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Currently writing Don’t Call Me Biker Chick, a book about women, risk-taking and motorcycles, Bernadette Murphy has published three books of narrative nonfiction and teaches creative writing at the Antioch University Los Angeles MFA program. We will tell you what you need in a relationship, where you screwed up (without knowing it) in past relationships and a customized action plan to make your next relationship successful.Not a relationship per se—this business of being on my own and caring only for myself is intriguing and I’m learning too much to want to abandon it.I wasn’t interested in Match.com, nor a friends-with-benefits setup. Or so I thought until I went on the one and only date I’ve had (outside that marriage) in the last quarter century.It was only recently, since I’d been living on my own and encountering my friends and colleagues as a single person, that I had begun to see how deeply loved and appreciated I was by the people in my life, love given to me as a grace, without merit. As long as I had chicken soup on the brain (and, I reasoned, the healing properties of this soup might keep me from getting the flu I had marginally been exposed to), I went to the store and bought the ingredients for the best chicken soup ever, along with a baguette of crusty sourdough. My kitchen filled with the aroma of love: love for myself.
And lest we lose track of things, let me remind you (and me) that this was a man I hardly knew and by no means was planning a relationship with.
I just didn’t want to be on the receiving end of a rejection. My impulse, during my dating years and all the married ones, was to care for other people, including our three kids.
I started making a shopping list of ingredients needed, figuring out how I’d juggle the rest of the day’s activities to allow time for shopping, cooking, driving, and nursing—when I stopped myself. On some level, I had grown to believe that I was loveable only to the degree that I had earned the love. What would happen, I began to wonder, if I put that same nurturing energy I wanted to share with this man into myself?
Rule #1: When I feel the impulse do something for “him” (whomever he might be), I will look at my own life and ask if that nurturing thing is something I need to do for myself.
I have no confidence whatsoever that this tactic will work, but I hope to try.