Reasons Why I’m Not Sorry to Celebrate The Road of Romance Not Taken

Woman Faces A Fork in the Road

Src: lawandborder.com

In the three years that the Warrior Poet and I have been together, there has only been one major pothole in the road of our romance that was disastrous enough to potentially split our bond forever. In hindsight, this heart-wrenching rift only lasted approximately a month. Yet there was tremendous risk that bullish stubbornness—after the shock and hurt of rash words and actions—would have kept us from ever finding our way back to each other. Another path, another person, had appeared on the horizon in the interim and could have been pursued further. If I had, we wouldn’t be entering this next, exciting chapter in our relationship—in my life—that we are now: A new leg of the journey that brings us to a whole new level of abundant lifestyle, focus and commitment to each other. Thus, there are so many reasons why I’m not sorry to celebrate the road of romance not taken.

I watched that other path, that other person, recently enter a riveting, new chapter in a relationship he eventually found after I called things off and chose to give WP an honest, second chance. If I were a decade younger with fewer relationships behind my belt, if there were no WP, perhaps I would have leaped into dating Path Not Taken. Maybe I would have been blind to the red flags of emotional immaturity and insecurity, instead focusing on the fun and playfulness of being two kids hanging around. However, time and experience have made me wiser.

I’d already dated the playmate, confusing an affectionate buddy for a long-term, loving companion. I’d endlessly tread the waters of dating a Peter Pan afraid of making real commitments and “growing up.” I learned the hard way that nothing I would say or do would change transform him from a boy into a man. I’d been the light and guide for the lost bull in a china shop, looking for someone to show him the way back to himself. I was left emotionally (and financially) depleted and feeling lost myself after all that giving with little in return.

Why would I deliberately choose to go through all that again with Path Not Taken when the door re-opened to the emotionally open man whose own life experiences led him along the same path I was on as well? This was the man who loved with both passion and tenderness that I returned in full-force, and who was playmate, best friend, cheerleader, dream-builder and lifelong companion all rolled up into one.

When I shared the recent news of Path Not Taken with my mother the other day, she said, “I’m so glad you made the right choice.”

A Dancing Couple

src: blog.findable.in

I too am overjoyed that I followed my heart to a path that left no room for what-ifs or regrets. I feel extremely grateful that I made the best decision for me (and WP), which in turn allowed Path Not Taken to also have the opportunity to find and fully grab hold of someone with whom he was eager to build a life.

The Path Not Taken and his lady share a passion for travel, fitness, style, cars, coffee and desserts. Like him, she is extremely playful and childlike; in photos, she constantly sticks her tongue out or crosses her eyes. She seems to be the perfectly playful partner to inspire him to take the big leaps in life. I find myself both extremely happy and excited for him and the adventures ahead as they move across the country to live in an area I know he’ll really love. Whatever lies on the path ahead for him and his lady, he too must be celebrating the road of romance he found instead.

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How to Deal With Your Partner’s Ex Who is Still Hanging On

HowToDealWithYourPartnersExWhoIsStillHangingOnFrom the beginning, my boyfriend and I have been very open and honest with one other about our past relationships. He knows about many of the issues that led to the breakups with my biggest exes, and I know his perspective on what some of the biggest factors were that ended his last four-year relationship. He knew that I casually kept in touch with a couple of my exes, considering a couple actual friends, and I found out that occasionally he and his ex had text exchanges. It became apparent that she hadn’t moved on from him, though it’s now been almost two years since they officially broke up. Yet it never really concerned me because she’s never made a presence in my actual life…but that’s about to change. So now I’m left wondering how to deal with your partner’s ex who is still hanging on.

Read more here: http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2013/06/how-to-deal-with-your-partners-ex-who-is-still-hanging-on/

On Singles Warehouse

Judge Judy shares grown-up guidelines for moving in together

src: shutterstock

src: shutterstock

I was lingering after dinner the other night, with Inside Edition in the background (don’t judge—my parents always have it on leftover from watching the news the couple hours before), when I heard that something actually relevant to current circumstances in my own, real, non-celebrity life was about to be discussed. Surprisingly, words of wisdom were about to be imparted by that infamous courtroom reality star, and because it spoke specifically to the next stage of life I was entering, I was curious enough to listen. Yep, when Judge Judy shares grown-up guidelines for moving in together, I’m all ears.

