Where is this relationship headed anyway? Whether you’ve been dating for six months or married for sixteen years, this is a question many people frequently ask themselves. Everyone wants to know the end game, the bottom line, the final score, as if knowing the answer would save you from a broken heart, a bruised ego, an empty bank account, or worst of all, a severed family. I’ve heard it said that men decide within the first three dates whether or not they’re going to be in a relationship with a woman. A certain dating expert with her own television series likes to say men know whether they’re going to marry a women in the same amount of time as well because they make the decision with their penis. You are all entitled to make whatever decisions you want to in your life with whatever body part you’ve allowed to lead the way, but I know from my own experience whenever I’ve been led by any part of my body lower than my heart, it didn’t end well.
Desire is an intoxicating experience. It can make an otherwise ordinary day feel like every cell in your body woke up and something mind-blowing is about to happen simply by hearing the other person’s voice. Even writing about it in this way oversimplifies the electrifying experience of sexual attraction. It feels primordial because it is. Humans are biologically wired this way, otherwise people would no longer be here. But what if you’re wired to want what’s “bad” for you? What if your divining rod, as it were, seems to continually lead you in the direction of the nearest available water supply, but there’s no potable water? Do you dive into the water anyway, suffer the rash and probable dysentery because, let’s face it, you’re really thirsty? Or do you take tiny sips when you can’t stand the drought any longer secretly resenting the water for making you sick? Sounds dumb, right? But how many people do you know have stayed in a relationship because “nobody better came along” or “he’s an asshole, but he makes good money” or the worst, “I don’t think anyone else could ever love me.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make it all seem easy. I know what it is to stay in a relationship even when it made me cry myself to sleep every night. I’ve been treated well and I’ve been treated poorly. But I’ve also looked into the eyes of a man and seen him for everything he was and everything he wasn’t and loved him for all of it. Then, I loved him when he didn’t love me anymore, left when it was impossible to stay, hated him so much I never wanted to see him again and forgave him when it was clear I loved him enough to get over what I thought love was supposed to look like. I learned not to give up on myself, what I want and what I do not want, but mostly I learned how to love myself. That’s the direction where love goes whether you are experiencing it with your child, your mother, your best friend, your brother or your ex-husband. Sure you can walk down the aisle, create a family, put your kids through school and grow old together, but ultimately, you get the opportunity over and over again to be a better or worse version of yourself. You get to show up or run away. You get to be vulnerable or a fortress of solitude. You get to be gotten or you get to feel had. The knife or the spoon, the sun or the moon, you decide the way.