out dancing with me another night, and I got a good kiss or two out of it.
I’ve also asked friends to invite me to more things, which has been helpful. I have scoured meetup.com for interesting events. And I’ve made plans for a vacation to New Orleans next month to attend a leadership summit.
I’m afraid of losing steam with all of this because I’m a nester, and it would tempting to just spend more time with this new woman I just met, but she’s not my future wife, and I feel like now is not the time to nest. Part of why I have so much energy to go out and be social right now is because I’m afraid I will be way too busy for it when the cold weather rolls around, and I may feel more like staying home because of the weather then, too. So maybe I’ll nest in the winter, but not now. I can can continue hanging out with my new friends, but I need to not rest of my social laurels, so to speak. I already did that tonight, although it was partly because it was raining. Ended up hanging out with her after work instead of going to an open mic, when I could have done both. Right now, I want to meet lots of new people and unless I find someone to fall in love with, I don’t want to give that up until summer’s up.
If I had more money, I’d do even more things. That’s another constraint, beyond time. I’d take a longer vacation if I could. I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. It’s already given me a lot more confidence.
So in summary, I have a new goal of exploring boundary setting, and a short-term resolution of maximizing my social potential to help get me through the rest of school.