Relational Health

On the Men I Choose (and why that’s changing)

On the Men I Choose (and why that's changing) | Libero Magazine

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In the past couple of weeks I have been working on expanding the Libero. This expansion includes signing on other writers. I came across a blogger, and almost instantly I knew he was the perfect fit. See, I had these unspoken guidelines in my mind – I wanted to sign on someone who was honest, showed a sense of self-knowledge, was humble,  could be depended on, showed care for others, and had overcome great obstacles and had chosen (without regret) to push through, overcome, and live life passionately.

What does this have to do with “The Men I choose”? Well, I realized something while I was going through the process of developing a partnership with this person – I realized that I have all these great guidelines when it comes to who I will do business with, all these great check points, because I value my work and I want to protect it and it was as though I innately knew what type of filtering system I would need to guard my work. Most importantly, however, I realized that I have stricter guidelines when it comes to who I will open up my work to and join in a working partnership with than I do when it comes to who I will date.

What does this say about me? Or, more importantly, what does this say about how much I value myself? Could it be deduced from this that I value my work more than I value myself (or my heart)? People always say ‘Guard your heart’, but I never fully understood what that meant; but guarding my work, that I understand. I came to the conclusion that clearly, something has got to change.

On further reflection I realized that I would never let any of the men I have been in relationship with work with me. Why? Because they aren’t dependable, or honest, or committed, or, that all time favorite, stable.

So why did I open my heart up to them?

I honestly believe it all goes back to self-value. See, in my relationships I was careless with myself, reckless even, not worried about doing damage, and so I didn’t need ‘guidelines’ or a filtering system because I didn’t really value Me.

Watching myself work so hard to protect my business taught me exactly what people mean when they say ‘guard your heart’ – it’s about valuing yourself, valuing your goals and passions and the direction your life is headed, and valuing the standards to which you have set yourself and your life to. I realized that I have to start guarding my heart the way I guard my work. It’s that simple.

In addition to what I learnt from my recent business activities, regarding how to protect myself, I have also learnt from St. Augustine what a relationship really should look like. St. Augustine talks about ‘things’ and the difference between ‘enjoying’ a thing and ‘using’ a thing. He says, “To enjoy something is to cling to it with love for its own sake. To use something, however, is to employ it in obtaining that which you love, provided that it is worthy of love. For an illicit use should be called rather a waste or an abuse.”

Now, Augustine, does not put the same negative connotation on the word ‘used’ as we typically do, some things are meant to be used; to ‘use’ your iPod, for example, is actually better than to ‘enjoy’ it because an iPod is merely a temporal thing. However, we as humans are both temporal and eternal and therefore can use each other to a point but just as much as it is right for us to be used by the other or to use the other, it is also right for us to be enjoyed by the other and to enjoy the other.

I realized upon reading this that I had allowed myself, by this definition, to be ‘used’ and not enjoyed. And even, in some circumstances, to be used in the illicit way to which Augustine refers, which can actually be considered being ‘wasted’ or abused.

See in the past I have attached myself to the mean, or the absent, or the unreliable, the selfish, the arrogant, and even the verbally abusive. I think what happens is we become so comfortable with the types of people we choose to be with or the type of relationship we choose to be in that anything opposite this makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, if one’s ‘type’ is of an unhealthy nature, he or she then finds something that is healthy to be uncomfortable.

I remember in recent history when I was in the early stages of getting to know this one guy. It was past the initial point where everybody’s a charmer and getting close to the point where I was beginning to realize that this guy could actually be ‘one of the good guys’ because he was treating me well, being respectful – all of these wonderful things – and as this continued I began getting very uncomfortable and I realized later that I felt this discomfort with the relationship because this was all new territory for me; I wasn’t used to being treated well. Then one night he and I got in a fight and he left and I found myself lying on the floor, drunk, hurting, and in tears – for the first time in our relationship I felt comfortable. It was in that very moment that I realized that I felt comfortable because that’s what I was used to – I was used to being that girl on the floor in tears. And I wasn’t comfortable DESPITE the fact I was hurt and upset, I was comfortable BECAUSE I was hurt and upset – there is a difference.

But what I am realizing now is that if that is what I am comfortable with and that is what makes me feel ‘normal’ then I am going to need to start being uncomfortable, because you can’t live your life like that. If fighting, or verbal abuse, roller-coaster rides, or heartbreak is what you are used to, then you are just going to have to push through the discomfort until you are used to something healthier.

I think a big problem is that we see relationship as temporal, much like an iPod, and therefore, as St. Augustine says, we do not love the other because love is meant only for eternal things and so instead we ‘use’ the other. I believe that we view relationships this way because divorce is so common in our culture and this gives us the illusion that relationships are temporal. However, I also think the divorce rate is so high because we see relationships as temporal – it’s an issue of the chicken or the egg, and the problem is that the higher the divorce rate, the more we view relationships as temporal and, therefore, the more we choose to ‘use’ the other rather than love the other and the divorce rate increases even more. It’s a vicious cycle that we can’t get out of – or, at least, we can’t get out of until we break this idea that relationships are temporal.

Relationships with ‘the other’ are meant to be eternal. They aren’t ‘here today gone tomorrow’ and if we start viewing them as something that is meant to be eternal, I think, we will start putting more value in them, more value in ‘the other’, and more value in ourselves and then we can go back to what love is really about – not about using, but about ‘enjoying’, as Augustine says, about “loving for its own sake.” That is what relationships should be about.

I am done being used; I want to be enjoyed – I deserve to be enjoyed, we all do. So let’s step outside of our comfort zones and accept nothing less.

Lauren is the Founder and Editor of Libero. She started Libero in April 2010, when she shared her story about her struggles with an eating disorder and depression. Now Lauren uses her writing and videos to advocate mental health and body positivity. In her spare time, she enjoys makeup artistry, playing Nintendo, and taking selfies with her furbaby, Zoey.

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  • I wonder if part of the reason you were less stringent with choosing a partner is that you haven't defined what you want in a partner, or what you want in a long term relationship. Until we have analyzed our wants/needs, we look to relationships as a source of enjoyment which can be easily fulfilled by a variety of people in the beginning. But if you are now deciding that you want a long-term relationship, you must apply a more rigorous set of qualifications.

    I think it's the lack of pre-analysis, and discussion of those wants/needs with the future partner that has increased the rate of divorce so dramatically. It's too easy to get out, so we don't have to be very careful about jumping in.

    • Anne,
      Thank you so much for your insightful comment. I agree that a pre-analysis of what one is looking for in a relationship is important and so is discussing these needs pre-marriage.
      Perhaps we find ourselves afraid of having a discussion with our potential future spouse because we are afraid to come to the realization that we are in fact (despite our feelings/love) not compatible and so we choose avoidence instead (only to find later on that these differences can no longer be avoided).
      Definitely something to think about…

  • […] have read my posts before know, I have had my fair share of unhealthy relationships (read this and this) and though I’ve made the decision to look to healthier relationships in the future for the […]