The Unreliable Partner

He comes and goes as he pleases. He does not provide emotional comfort. He is not to be trusted. He seems to abandon me. I’m afraid he won’t provide or take care of me. Our relationship is shallow, at best. Non-committal. I don’t know when he’ll be around. It doesn’t feel safe to be with him. He doesn’t always show up for me. He’s intimidating. He’s non-communicative. I’m afraid of him. He gives me anxiety. He’s controlling. I feel like a slave to him. I feel stressed. Sometimes, he hurts me emotionally. Sometimes, he’s late. It doesn’t feel safe to open up to him. I get giddy when he pays attention to me. There’s always some sort of conflict. I try to ignore him and sweep things under the rug, but of course, it doesn’t make it go away. There’s a huge elephant in the room, and I’m ready to address it… I’m ready to show up for him. I’m ready to commit to myself, and I’m ready for him to commit to me.

This relationship, if you can even call it that, is my relationship to money. This unreliable partnership is the status of my financial mess. Forget my ‘love’ life. My financial life is in shambles, and I need to address that before I can do anything else. I’m living on near-maxed out credit cards. I thought I should invest money into my business to make money, but undoubtedly, it’s just putting me further in debt.

Logistically, dating me is a nightmare, and I’m not really looking. I tried to hook-up a couple times, but hooking up is ultimately unfulfilling. When it’s not even sexually fulfilling, as it so often isn’t (sadly, most women don’t achieve orgasm during hook-up sex), I have to wonder what’s the point? Sex is sacred and hook-ups aren’t. Why lower my standards? I’m so stupid to think it would be even remotely satisfying. I’m human, and I want junk food–the quick fix–every once in awhile. As health conscious as I am, I know that eating junk food is unfulfilling and doesn’t even pleasure me as I’m eating it. In fact, junk food makes me sick. The last time I had Jack-in-the-Box, I threw up. Not surprisingly, the last time I drank alcohol, I caught a cold. Giving up junk food is the best bet. Empty calories.

This is probably a recipe for spinsterdom, not taking charge of “what I want” in the dating arena, but honestly, I don’t think I’m wired the way most women are. I’d rather pursue myself than pursue dating and ‘looking’ which feels contrived. By pursuing my own interests, I’m more aligned to meet the right people, in groups or meet-ups, as friends, who may or may not evolve to something more. I don’t need Prince Charming to save me. I can save myself. And I’m okay with that. Most days.

Some days I still get insecure. Like when I think about my unreliable partner, and how I need to get that situation under control. How my unreliable partner feels a lot like an ex-relationship on it’s last leg, the one I ran away from. The one that’s catching up to me almost a decade later. The one that manifested in bad credit. I point the finger and look at the mirror, with only myself to blame.

It started with a foreclosure. I let my ex handle most of it. All I remember was signing a quit-claim deed, but I didn’t get away scratch free. I covered my ears and went LA LA LA all the way to Asia. I lived on the fringes. I spent 3 weeks teaching slum school kids English in India, and eventually ended up living in a slum myself, while supporting a local boyfriend. I was trying hard to find freedom and compassion. Figure out who I was, and what I wanted. I had my quarter-life crisis and broke down to break through.

I spent most of my 20s with zero credit card debt. For two whole years, I didn’t use a credit card and didn’t even have one. I paid off my one and only card that I always paid off in full each month and cut it up. Then, living in the slums happened and I got a credit card and it was all downhill from there. I supported a man who wasn’t doing enough to support himself and I gave and gave. I gave until I maxed out the first credit card.

Then the second credit card happened, and then the third… And so on and so forth. As quickly as that, I manifested more debt and more bad credit. I went from being extremely anxious towards spending money in my 20s, to spending too little care on it and easily spending what I don’t have. It was an 180 flip, and one that I’m not sure was a good thing. Outwardly, people saw me as inspirational for going my own path, being a freespirit, and courageously independent. Inwardly, I felt like a fraud and with hefty debt on my shoulders, I felt anything but free. Fear, anxiety and procrastination held me back to building my business, while I hid behind an uninspired, codependent relationship that I pointed as a distraction.

