I got my dad the most inappropriate gift for Christmas last year. I won’t elaborate other than saying my 7 and 9-year-old boys (who are obsessed with male anatomy – including the words nuts, balls or sack) thought it was hysterical. I giggled when I ordered it. Laughed when we wrapped it. Snickered as he unwrapped it.
“Kelli!” my Dad said, half-embarrassed, half trying not to laugh as he figured out what it was. “Wait until I show this to my good friend. He already thinks you’re crazy.”
“What? Why?” I asked, still laughing.
“You know, dating a new guy every six or eight months, posting pictures about it on Facebook. He asked what’s going on with you and I told him I stay out of it,” Dad replied.
WELL JEEZE… TELL ME HOW YA REALLY FEEL!
In the moment, I let his comment go because Christmas present opening is not the time to start a debate (or a defense) about Kelli’s dating life. But it just so happens that side bar came about a week after I ended yet another post-divorce relationship.
I’ve thought about my dad’s words a lot in the weeks that followed. To be clear, he was not trying to be vindictive, critical or mean. It was literally an in-the-moment comment about how spontaneous I am. I get that spontaneity honestly, by the way.
But also, I’ve shared TWO relationships on social media… in three-and-a-half years.
Is that a lot?
Do I fall too hard, too fast?
Do I let people in too easily?
Do I put too much out there for everyone else to see?
My best friend would answer yes to all those questions about me. She’s more reserved, more cautious and much more careful with her heart.
“You definitely go zero to sixty pretty fast,” she said, referring to those past two relationships, which lasted a whopping four months and eight months, respectively.
My favorite mentor said the same.
“Slow down, Kel. You don’t need to go all in at the very beginning. You barely know him,” she said over lunch a couple years ago as I gushed about the Uber driver I’d connected with a month earlier and was dating at the time. ”You have time to figure this out.”
Both of them were right.
I’m 36. My career, my finances and my physical and mental health have never been better.
I do have time. I don’t need to rush. I could play the game – take a breath and wait a week before agreeing to a second or third or fourth date. I could not respond to a text right away. I could hold off when it comes to posting about a new relationship on social media. I could wait a year or more to see if a man truly fits into my life before making a spot for him and introducing him to my kids… but why should I have to do any of that?
A few years ago as I tried to navigate why my marriage failed and why life suddenly felt so difficult, my therapist told me I’m a deep thinker who also loves and feels very deeply. She said when I was ready, I needed to look for a relationship with the same type of person who has similar depth and self-awareness so that person could love and understand me in a way that would truly fulfill my soul.
I remember the sense of relief I had when she said those words because she made me feel so normal. In that moment, she articulated something I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out. And I’ve held on to that while navigating this (mostly shitty but sometimes amazing) world of dating as a single mom.
Just so we’re clear, even though I don’t exactly hold back when I feel a connection with someone, I still refuse to settle.
If something is missing, I’m not afraid to politely say, ‘No thank you’ to a second or third date.
If I’m not getting what I need emotionally, intellectually or otherwise, I make that clear and I end it.
If there’s drama, a toxic baby mama or signs a man has serious work to do on his own mental or emotional well-being, I run. FAST.
And here’s why: I’ve done the work on myself. I know who I am. I know what I want.
Oh, and I don’t need a fourth child.
I’ve also learned it’s OK to be deep. It’s OK to meet someone new and give them the very best version of who I am in that moment. It’s OK to go all-in, to fall hard and fast and let my heart feel all of the things. It’s OK to show my kids life can still be so freaking beautiful even though it is sometimes unpredictable and ugly.
Why would I ever want anything less?
Trust me, I know I’m a lot to handle. I also don’t apologize for that. If I’m too much for someone, that’s that’s OK too. It just means we aren’t meant to be.
To that point, it’s OK if you are the type who burns a bit slower. It’s OK if you are more cautious about giving away your heart. It’s OK if you want to take your time before figuring out whether it’s safe or smart to go all-in. We are not all the same and thank goodness for that.
Oh, and speaking from experience: “cautious” and “zero to sixty” people don’t usually mesh well. We’re talking crash and burn. Big fire. Might scar your ego. But that’s OK too.
When you’re an “all-in” kind of person, you don’t dip your toe in the water before deciding to jump. You literally put your hands over your head, take a deep breath and you dive. And you don’t have time or energy to give a shit what anyone on the surface might think.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...