Once upon a time, I met a guy.
We met on Tinder. It was pretty normal. Nothing spectacularly interesting about it. Over Tinder, he was unoffensive and he didn't get mad if I forgot to reply to a message for a couple of days. (Some guys are weird.) He didn't ask anything offensive. He was just nice. And we just had little conversations back and forth. I didn't think anything of it really. It was just Tinder.
I was feeling very tender. The summer of 2014 was stressful. I moved, changed positions, got a dog, and every single week, a different LDS guy would tell me I was fat. Every week. If not more often. I'm being generous. I found myself feeling bad about myself, but worse, feeling horrible towards men. Especially LDS men. It's not that I wanted to put them all in that little box, but after dating almost all LDS guys for 20 years, they were the common denominator for my dating misery.
Writing this stuff down is difficult. I'm speaking from hindsight. I'm speaking from the perspective of having found a good man. Last summer, I didn't have hindsight or or foresight. I had sadness and hopelessness. I had this little ache inside of me.
It is so much easier for me to just not deal with my problems and concerns. I bury away my problems and I refuse to look directly at what is bothering me. For example--please do not ask me about certain bills. I will pay them, but right now, I'm not looking at them. Give me a little bit of time. I need my denial.
At church, I serve in the relief society presidency, and so I began attending the relief society activities, including date nights and discussions about dating. At date nights, I enjoyed spending time with a good friend. At other date nights, I called and asked 4 or 5 different friends, and was turned down. At the dating discussions, I heard normal guys talk about all the things they want in a relationship. And then one of the guys came up and offered me diet pills. Having to face the reality of my dating situation was painful. I wasn't allowed my sweet denial.
As painful as it was, I still wanted to try. Tinder was the easiest way to try. But I decided that I needed to both broaden and narrow my perimeters of what I was looking for. I didn't want to suffer in love. I didn't want to give up my happiness in order to be in a relationship.
So many times, being in a relationship meant being nervous, saying the wrong things, being too fat, cancelling plans, trying to be available, trying to impress, day in day out anxiety.
I didn't want that anymore.
And I wanted to see if dating non-LDS guys would be different.
It was different. And not just because these grown men were interested in more physical intimacy. These men had the maturity to at least pretend to want more. I don't know if it's because LDS men are just more honest than other men about viewing women as objects or if we just tolerate objectification so much that they haven't learned that it's wrong, but I found non-LDS guys to be beyond the immature objectification I experienced with many LDS dates. (Please note, not ALL, but enough that acting this way is deemed acceptable by both men and women.)
The interesting thing was discovering where my standards lacked. And again, not concerning morality. By constantly thinking about not having sex, I wasn't good at learning how to see someone for who they are inside. I wasn't good at recognizing a man's heart. Instead, I kept seeing the man as a possible predator or as a rejection. What a horrible conundrum. If the man accepts you and wants you, you have to fear that he will ultimate see you as a sexual means to an end. If he doesn't want you, you're a discarded object and likely to be rejected by everyone else. This world of judgment wasn't so much in the minds of the men as it was in my own mind. I couldn't see them as being capable of more. My judgment of them was just as dangerous as their objectification.
Out of this place of anxiety, I felt this need to "leave the garden." It was this pull to let myself want different things and value different attributes in men. I decided that it was time to let go of the idea that I would end up being married in the temple to a worthy priesthood holder because I no longer felt comfort that finding a man like that guaranteed that I had found a good man.
I needed to both broaden and narrow my priorities.
I broadened my needs by allowing myself to think beyond my previous perimeters. And I learned. I learned that physical intimacy is this one part of things. It is not the beginning and the end. It is a part of things. But it isn't everything. I met a man who continually amazed me throughout our courtship by honoring every request I made. When I asked him if we could hold off on physical stuff, he asked me to define things clearly so that he could know how to honor my feelings. When I told him I was an active member of the church, instead of attacking me or telling me I was wrong, he said, "You had a good experience. I had a bad experience. I'm open to the good." I have learned that kissing can be about tenderness and expressing affection, not about tantalizing. I have learned that you can feel a man's arms around you without worrying that he's just paying his cuddling dues in order to get more later. He was actually excited to exercise self control and said something about a soldier philosophy and that it would prove an inner strength.
Honestly, I don't remember because it was so long ago.
So that's one way he impressed me.
He, the inactive LDS guy, taught me, the active LDS woman, about virtuous intimacy. About loving for the sake of love and not simply loving in and around the sexual taboos.
And he took the anxiety and fear out of love. I knew that he loved me for me and not for any words I said or actions I did. I have no fear that I'll do or say the wrong thing. He told me a couple weeks into our relationship, "Eve, you can't say the wrong thing. I'm not going anywhere."
Learning to be at ease in a relationship. Gah! I can't describe how that felt. I trusted him. I believed that he meant it, and over time, he's proven that he meant it. Not that we haven't had our disagreements. But we talk about them and they're not fatal to our relationship. They're just things we haven't yet communicated clearly enough. I've learned that I want him to be exactly who he is, without fear.
I learned that from him.
I knew my anxiety and my depression wouldn't be solved by simply falling in love. Frankly, it just meant that I had more to lose if I didn't take care of myself.
I went to a good psychiatrist. She recognized some issues I struggle with and I found a great therapist. The combination of drug therapy and talk therapy has helped me to value things about Antonio that I might not have had the presence of mind to value before. I might have gotten caught up in what people thought of me dating a man who didn't go to church. I might have worried that people would judge me for not getting married in the temple. Instead, I am noticing the ways he makes every day easier. I notice the ways he helps me to better love our new family and myself. I am excited to share the good things of the gospel with him, but not because I want to change him, but because the power and strength of his spirit will bless the lives of those in the church. We talk about the power of this life and existential strength knowing that we have the divine gift within us to create our own meaning. We are endowed with power as children of God to do good for the sake of doing good and not for some external reward.
In less than sixty days, we are going to get married. In less than sixty days, we are going to become a family.
I want everyone who reads this blog to understand that my story is unique to me. I'm not writing a "how to get over depression and find a guy". But I am saying that there are some trite maxims that made me feel consistently unworthy of love. I want you to observe that I was not perfect in any way when these things happened. I did not fit any sort of qualification. I did not take a magical pill. I did not go on 100 dates. I did not smile at everyone. If anything, I was particularly shrewish at this time. (Not endorsing being a shrew.)
This is just my very personal story of who I was when I met Antonio and a little bit about how and why I fell in love with him.