The time of healthy finances and zero debt was also the time of a “healthy” relationship, by status-quo standards, and then being single-and-abstinent. Everything looked good on paper (inwardly, our foundation was falling apart and we often put each other down and withheld sex and touch). We had a house, mortgage, and a dog. We even had a joint checking account, though I made sure that my half of the mortgage payments and credit card payment was also my side of the income. Although I ultimately decided I needed to go my own path, and although we had our differences and bickered frequently, I healthily communicated and was open and honest with him until the end, even scheduling arguments or “talks” and trying a new way of relating that I was given advice on, to help communicate better and start with “I feel” statements. I wanted to save the relationship. I tried. But mainly, I just wanted to save myself from all the pain. I didn’t let things sweep under the rug. The times we didn’t communicate, in our last few months, hanging by a thread, felt like everything caving in. I lost a lot of weight, dropping 15 lbs., had a lot of anxiety, and walking on eggshells felt like torture.

The time of fucked up finances and unreliable partnership was also the time when I started to experiment with non-committal single sex, or generally never felt “serious” in any relationship, learned not to communicate and sweep things under the rug. The thought of having sex while being single just never occurred to me until my dirty 30s. I remained single and abstinent for two years before having sex that lead to yet another relationship. Despite my original attempt to keep it a fling, he wanted a commitment, and I, the pushover, couldn’t say no. It was hardly a relationship though, because I kept it light. I shared nothing of my past. He was there only for comfort, and his purpose was to offer companionship and guidance while navigating a foreign city that made me feel small and the opposite of courageous. His purpose was to teach me more about spirituality and meditation. We hardly fought but that was because we never talked about anything uncomfortable or vulnerable. I was grateful for him, but I knew his purpose was never to be my long-term partner.

When that relationship rightfully ran its course, I realized I was “doing it wrong”. I didn’t have time to fuck around spending years of my life in partnerships that were going nowhere, but I had ample time to fuck around. I’ve spent a lot of time with men that didn’t light me up, that I wasn’t even particularly attracted to, more than I’ve spent with men I’m 100% attracted to. Maybe it was my feeling of lack, insecurity or unconfidence. Whatever it is, I was doing it wrong. No more settling. I’d save relationships and commitment for someone I’d actually want to go somewhere with. Finding that is like a needle in a haystack. Might as well play in the hay while I’m at it.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the unreliable partnership mirrors the current state of my non-existent love life. It doesn’t feel safe to be with anyone, and it won’t feel safe until I take control of my finances. The first step: forgiveness.

I didn’t realize it then, but the ghosts are catching up to me now and I’m learning I need to face this demon head on. For years, I thought I had gotten over the relationship but in actuality, it’s made me a lot more cautious and a lot more guarded with anyone. I may be over him, but I’m not over the trauma. I don’t want to get hurt, so I dance in the ecstasies, but don’t go too deep. And when I want to go deeper, there’s always something that prevents it. My finances being front and center.

We’ve all got our baggage. Despite losing my baggage, literally, in Asia, I’m still unpacking mine; like a scab that didn’t quite heal right. I hadn’t forgiven myself, and as punishment, I built up my debt to cover the guilt and shame. I built up my debt to cover the guilt and shame of a failed relationship that I was convinced would be my last. And then the guilt and shame for holding on to expectations, for even thinking or assuming it would be my last. I built up my debt to cover the guilt and shame of living in the slums. And the guilt and shame of co-owning a house that had gotten foreclosed in the worst recession of my lifetime. If I only knew… Catholic girls, even non-practicing ones that renounce religion, have got a lot of guilt and shame. It’s in my bones. My cells. My body memory. I grew up feeling collective guilt and shame.

