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Getting on the Off Ramp

This life is full of mistakes, mis-steps, and mishaps, and it’s ok. I tend to find myself in challenging situations and dysfunctional relationships, time and time again. When I decided to get back into the dating pool after a hiatus, I realized I had picked up right where I left off. Despite all of the hard work I had done on myself...I was making the same mistakes. I said to myself one day “Ama you keep attracting the same men”, and what’s worse is that in my friendship circles I started to attract the female version of the men I was dating. When I got honest with myself and asked the question “why”, I was struck with the purpose of hardships in life.

These events, decisions, and life changes are meant to teach us something about ourselves if we are open to the lessons life is here to reveal to us. However, there comes a time when we realize that we’ve been driving down the same path on the highway of life. Every twist, turn and redirection leads us to the same place. Soon we notice our surroundings are familiar, as we cycle through the same relationship pattern with different partners. Or we cycle through the same pattern of decision making, which leads us to similar results. If we look ahead, we can see the off ramp in the distance. This is the time to put on your indicator, start switching lanes, and prepare to exit a life that is not in alignment with who you are.

It’s so hard when we want to open ourselves up to love. We have a desire to be optimistic in spite of the realities of our past. Recently, I decided that I was going to give finding love another try. The problem that I came across is that I tend to overlook the benefit of applying the knowledge I have learned through my hardships. The knowledge that is here to prepare me for the love I desire and deserve. Overlooking applying the knowledge usually looks like this: You meet someone new, and instantly you feel a connection. You're getting the butterflies in your stomach and secretly planning an adventure filled life with this new prospect. When you go out on your first date the chemistry is magnetic, you’re vibing on a level with another human being in a way that you never thought you’d do again. The first kiss is amazing, the energy pulsates through your body and your “connection” is sealed!

Then it happens...they dismiss a thought or feeling that you share in a moment of vulnerability, or they tell you your favorite dress is too “revealing” and you should find something else in your closet that they like better. Or you watch them talk to a waiter in a condescending tone, as they criticize just about everyone they come into contact with. Those “things” that you’re witnessing are red flags, and what you do in this moment will determine the trajectory of this relationship.

Those red flags are the signs we need to move towards the off ramp. When we sacrifice our self worth for the prospect of a new romance, we lose. When we disregard our intuition for the hope that someone will treat us in the way we deserve and desire, despite seeing the signs that they can’t...we lose. When we choose not to have the difficult conversation that affirms who we are, reiterates our values, and sets clear boundaries...we lose. Sometimes those conversations help to reset the expectations for both people involved and can lead to a lasting and meaningful relationship. Other times those conversations lead to the end of a potentially toxic relationship. The mantra I have learned to use in my life now is “what will be will be for my greatest good.” Truly believing and living this mantra has allowed me to have the courage to end unhealthy relationships and break the cycle of poor decision making.

This happened to me recently. I started dating a man who, for all intents and purposes, is just what I seem to be looking for. Tall, dark, handsome, intellectual, ambitious, gentle, soft spoken, and lives with integrity. After our second date I began noticing inconsistencies. Avoiding vulnerability, placing unrealistic expectations on himself and others, and silently controlling the natural flow of the relationship. I noticed he preferred being physical and diverted any attempt at being emotional. Then I had a light bulb moment. I realized that I dated this guy before in my 20s and 30s. The scenery looked very familiar and I knew where this highway was taking me. Up ahead I saw the proverbial off ramp, and I honored myself by having the difficult conversation that reinforced my self worth. I kept it simple by saying that who we are at this point in our lives is not aligned, and we can only be friends. I believe that conversation saved me months of a toxic cycle I had grown accustomed to.

They say wisdom is knowledge applied, and in this case I chose to apply the knowledge life’s hardest lessons have taught me by getting on the off ramp and moving toward the life I know I deserve.

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