Tag Archives: fear

Cat in a Box

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It’s closing in on the end of the year. There has been a lot on my mind.

For one thing, my best friend gave me a time limit on The Challenge (https://sarahbux.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/the-challenge/). I know I haven’t really given any updates on The Challenge…

My thoughts have been… well… Define “date”.

That definition makes all the difference, really. According to some, I’ve been on a few dates since then. According to me, none of those outings were dates. But for the sake of completing the challenge I would be happy to call them dates.

The Challenge isn’t the only thing that has been on my mind, however. As a new year approaches, I cannot help but recall my New Year’s resolution for 2012. I stood in a group and requested prayer regarding my fear of relationship. Well, that is partially true. I asked for prayer regarding a specific fear – but never mentioned which one. Nonetheless, throughout the year I tried to move forward in conquering that fear.

And I thought I was doing well after I returned from Jamaica. At one point I thought to myself, I feel as if I am more ready now to be in a relationship than I ever have been before… Unfortunately, a few days later a friend of mine told me I was due for a boyfriend and I completely panicked. What do you mean I’m due? Why would I need a boyfriend? I’d rather just be single… I like being single…. Don’t tell me I’m due!

The fact is, I probably am due for a relationship. But stepping into a relationship would require stepping out of my comfortable box. My cat made himself at home tonight in a cardboard box that I have out. I feel like that picture may accurately portray my situation. Although my box is getting kind of small, and it is even starting to bust, I do not want to leave it. There is a certain level of peace inside those walls.

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The Runner’s High

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 My mom called me up one day to tell me she bought a book for me from the thrift store. She knows that I read tons of book about singleness and relationships and psychology. Sometimes I read them simply because I think I may write about them on here. Other times I read them because they truly fascinate me. She thought this one might pique my interest.

I glanced over the front cover: The Commitment Cure: What to Do When You Fall for an Ambivalent Man. What does ambivalent mean? I flipped the book over and was relieved to discover that I must not be the only person unfamiliar with that term. On the back, in dictionary format, I read the definition of “ambivalence” followed by the definition of “ambivalent man”.

How does the author, Rhonda Findling, define ambivalence? Ambivalence is “the existence of mixed feelings toward someone or something. Difficulty in reaching a decision.” As for the “ambivalent man”, he is the “one who exhibits or feels ambivalence toward women; one who plays games. He wants a relationship; he wants to break up. He’s confused, mixed up, inconsistent, and unpredictable. Yet he’s irresistable and easy to fall in love with . . . and almost sure to cause a broken heart.”

Good to know. I opened the book. To give some background, I already mentioned that I did not pick this book up by myself. It was given to me. With that in mind, I quickly realized that I am not the typical reader that this book would be directed toward. Findling’s target audience would be women who are unhappy in relationships that seem to lack commitment or a stable future. She calls to women who want the men they love to quit messing with them and marry them! As a cat lady, I don’t exactly fall into that target audience. I don’t want anyone I’m dating to take our relationship more seriously. That would be difficult, since I’m not dating anyone… I don’t yearn for a man to commit to me in marriage. I’m pretty happy while single. I’m really just reading this book for the sake of curiosity. Nothing more, nothing less.

Findling describes a handful of categories that ambivalent men fall into. Just like a criminal is more specifically labeled by his crime, she labels these ambivalent men more particularly by their behaviors. In Chapter 1, she describes the first kind of ambivalent man; The Runner.

As I sail through the first few pages, I’m dumbfounded by Findling’s description of “The Runner”. I feel slightly uncomfortable. Is it just my imagination, or does this Runner sound a lot like myself?

Although it is packed with information, and loaded with psychological observations (Findling is a psychotherapist), I found this book to be a quick read. As she describes and labels these men who avoid commitment, run from relationship, use women, manipulate others’ feelings, and criticize marriage, I picture several men I know and place them in the most appropriate categories. I’m amazed by how many I know who may be described as ambivalent. In fact, most of the men that I’ve found myself infatuated with could be described as ambivalent. Why is that?

Towards the end of the book, the author begins to address the reasons women are drawn toward ambivalent men. As she rattles off ideas, I find myself wondering why she doesn’t mention the ambivalent woman. After so closely identifying with the runner, I quickly realized that I find a noncommittal attitude attractive in men because I am also noncommittal. I am comfortable with his lack of stability because long-term relationships still terrify me. And yet, chapter after chapter, Findling neglects to mention the ambivalent woman. There are 18 chapters altogether. Finally, in Chapter 16, she directs her attention to girls like me.

