Dater X: A Penny For Your Thoughts

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen a therapist, but with the new year comes new self-discovery. Just last week, I bit my ring fingernail down to a three-centimeter stub and decided it would probably be in my best interest (and my fingernails’ best interest) to tackle some of the anxiety I’ve been having head-on. I was ready, yet again, to have my head shrunk.

It’s funny how my brain works. When all the positive aspects in my life align, I have the opposite reaction of what one might expect. I see the recent successes in my career, my personal life and in my health as wins, but winners can’t stay victorious forever. I have a hard time being on top without looking down and waiting to fall — and not just when it comes to love and relationships (though, especially when it comes to love and relationships, I admit).

I’ve been seeing someone (remember Tim, who I saw at that wedding? ) for about two months now, and a LOT has happened during that time. If I had to go out on a limb, I’d say we’re probably approaching the five- or six-month range emotionally, mentally and physically, after just two months together. But while we’ve been growing and discovering each other as a couple — and yes, we are officially a couple — this growth has also forced me to really take a good look at myself and who I am in a relationship. What can I offer? Do I come across as being as un-trusting as I am in my head? As I’ve mentioned many times over, my past relationships (particularly my heartbreak from Patrick Bateman) have left some pretty deep scars. I’ve talked about them with Tim, and he not only accepts them, but he recognizes that those experiences have turned me into who I am today, and he wouldn’t change that for the world. But he would change the lingering effects they’ve had on my self-esteem and ability to trust — and so would I. I’ve finally met someone who gives me the reassurance I need, and then some — and that’s wonderful. But for his sake and for mine, these demons need to go.

A few weeks ago, I told you all that I was going to stop caring as much about what everybody else wanted me to do in my relationships, and start really looking at what I want and how I feel. With that said, the reason I’ve remained mum for a while about this new relationship is because I’m scared. I know that criticism and judgment comes with the territory when you choose to blog about your personal life, but it’s not really all of you I’m scared of. Hell, let’s be honest, if I were afraid of judgmental commenters (like, say, the gal who tweeted she was “out for Dater X’s blood”– argh!), I wouldn’t still be writing the column. I’m more afraid of putting my feelings down on paper — allowing them to leave my mind and heart and make some sort of a public declaration. The fact that I’m actually falling in love with someone who’s falling in love with me back is something that I’ve wanted for a long time, but I didn’t anticipate feeling so damn petrified when it actually started to happen, because having to admit that, whether it’s in writing or out loud, makes me feel even more vulnerable than I already am. It’s impossible to shut out the feelings I have (and I don’t want to), but along with those feelings also comes a heightened fear of betrayal.

Over the last few months, I’ve felt like the stars have aligned and things in my life just … mesh. I have been unbelievably, stupidly happy, but I don’t have the long fingernails to show for it. I’m afraid of expressing my feelings and actually HAVING those feelings for real in the first place, and my fingernails are paying the price.

In a way, Dater X has been a therapeutic outlet for me, and so have all of you. But I’ve reached the point where I want to evolve as a person and as a partner, and I’m not going to be able to accept the love that’s given to me without handling my own issues. I want to trust, learn and love without feeling this horrible hindrance of constant suspicion and worry. Not only was Tim supportive of my decision to seek help, but he actually helped me find someone who would be a good fit. He’s supportive and sweet, and I’m truly happy. But, like all of my successes, I’m already preparing for the downfall — and I hate that I’m doing that. So I’m seeing a therapist who can hopefully help me tap into that fear and teach me to love without expecting a crash landing.

Am I falling for Tim? Yes. Am I scared to death that I’m going to get hurt because I’m falling? Yes. But regardless of whether things work out with him, the best thing I can do for myself is to get in front of my issues and tackle them head-on. If I give myself one thing this year, it’s going to be the gift of self-awareness, and to be able to accept the love that’s given to me without being afraid of it. Even if it does cost $150 an hour.