“I want someone who makes me want to be a better person”
We’ve all heard this type of thing, right? Or someone newly in love saying they’re with someone “who makes me want to be better…” in whatever ways they are gushing about at the moment. Why does it take someone new to motivate us in this way? Why is this deemed something to aspire to in a relationship?
I found myself in a situationship a few months ago where the other person really had no ambitions in life. They seemed resigned to working unfulfilling part time jobs (despite having degrees), living with their parents, and not even really pursuing their own hobbies or interests very much anymore. We met, had a couple of really great dates, and suddenly on the third date (my b-day) they told me they were in love with me. It was all too much for me, but also very fun and flattering and I quickly got caught up in all of their feels, without realizing they were not in fact matching my own feelings.
They were all too comfortable in my apartment that night (third date), we had fun and all, and hey the sex was nice, but I didn’t invite or ask them to spend the night, yet they had an overnight bag in-hand already. I rolled with it, but in my head it really bothered me that they never explicitly asked that it was okay. They would do the same for two more nights, bringing more and more full-sized toiletries and sundries into my bathroom and bedroom. After a few nights of little to no sleep I told them they needed to go home. They assured me they would, but then got too stoned to leave at a reasonable time and truly tested my patience. I needed alone time, they left me with barely enough time to sleep!
Then I got a glimpse into their life by way of how they handled their “best friend” calling them out of the blue. They literally didn’t know how to handle it at all. At first they ignored the call, we were in the middle of picking food for dinner to order and go pickup, but upon my insistence, they picked up the call but appeared confused and distressed. They kept trying to look at my phone (where the menu was displayed) and talk to their friend on their own phone. The result was an overall rudeness to all parties that chafed me terribly. This continued, this half conversation with the friend who was only inviting them to a party, and their distracted half interest in the physical-present moment with me. When they finally hung up (after I insisted they take their friend off speaker phone – how fucking rude) I was shocked and appalled. They apologized for the phone call. I replied, “I’m more worried about how you treat your friends. I take friendships very seriously. If this is normal for you then this simply won’t work out.”
A week later I broke things off. It took four and a half hours of talking, crying, begging, pleading, bargaining, and completely refusing to listen to me when I tried to explain that I just couldn’t be in a relationship and that I needed to prioritize my own mental health as I had only two weeks prior lost my dog-son to illness after a month in and out of the ICU. My life was in shambles but this person had already decided that I was “the one” and that they had already begun to invest and improve many aspects of their life. I explained that I was happy for them and that they should continue to do those things because none of that had anything to do with me and everything to do with their own brighter future.
If you’ve never broken up with a cisgendered, heterosexual adult male, it is a trying and difficult thing in the best of circumstances. It became apparent to me very quickly as I tried to explain that I needed to break things off that this person had lived a very sheltered life and still clung to the few accolades they received in high school as though they were still relevant. They insisted they screwed things up and would make things right with me. When I explained over and over again that I simply needed to heal and grieve, they refused to hear me. I barely knew this person and they were on their knees and in tears begging me for a lifetime of love and partnership.
I’m an empathetic and compassionate person, I cannot simply be callous in the face of heartbreak and pain. I was calm, I was patient, I wanted them to know that I cared but that I couldn’t be with them. I told them almost a hundred times that night that they did nothing wrong, this was me needing to care for myself, but none of it mattered. Once they felt they had lost something they believed to be fully theirs already, they became so stubborn and obstinate that I finally insisted, “Do not make me kick you out tonight.” To which they replied, “You will definitely have to kick me out, I can’t leave if I don’t want to.”
They began to list each new thing they had started to improve or invest in their life. They insisted they wanted me to meet their parents (I told them on our first date I never wanted to meet anyone’s parents). It became unbearably obvious to me that I wasn’t a whole person to them at all but merely someone to fill the void in their life and check all of their boxes for a girlfriend or partner. I asked them if they felt all of this on our first date and they admitted that they did. I had a hunch that they saw my profile on Tinder and simply decided I was their person. It’s bizarre but it happens. This isn’t even the first time this type of thing has happened to me.