There is a 10 question test in this chapter to help a woman determine whether or not she may be ambivalent. The author says that any woman who answers “yes” to at least three questions is very likely ambivalent. My score? Yes to 8. Kind of to 1. I could only give a straight-forward “no” to one question out of the ten. At least I’m self-aware and pegged myself in the first chapter…

I am quite comfortable running. It’s easy. It’s natural. Habitual, even. I run before I even get the chance to worry. Selfish, perhaps. And hurtful to others. The book made that clear. But comfortable. Unfortunately, I came to the decision earlier this year that I no longer want to run from relationship due to fear. Remember? Singleness is okay, as long as I remain single for healthy reasons… Fear, however, is not a healthy reason…

The problem is that running is ingrained. I’m not sure if I know how to stop. I sabotage the relationship before I even begin the relationship. I’ve tried to get past my tendency to sabotage a few times now, in the past few months. Ultimately, it never worked and I walked away feeling tremendously relieved. How do I quit running when running feels SO good? I find myself approaching another potential relationship right now – and I already want to run. I am trying to be positive. I am trying not to be cynical. And yet, I can’t say that I have high hopes. I don’t really feel like putting forth the effort necessary to date this guy. I’ve already contemplated the kindest way to let him down easy. I’m not sure if I know how to not run. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m capable. Perhaps I am addicted to the Runner’s High?

The Practice Date

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Kissing is for real dates.

What is a “practice date”? A few weeks back, I read an article on a webzine. A reader sent in a question about “practice dating” and I scoffed. What the heck is a practice date? If two people like each other, they can go on a real date. If they do not like each other, they do not go out on dates. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work? There is no such thing as a practice date. Silly question, reader.

Little did I know that I would be invited to go out on one a few short weeks later. The conversation was nearly over. I had already said “Good night” when the question arrived. Quick response (I think I’d like to date this guy): I agreed with his proposition. Conversation ends. Life goes on.

A few days later, we talk again. All of the sudden I think back to that previous conversation.

What the heck did he mean by “practice” date?

Maybe I am old-fashioned. Or simplistic. But I never realized that dating and rocket science are comparatively complex. As I said before, I thought people who are interested in developing a romantic relationship go on dates and people who are not interested in developing a romantic relationship do not go on dates. Notice, I did not mention people who are ready to commit for life. I said people who are interested. I cannot figure out what kinds of people would fit into this brand new subcategory called “practice dating”. I also cannot figure out what the difference is between a date and a practice date. What is the purpose of this thing called a practice date?

Side hugs are more appropriate for practice dates.

What if two people went on this practice date together and a friend came up to one of them?

“Hey! I haven’t seen you in forever. How have you been? Oh and who’s this cute guy you’re dating? We haven’t met before!”

*Coughcough* “Oh, we aren’t dating. He’s actually just my practice date. Don’t worry, though. You aren’t the first to be confused!”

 

Should money be exchanged? “I haven’t had a date in so long… I just didn’t want to forget how to go about it. So I don’t actually like you or anything, but I was wondering if you might like to practice date me. Just to ‘keep me fresh’. I could pay you! … Unless you think that’s too similar to prostitution…”

 

Then, of course, there is the whole issue of boundaries. In real dating, there are enough questions regarding boundaries. Who should ask who out? When is the first kiss appropriate? How soon should we go formal? When should we meet the family? After how many dates do we become exclusive? The questions go on and on. The answers fluctuate with each and every couple.

What questions need to be answered in “practice dating”? Does it matter who makes the request since it isn’t a real date? Should the family ever even find out about a practice date? Is kissing okay as long as it’s deemed “practice kissing”?

 

Is practice dating intended to perfect that art-form known as actual dating? There is that age-old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Although, I’ve always preferred a quote I used to hear from one of my basketball coaches. She said, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.”

If I translate that concept over to dating, I could say that I’ve been practicing singleness for quite some time now. If I continue this way, I will likely wind up single permanently. I can deal with that. If I start dating, I will likely wind up in a relationship. But if I start “practice dating”, where will I end up? In an “almost-relationship”? I won’t really be single. I won’t really be in a relationship. I’ll just be frustrated.

 

Is practice dating like a safety net under the tightrope for real dating?

“I want to date this person but I’m not sure if this person wants to date me… I don’t want to face possible rejection.”

“I doubt things would work out between us… I’d rather not work at a real relationship with odds like this.”

