Somewhere early on in life, a seed was planted within me that something was deeply wrong with how we have arranged ourselves. It didn't make sense to me, for example, that women were rarely considered leaders, and that many women lived in fear of violence from men. Images of destroyed buildings and dead bodies in Lebanon and other places were seared into my young brain, forever rendering warfare an idiotic affair driven by male hubris and greed.
During high school, I found myself careening between the aggression of raging hormones, and a deep fear of hurting anyone. I played multiple sports, excelling at soccer, and yet often fled to reading and writing for general solace. I recall a time when I flipped a teammate on his back during a soccer practice, and after a fierce chewing out from the others on the team, weeks of feeling guilty for having been so careless with someone who was my friend.
I was timid with girls, partly our of fear, but partly out of respect. When I listened to my neighborhood friends talking about "getting a piece of ass" and chasing "bitches," I nodded silently while inwardly cringing at the dehumanization of it all. My first girlfriend most likely dumped me because I wasn't bold enough, didn't take charge enough in certain situations, sexual and otherwise.
There was a battle in my sixteen year old mind between a man not yet born and a boy who wanted to be good and respectful. In some ways, this battle has continued to this very day.
The above is from a short essay I wrote on another one of my blogs. I'm highlighting it here as an example of self-reflection on the development of sexuality and personality in adolescence.
Lately, I have been making a deliberate effort to break free from some old patterns. Patterns that developed and served me when I was younger, but which now are basically hindrances. While they impact other areas of my life, they seem to be most prevalent in the dating/relationship realm.
The reason I re-posted the narrative above is that it's been through reflection on the somewhat distant past that I have unearthed some of these deep seated habits. Things like avoiding conflict out of fear of losing someone, and being too quick to minimize and forgive actions and/or words that have hurt me in some manner or another.
You have to reflect on the past, in order to not repeat it in the future. For the majority of us, this doesn't mean months and years of therapy. But what it does mean is a willingness to see the negative ways in which you contributed to past relationships. To see those patterns, and then vow to stop doing them, to let them go. The vow itself will probably need to be repeated over and over again before the pattern actually breaks apart, but its making that first step which is often the most difficult.
I encourage readers, if you are finding yourself repeating the same dating/relationship mistakes time and again, to take some time and reflect on those early days. Especially those years when your sexuality was opening up and in bloom for the first time.
*Photo is from last fall, taken in the neighborhood next to mine.