"Loving Yourself Means Drawing Those Boundaries"

The best advice I was ever told was “never date anyone that makes you believe you are hard to love.”

Usually, whenever my friends complained about prospective boothangs, it often resembled a familiar tune. Boys would take too long to respond and were too quick to say what they knew my friends wanted to hear. But the primary issue with these sorts of “mixed signals” is why the other person acts that way or would just never show up at all. It would make them feel insecure, unchill or the “c-word”, by which I mean crazy, having to wade through the murky no man’s land of perpetual limbo, sporadic texts or unclear intentions. But the truth is, if you don’t know with a guy, it’s a no. I can’t tell you how many times I had to gently whisper this painful truth in conversations with my stressed out, nearly teary-eyed girI friends. And I can’t tell you how many times I had to gently whisper this to myself.

When his words and actions are unreliable, drawing a boundary is hard. In fact, we may be counterintuitive to the very way we are naturally wired as humans. According to Ivan Pavlov’s Theory of Classical Conditioning, our behavior is a result of a learning process in which new behaviors are modified through their association with consequences. In a lab setting, they found that the most effective reinforcements of their rat specimen’s behavior was when the timing of reinforcing food pellets was unpredictable. So for humans, naturally, our reward centers light up like a Christmas tree when we gamble or play lottery games.

All of this is all to say that, girl, you made yourself the rat.

He may want to spend time with you. He may want to hook up with you. Decide if this capacity works for you. If it does, great! But if it doesn’t, don’t perpetuate your own heartbreak. If you want him, and he wants you only some of the time, your self esteem becomes frantic for the food pellets. This is not good for your soul. So while it is incredibly difficult to un-make yourself the rat, it is also incredibly liberating when you feel in control of yourself–your time, your boundaries and that presh little heart that works hard to beat for you every day. Next time when those seeds of doubt manifest into that unsettling feeling of deep insecurity, it’s time to realize you have different needs (not worse) and just move on.

People can and do change. However, that growth is the responsibility of the other. Not yours. You can support them. You can point them to helpful external resources. Accept the person you are dating for who they are and who they are not. In the end, you can never and will never be able to change them into what you want them to be. So just ask yourself: if this person stayed like this forever, would you be down? So when they tell you who they are, believe them. When someone is really interested in you, you will know. When this happens, let things feel effortless, natural and easy. You will hear from this person often, as they are just as invested in progress and just as invested in you. There will not be mixed signals. It will be clear. Either he’s into you or he’s not. And either you’re into him or you're not. It’s really that easy. For real. And you will always be okay. I promise.

With love,
Ashleigh

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