“I find this person interesting and I would like to spend more time with her alone… But a date is a big leap.”

 

All of these thoughts bring me back to a guy I used to know. He pursued me almost immediately. I felt attached to him extremely quickly. He asked me out. I said that I would prefer to be his friend. He said that guys and girls cannot be friends. I told him that they could and that I would be his friend whether he liked it or not. After a few months I realized I could not be “just” his friend. As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. Once romantic interest has been established for either person, it is nearly impossible for a healthy friendship to exist. One person will always hope for something more, and ultimately feel disappointed.

 

So when I told Mr. Practice Date that I either want a real date or we need to back away from this close friendship, he said to me, “You realize that you’re doing the very same thing with our friendship as you do with your relationship prospects? You’re doing that same thing where you protect yourself from pain unless you’re unbelievably sure that it will amount to exactly what you want it to.”

In essence, I responded by asking why protecting myself is such a bad thing. At least I haven’t asked anyone out on any practice dates… 😉

How About A Hug?

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She called my name. I turned toward her and smiled. Then I walked across the aisle and leaned into a hug. She completed the embrace. I began to straighten and pull away. She did not let go.

Panic. Why is she still holding me? Why hasn’t she let me go? How do I get away? I have to get away! I have to get away now!

She released. I’m away. What was that?

It was an elderly lady who went to my church. She’s about the size of my left leg – but not as strong. I hope you are getting a clear idea of how terribly threatening this woman could be to me. That specific panic attack awakened me to another of my fears. I am afraid of hugs.

I despise that sentence. It sounds so weak and pathetic. But it’s true. I mentioned in a previous post that I would be talking about fear. The fear of touch is on today’s agenda.

That day marked the beginning of some intense self-psychoanalysis. From then on I paid closer attention to situations that make me uncomfortable due to physical touch, experiences I avoid because physical touch would be necessary, and the people I seem to react most vehemently to in physical situations.

What have I discovered? I seem to react mainly when I sense a lack of control.

I was comfortable hugging that woman until she acted outside of my expectations. When she did not respond to my sense of control (the moment I pulled away), she caused me to feel endangered.

I have no problems with children or pets. In all reality, I am an extremely cuddly and affectionate person. Although children may climb into my lap (which is also outside my expectations) and animals may rub against me without any warning, I never panic. Although I cannot really figure out how an old lady from church posed a threat, I can understand why a child or a puppy never has. I feel no hesitation whatsoever when I am aware of a child or a pet touching me.

I am more comfortable hugging black men than white men. The only thing I seem to be able to connect this phenomenon with is a discussion I had with a black friend during high school. We seemed to attract toward men of different nationalities than our own. During one particularly deep conversation, she admitted that she generally felt safer around white men than black men and I admitted that the opposite was true for me. We ultimately concluded that this probably had something to do with the fact that she was abused by black men as a child and I was abused by a white man as a child. We automatically felt less comfortable around men who resembled those who had mistreated us.

Although the last few paragraphs explain some of my behavior, I haven’t completely figured myself out. As I learn more about myself, I am able to work through irrational fears. I am now more attentive to my “control factor”. When I feel like the situation is beyond my control I am usually able to wait out my feeling of discomfort. I no longer panic. I am also less prejudiced around white men than I used to be. I have retrained myself to recognize that every nationality is made up of people who are good and people who are bad, people who can be trusted and people who cannot be trusted.

Unfortunately, there are a few things I still cannot figure out. This weekend my fear of touch reared its ugly head twice.

Scenario #1 (Saturday)

My friend and I spent half the day talking with this man. Quick description: smart, kind, handsome, hygienic, and he seems like a really good father to his adorable daughter. (I can say all this because apparently my interest in him is abundantly clear to the rest of the world already… I’m really not sure how it became such a big deal to so many people… C’est la vie.)  All of that is said to emphasize the fact that this man is NOT in any way a creeper. There is nothing about him that would cause me to feel physically repulsed by him. There is nothing about him that would cause me to feel unsafe. Nothing to make me feel like I cannot trust him. There is absolutely no reason I should logically fear hugging this man.

And yet, when my friend (who is very much a hugger) went in for a hug goodbye, I bolted toward the door. I did not want to hug him.