Last month, Judge Judy released her book, What Would Judy Say? A Grown-Up Guide to Living Together With Benefits. In it, she pairs no-nonsense advice with humor about the highs and lows of moving in with someone before marriage. While some of what she shared were common sense tips that were emphasized by my live-in experiences from the past, there were a few that gave me pause.

Man is handing a house key to a womanWhile the judge recognized couples don’t find it romantic to set guidelines, she stressed the importance of setting down rules before moving in. Before you start joining together your lives and possessions even more, it’s important to consider important questions like this biggie: What happens if it doesn’t work out—who stays in the apartment?

“Write it all out, just so that there’s no wiggle room,” she advises on CBS This Morning. “There are courts for people marry and it doesn’t work out, but there are no courts for just living together.”

Judge Judy, who has been married three times, twice to husband Jerry, had three big rules for Inside Edition:

1. Keep your property separate

While Judge Judy believes you should split expenses in half, she has strong feelings about not having joint property. And she doesn’t mean to simply keep your bank accounts separate; she goes one step further: “No joint anything!  No joint dog, no joint time share, no joint car.” A big part of me has to agree.

My college boyfriend, with whom I lived, and I took several of the same courses. To save money, often he would buy books and course readers for a class, and we would just share them. This was all fine and dandy for my bank account at the time, but when we broke up, I was left with only notes from some of my most beloved classes while our books got dusty in his parents’ basement, never to be looked at again.

Yet that’s nothing compared to the next serious boyfriend after him. When I moved out, I left our shared CDs and DVDs, which actually wasn’t that bad since I’d burned most of the CDs before I actually moved out.  I left behind a powerful vacuum cleaner given to me that did so well with animal fur and dust. I also left the Tempur-Pedic California King-Sized mattress and bed that I’d purchased for us primarily because my body was in pain 24/7. The dog he later welcomed into the home after I left wound up chewing up the mattress. Grr!

287119554_d88909ba45_oAnd last, but most important of all—what cut me to the core—was that he wouldn’t let me take our two cats with me, despite the fact that he got them for me and despite the fact that it was I who fed them, cleaned up their mess, played with them, took them to the vet and loved them up more than he ever had and ever would. Thinking it was suitable punishment for me leaving him (and I think also thinking I could never leave the cats behind, thus I could never leave him), my ex refused to let me bring them home with me. Now they spend most of their time half-feral in the basement. My beloved boy has developed an autoimmune disease (like mama, like cat son) that causes his fur to fall off, unless he gets shots.

So yes, I get Judge Judy’s point.

 2. Postpone having kids until you have a wedding ring.

“I’m old fashioned in that respect,” she said. And she will have no disagreement from me. Still not 100 percent that having kids is even in the cards for me, I have no problem waiting until I am absolutely sure that their father is someone who I truly want to be in our lives for the long haul, and I know will be.

AND

3. Set a time limit for how long you’ll live together

This is such a huge one that I find so often overlooked. When so many of people my generation and younger go into living together as a trial run, the attitude seems to be when it stops being fun and starts being miserable more than 75 percent (give or take) of the time, that’s when you book it out the door. So people are living together six months… or six years.

For people who believe in marriage, after an extended period happily living together, the mind starts to roll over that quaint phrase my close friend Sarah gave me for some time in another relationship life, “He has to shit, or get off the pot.”

Src:Engagementrings.lovetoknow.com

Src:Engagementrings.lovetoknow.com

The problem is Judge Judy doesn’t advise how long a time limit you should set. And that totally depends on the individuals that make up the relationship and the circumstances in which they find themselves. I know one ex’s true colors didn’t truly start to come out in full force until about six months after living together, but with others, it may take a year or more, all depending how open, honest and intimate the relationship is in the first place.

So while I personally don’t have answers for that, I would probably say that for me, if I have been with someone for three years, and at least a full year or more of that time has been living together, I would seriously hope my partner knew by then if he wanted to marry me or not—and at my age, that’s being generous, ha.

I’ll give Judge Judy the last word, of course. “”I would say it’s wise—live together, give it an old college try, if it doesn’t work, move on,” she said. “And if it does, get married.”

With a Conflicted Heart, Can You Date Multiple People at Once

two_men_one_womanSome of you remember my theory about old flames being one of many things that comes into your life in threes. Most of you probably also know firsthand that you appear most attractive to others when basking in the glow and confidence of blossoming love or a budding romance. At some point or another, old loves wanting to reunite are bound to cross your path just when you are perky with excitement about the potential of a new romantic interest. Is it a simple and easy decision to keep moving forward with someone new? Or with a conflicted heart, can you date multiple people at once?

