Thus, began the toxic cycle of loveless bonds.

I welcomed emotionally unavailable partners as a challenge and measured my worth within their hollow embrace. Investing in someone who demonstrates minimal effort seems like a zero-sum game. If anything, the first sign of emotional distance should be a red flag — but for me, it simply meant that I wasn't trying hard enough.So, I constantly tried to overcompensate for the love that they either weren't willing or equipped to reciprocate.

Vying for their affection allowed me to escape my own soul work. In hindsight, “loving the chase" was just a cop-out of the truth that I denied myself. No one should have to beg for reciprocity. Even I knew that. But this was deeper than ego.

When I really faced myself, I realized that I was terrified of the prospect of being loved correctly.

I didn't know what that looked like or how that felt. Chasing the aloof felt safe and familiar. But risking vulnerability with a man who could potentially treat me right? That was scary.

Predictability gave me control — I expected to be disappointed, and so I was…




But then it hit me: I could no longer blame the world for self-inflicted pain.

It was time to own up to the ways that I had enabled toxicity within my relationships. Everything that I wanted from a partner, I would first have to exhibit myself first and foremost. Honesty, accountability, support, forgiveness, boundaries— they all stemmed from SELF. And this time around, I decided to become my own sanctuary.

With my senior year of college on the horizon, I can honestly say that I don't know what to expect — and I certainly don't have all the answers.

But that's what excites me.

I've abandoned my former checklist in favor of living on my own terms. Timelines are overrated, and I have the rest of my life to find someone to live it with. But for now, I'd much rather save my love for the one who deserves it most: me.

And that is a full-time job.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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