“I am never falling in love again. Only being present in it. Actively choosing it—every moment.” ~Brandon Alexander Williams
I read this quote a year ago and it really resonated with me. I decided that this would be the way I look at love. It is easy to get carried away by emotions, especially when falling in love, and sometimes, on that roller coaster of emotions, we can miss important information needed to determine whether this relationship is truly good for us. However, when you are present in love, you are more likely to be aware of what’s going on, to a certain extent, and you process it. This made sense to me.
At the beginning of this year, I decided that I was open to being in a relationship after years of being committed to just grad school. Graduate school, while it had its challenges, had a clear trajectory, filled with milestones and checkpoints. Basically, I had an idea of where I was going and what I was doing. However, being open to love in the form of a romantic relationship was not as simple. For someone who likes to be in control and have a sense of direction, being open to love sounded hella scary. There are no milestones and checkpoints, no concrete thing to tell you that you’re on the right path. I was not aware of how closed off I was until I noticed how quickly I would shut down guys’ advances. If for some reason, I didn’t shut it down early, I found some reason to shut it down later. It was then I realized that opening myself up to love was going to be more of a process than I had anticipated. It was one thing to SAY I was open and another to BE open. Being present in love started BEFORE the relationship… it started with being present with myself. I realized that I had to consider a few different things:
- Patterns and behaviors. We are creatures of habit and I had become a pro at being closed off. If I wasn’t closed off, then I had super high expectations of the relationship. Because in our late twenty’s, we’re dating for marriage, am I right? In identifying my patterns and behaviors, I had to identify that a lot of my patterns in romantic relationships were based on fear of rejection. If I let myself to close, I risk being hurt, so I built walls. Being present with myself meant embracing myself fully and coming to term with the fact that I am not for everyone, nor do I want to be. That way, my decisions would be made from a place of power and not a place of fear.
- Expectations. I have historically had high expectations. Let that not be confused with standards as there are certain things that are non-negotiables for me (religion, etc.). However, because I eventually want to get married, I often would try to fit guys into my life upon first meeting them. You can only imagine how heavy of an expectation that is to take to a first date. Being present in love for me means allowing myself to be present during the first date, getting to know the person and having a genuinely good time without burdening myself with the “what ifs…” and the “hows.”
- Consider me FIRST every single time. Being present with myself requires that I listen closely to my emotions. I’m so quick to intellectualize my feelings instead of allowing myself to feel my feelings and process the experience of it. If I feel uncomfortable, that is valuable information letting me know that something is amiss. If I don’t have a good feeling about something, experience shows me that 9 times out of 10, I’m right. By checking in with myself, I am more likely to make a decision that is in my best interest.
This process of being present with myself and opening myself up to love has required a lot of self-reflection, which has included going to therapy and unlearning some things. It has required me to take calculated risks that normally would cause me a level of anxiety, such as online dating. And even though I’m still single single, I’ve learned so much about myself along the way. This is all a part of the process of being present in love because I am now present with myself. I am aware of my likes and dislikes, which makes it less likely for me to put up with anything that goes against that. Being present in love causes self-growth. It exposes places where you are broken and helps with healing. And that is hella scary. Somehow, this article, intended to be on dating, turned into an article on self-love. But that’s where the journey really begins. So that’s what I choose. I choose to be deliberately present in self-love, actively choosing it every day so that when a romantic relationship comes, I won’t fall in love, but be present in it.