While paging through old photos saved on my phone, I stumbled across a series of photos that gave me instant anxiety and despair. As one could guess, they were photos of me and an ex.
Honestly, even briefly glancing at the photos creeps the hell out of me. I stare at these photos of myself, seemingly happy, with a man by my side and all I can think is, “If I had known then what I know now…”
I shake my head begrudging the time lost and energy wasted on that relationship.
These photos left me with a sour taste in my mouth that morning, enough so to make me lose all interest in my Americano, which is my favorite thing on earth. I couldn't stomach anything, I felt that uneasy about these damn photos.
As I sat and stewed about what exactly was bothering me so much, I started to berate myself for keeping these photos in the first place. I have zero plans to get back with him ever; he's not even an ex I wonder “what if?” about. So why keep these photos around when I definitely won't be using them at a later date to post proudly of our happy rekindled flame?
I don't know if I'm a glutton for punishment, or if I just like to prevent myself from repeating history, but I kept the photos for a very specific reason.
To me, they are a harsh reminder of a dating truth that quite frankly scares the sh*t out of all of us; people aren't always what they seem to be. When we start to date someone and everything is all shiny and new, we take everything that this person seems to be as face value. We believe it all.
And why wouldn't we? If we entered each relationship with our guards up, we would be bitter and impossible to date. So no matter how many times we've been burned or tricked in our pasts, we have a tendency to enter each relationship with fresh eyes. We blindly trust that who this person says they are, or who we think they are, is who they really are.
The hard part is that it takes a lot of time to truly get to know someone -- we're talking months and years here. And after we sink all that time and energy into them, we can sometimes end up disappointed.
This ex in particular was a harsh reminder of this fact because I admired him from a distance far before I met and started dating him.
Because of that fact, I gave him character attributes that he didn't yet earn because I, for whatever reason, thought he deserved it. Things like reputation and mutual friends can lead us to believe that someone is better than they really are. When you're still getting to know someone, you let these external factors guide you more than truly being critical of who that person really is. It's easy to base your opinion on them on maybe 50 percent of the facts.
This is particularly bad when we decide we want to like someone. Maybe you think they're super hot, or have an edgy side that you can't resist, whatever it may be. From there on out, you make selective decisions on them as a whole.
You minimize the bad and focus on the good, which, I think is almost fair to everyone at the beginning. No one is perfect, so there are things you're bound to not like about basically everyone. No one wants to be written off quickly for a small flaw or error they made in the past.
However, when you find yourself at your wits end, and shocked at how they different they actually are than what you thought, it's scary. The subtle differences from the assumptions we make are not really subtle after all. They mean a big deal to you because those are some of the things that made you like them in the beginning.
It's an overall sh*tty situation because then you end up blaming yourself. You realize your perspective of them has influenced how you felt about them and how much time you spent on them.
You can't fault yourself for falling for someone based on how you thought they were. Sometimes, who you thought they were just didn't turn out to be the whole truth, live in the flesh. It's scary because there is truly no way of knowing when you meet someone new and start dating how you will really feel months down the road.
But you know what? That's okay. It's what dating is all about. You gave it a shot, which is the best anyone can do.
So dust yourself off, learn from it and move yourself on.