I Can’t Define My Relationships because I’m Terrified of Heartbreak

I’m open to exploring a lot when it comes to dating, none of which include defining the relationship otherwise known as DTR-ing, or the night you go out to dinner with the guy you’ve been seeing for three months, guzzle three glasses of wine and choke out “SO WHAT ARE WE?” while buttering your warm sourdough. I refuse to do it, I refuse to ask, and this inability to be vulnerable eats me away inside.  Why is someone who craves emotional connection (…me…) so avoidant of it?

I’m not averse to having the “what are we” conversation because I’m a “cool girl” who looooves casually dating until a man treats me so terribly that I decide I have to start the dating app charade all over. No, if someone gave me the choice between being a cool girl and losing my life I’d be like “well I was here for a good time not a long time, let’s get this over with…”

Instead, I have begun to acknowledge that my fear of being in an explicitly defined, committed relationship stems from a fear of loss. And while I don’t think that this fear is rooted in harmful, toxic behavior, I’m trying to work on confronting the uncomfortable angst and finding the strength to be vulnerable again. 

One of the qualities that has taken much time to appreciate about myself is my ability to feel emotion easily and deeply. Dr. Neil, my biggest fan and paid therapist, tells me it’s because “I have an impassioned soul” which sounds way better than “your dosage of Ortho Tri-Cyclen birth control is waaaay too strong.”  On the plus side, I can find excitement and enjoyment out of literally anything. Sometimes I have so much fun the world feels like a Sims universe created for me and me alone. Everything is funny, all the time! And I fall in love effortlessly, often and overwhelmingly. But on the down side, when I’m sad I am sad. When I am hurt I am hurt. And when I am angry I am milliseconds away from blocking you on twitter.

Because of our basic human instinct to protect ourselves, I make it a goal to avoid these defeating moments of emotional distress whenever possible. Some things I will never be able to avoid—like when my dad died, leaving me depressed and fatherless at 24 years old, I was like “okay I forgive you, I know this isn’t what we necessarily wanted to happen.” But other things, like putting my emotions in the hands of a man who’s not in my direct bloodline? Absolutely the fuck not! 

And the lie that I’ve convinced myself of— that because I’m not in a committed relationship I can’t experience the soul crushing heartbreak that comes with losing someone—is just my delusional way of trying to protect myself. But I’m slowly learning that avoiding isn’t protecting. Instead, it just makes confronting the truth more painful. Because no matter the kind of relationship—committed, serious, casual, or a reply guy on instagram—when I let someone into my heart, I’m giving them equal opportunity to tear it to shreds. As someone who’s familiar with a mid morning sob over a man who doesn’t own a bed frame, I just have to accept this about myself. 

What I’m trying to focus on, though, is the beauty of vulnerability and how it can positively impact a relationship. If I can stop burying my desire for emotional commitment, and accept that the possibility of heartbreak will be on the table regardless, can I better appreciate the positives that come with allowing myself to fully invest in a relationship? Just as my relationship with myself became healthier, happier and more fun when I fully accepted who I am, will my relationships with other people improve in the same vein?

Every relationship is different—they arise for different reasons, impact our lives in different ways and teach us different lessons. Yes, there are people I date who I know I never want to be serious with. However, when I meet someone who I want to explore commitment with, I am doing myself a disservice when I internalize the feeling. Life is increasingly more beautiful and honest when we can be vulnerable and dive in to experiences, rather than wading in neutral water, swiping on tinder for the rest of eternity. Because at the end of the day, if a guy without a bed frame who I love is going to break my heart—he’s going to do it whether or not, with a mouth full of buttered bread, I’ve asked if he’s my boyfriend.

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