The title of this piece ran through my head as I slept last night, telling me to use it to reinforce an idea that I had danced around for years. Although I would not have admitted it publically (oops, I am about to), I do sometimes have worthiness issues. I had erroneously believed that I needed to earn love. The childhood aspect of myself who I thought of as “Little Shirley Temple tapdancing for attention,” was my curly haired, precocious persona, who knew how to charm and beguile adults and bewilder peers, since I was also a quirky kid with out of the box ideas at which they would sometimes roll their eyes. She was also facing asthma that sometimes sidelined her, even as she pushed herself to prove that she could keep up. Each of these ingredients formed my adult self that engaged with partners in ways that were healthy and delightful for each of us, as well as dysfunctional and not so much fun at times.
One reason I engaged in work with relationship coach Lori Ann Davis who appears in the series called Radical Dating, was that even as a professional who writes and teaches about relationships, marries couples as an interfaith minister and counsels clients in therapy around this subject, I needed guidance to face my own fears and limitations in this area. Healer, heal thyself. An objective perspective is a good thing.
Since the Radical Dating series launched, I have been watching with great interest, the twists and turns the participants’ lives have taken. A reality show minus that blood and guts and gore (emotional or physical). Simply genuine human feelings around this most important subject of dating, mating and relating. Even though I was not on screen, I am going through the same process with Lori Ann on my own.
What has come to me is that I am trepeditious with the dating process. I love meeting people. I love learning about them. I love being allowed into the inner sanctum. I love allowing them into mine. I love intimacy, emotional at first, and if it is mutually welcomed, physical. I need to be naked emotionally before I can truly peel off the layers physically.
I have a dichtomous relationship with what I was taught about relationships. My father was of the mind that men should be the pursuer. “Let the man lead,” even though my mother led when they danced, and they shared leadership in our family of four. “Don’t chase after a man,” even though my mother would joke that he chased her until she caught him. “Let the man take care of you,” even as they encouraged my sister and me to be independent and earn our own way, change tires, change oil in the car, (I prefer roadside assistance and regular maintenance by a professional) pay our bills....you know, regular adult survival skills regardless of gender. Add to that my own caregiving sensibilities, easier to be a giver than a receiver and it makes having a genuine relationship that much more confusing at times. Who am I in connection with a partner? I have learned who I am without one. I adore (at times) who she has become and know what she has to offer the right love-mate.
Lori and I spoke about allowing myself to receive what a man offers from the heart without fearing that I will lose the hard won indepenence that I have cultivated over the years. There is a phenomenon known as Super Singles by which folks have been a solo act for so long that they may have to learn all over again how to be in a sustained and committed relationship. I find myself in that situation. There are times when I love having full freedom to come and go as I please and other moments when I desire a partner with whom to share my awesome life.
I love being wooed and for me that means acknowledging my gifts and talents, welcoming vulnerable sharing of who we are, engaging in exploration of our dreams and desires, talking about life, the universe and everything, affectionate touch, silliness, sharing of mutual values, deepening intimacy. The Gary Chapman book, entitled The Five Love Languages explains that each of us has preferred ways of expressing and receiving love. My top two are touch and words of affirmation. When someone engages with me that way, I feel treasured.
Over the years, in the dating process, I have had men in that mode who made initial overtures and for whatever reason, I have either resisted or they have stopped courting. I know that courting is mutual, as I witnessed in my parents’ five decade, plus, marriage. They seemed to fluently speak all five love languages.
I am reinforcing the idea that it is a ‘both/and’ and not an ‘either/or’, that I can be independent and have a man in my life with whom I can grow and glow.