Read more in my post for Singles Warehouse: http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2013/03/can-you-date-multiple-people-at-once-by-soloat30/

Given a Second Chance at Love, When is it Worth the Risk?

second-chanceI know I’m not really fooling anyone. At my core, behind certain walls erected to better protect me, underneath the heartbreaks and bruises, I am an incurable romantic. I believe in the trans-formative power of love; both to the receiver and the giver. And yes, I suppose there is a part of me that still believes that true love is worth fighting and waiting for, that it reigns supreme in the end. Yet I recently was put in the position to question myself: Given a second chance at love, when is it worth the risk?

Read more about how I fouled up the first time, what I think about do-overs in life, and whether I think second chances are really worth the risk over at Singles Warehouse: http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2013/03/given-a-second-chance-at-love-when-is-it-worth-the-riski/

What if Your Ex Had Been Your Best Friend—Can You Still Be Friendly

BeingFriendsWithEx-300x219Once the anger and frustration after the break-up dimmed, I was starting to actually feel good again. I was getting my groove back, dating again. One guy I had been on several dates with was starting to spark with potential. I was feeling happy and regaining confidence. So when the ex began showing signs of mildly reaching out in friendship again, I was up for it. In this one case, I thought I knew the answer to that age-old question: What if your ex was your best friend, can you still be friendly?

Find out what I have to say about the topic on Singles Warehouse:

http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2013/03/what-if-your-ex-was-your-best-friend-can-you-still-be-friendly-by-soloat30/

The Power of Love to Transform an Embittered Heart

brokenheart-300x257Over the years, I’ve learned not to give up on the power of love to transform an embittered heart. I’ve seen too many instances that contradict that timeworn saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The latest example that turned this adage on its head: My former FWB has ditched his list and has fallen fully in love.

Ditch The Dating Checklist?

You know The List. Your potential mate checklist. Chances are, you’ve had one of your own at some point in your dating life. You may very well still have it. If you’re still unclear what I’m talking about, let me give you an example: he must be at least 5’11”, athletic, not bald, never been married, no kids, well-educated, make more money than I do—you get the picture.

Find out how my former FWB finally dumped his cynicism, ditched his dating checklist and found the light of love on the other side in my post on Singles Warehouse:

http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2013/01/the-power-of-love-to-transform-an-embittered-heart/

What Happens When Your Answer Temptation’s Call

On Wednesday night, I went out with The Renaissance Man, which turned out to be a fun evening with mixed emotions. Everything has been different since last week’s re-emergence of The European. Part of it has been TRM finding himself busier and more distracted than usual, but a lot of it admittedly have stem from the silent but visceral signals I must have been emitting ever since I disappeared to Boston on Thursday.

As some of you might’ve predicted, temptation and curiosity got the better of me when The European finally committed, several weeks too late, to get together again. I don’t want to mislead here—it’s not like this invitation came completely out of the blue. We’ve been talking for weeks and he’s expressed the desire to get together repeatedly, but there were also excuses about being so busy with work, not feeling himself due to a lot of emotional things he’s been going through and just feeling out-of-sorts in general. Perhaps they were genuine reasons at the time, but they started to feel like excuses, so to protect myself from getting hurt and disappointed again, I just made the decision I wasn’t going to be. I was going to actively start seeing others again. The fact that TRM came along in the process was an unexpected and wonderful surprise.

Yet, a part of me was still tied back to The European. It didn’t help that we often still talked at least once a week on FaceTime, where I could see his face grinning at me as if talking to me made his day. He observed all my expressions and surmised my moods and concerns just as he always did when we were in each other’s company. It was unnerving, yet comforting at the same time. During those conversations, it was easy for me to remember why I had started to feel like I was growing to love this person back when I trusted him.

But I’d started to believe that that is all they were—conversations. I was a friend that he trusted, with whom he shared his deeper emotions. He had his activity partners, even people he could philosophically or politically banter with occasionally, but he could be more vulnerable with me. I was safe—from afar.

So it was a total surprise as we were wrapping up one of our FaceTime conversations when he blurted out, “So do you still want to come visit me in Boston?”

Yes. No. I don’t know. Should I? Does he even deserve it?