How could someone you barely know inspire such passion, such motivation, such sudden desire for self improvement? I’m not here to blame or imply that there was anything wrong about this other person, simply that it wasn’t the right time or fit for me. They refused to let go and continued to text me for the next few days. I had told them I was going out of town to visit a friend and would have my phone off but that I wouldn’t block them but I also wouldn’t reply to them. Their texts were hot and cold, pleading and then flippant. Finally they left me a voice message that was very long and upsetting. I told them it was enough and they agreed. I thought it was done. I found out later that they had sent a friend request to my bff on facebook along with a lengthy diatribe about how “She’s a player and uses men all of the time! She’s no good!” and so on. My friend refused to screenshot the message but read it to me while I was driving one day. It really felt like they crossed a line by messaging my friend like that, but I told my friend that I wouldn’t do anything in response either way. I was done.
The last time I remember being the one to say, “They make me want to be a better person!” makes me wanna laugh or barf to think about now. The person was a loser, obsessed with get rich quick ideas but did little to nothing in their actual life but the bare minimum, but I was dazzled by their good looks and seemingly hot job. Ha-ha! It took dating two different Googlers to say, “NEVER AGAIN!” Looking back I see now that there is a reason for this “better person” stuff. It is often the first time, or maybe just the first in a long time, that someone was looking at me with new eyes/perspective. They were reflecting only positivity towards me. Nothing shocking there, new relationships bring about all sorts of seemingly new and good feels. To have someone see the parts of you that you hate or others have disparaged and actually admire and adore those parts? It can be transformative. And it was for me then.
What is interesting to me is that very few relationships have made me feel that way. When I met my ex-husband, while we were friends first, I never had that feeling of needing or wanting to grow/improve/invest in myself “for them” in that way. We met very young though and weren’t fully formed individuals then. We were together for fourteen years, mostly happy, but then we simply wanted different futures. We split ten years ago. We’re still friends. My subsequent relationships have been far less interesting and exciting, but certainly filled a need I had at the time in one way or another. No regrets! Ha-ha!
After my last LTR ended on a sour note (some people are just plain rude) I decided I wasn’t going to jump into anything again so soon. I wanted to take some time to get right with myself before sharing my life like that again. Previously, I had always struggled with being alone. I grew up the oldest of three siblings and always had to share. Even when I left my husband I moved in with a roommate. After all was said and done, I suddenly found myself alone, unemployed, and wanting to figure out how to be okay with that in a very deep and real way. I did not know what I was asking for! Ha-ha!
I have C-PTSD, so silence was a big trigger for many years because silence meant something was wrong or about to happen. Silence would make my skin crawl. Silence was never to be trusted, and people less so. Some friends gave me an Amazon Echo around the same time and when I was faced with the possibility of being able to simply say any song or artist and have it play it, my brain broke. I sat there for almost thirty minutes completely frozen. I usually have at least two songs stuck in my head at any given time, so this was a shock. I had nothing. I sat there in silence. Hating it. Confused by it. Fighting it but unable to conjure anything at all, until I was finally resigned to it. I would eventually tell it to just play something eighties, and soon had music playing almost constantly.
It was a dark time personally. I had been thrown under a bus by my manager and fired over the most petty nonsense ever. Soon my whole team would quit that place. I turned forty. I didn’t want to date anymore. I hated where I lived. The only thing I loved at that time was my beloved puggo. Everything just seemed terrible and so I shrank my life and world down to almost nothing. All I did was apply for jobs, interview for jobs, and walk and feed my puggo. I was barely eating, certainly not enjoying life in any real way, but it felt necessary.
Then my former teammate reached out and asked that I apply for a job at her new employer’s office. I did and I got the job. After nine months I moved back to a town I love and got my own apartment for the first time ever. I still can’t believe it sometimes. But that time I spent alone, really and truly alone in the world and not seeking any sort of external validation, taught me so much. I’ve always known I was a survivor, but to be truly independent and on my own terms felt unreal and magical somehow. Even if what felt like a palace to me would be a shack to others, I was proud and started to truly feel good about myself and where I was heading.
