I’m so frustrated by hearing any dating advice that resembles “just trust your instincts.” It’s not that I don’t think it’s good advice — I do. I’m not that person who doesn’t believe in instincts or doesn’t know how to follow them. I am A + when it comes to following my instincts. They’ve led me through three careers, two cross-country moves, and a whole slew of major life dilemmas. My first — not even my middle! — name is Instinct. I follow my gut religiously, boldly, and without question in every single area of my life except my love life. In that department, my instincts have flown the coop and I don’t know how to get them back.
I won’t bore you with my long history of instinctual, romantic failures but I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes. The first time my instincts abandoned me, I was in college. It was the night that I was at the apartment of the alcoholic I was dating and he decided to throw most of his furniture out his 10th floor window because he was annoyed. My gut told me to run, but I didn’t. I felt so confused that I was as paralyzed and inert as a squirrel encountering a human. It wasn’t until three years later and many more furniture-throwing type moments, when he stood me up one night, that I realized it was finally time to run. Delayed response much?
Then there was my wonderful live-in boyfriend of three years who my instincts told me to call and break up with over the phone in favor of the shiny coin of a man that I got involved with the next day. I won’t tell you how that ended. Let’s just say that my gut feeling that the shiny coin was my soul mate was wrong.
I always enjoy a good laugh about the moment my instincts demanded I tell my last boyfriend that I loved him at the exact moment that I realized I didn’t. Yeah, he didn’t love me either. Duh. And drum roll please … I was sure my instincts were correct when guiding me to give the alcoholic from college, now sober, a chance to be in my life again after 10 years. I like to refer to that moment as Instinctageddon.
This is all really embarrassing stuff for me to admit. I’m almost wishing right now that I didn’t sign my name to this essay, but my writing instincts, which are sharp as tacks, are telling me to be vulnerable and I am obliging. Deep breath. The problem is that these major errs in judgment have left me inept at trusting myself.
I can’t go on one date without second-guessing myself. Did I like him? Did he like me? Are we hitting it off? Is he a decent human being or a sociopath? I have no idea. I can’t judge these things properly anymore. It’s almost like I have dating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When I start to get to know a new guy I have flashbacks of the many moments I’ve been wrong or humiliated in the past and it sparks a flurry of panic. The most exasperating part is that I’m not an insecure person and I don’t have low self-esteem, but it comes off that way. And I know that nothing is unsexier than a woman who doesn’t trust herself. But I refuse to be that kind of woman. That’s not who I am.
This is not a “poor me” whining session. This is a plea for help. My voice of inner wisdom about dating has been replaced with many other voices that sound oddly similar. The voices of fear, anxiety, and doubt. And they are all lame and aggravating and I’m tired of listening. I want the real me back, instincts and all. So the real me will know when I meet the real hypothetical him.