I wrestled with these questions for almost two days, even up to a couple hours before I finally boarded a bus to South Station. I talked it over with my friends and my parents. My mom was wary and protective of me. My dad, ever the romantic, saw a bit of his and my mom’s love story in us, remembered their miscommunications and emotional conflicts that nearly led to a complete destruction of their relationship before they even took off, and even later, led to them spitting, before they finally reunited for good.

I thought about how I felt. I wanted to know if what I remembered was the truth. I wanted to see if TRM had erased some of that fairy tale magic I had once felt in The European’s presence. I wanted to see if there was still hope. I wanted, if I had to, the opportunity to say goodbye.

The European shocked me by meeting me at the bus station. God, he looked so good. His hugs. That accent. The way his hand slipped into mine like it belonged there.

There was an insistent ring on the cell as we headed back to his place. He usually ignored calls in my company, but this one he answered. He spoke in rapid Polish then he hung up the phone. His hand returned to my leg.

His roommate warmly greeted me before we headed out for dinner. We picked a lively BBQ restaurant with colorful ambiance and delicious food. Afterward, we crossed the street to an Irish pub, with a front room featuring authentic Irish music and a back room with an ‘80s cover band. After a drink, boisterous conversation and lightly tender caresses, we made our way back to the livelier music and dancing.

Dancing with The European is always electric. He comes to life on the dance floor, and together we have an energy that draws people to smile and watch. He put his arms around me, and I could feel the heat. Yes, it was all still there.

I was awakened the next morning by the doorbell. The European’s cell phone sprang to life with insistent noises that sounded like alarms that required more attention. I tried to rouse his attention, but it was finally his roommate who came to the door. “Someone’s here for you,” he said gruffly.

It was 6 in the morning. After what felt like a half hour at least, he returned.
Was it a co-worker?” I asked. No. A friend? No. A student? No. You’re not going to help me out here…was it someone you’ve been dating—a girl?

Finally, hesitantly, he says it is someone he had been seeing on and off. I think you can imagine what was running through my head. Something along the lines like, fuck you, when’s the next bus out of here?

He fell back asleep while I stewed. Finally he awoke to my questions. He claimed they were not “involved,” that there was no commitment. He said he didn’t understand why she came over, why she was emotional, but everything was okay after he talked to her. He apologized for the situation, but he assured me there was nothing fishy going on, that I was wanted with him. She had feelings he did not reciprocate, but it was hard to have to let her down.

Hmm. Yeah right.

Unfortunately, he left me with key as he went to work. I couldn’t just slip out and leave. I stewed. I called friends and my parents again. My mom said to forget him and the key, just come home. Drop the key off at his work if you have to. My dad said, act cool. Wait until he gets home, talk to him. You can come home then or wait until the morning.

He came home from work late as usual, stopping at the gym for a long session. We did a teleclass on meditation together. It was hard to stay pissed off at him as he coached me through things and made sure I was comfortable. When we couldn’t stand sitting any longer, we tried meditating lying down, but he fell asleep. We hung up the call and decided we needed to eat.

With all his Easter leftovers, we cooked up a nice meal at home, with the idea that we’d go out and catch another band at the same bar we’d hit the night before. But by the time we were done eating, it was nearly 11:30 p.m. We were both tired after an early morning and a long day. He was still game, but I honestly was too full and not sure I was up for a couple hours of dancing, and his eyes were pretty red. We wound up watching animal documentaries instead.

The next day we slept until noon. I had decided I was going home that day. The European said I could come again, but I didn’t respond. I was expecting him to leave for work right away, but he wanted to snuggle, talk and enjoy me until it was time to catch the bus.

Sometime before I left we got involved in a serious conversation that stunned me. Basically The European expressed to me his hesitations getting involved too seriously when he knew he was leaving his fellowship before a year was up. Chances are very high that he’s returning to Europe. He told me that he felt that length of time was too short to know a person before marriage; he’d made that mistake before with his ex-wife. He didn’t know her well enough before he married her to move them to the States, and she’d turned out to have major psychological problems. He didn’t want to make that mistake again.

“I get the impression that you want to get married right away, right?” he said.

Wait, what? Back up a second. I corrected him quickly. “I’m looking to find the right person. I want to follow my heart, not let obstacles get in the way of getting to really know that person, spending time with that person, letting the relationship progress naturally, and letting love flow in its proper course,” I said. “I don’t want to rush marriage. I’m looking for a partner to love first and foremost and grow with.”