I know, I know, “What does this have to do with that whole being a better person stuff?!” The thing was, it was never dating or status or money or a job or validation I needed to actually be a better person. I just needed to get to know myself on a deeper, quieter level, without all of that external “noise” so to speak. So much of what we surround ourselves with is actually negative and not in alignment with our paths or passions. That is the “noise” I mean. The more time I spent alone, quiet and just allowed to be, the more I loved my life and myself, and of course that amazing puggo.
I have a lot of past birthday related trauma, so I often try to peace out so I don’t have to pretend or possibly get triggered and lose my shit. Feeling quite good about where I was headed back in 2019, a colleague insisted that I should do the things I was wanting to do but holding myself back in fear. “No one can do that for you, so just do it!” So I booked my first solo travel adventure to Hawaii and not only checked off something that had been on my bucket list for ages (visiting a seahorse preserve in Kona and holding a seahorse), but it was also a life changer. Yes, Hawaii is beautiful and special and if you do it right you don’t have to have a negative impact on the nature or culture there. For me it was about getting out of my comfort zone and routine and finding my inner peace. I found it! And I actually slept so well the first night that I woke up refreshed for the first time in my entire life!
I’ve had insomnia pretty regularly since I was twelve years old. Waking up refreshed always seemed like something that only happened in commercials or movies. I have always hated mornings, even when I owned a cafe and had to get up before the sun each day, I got used to it but never enjoyed getting up. That first morning in Hilo was magical! All I could hear were nature sounds. What sounded like a bajillion frogs, singing birds, rustling trees in soft breezes, the gentle lapping of the waves at the shore nearby, all became a symphony. The air smelled sweeter! I visited the lava flows that day on my own in my rental car with The Carters and Lizzo to keep me company along the way. I couldn’t stop smiling and singing. It was so surreal to see the landscape change from paradise to post apocalyptic, but it also felt comforting in an odd way.
I had no one to share this magical experience with. It didn’t bother me or make me sad, it was simply a fact and I accepted it and was committed to enjoying myself as much as I possibly could. The next day I visited that seahorse preserve and stayed the night in Kona. The next morning I woke up refreshed again. All I could hear were the waves. I stretched out in the king sized bed in the condo I rented and relished in the moment. Every part of me felt in harmony, inside and out. I went for a drive and got some yummy coffee and checked out some little shops but found myself in a sad mood on my birthday. I was nervous about the activity I had booked for myself that evening, but maybe also excited.
I wanted to be excited but there’s so many things that can happen when you’re just trying to do regular things in the world when you live in a fat body that I was getting increasingly anxious about going snorkeling that night with manta rays. I had never snorkeled either, but I am a decent swimmer, and it said kids were welcome. I got a massage to try to relax and calm my nerves. I had a mimosa on the balcony of the condo at sunset and texted my friends about my adventures. Then it was time and I headed out to the dock to meet up with the boat crew. It all went great and I had the time of my life! The manta rays would swim up and do backflips almost a foot away from my face! It was exhilarating!
I drove back to the condo exhausted, wired, and starving, so I stopped off at a Taco Bell drive thru for my bday dinner. Ha-ha! When I got back to the condo I put my feet up and scarfed down my tacos with glee. Feeling fully satisfied, I put something silly on Netflix and just sat there for a few minutes when it hit me: Bliss! Peace! I felt so satisfied with just everything in that moment. All that I had been through, all that I had done or even given up, all that I had chosen and moved towards and it was all syncing up and I felt so at peace. I then had like the best shower of my life and slept better than ever, again awaking refreshed.
I realized that this waking up refreshed business had everything to do with not having the “noise” of others around me. Not that where I was staying was secluded at all, in fact it was a tourism hot spot, but I don’t just mean people in general. I mean the “noise” and influences in our day to day life. The things we must say and do in order to keep the peace for others, in order to get through the day, in order to keep our jobs or a roof over our head, the mask we must wear in order to live in a capitalist society that fails us all every single day. It’s a lot! We don’t even realize it because we’re so used to it. It feels normal because it’s all we know. That inner peace stuff always felt like some myth or mystery only to be unlocked by those worthy or studious or whatever, certainly not me.