I’ve been trying so hard to find what lights me up, and how I can contribute to the world that I forgot about that part of me that feels insecure, anxious, neurotic, alone and unconfident. I’ve been trying hard to build myself up–my confidence, courage and free-spiritedness–that I forgot about that lost inner child who sometimes hides in the closet because it feels safe, dark, and enclosed. She goes there to cry, or to talk about vulnerable things to people on the phone. Rather than embrace that part of me, I’ve spent years trying to run away from her, ignoring her, and trying to find my “higher-self”. She was the reason I co-owned a house that failed, agreeably saying yes, like a doormat, unable to think critically, know what I want, or say “no”. She was the reason my relationship failed. She’s the reason any relationship I have will fail. But I know it doesn’t have to be that way.

The debt manifested as a tangible, material way to punish her, and ultimately myself. In my quest to find kindness and compassion, I had failed to give full kindness and compassion to myself. I must accept my lower-self and higher-self as one. As soon as I can forgive that “lower-self” inside of me, I can focus on fixing the hole I dug myself in. Instead of running from my lower-self, I need to hug and accept her. Tell her that it’s all going to be ok. Love her. Tell her that the next relationship will be healthy and interdependent. Open and honest. Communicative and supportive. Expansive. For that to happen I must support and provide for myself first. I must feel expansive on my own.

Despite traveling the world, and living a decade away from my parents, I still feel like a “half adult” at 32. I live with my mom and am dependent on her pension, living rent free. Part of it is literally that I’m half adult, with a petite, short, boyish frame that makes me feel like I’m 13 instead of 32. A babyface that makes me look younger than my age, and slight curves that my friends in the Philippines used to say was a “coke bottle” body; like an hourglass, but subtler, and still sexy. I was a freshman in high-school and just getting used to my new curves. Adult men and boys of all ages would cat-call me every time I was out in public. I’d never been cat-called that many times in my life than I did the summer of freshman year, and it felt strange. It was a magical age, the rites of passage to being a woman. The first year that guys started noticing me when I still felt like that awkward ugly duckling.

Date Your Debt

It’s time to commit to my unreliable partner and commit to myself to show up.

Today, I put a date on the calendar for getting out of debt.

By April 20, 2016 I will have zero credit card debt.

By October 10th of this year I will close my bank account. One of them. It’s tied down to two credit cards I don’t use anymore that I’m (obviously) still paying off. I want to cancel that bank account, open Simple, and keep using Schwab. The other is too married in bad money memories. The bank I used to open a joint bank account with my ex, and the bank I had growing up, when dad would yell at the bank teller–every time–and make an impressionable mini-me feel that money was a stressful cause of conflict. I would burst into tears or cower in my seat, feeling incredibly embarrassed and ashamed that my dad was acting up again. A powerful EFT session surrounding money took me to the root of this memory, a memory I had no idea had an effect on me, until I broke down and ugly cried uncontrollably for the entire session, comforting my inner child, or being her in that moment.

Dating my debt means cutting back on the sexcapades. As much as I love good sex (there is a distinction), I have to honor my unreliable partner. I can’t be in bed with others while I’m in bed with debt. I’m exclusive, and promiscuity was a brief exploration I know is no longer for me. Dating my debt means spending money on debt. Putting as much as I can towards debt and nothing else. No more fucking around.

There’s something empowering and releasing about putting things on your calendar. The act of picking a date and putting it down feels like one step closer towards the goal. Putting things on your calendar is setting the intention to make it happen. Then reverse engineering the progress to make sure it does happen.

Dating your debt and staying exclusive? That’s like committing to abstinence, yet again, and putting a date down on when you can start seeing other people. It may be a weird motivator, but it works for me. The sooner I get out of debt, the sooner I can open space for another person, and invite someone else in.

Getting out of debt is one step closer to financial freedom. It is one step closer to rooting in myself.

With financial freedom in front of me, staying true to debt, I will have the foundation towards a healthy partnership, and not an unreliable one.

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