“You Connecticut girls are very wise, aren’t you?” he said, giving me a squeeze. As opposed to the Massachusetts girls he’s been dating? “I’m so glad we can talk about things so openly now. There’s none of this pressure and worry about hurt feelings.”

Hmm. That’s when I realized he wasn’t necessarily talking about me.

Later, he waxed poetic about a dream scenario, how work would be, how his routine would be less stressful and leave more time for fun, socialization, and relaxation. And then he inserted me into that scenario, included aspects about my home and the things he loves about the area where I live.

And I knew then he was just a dreamer. I would never really fit into his reality. And I also realized that with all of his issues and drama and emotional imbalances, maybe he didn’t fit into mine either as much as I thought he once did.

Leaving for home felt like saying goodbye this time. It wasn’t as heartbreaking as much as closing a door, waking up to the next chapter.

Yet still, the other night, out with TRM, my mind began to drift when I got the first text from The European since I’d left. I think it was a feeler text to see if I was out because he never responded back when I told him I was enjoying a delicious meal out. Later TRM and I went to a blues open mic, where we were entertained not only by some excellent musicians but also by a group of college-age swing dancers as well. They were having so much fun on the dance floor that I wanted to be out there with them too.

But TRM doesn’t dance. That would be The European’s playground. Still it was nice to just be a spectator this time, and I snuggled into TRM’s big, warm embrace.

The next morning came with it’s own surprises. At close to 10, I felt the buzz of my cell, and I looked over to see a text message from The Music Man. The night before, he’d also texted me with the sad news confirming he does indeed have cancer. This morning, however, he had a surprise of a completely different nature for me:

Icarus Vs. Goliath: Old Love or New Beginnings

Much to my surprise, things were going better than good with the new guy. The past weekend, our first unplanned sleepover had turned into a delicious entire weekend together full of comedy, music, lively intellectual and spiritual conversations, a long bike ride, decadent breakfast buffet and late afternoon at the beach. If I had any doubts that this man 16 years my senior could keep up with me, they were more than silenced by his joie de vivre and seemingly boundless energy—even in the middle of the night. On top of all that, this Renaissance Man turned out to enjoy inventively cooking and sweetly cuddling and had a wicked sense of humor that came out when I least expected it.

With all that goodness, I should’ve had my guard up for interference, which sometimes seems inevitable in my complicated love life. Because I was entirely unprepared for when The European asked me over FaceTime, “So do you want to come up to visit me in Boston again?”

Find out how it all went down over on The Singles Warehouse in my latest post: http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2012/04/icarus-vs-goliath-old-love-or-new-beginnings/

Forget Him—Forgive Yourself

src: CollegeCandy.com

Being on friendly terms with the ex girlfriend, now one of the best friends, of the guy you are dating can be both a blessing and a curse. You wind up getting more insight about this person you think you know fairly well. It can be helpful when you are worrying you’re overreacting about an issue in your relationship but a quick chat enables you to realize it’s an issue that he’s had before with others—it’s not just you. And with a really sweet and open ex, you can hear the nice things the guy is saying about you when offered unbidden.

Then, sometimes you get more than you bargained for. You may ask what you hope are innocent questions but the answers leave you reeling. You learn what he’s said about an ex from his past is not true. You discover that he’s left out critical details about a former relationship. Thus ultimately, you find out what he really thinks about relationships, how he really views women and inevitably, what he really thinks about you.

Hearing about their past relationship, you know you have to take any detail with a grain of salt. Of course there are two sides to every story. Yet you start to question the veracity of your sources when while describing their period together romantically, one cites a bland haiku and the other speaks of a wandering epic.

To him, they took the boat out for a couple months but said there wasn’t enough fuel to keep things afloat. After some recon and prodding from me, he admitted that afterward, sometimes they’d take the boat out every now and then for nostalgia’s sake but mostly they kept their feet on the calm shores of friendship.

To her, they took a bumpy, hazy flight across continents. While there were plenty times of fun and joy that kept her hoping for more, he would got lost in the clouds of the past and was often a short-sighted wingman. She was looking for a more permanent co-pilot, and he was not up for that position.