You don’t need to go to Hawaii to find your inner peace. In fact, please don’t, the Hawaiian people are struggling and we should do all we can to support them and not invade or make their living conditions (ie drinking water) worse. You can find that peace within yourself. Not through meditation, though that works for some, I could never quiet my mind enough to actually get any benefit from the attempts. Much of life is in the trying though, and I put value in that for sure. Much of getting anything or anywhere on this journey of life is simply showing up. So how do we find this peace and show up for ourselves? Why do we rely on others as a cue to want to better ourselves? Why does it feel impossible to find a mate? Why does it feel far fetched to find inner peace? I don’t consider myself a dreamer. I don’t really feel that I have any dreams like I once did long ago for my future or whatever. I do think life is a journey and what you put in you will often get back in return, but not always. I don’t believe that anything in life is meant to be or fair. Things happen, nature takes its course, you can learn and grow and move on, or you can wallow in your misery and get stuck. I got real comfortable in my own misery. I cast myself in the wrong movie, you see, and found that I was “just fine” in its sad storyline, until I wasn’t.
Even when I was dating physicists, oncologists, security engineers, developers, and millionaires, I just wasn’t feeling it. Even though these suitors were high caliber, even at the top of their fields globally, and definitely into what I had going on, it wasn’t right. Because they had focused so long and so hard on their careers, these people weren’t emotionally equipped to connect with others at the depths I was seeking. Even deep conversation was a lofty goal for some of them. I soon became far less dazzled and intrigued by the usual resumes found on dating sites and stopped dating entirely for a couple of years. I thought at first that there must be something going on with me to not feel as into these people as they did me.
I don’t care what a potential suitor does for work, so long as it isn’t a torment in their life. I don’t care what kind of car they drive or brand of clothing they wear, I only care about getting to know someone and connecting. That’s it. It seems so simple and easy but boy howdy is it not! If you’re dating cisgendered, heterosexual males, you are dealing with humans who have not been socialized to develop many likable traits or even a full personality. Many don’t have a thought of their own in their head to share, yet they are deemed successful by society because of their degrees or career or their possessions and status.
We often talk about what people are bringing to the table. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone to bring anything to my table but their whole selves. I don’t want anything material or monetary, I want realness and truth. I want people in my life with flaws and big hearts. I want people who haven’t had it easy and have found a way to be true to themselves anyway. A degree sounds good or looks great on a CV, but when it comes to love and romance and building a life with someone, it doesn’t mean shit. You can only learn so much in traditional schooling. You cannot learn to love yourself there. There’s no degree in being a good person.
I don’t need a person to share my life with in order to feel fulfilled and I know this now. I am actually and truly happy on my own. It is a little scary, to be honest. Scary to be so contended with one’s own company that I cannot imagine wanting to live with another person again. Another person in my space? Yikes! No thank you! Ha-ha! I mean it, but I also know that life has a way of showing us what we need when we need it to. So I have faith in myself and that what I am doing is right because it feels right. I dip my toe into the dating pool from time to time but it’s not something I feel that I have to do in order to fit in or feel complete. I am a fully formed and whole person. I don’t need someone else to feel complete. I can live as big or as small of a life as I want to, and that is liberating!
I don’t think most folks have had the time or desire to really just be alone with themselves and to truly get to know their own nature on a deeper level. I know I didn’t for a long time. It is hard to face. It is hard to hold yourself accountable for your own growth and fulfillment. It is so much easier to look outside of yourself or your life and seek/find fulfillment there, or to blame others or just circumstance on what is lacking in our lives. It is what’s expected. Get the degree, get the career, get the car and the house, get the spouse and the kids, live happily ever after. But that is not how my story goes. There is sooooo much more to life than just the obsolete nuclear family fantasy.
