Something that’s changed for me significantly in the past few years is the way I approach attraction and romantic interest. This is quite encouraging for me because experiencing frequent bouts of depression sometimes makes me feel that everything is stagnant and that there’s no point to anything; so it’s really nice to feel like despite it all, or maybe even because of it all, I’m still growing.
I first felt the shift when I met someone at a gig a few months ago. It was after my set and we were chatting. He was paying me quite a lot of attention, which I love, and I was lapping it up. We swapped numbers – he was interested in a collab – and I went home revelling in the intoxication of meeting someone new and having someone be interested in me.
But due to a culmination of information and teachings surrounding trauma bonding that I’d absorbed over the months prior to this encounter, I started to apply critical thinking to our interaction:
- Something he’d said had actually seemed like an outright lie at worst and over-exaggeration at best.
- He was a fair bit older than me.
- Some of his lyrics were derogatory towards women, and;
- I wasn’t even sure if I really liked him.
Looking at my phone a few hours later, awaiting a reply to my text; I got really real with myself. I couldn’t do this to myself again. I couldn’t invest valuable time and energy into a dynamic that wasn’t conducive to my wellbeing. I couldn’t, wouldn’t allow myself to get drunk off the dopamine and oxytocin produced by our interaction and the attention he gave me – and to ascribe meaning to that arbitrarily.
Rather than these revelations stemming from me classifying this person as “bad news” or “toxic”, they actually stemmed from the realisation that just because someone acts like they’re interested in me, it doesn’t mean that we have a connection or any sort of future potential. What about what I feel? It was Mark Groves on his Create The Love podcast that invited me to think in this way. In an episode on ghosting and online dating, he posed the idea that so many people make relationship decisions based on how the other person feels about them. This whole: “you like me, so I like you” thing is bullshit. No — do you like them?! What’s with this scarcity mindset that makes so many of us jump when a possible suitor clicks their fingers?! Why have we been led to believe that we have to settle for whoever like us?
A new mindset I’m trying to adopt is an indifference towards people expressing interest in me. So you like me, so what? That counts for absolutely nothing.
“They always marvel at the start
Then wind up breaking my heart.”
– lyrics from a song of mine called UnKnOwN
This lyric I wrote has actually helped me a lot. It’s like a guardian angel in all honesty that helps me navigate dating and attraction better than I ever have before. It’s a reminder that someone marvelling at me or my music is actually superficial and inconsequential. It has no bearing on how things will pan out in the future. On a stage and through my music, I am a version of myself, definitely; but someone liking that version of me does not necessarily mean they will love or accept all of me. And for that reason, I take any kind of interest that stems for my music and performances with a pinch of salt. It’s all by the by.
So how does trauma bonding play into all of this?
It’s probably quicker if you just watch the video 😉 (it has subtitles so you can watch it on silent!).
“So you attract them because you’re trying to learn how to say no to them…” And when you finally say no to them “you can grow up and become an adult.”
Looking at my phone that night and having the revelation that I needed to not pursue this guy or wait around meekly for his texts was me saying “no”. But it wasn’t like a Hollywood scene with joy and elation and fireworks – it actually felt sad. I felt like I was mourning. Mourning the potential I’d conjured up in my head – the potential that my inner child wanted to ascribe to this trauma bond because she felt it might finally heal some of her own traumatic wounds. I felt enormously deflated, consciously forgoing all the toxic chemistry – the dopamine that my melancholy brain was probably desperate for. I think I cried. But I knew it was the right thing.
I think I’ll always look back on that night as a turning point for me. A revelation in a long line of revelations that will lead me to healthy, securely attached love. Not as an end goal, because it’s natural for relationships not to last, but as a distinct possibility and as a representation of the power to believe that I am worthy and deserving of all that I want and need.
In the typical way that life continually gives you lessons and opportunities for growth – I had another encounter that could’ve easily turned into a trauma bond the other weekend at a techno night. God, he was attractive. And it seemed like he was attracted to me. He was a friend of a friend – the friend being someone I’d initially met on a dating app and with whom I’d decided, the feeling being mutual, to remain just friends – and he asked me more than once if we were romantically involved. I told him no and kept dancing. Beyoncé’s line in Single Ladies – “don’t pay him any attention” – is something I absolutely live by on a night out, especially when I’m dancing.
But prior to this – on the way to the club – he had walked by my side, asking me about my music and listening intently (I swear, someone asking me about music should be a red flag at this point 😭). He was complimenting me a lot, I could feel him looking at what I was wearing – I got the impression that maybe I was his “type”.
Anyway, fast forward to after the club and we’re heading to an afterparty – me and this guy and my friend that I met him through and a couple of other people. We were waiting on a taxi and he took the piss out of me for some reason, I can’t remember why – but it was uncalled for. We were walking to the house for the afterparty and he tried to trip me up. And then when we got inside, the TV got turned on to a female newscaster that he deemed ugly, then proceeded with: “Kinda like you.”
So that was that. My friend backed me up, as he should, and told this guy about his behaviour the next day. It’s worth mentioning alcohol and ketamine were involved but as I said to my friend and the guy in question: “I have a personal gripe with people using alcohol or drugs as an excuse for shitty behaviour.” He did apologise, and fairly profusely (and tried to add me on Facebook), which I thanked him for but I didn’t respond to either his friend request or any other messages he sent me.
This was a bit difficult for me because I found him so fucking attractive. I wanted to accept his apology. I wanted to accept the friend request. I wanted to let him seduce me. But in doing that, I would’ve been communicating to him that his previous foul behaviour is the kind of thing that I tolerate. And regardless of whether he was intoxicated or not, I believe that the way someone acts when they’re drunk does say something about who they are. One of the only reasons I tolerated emotional abuse in a previous relationship is because it took place while he was drunk.
And when I met this partner for the first time, I overlooked the red flags and silenced my intuition because I wanted to believe in his potential to be kind and caring; and because I found his callous side arousing. As a result of that, I endured some emotional abuse.
I owed it to myself the other weekend to be honest with myself about the new red flags that I saw clear as day and to not let the attraction I felt towards him cloud my judgement. Again, it felt like mourning not to reply to his last message or accept the friend request. But with mourning the intense attraction and dizzying highs and lows, I am also making space for the kind of love that will love me back.
Thanks for reading.
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx