Be Careful Who You Trust: Why You Need To Set Emotional Boundaries For Yourself
I was two drinks in on my first date with this guy when he started telling me about his troubled relationship with his mother. Turns out, she used to beat him with a belt if his grades failed to live up to her standards.*
By the time our appetizers had arrived, I had learned about this man's abusive upbringing and, how, to this day, he can't speak to his mother on the phone without his voice shaking.
My head was spinning. I'm an empathic person, don't get me wrong, but all I was thinking was, slow your roll, guy. You don't even know me.
As a writer, I'm used to people -- from anorexic male models to sex workers suffering from PTSD -- sharing traumatic stories with me; stories that are usually reserved for the shrink's couch. But that night, as I waited for my ceviche -- on a first date, nonetheless -- it hit me: I was out with an emotional slut.
This epiphany was particularly disturbing because I believe in the adage that you attract what you put out into the universe. When it comes to emotional promiscuity, I'm no virgin.
Some of my past relationships have gone from zero to super intense in a matter of weeks -- "we've known each other a month, let's move in" intense.
Things just don't magically become intense, as I'm coming to realize. I'm an active participant in creating these high voltage relationships, and I do that by sharing too much too soon.
We live in a culture where we Instagram everything from our trendy candles to our glory days and we tweet life-affirming mantras every day, so it's not so surprising that people like me, and that my aforementioned date craved connectivity in a significant way that felt authentic, less curated.
However, you have to build trust; otherwise it's all useless. I get that sometimes we want to be understood so badly that when someone kind of gets us, it's tempting to think we've found our soul mate. But that can be self-defeating, even dangerous.
We know all about the dangers of having unprotected sex. Likewise, we need to beware of unprotected intimacy. When you reveal too much about yourself to a relative stranger, you're putting yourself at risk for... just about anything. It takes a long time to get to know someone and what he or she is capable of.
Even when you do know someone intimately, there’s never any foolproof guarantee. However, solid relationships rely upon boundaries that arise organically out of trial and error.
What you must understand is that genuine trust is based on setting and respecting limits, not the blind sharing of our most intimate selves.
Ask yourself why you would trust someone you're casually dating with a secret. I've been emotionally promiscuous in the past because I so deeply wanted to feel a connection to thwart some inner loneliness.
That's problematic, not just for me, but for my potential partner. Any relationship you forge because you're scared of some self-deficiency is only going to end in trouble.
Sure, it might be a wonderful haze at first, but a relationship should not be a cure-all to your woes. If it feels like it is, that should be a sign that it might be too good to be true.
Emotional sluts will often shower you with affection and adoration, telling you how connected to you they feel. They’ll make grand gestures designed to solve all your problems, offer unsolicited advice on everything from your career to your closest relationships with family and friends and insert themselves into your daily routine with a promise of “being there for you.”
They might even go so far as to explain their behavior as acts of love. Ultimately, however, emotional sluts are self-serving. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people; it just means they’re needy in a way that won’t sate you in a significant way.
Just like most of us have had one-night stands, most of us have been emotionally promiscuous at some point. Why? In a culture of instant validation, we want to believe in love at first sight (after a while, all those "likes" just don't do it for us anymore). I'm not saying love at first sight is impossible, but it's certainly the exception, not the rule.
Emotional promiscuity will prevent you from really helping you solve whatever you need to work out with yourself. It's easy to vent. Add alcohol and pheromones to the mix, and revealing yourself gives a rush that's pretty irresistible.
Still, when you share too much too soon, you're setting yourself up. You can't fake it till you make it in a relationship, no matter how badly you want that “intense” connection with another.
Trust takes time, consistency and reliability. In other words, intensity is the exact opposite of a cheap thrill.
I learned the hard way that the intimate details of my life are a valuable commodity. They belong to me. It's a brutal betrayal when someone you thought loved you spills your secrets.
It's up to you to protect yourself and your stories, to set boundaries and invest time in getting to know a person for who he or she is, not your idea of who or she might be.
Yes, I might be a little more tight-lipped than I've been in the past, but it's not because I'm jaded. It's because I still believe in love.
*Details have been changed.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It