Scenario #2 (Sunday)

I met a group of friends at the park. After hanging out for a while, I was the first to leave and one of my male friends hurried over to give me a hug goodbye. I accepted without hesitation. Then another friend came over and stretched out his arms. I wanted to tell him, “No”, and walk away. Much like the guy from the day before, there is no reason I should be afraid of this man. He is not a pervert. There is no rational cause for my fear. I wasn’t angry at him or offended by him. For some unknown reason, I am more comfortable accepting hugs from the other guy who came to me immediately prior. I can’t really figure it out.

 

Both scenarios ended in hugs. Both hugs were fine. Both situations leave me wondering, “What on earth is wrong with me? And when will it change?”

 

I have a friend who struggles with this same issue, but to a higher degree. He was severely abused as a young child. He trembles when a person holds him. He told his girlfriend that when he begins to shake, she must continue to hold him. It is the only way he can train his body to recognize that her touch is safe. He and I both rest in the belief that Jesus Christ can and will heal us. But it may take time.

Alas, I will end this post on a brighter note. In my efforts to find a scientific name for this particular fear (Aphenphosmphobia: the fear of touch – this was the closest I came), I stumbled across another blogger’s post. Everybody wants to know that there is someone else out there with issues just as bad as her own (or better yet, worse than her own).  http://thegloss.com/sex-and-dating/fear-of-intimacy-a-hug-is-not-a-hello/#comments

I found her post humorous. I hope you do too.

[PS. I want a shout-out from everyone of his/her most awkward hug memory. I’ll start in the comments… hopefully SOMEBODY else has a memory to add…]

Dating and Relationships: The Church Rules

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The Rules

  1. A boy and a girl must never ride together alone in a vehicle. Not for any distance, any purpose, or any length of time. The ONLY exception to this rule applies to a boy and girl who are brother and sister. Obviously, any other combination of male and female riding in a car alone will lead to the car being pulled over so they can have wild sex in the backseat before they arrive at their destination. Obviously.
  2. Boys and girls must sit at least a Bible’s width apart at all times. Those tiny New Testaments the Gideons leave around don’t count. We’re talking regulation biggest-Good-Book-we-can-find size.
  3. A female must wear clothing which covers every portion of her body from her chin to her knees. If she has pretty legs, those should probably be covered also. Beauty tempts young men. Men should never have to face temptation. If clothing is truly “appropriate”, men may even forget women have boobs – which is exactly as it should be since men are incapable of controlling themselves around women they find attractive.

These are the top three rules pounded into the teen-aged girl’s head about dating or relating to the opposite sex by Sunday School teachers and youth leaders nationwide. Boys cannot be trusted around you. You cannot be trusted around boys. If ever you two are left alone together, babies emerge nine months later. No exceptions. None.

For a girl who actually wants to be pure, these rules are very intimidating. You see, when I was young and naïve, I believed I could accept a ride from one of my male friends. But by the time I was 17, I understood how inappropriate that looked and that he would likely rape me at some point during the five minute drive. At one point in time I believed that it was a good thing for a man to look at me and recognize my beauty. Before I exited adolescence I realized that my beauty is wicked and dangerous when noticed by men. When I was a little girl, I loved to cuddle close to the men in my life. But soon after puberty hit, I learned that all physical contact with the opposite sex is completely unhealthy and will somehow give me AIDS.

What’s really sad – is that I wouldn’t even call the churches I attended legalistic. It scares me to consider what truly legalistic congregations are teaching young people if I learned such skewed lessons where I went. Unfortunately, teenagers hear from their Christian leaders that they cannot be trusted – they cannot even trust themselves – to make good, healthy decisions regarding the opposite sex. Fear tactics are fired at them in the name of purity. Instead of being trained to enter healthy relationships, teenagers are taught to avoid relationships at all costs because relationships lead to sexual immorality.

According to the typical Christian youth leader, I am a success story. I escaped high school with my virginity intact. But if you ask me, purity is so much broader than virginity. And if successful means terrified of intimacy and unwilling to be vulnerable to a man, then I agree. I am very successful.

But sometimes success is overrated.

And the Fears Emerge

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I can think of at least four men who would help me complete this challenge this very week. And although I’ve been told not to think, just to act – I can’t turn off my mind.

#4. I have no doubts that he is out to use me. He is completely gorgeous. But he’s also a total loser. He’s hit on me several times – but he seems to think that I won’t go out with him because I am a lesbian. I’m not. But I really haven’t argued with him about it because it’s so much easier not to like him when he believes that. And I don’t want to like him. Because he’s a loser. If I hit on him, I’m fairly certain he’d jump at the chance to date me. But I really think he’d be dating me in an effort to take everything from me that he possibly could. Drugs have eliminated his soul and I’d rather not mess around with a guy who has no soul.