Most recently, I found out that she grounded their multiple flights a couple of times, and that he was the one more recently who had been asking her to go for repeated joy rides….even though his constant refrain was that he didn’t have a real strong desire for flying. Her story became more and more believable as I realized that was something he often said to me, though we flew constantly, sometimes multiple trips in a day.

by Igal Maasen

Hearing their completely different versions of their journey together, I realized why I felt like he and I were speaking different languages. We went from feeling like we were in a full-blown relationship to him pulling away. I found out after some prodding that, despite behavior to the contrary, he did not consider me his girlfriend. He told me he wanted to continue seeing each other just as we had been, spending weekends together, hanging out with his friends and family, but without labels or expectations.

After the most enlightening conversation with his ex yet, when we discussed his odd reaction to her having finally moved onto sleeping with someone new, I decided to confront him again. I informed him that I felt he was taking advantage of our “situation,” that I wasn’t feeling much reward from it, and that I was moving on. The next day, I informed him I would be considering my dating options again, but unlike his ex-wife, I knew how to keep my legs together. “That was your real concern before [the last time we had the “relationship discussion]—sexual exclusivity, wasn’t it?” I asked.

He finally came out with, “Yeah, I guess.”

It embarrasses me to admit how much I have been seething with all this anger and frustration that I have been played by this guy, who in all honesty, really wasn’t worth any of the fuss. It hurts that I had actually been concerned for his wellbeing, which above everything else—the humor, decent company, things in common—had kept me in the game, while all he was thinking about was ensuring he could keep having sex with me…and have someone with whom to watch his favorite shows.

I admittedly flipped out on him. “Why weren’t you honest with me? Why did you tell me you specifically didn’t want to be friends with benefits? I told you that was the last thing I wanted in my life right now, and that if that’s what you were looking for, no thank you,” I said. “You told me, you’d rather we just be friends and have no sex. You said, however, what you most wanted was for us to keep seeing each other as we had been doing, without the labels.”

He first claimed my ignorance, then his ignorance. I almost laughed at his third reaction of confusion—he was telling his ex-gf we were no longer seeing each other after he just told me we hadn’t just been seeing each other. We were all IMing simultaneously, to his ignorance. I asked him, what is the truth: were we seeing each other, or weren’t we? Do you put on a show for everyone? Your ex? Your grandma? Your friends? Your mother?

Finally he says, “I’m sorry…Will you still be my friend so we can continue to watch Battlestar Galactica together?” W.T.F.?

Ironically, it was at precisely this time that I was charged with writing up an article on forgiveness in relationships. Yep. While I was envisioning punching his smug big head into the television screen while it was playing Battle-fracking-star Galactica, I was supposed to be waxing poetic about the healing graces of forgiveness.

"It's Not You, It's Me" by Niagara

My good friend @thecrazymagnet of And You Thought You Had It Bad reminded me that any anger I harbor towards another hurts me more than it hurt anyone else. I’ve always known that anger is a mental and physical toxin that just eats away at our insides, paralyzing us from moving forward in our own lives. Yet here was this person, this man I thought I knew at least to some extent, who was just acting like any other guy who takes advantage of a situation physically, financially, emotionally and frankly, taking up my time, as much as he can because I am being too much of a giver—okay, a pushover—and not protesting loudly enough or frequently enough.

I just couldn’t get over the fact that I, such a wise and intelligent, mature and seasoned woman, had let this happen. That’s when I realized that the person I was most upset with was myself. The person I needed to forgive the most in this equation was yours truly.

Far too often in relationships-gone-bad, we blame ourselves for not being smart enough to see a steady stream of lies, for ignoring the fishy text message cover-ups, for not asking the right questions or for accepting the answers full of holes. We blame ourselves for being a bad judge of character, for thinking someone genuinely cares for us when he has only really been acting in his own self-interest and personal gratification. We mentally bang our own heads because we dared to believe the best in others—and were wrong.

Unfortunately, this only further poisons our thoughts and our actions. We start behaving unkindly toward ourselves, adding to the wrongs others have already done to us. Blaming yourself only pushes you further backward. Blaming myself only made me hurt more than I already was. It made no sense when I needed my own love and self-care the most.

Hopefully I, you, we learn from these hurtful experiences and take the time, space and wisdom to get to know the next person more clearly before jumping in heart-first. And we listen to our guts when they tell us a few weeks in that things no longer feel right, that something smells fishy in the water—and it’s not us. There’s no shame in throwing a rotten one back in that ocean—that rip current will take care of ‘em. Nor is there any shame in getting out of the water completely for a while, simply taking time to rejuvenate, rediscover and relearn to love yourself.