Recently, a friend opened up to me about an insecurity that was persistently eating at his heart. He said, “I’m still dealing with some emotional problems, and so I don’t know if it’s the right time to let someone in. But I do want to, eventually.” We were talking about a girl he met about 5 months ago. She wanted more than he was offering. She needed to feel a deep connection that stretched past the physical attraction that he was holding on to very tightly. Even though he understood what she wanted, he couldn’t give it to her, at least not yet.
I asked him to search deeply for the real reason why he thought he could not offer anything more than attraction to her physical appearance. He told me about a previous failed relationship that had left him damaged in a lot of ways. This was the first time he was consciously admitting that he was indeed emotionally damaged. Immediately, I recognized a person who had experienced hurt too severe, his mind could only survive it by pushing the memories away and by denying them. I knew I had to help him understand that it’s okay to be broken and it’s acceptable to take time to heal.
Usually, it takes me a while to process information like the one he gave me, and to come up with what I think is the most useful advice that I can possibly offer at the time. However, less than five minutes after he told me about how his past relationship had left him feeling vulnerable, stupid and hurt at the same time, I had some very sincere advice for him. I said to him, “I think that it is far more important to get yourself in a good place than to prioritize letting someone else in. It’s important that you feel balanced and content with where you are and who you are both psychologically and emotionally before even attempting to add an extra person into your life. There’s nothing wrong with having to stop and take care of yourself. And when you’ve come to terms with who you are, where you are and what you need, you should look for someone who best matches what you need. This way, it’s not just a trial and error method of looking for a partner. It becomes a well thought out selective process. Just sort yourself out first. It won’t be a waste of time.” He believed me, and he said he would definitely take a shot at making peace with what had happened to him, what and whom he had become through the experience of it, before deciding the kind of partner he needs to compliment him as he is.
For a while, after talking to this friend of mine, I remained convinced that I said the right words to him. It is always important to love yourself, who you are and who you have evolved into because of the different experiences you've had. It is pertinent to learn to be content with where you are, and to ascertain as much as possible what you need in order to move on successfully, before giving in to the urge to let anyone else become a major part of your life. It felt good to help my friend get to a place that was good enough for him to take back charge of his life instead of letting the past tear him down.
Initially, I chose to see the result of our conversation as a positive one. But after a while, I couldn’t help thinking about how difficult it is to deliberately choose to be alone in order to sort oneself out. As human beings, it’s only natural for us (well, some of us) to feel the need to reach out to others, to connect with someone and feel special. So it takes a lot of guts to decide that it is in one’s best interest to give up this quest for connectedness, and instead to take care of oneself and make sure that one is secure enough with oneself before taking the risk of losing oneself to the wind of romantic relationships.
Several times in the past, I wanted time to take care of myself and to make sure that I was not losing myself and my essence to the chaos of worldly relationships. But it was never easy to close myself off and search my depths to know how I felt about where and who I was. Every minute that I spent preserving my spirit in my lone world, I wanted to reach out to someone. I wanted someone to reach out to me, to reassure me that they would be right outside my door to welcome me back when I was done with my self-care. And each time, when no one reached out to me, I had to make my way back into the world like a new-born who has to learn from scratch what it means to have a support system of friends and family. It was never a pretty experience.
Now I ask myself, “Did I do the right thing by sending my friend on this lonely journey of self-discovery and learning to be content with the version of himself that has emerged from his past experiences?” I may never know if it was the right thing to do, but at least I can assure him that I will be waiting to extend an open arm to welcome him back to this world of connections whenever he feels ready to dive into this mad world again. I hope to be there for him.