Personal Power


TRUST courtney-clayton

Growing up with violence, incest, and rape caused me to distrust everything people said and did. My parents’ words were sometimes of love, but often of threats of punishment if I even thought of misbehaving. My older brother Kevin’s words threatened violence and death if I told anyone that he was raping me.

Later, I learned to mistrust boyfriends who spoke of love but who also cheated on me, lied to me, verbally abused me, put me down, and caused me to doubt my lovability and worth.

In my early twenties, I had an affair with a married man who was in his late thirties. I was seduced by the fancy cars and restaurants and the promise of adventure: a cross-country Amazon road rally, an archaeological dig in Peru, a month in Africa, and teaching me how to fly a helicopter. I got all my required shots for travel. Of course, none of these ever came to be. He kept putting them off for one reason or another; the timing wasn’t right, the political climate was too volatile, he had too many family obligations.

One night, he took me for a weekend in Boston. I sat on the bed in our hotel room while he spoke with his wife on the phone. I listened as he told her how much he loved her. I listened as he lied to her, saying that he was there on business and had to stay for meetings. I realized that if he was such a good liar with her, perhaps he was also lying to me. I finally came to my senses and dumped him.

I was raped by two men at the age of seventeen while at a frat party my first week in college. I was date-raped at the age of twenty-five. Through the years, a string of men came in and out of my life. Men who were misogynists, men who were selfish and self-centered, men who caused me emotional and psychological pain. Because of my low self-esteem, I didn’t think I deserved better. Fortunately, with the help of therapy, my self-esteem has much improved.

May of 2011 was the last time I was in a romantic relationship. I decided I’d gotten my heart broken for the last time. I realized that I don’t like the person I become once my emotions are entangled with a man. On my own, I am independent, confident, and strong. But once I become emotionally attached to a man—which usually happens as soon as I have sex with him—all that goes out the window. I become needy and clingy and insecure. I fear abandonment and rejection. I hide the real me and try to be what I think he wants. I become afraid to speak my mind, to share thoughts that contradict his. I keep silent when he does something that goes against my values. I lose my sense of self. I also doubt that he is trustworthy. I wonder if he lies to me, if he cheats on me. I can never feel safe, secure in his professions of love and fidelity.

So, I decided that I’m just not healthy enough to be in a romantic relationship. I’d rather be true to myself than to become a person I detest. I like being independent, confident, and strong. I don’t need a man to complete me or make me feel whole. I don’t need a man for anything. I am fine on my own. I love being on my own. I have a small group of close female friends, and several acquaintances. That is more than enough to meet any psychological, emotional, and social needs.

I’ve recently befriended a woman who was widowed five years ago. She just started online dating and meetup groups for singles. She wants a new partner, someone with whom to share her life. I have gone to several meetup events—mostly to hear bands play and to dance—and have enjoyed meeting new people, both men and women. They are out to have fun and to interact socially. I am going outside of my comfort zone; I am a homebody. I tend to be a loner. I enjoy my own company. But I am getting better at socializing. But also, my walls are up. I put out the vibe that I am unavailable. I haven’t yet met a man who is interested in dating me, but I’m sure it will happen eventually. I don’t want any part of it.

I sometimes wonder, am I not interested in dating because I don’t want to be hurt again, and because I don’t trust men? It’s been eight years since I’ve been with a guy, eight years of celibacy, eight years of therapy. Perhaps I am no longer that unhealthy woman who would lose her sense of self in a relationship. Perhaps I am healthy enough to be attracted to healthy men. Perhaps I am healthy enough to no longer be dysfunctional.

But, then again, why bother? I am happy on my own. I love my life. I come and go as I please. I answer to no one. When I come home there is no one to disturb me if I want peace and quiet. The cap is on the toothpaste tube and the toilet seat is down. There are no arguments to disrupt my serenity, no doubting whether I’m being lied to or cheated on. My serenity means everything to me. My stress level is at a minimum, which is good because stress triggers my mania and I can end up hospitalized. Also, my PTSD tends to get triggered when I am in a relationship.

No, I am just fine on my own. Alone but never lonely.

Photo by Courtney Clayton on

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