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So this has been something I have been mulling over for a while … and the following may be triggering for some people. I touched upon it a little in the why I am so hard to love entry, although that was more about friendship. This is most definitely about romantic relationships. It probably shouldn’t be surprising to me that I seem to always choose the wrong men.

I have a pretty interesting history when it comes to romantic relationships and have been in four abusive relationships in my lifetime that have affected me **not surprisingly** profoundly. From a groomed to abuse scenario in my early adolescence (Family member), to rape being my first experience of sex (someone I went to school with), to a man who verbally and then physically abused me in my late teens (a guy I met at a part time job), and finally the last was in my twenties into my early thirties with a man who was not just a narcissist and an expert in gaslighting but a functioning alcoholic, (met through a friend at the pub).**there was a clue there**

Is it any surprise that I was not sure for a long time what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like, and I was the girl that the decent men felt they needed to save or rescue?

It has taken years to understand and see my value, and I still have some issues around intimacy and sex. **I am a work in progress**

In between the good men, and there have been a couple, I have always ended up with unavailable or attached men, so emotionally unobtainable. In some ways this was protectionism, and I recognise they have been a choice in to a degree, and certainly for a brief period following my last abusive relationship. Choosing unavailable men specifically those that were already attached, in retrospect was also in part some screwed up way of validating myself, if a man chose to cheat with me, that gave me a sense of worth. **I was broken mentally** I do not do this anymore, and it was never done with the intention of hurting anyone else. That said I am not proud of myself for those behaviour patterns, and I have worked hard to change them. Not only have I chosen badly but I returned to these people repeatedly. Not because I am comfortable being the victim, although there are definitely times in my past this was the case, but because I hated the idea of starting again and investing anew. And, honestly, I can’t believe that I am totally wrong in my judgement of them. The good things about them were not imagined right? In the last 9 years I have spent a lot of time alone. Getting to know myself and purposefully not getting involved in anything too serious, the first red flag and I was gone! **BYYEEE** Although even in that time I returned to an ex or two, including a saviour type, and when it became obvious in that scenario that I didn't require help saving myself, the relationship didn't last lo ng.These men were and still are really incredible people and there is no blame in these scenarios .

So what changed?

Perhaps nothing, or maybe everything.....

Not long ago I started seeing someone and the connection was incredible, but we had been here before, I was seeing him a couple of years ago, and we re-connected recently. At the time I ended it, because something felt off, he was crap at communicating and contacting me, but when we were together it was incredible, not just on a sexual level (and it took a while to become physical) but he was engaged, and engaging, present, challenging in the best way and I liked the way he made me feel. Never did he love bomb me so I wasn’t concerned that he was insincere or gaslighting me, or that he was/is a narcissist, or abuser. He asked for consent in a way that didn’t ruin the moment but was so sexy and made me feel safe. I recognise that back then I pushed hard and possibly too soon, I have an intense personality and I am sure that I have driven some people away with it. (I am not being down on myself for this, the benefits far outweigh the possible perceived negatives). However that wasn’t what ended it, I couldn’t get my head round the lack of messages in between meet ups. If I messaged him, he replied but he rarely messaged first. So did he really like me?

I mean few people are as open emotionally as I am - I get it.

I am a ‘heart on my sleeve woman’, a give compliments freely kind of person, and yet I didn’t scare him off. I pushed till it broke because, like I say, the lack of contact drove me crazy.

So this time around I tried to go in with no expectations and date, because honestly, I never have, I have fallen into relationships one way or another. When we first met up again, we did talk it over, and there was real honesty in the conversation. BUT then it reverted to him not initiating contact again. So I told him my boundaries, I do not expect him to make me his first priority, he has a full life and commitments as do I, but I my personality and the years I have spent working on my self-worth and self-esteem will not allow me to be an afterthought. And then I waited..... To see whether the message landed and to see if he was truly is interested. I figured if he wasn't; I am tough enough to move on. And I have learned on this at times heart-breaking journey that I do not need a man, and sadly I am boringly straight, so a woman is not an option for me. **Although there are times, I wish they were!**

But it would be lovely to eventually find and be in a healthy loving relationship - this is the hope not the expectation.

I know my value, here is where I found out if he did too.

And the results were good, he initiated contact and there was and is an openness and intimacy in the conversations. And he let me know what is going on with him, so I knew when I was likely to hear from him. As with anything it is all about communication.

So I thought so far so good, it was still very early days and we were both are so busy that finding time together was like herding cats. And honestly I had no idea where, if anywhere the thing was heading - rather that being scared or worried by that, I tried to enjoy the moment. It felt good to have found the confidence in being able to vocalise what I needed and wanted or being able to live with walking away if something feels unhealthy or not beneficial.

As it turned out, we were not right for each other. He found me to be too demanding and I found that he was unable to give me what I needed.

I will never know what could have come of it, however there were definitely red flags in terms of withholding affection and contact that were deliberate and were hard to ignore, and a hint of misogyny, which ultimately led to my walking away. It was new so the only real disappointment was in myself for having opened up.

But unlike in the past, where I may have perhaps felt the need to find the flaws in that particular person to justify ending it, I now have no desire to demonise him for not being able to meet my standards. And I see my exit as a healthy choice.

I should say, I still don't really know what I am looking for exactly from a romantic relationship, but with every experience I discover what I do not want, and that, hopefully will lead to me seeing and understanding what is good when I find it. And finally I recognise my power, that contrary to previous times, my deeper understanding of myself - what I want and what I need - allows me to not lower my standards just because I have to be with someone. Quite frankly I would rather be alone than in an unhealthy relationship.

I cannot stress the importance that counselling and therapy has had and continues to have for me, it has led to a place of understanding that I would never have got to without it.

So in answer to my original question - Is my picker broken? - No not completely, I am still learning, to make way more considered choices with romantic entanglements .

This appears so far to be serving me better. But mainly I am choosing to be true to myself, and the lessons I have worked hard to learn!

As a result, I am making emotionally healthy choices

My hope for anyone reading this is that if you find yourself repeating unhealthy behaviours, or only finding validation from being in a relationship (even an unhealthy one), is that you find the space and time to work out who you are and what you need - that you find your power and self worth to accept nothing less than you deserve and be the best version of yourself. As always thank you for reading, stay safe and keep growing.


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