#3. He’s rather unreliable, so it might take more than a week to get a date. But I am positive he would make it happen by the end of the month. Probably by the end of the week – because I’ve refused him the last three times and I think he’s getting eager to see me. So if I made a move, I think he’d take the bait right now. He seems like a pretty decent guy, but I can’t count on him for much of anything. I don’t think he knows how to put a relationship first. And he’s made clear that he does not want to get married. I’m not going to stay in any kind of long-term relationship that isn’t geared toward marriage. So I feel like any effort put into dating this guy would just lead to exhaustion, pain, and heartache in the long run. Why bother?

#2. This one also does drugs. But I’m confident that he still has a soul and that he actually cares about me. However, his addiction hinders his life from going forward. He can’t make much more than minimum wage where he works. But he’s told me he won’t really look for another job because other workplaces drug-test. I get along with him quite well. He’s a fabulous person to talk with. But it’s obvious that as long as his life is going nowhere, our relationship would go nowhere. I’d probably enjoy a few dates. But I would dump him quickly. He is the sensitive type. I would feel terrible afterward.

#1. He would follow me to the ends of the earth and do everything humanly possible to please me. I have never met a man quite so determined to be with me. One or two have come close. But he takes the cake. Nonetheless, we do not relate on an intellectual level. He is another one that I know I would dump.

I ran into a guy recently who asked me out months ago. When he asked me out, I tried to explain to him in the kindest way possible why we would not fit well together, and I rejected his offer. He is the type of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. I knew for some time that he liked me. His face lit up when I entered the room. He went out of his way to do things for me. I knew that eventually he would ask me out and I would have to explain my feelings of disinterest. Unfortunately, after that whole scenario played out, he did not miraculously change into a man who is difficult to read. He still wears his heart on his sleeve. Although it has been months, I hate running into him. When I see him, he looks so miserable. I feel like all he thinks when he sees me is, “There she is. There’s the girl who broke my heart.”

To sum this all up – I am pointing out the two primary reasons I do not date.

A)     I am afraid of being hurt or being used. (This is the issue with #4 and #3.)

B)      I am afraid of hurting or using someone else. (This is the issue with #2 and #1.)

I have a feeling that blog posts to follow over the next few weeks will get more serious than they have been for awhile… I am going to delve into fear.

The Challenge

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Yesterday I posted Selfish Single. Then I ran some errands and went for a long ride with Arthur. I didn’t really know where I was going – in fact, at one point I ended up on a road with loose gravel (not fun to handle a motorcycle like mine on gravel) and I almost got lost. I just rode.

I don’t think I will ever outgrow that feeling of intense freedom I find while driving a motorcycle.

As I rode, I pondered. I often think best on my bike. My thoughts turned from freedom to bondage to pointless rules to things I fear to the differences between rebels and freedom-seekers to Free-Spirited Singleness. When I arrived home, I wrote that post and scheduled it to publish today.

When I checked WordPress to see if it posted successfully today, I saw a new comment on Selfish Single. To spare anyone the effort of going all the way back to that post to see the comment I am referring to, allow me to share:

Less thinking, more doing! :-p The more you sit and ponder over whether or not to do something, the more you are missing out on the pure joy of exploring the unknown. Sure, things can go wrong and you can be hurt, but you work through that stuff and it develops you as a person.

What is there to lose? Do you want to look back and say that you took chances when there were chances available or look back and say, wow, I kind of didn’t do much.

So my challenge for you is to go out and explore, go on dates with men, you don’t have to get serious, just go for a date. If it works, then it works, if it doesn’t, then on to the next one. :-)

Matt

I’m still somewhat speechless to be honest. I think I’ve said the word “WOW” outloud at least 90 times now… I hear very similar advice from my best friend, my brother, and a few others I know well. But to hear this from someone across the world who knows me only through this blog…. WOW.

So, Matt, I can’t deny the truth in your words. I know at least four of my friends have specific guys in mind to set me up with right now. I’m being rather hypocritical to say that I love freedom and that I seek it out when I simultaneously put bars up all around myself to keep men away. I guess what I’m saying is… I accept your challenge. We’ll see how I do.

BTW – as long as I’m bringing his comment into my post, I may as well advertise for him. His blog is pretty fabulous. Check it out:

http://throughtheeyesofarider.wordpress.com/