When you do get to know yourself, when you can fully trust your instincts and know your needs and wants, all of that other stuff feels so silly. If you’re seeking happiness as a destination, you have already gotten lost! Happiness is a benefit or a passing but hopefully frequent feeling. It is the result of being on the right path for you. It is not somewhere you can just plug into your GPS. Happiness and the true meaning of life, I think anyway, is connection. Feeling connected to others, to ourselves, to our community, not only brings feelings of happiness but also increases longevity. That is a fact proven by science! When we feel more connected we are happier and live longer, regardless of our lifestyle or health.
I don’t think any of this is a secret but it may feel that way. I know it did for me for a long time. What we want from connections matters too, though. I think intent/motivation plays a larger role than we want to believe it does. If you wait for someone to come into your life to shine a light on the parts of you that you didn’t like so that you can be a better person, it’s a half truth in a way. Or a half life. To do it for yourself because you know you deserve to feel happiness and fulfillment is something wholly different. So much of what we feel about ourselves inside and out has nothing to do with our own thoughts or beliefs at all! So much of it is society, capitalism, beauty standards, religion, or familial obligation.
We aren’t born into this world hating our bodies or assuming we are wrong simply by existing. This is all pressed upon us from such an early age we have no memory of it. And it is all so socially accepted that few even question it at all. If you can get rid of all of that for even just a day, and just sit with yourself quietly and listen to the true you inside, not the negative plant begging for water/attention (ego), you will find that peace you seek inside of you. You will find the parts you want to improve or regrow, they will become apparent. You will see that you’re not wrong, you were hindered.
Look, our parents did what they could with what they had at the time, and as we get older ourselves we may see the effects our upbringing has had on our lives and ourselves. It is up to us as adults to re-parent and better support ourselves in the ways that work for us now. It means not allowing the negative self-talk to take over but to acknowledge that the thought is there but it doesn’t belong to or come from the real and true you. You can picture letting it go like a balloon, if you’re the visual type. You can picture it as an poisonous plant that keeps trying to take over the lovely garden that is you! If you water (give attention to) the negative plant it will grow and take over. If you ignore it and deprive it of attention, it will wither. You can water the rest of your garden and allow your inner self to flourish. When you do you will soon see that this can have a ripple effect on the rest of your life.
You are worth showing up for. You are worth trying for. You are worth every ounce of effort and energy there is in the world in order to feel better about yourself and who you are. Where you live, what you do for work, what you possess materially, those are not who you are. Marie Kondo cannot tell you what brings you joy, only you know that part! Fads pass, retail therapy is so fleeting, but you are with you for life. This is the relationship we need to nurture and cherish and protect from harm. When we do this the rest really does follow!
We can better ourselves now, without paying for it or seeking permission externally. We can be our best selves every day. What that looks like will change, maybe even every day as well. And why not?! We are constantly growing and absorbing new information, so we should accept that our best selves are constantly changing too. We can take inspiration from anything but I choose nature itself to be my muse. We have worked so hard as a species to separate ourselves from nature, but that is where true connection lies, I think. The more connected we are to nature, the better our understanding of our place in it and our impact on it and each other. With that in mind, how could we not want to better ourselves?
It feels impossible to find a mate because we seek something outside of ourselves in the hopes of “having it all” or finding happiness. That isn’t how it works though. You gotta know that by now! I’m not saying you can’t find love until you love yourself. I am saying that the love you find is where you are at in that moment of your life. It is up to you to decide if it is right and sustainable for you or if you’re not ready for your ultimate love yet, like I am. I’m still very much loving my solo life and almost sort of falling in love with myself in a way. I don’t want someone at my table or to bring anything to it. When I’m ready, I am certain that another person will come into my life when they are ready and whole and loving themselves too. I imagine the connection will feel like waking up refreshed. I want that for all of us. We deserve it. But so few of us realize it or put in the work to get ourselves there, ya know?
I’m here for realness and sincerity, honesty and vulnerability, I’m here for the good and juicy bits of life that shine for me when I know I’m heading in the right direction.
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