Have you ever been in love and not realized it?
Have you ever had a conversation, received a text, or spent hours with someone whose voice brought an ear-to-ear grin to your face—whose eyes caused your to heart to simultaneously flutter in anticipation and crumble in disappointment? Whose touch filled you with warmth and cradled you with a halo of safety? Whose absence equated to an unshakable cold loneliness and sorrow with an echo of weariness, and whose mere presence was a catalyst of motivation to bring out the best of you—for your sake not his?
Have you ever met someone whose truth was rarely masked by words, but the lack of them indicated that you were not a priority in his life? Yet, despite this, despite your mind yelling, “Stay away! He’s no Good for You! He doesn’t WANT you” your heart jumped in knowing full well the pain it would bring in the end—risking it all for a kernel of hope that maybe, just maybe your mind was wrong?
I have, and it bites.
For most of my life, I’ve known the following about men. First, they tend to speak with their actions (or lack there of). Second, they like a challenge (not to be mistaken with games). And third, they like to feel special. This has translated into the following dating policies:
- Don’t chase after a guy who’s not chasing after you or reciprocating your actions. (This includes text, emails, and online chats)
- Don’t make it too easy for the guy to get what he wants from you. Make him prove to you (and himself) that he’s deserving of you.
- This includes not sleeping with him on the first date, or offering up any “goods” until there’s a real connection on both ends.
3. Do make it known if they mean something special to you by saying and doing.
- Guys have feelings too. They can be just as insecure as were are, so you should tell them or show them what they mean to you.
I have always been bad at number three. Asking me to communicate my feelings is like asking me to shoot someone. It takes would take desperation and only comes out as a last resort.
Numbers one and two have varied from relationship to relationship. I have no shame or fear when it comes to making the first move. Life is short. If you are a single guy and I like you, you will probably know. If you don’t flirt back or refuse my invitation to hang out or grab a drink, it won’t hurt my feelings. I’ll shrug it off, move on, and respect the fact that you’re not interested.
If you like me and try to move too quickly, or if I sense pressure from you, I will put up a metaphorical steel wall and ask you to move on.
Rarely do men get past “the fortress,” and when they do, it’s becomes a steady shower (and occasionally a flood) of wordless physical affection on my part.
My typical dating life goes a bit more like this:
- I meet a man who amuses me, but with whom I see no long-term potential.
- If he’s more into me than I am into him, a refuse his advances and move on.
- If we’re on the same page, I throw the guidelines out the door, live in the moment, enjoy it without expectation, and move on when the passion fizzles out.
So, what the HELL happened this time? How did this would-be fling unknowingly penetrate my steel fortress and leave my heart a shattered mess scattered across the floor?! I suspect it has something to do with a little thing called friendship, and a bigger thing called longing.
It’s been five years since the last time I had a boyfriend—since I dared to imagine a future that included a husband, a family, and a dog. Finding someone that seriously sparks my interest, is like finding a needle in a haystack It’s not that I don’t want or wish for a life companion. It’s just that I’m unwilling to settle for “good-enough.” So when it finally happened, my heart jumped in, setting all logic aside.
The story of us, from my perspective:
Sometime ago, I met a man in passing that I didn’t think twice about. A few weeks later I received an email from him in which he invited me out for a bite to eat. Although I was flattered, I originally refused, and cited a conflict of interest with my works policies (which was true). But in reality, I wasn’t sure I really liked him, and was a little annoyed that he asked me out via email instead of in-person. (I know. I know. In this day and age email invites are the norm, but I’m old school and prefer face-to-face interactions). I didn’t expect to see or hear from him again.
Then one day I attended an event and he was there. Fearing that he would try to ask me out again, and not knowing how I’d refuse him twice, I made it a point to avoid him. He, however, was persistent and managed to make his way to me. (Not like I could really hide, I was wearing a bright orange summer dress, hair in a side braid, and four-inch platform shoes, while everyone else was wearing normal neutral colored work attire).
Unfortunately, I was his from the moment he spoke. His voice became an instant tether. I couldn’t resist briefly looking into his eyes, which was a mistake, because in that moment my spirit turned cartwheels, my heart dove into the liquid current of warmth that ran through my body, and the scent of him transcended into my vary being, intoxicating my senses. The physical reaction to him was so intense that I struggled to hear what he said. Thankfully, the conversation was quickly cut off by the presenter taking the floor.
I saw him lingering behind when the event was over, but I was locked in a conversation. By the time I was free, he was gone, and I often wondered if things would have turned out differently if we’d ended our conversation that evening.
That night, his blue eyes dominated my dreams. I couldn’t escape them, so the next day, I sent him an email to finish our conversation. This turned into weeks of email transactions and online chats. His manner of thinking and world-views fascinated me. The next email couldn’t come fast enough, and by the time we finally met up I was already emotionally invested, but refused to believe it. Our first kissed evolved into a first night together, and while my mind yelled “DON’T DO THIS TO YOUSELF, YOU KNOW BETTER,” my heart insisted on going through with it, soaking in every inch of him. I had no idea how to handle the situation. Experience said that these actions equated to no chance for a serious relationship, but my heart insisted there was a hope.
It really didn’t take long for my mind to figure out that he wasn’t in it for the long-run, but my heart wouldn’t let go. It insisted on staying loyal to him so long as he communicated with me regularly. While my minds said go on dates with other people, open your self to other opportunities, my heart refused all invitations, insisting on staying true to someone who was not (and didn’t know to be) committed to me. There was nothing my mind could do to shake it. Eventually, his emails and texts became more infrequent, and my heart finally began to give into logic.
So, I let my friend “with benefits” back into my life, and started going on dates, willing myself to like someone else. But you can’t will chemistry. Even though I wanted to desperately fill the loneliness caused by his absences, I found myself again unwilling to settle. I stopped trying, and went on with life as normal. Occasionally we would text back and forth, or chat online. Each time, my heart would soar, and I became the happiest person on earth. “Maybe I’m wrong,” my heart would whisper, “maybe there’s still hope. Why else would he still talk to me if he wasn’t interested.”
I never discerned the answer to that question. I eventually learned that he had indeed moved on, and my heart shattered instantly. I couldn’t stomach the truth. I locked myself in my apartment for days, while an ocean of tears pooled into my pillows. I called in sick to work—too lethargic to get dressed. The drastic reaction shocked me. I couldn’t figure out why I was hurting so much—as if it were the end of a real relationship, when if fact it had been little less than a fling.
I think what hurt the most, was the realization that there had never been a true friendship. Despite the emails and chat sessions, despite the nights we’d spend together, he didn’t respect me enough to tell me that he’d moved on. He didn’t respect me enough to say he’d lost interest. He chose the cowards way out, and let time and social media do the talking for him. It was more than a disappointment. It was a crushing blow. One my heart needed. It finally realized that he was not worthy of me. So, I wrote him a letter, and cut him out of my life forever. Or so I thought.
A week later, he responded to my letter, and for a moment my heart basked in elation at his attention. But it was only for a moment. This time, my heart allowed my mind to take cover, and to close the book on him for good.
It hasn’t been easy. I still burst into tears at the mention of his name and unexpected triggers. I still think of him first thing in the morning, and when going to bed every night. He still makes it into my prayers and visits me in my dreams—an alternate reality that I’m sure owes its creation to my heart—and his voice still lingers in the air.
I know the dreams are just a bandage, and that ending all communicating was for the best. I just have to keep reminding myself that this experience is all part of the journey. That it’s a step toward preparing for the “one” if and when we finally meet.