When we talk about dating, we often hear about either the romanticised version of it—finding a happily ever after—or the complexities—not finding a happily ever with all the pitfalls in trying too.
There must be a somewhere in between, right! And as I think back to my teen years and consider the insightful information from relationships counsellor Cat Williams in our latest podcast, UIO: On Dating Inside Out, I’ve had a lightbulb moment.
This middle ground must have to do with self-discovery. Great, you might tell yourself. I think I know a bit about me. Of course, you do. But here is the thing: anytime we venture into something new, there are oodles of opportunities for growth and in this growth, we often have revelations, that we might not have otherwise discovered.
And with these revelations, if you don’t like them, you can use the experience to change. And if you do like what you learn, use it to get even better.
Thinking back to my teen years, I had a few experiences that fit the bill. It took me only once to discover that I didn’t like the idea of someone believing he had the right to touch me because we were dating. At a basketball game, my boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to sit behind me, giving me little choice but to lean back on him and from there he proceeded to touch me completely inappropriately.
First of all, I felt humiliated and then mortified. I hadn’t had any physical closeness with him and had no intentions of doing so. Yet he assumed that he had the right to touch me. What gave him that idea? What does he think of me? Next, all I could think was if my mom and dad hear about this, there goes my cheerleading days and rightly so. Somehow, I wriggled out of the tortuous situation and broke off the relationship at the first opportunity, probably the next day. But what I didn’t do was tell him why I broke it off, at least I don’t remember telling him.
So, what did I learn? First, there was the bit about self-confidence. I didn’t have the confidence to speak out on the matter, then and there. This came as a shock to me because I had no problem speaking out at home. Next, I learned how important reputation was to me and still is. In addition, I learned about the importance of family. I felt that I had somehow violated a trust between me and my parents. And it suddenly dawned on me that I wanted to be a trustworthy person, not only with my parents but in general.
For years afterwards, I had a guilt about the experience with loads of questions. Why did I let it happen? Why didn’t I do something about it, then and there. Why did I think it was something I did that made him behave badly and so on? And later, as I was talking to an acquaintance who was in her teens about the experience, I recounted the positive lessons I had taken away, too. I remember how moving forward I escaped such situations by taking responsibility for where I sat and how I sat.
And I left school with my good name in-tact and with my family values in tow and a desire to go off to New York City someday. And I did with the lessons of confidence and much more close to my chest. Fast forward all these years later and I am still learning from the experience or re-learning, that is.
As Cat Williams points out in On Dating Inside Out, objectification has nothing to do with the person being objectified, nor does bullying. What has to do with you is how you handle it. It’s all about self-discovery. For more hot tips, check out the podcast on iTunes as well as Soundcloud or subscribe on this site to hear more about how to navigate dating for the best possible outcomes right in the space you are in. Oh and yeah, don’t forget to have fun. A lesson I stumbled upon, too.