What seems like centuries ago, Turtle asked if we could continue hanging out, but remain casual. He wanted us to continue "enjoying each other's company" and get to know each other. At the time, it sounded to me a lot like "let's see where it goes" which, in my experience, never goes anywhere good.
I remember thinking it would never work. I'd never have the confidence to "date" without knowing where it was going. I didn't think I could handle knowing he was doing stuff with friends, without feeling left out and worried. I have never been good at the "day to day" thing.
I had all but decided to just forget the whole thing and move on. I owed him nothing, and the truth was, the relationship he was suggesting was not going to meet my needs. A part of me wanted to say, I know what I want, and if you can't offer it, I'm done.
After all, that's what we say when we stop seeing someone, right? This doesn't work for me, so I'm done. At that point I had known Turtle for less than three months. We had no commitment, and were only just starting to form a friendship. I owed him nothing and could have moved on with barely a conversation.
I was pretty proud of myself. I thought it took a tremendous amount of courage and confidence to just walk away from someone because he didn't live up to my standards.
Then I realized...that's not courage. Not in this case. I was actually being a little cowardly. I was ready to walk away because I couldn't have what I wanted - constant reassurance.
My problem wasn't that the relationship didn't meet my needs. My problem was that no relationship could. I had established needs that are unreasonable, and unhealthy, not to mention not realistic at all.
I have always looked for that sort of ego boost. We could probably blame abandonment issues, or being picked on as a kid. The truth is, this issue has been a problem all my life. It was a problem in my marriage, and I think it has probably been an obstacle, one way or another, in most relationships.
I decided that, while I want to feel confident in my relationship, I do not want my confidence to come from my relationship. I want to feel good about myself, and happy in my life, regardless of what Turtle (or any man in that place) thinks of, or wants with, me. I want to be able to not hear from him for a day (or two), know he's out with friends (including women), and still feel confident in where I stand. I want it to not matter where we're going, and instead focus on how I like things in the moment. I realized that all relationships, to an extent, are day by day, and if I ever want to be happy in a relationship, I needed to get with the program.
I decided it was time to get past my abandonment hangups, and my need to always be included, and wanting to control how the relationship works. I decided it was time I learned how to feel secure without constant reassurance. I decided it was time to learn how to move forward without necessarily knowing where I'll end up. It was time to realize that, no matter what I may have convinced myself of in the past, I've never known where a relationship was going, so it's time to stop all the worrying.
It occurs to me that in many ways (some big, some small), I have stood in my own way when it came to developing a good relationship. While it is important to know what I want, and what works, it is also important to know why I want what I want, and to be sure my reasons are solid.
It is definitely still a work in progress, but I have absolutely improved. I no longer feel a pang of anxiety every time he goes out with friends, or if we go a day or two without chatting (OK - sometimes I have anxiety, but I have gotten much better at getting it in check). I've learned to look at good conversations and fun times as "positive" instead of "hopeful" (one looks to the future, while the other keeps me in the present). I've learned to relax about where we might be going, and how quickly (or slowly) we might get there.
I've also learned how to focus on what I know, rather than what I think might happen. I know he likes me; I also know there's always a possibility that could change. I have no control over his feelings or the future, so I may as well enjoy the now. Worrying about the future won't solve anything.
Something else I've learned? My relationship with Turtle happens between the two of us. Friends' advice, outside opinions, what someone says on Facebook, or even how people behave when we're in a group should not color how I see things between us.
I'm sure to some it sounds like I'm settling, or rationalizing. But the truth is, I need these lessons before I can have a happy, healthy relationship. Particularly because I tend to be attracted to men like Turtle, who are independent and off on their own so much. I can't go looking for reassurance, or expect someone to adjust his personality to accommodate my insecurities.
I always thought what I needed was a guy who gives me no reason to worry. The truth is, what I needed was to meet someone who would "force" (or help) me face my fears and insecurities, and get rid of them once and for all.
Turns out this relationship with Turtle, such as it is, meets my needs after all.