I got a lot of messages on Match right from the beginning, most of them from people who met most (if not all) of those calibration requirements I set to begin with. I don’t know if that’s a testament to the fact that my bar is, admittedly, pretty low (though I don’t think it’s THAT low, if the last several years have been any indicator) or maybe it’s just because I live in a different part of the country now and the selection is different. Anyway, I had a lot of messages.
I can’t tell you what made me change my approach to dating – other than I’m quite a bit more indifferent about what I was going to get out of this experiment. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to find someone; it’s that I didn’t have a lot of confidence that anything worth taking seriously (or semi-seriously) would come of it. Match wasn’t exactly a joke to me – but it wasn’t something I drilled into and made a regular part of my life either. The messages came in frequently enough to become overwhelming so I quickly learned to turn notifications off of the app on my phone and instead set aside “times” that I’d respond to anyone I wasn’t already chatting with – otherwise I knew that I’d quickly go down too many rabbit holes.
After a week or two I’d narrowed it down to two or three potentials. One guy wanted me to drive 1.5 hours to meet HIM – and I eventually decided not to pursue that because it seemed to be asking a lot to not even be willing to meet in the middle. Another guy seemed really only to be interested in chatting endlessly – which was also something I wasn’t into doing at that point. I mean there’s taking it slowly… but then there’s chatting for three weeks without even so much as a hint of meeting for coffee. I wasn’t sure what he really wanted, so I pulled back. Especially after I got asked out by a guy I’ll call Geoff.
I am sitting here, trying to “sum up” what happened there. Here’s the short version: we met for dinner, dinner turned into weeks of hanging out during most of our free time. We took our profiles down and started using labels. I took him to meet my friends. I met his. And his family. Because we’d spent so much time together, I started to fall for him. And then I DID fall for him. And then I told him I loved him (probably too soon… but again, all of the time we’d spent, the things we’d done, the people we’d met, cumulatively seemed to equal that if he wasn’t there yet, we were working toward that). But then he said, “Thank you.” Two weeks later it was over – a mutual decision, though we came to it by two different roads: him because he said he felt he could not reciprocate that feeling, me because I felt that his pullback was a punishment for possessing and expressing my emotions (which did not and do not require reciprocation – in fact, real love DOESN’T require reciprocation… ever… though in the context of any sort of relationship you definitely do need that at some point if things are ever going to grow).
I feel like, compared to some of the other stories I’ve told in these pages, this one is kind of week… kind of boring… but you know, that’s also pretty notable because I would dare to say this is maybe one of the most “normal” relationships I’ve had in the better part of a decade. No one threw anything in the floor. No one threatened to kill anyone. No one replied that they were a certain percentage “there” and then adjusted it over the course of that time based on behavior.
But I want to take a minute to examine this anyway – really just to get it off my chest but also so that I have it to come back to later – especially since it’s kind of integral to the recalibrating that I’m doing for the next “venture” into the dating attempt… into “finding normal.” And I’m going to do this from my own lens (like I do) without getting too graphic about much (I know… not the usual) and certainly, as much as I can, without pointing fingers toward anyone except myself or playing the blame game – except where blame is due (and I’m not really sure to what extent it’s due).
I’ll start by observing that we moved really fast. If I examine my calendar, I can easily see that we had dinner that one night and then made plans almost every day thereafter. There was really no time or space for me to see or talk to someone else (and I don’t know if there were others he was talking to or not – I never asked), or to even make room to play the field at all. And since I am a serial monogamist anyway, that was fine. Especially since most of the plans we made were his idea and so I thought it was safe to assume that he was fine with spending so much time together (and I think if he were reading this right now, he’d also concur).
Before we’d even kissed, I asked him if he wanted to go to Ohio with me. And New York. He agreed. Again, that was probably really fast, but I liked his company and – even if we were just going to be friends (because he hadn’t even tried to touch me yet) – I figured he’d be fun to travel with.
He slept over the first time because it had snowed. It got late, the roads re-froze and it was, admittedly, too cold and dangerous to drive back to his house. That’s why I invited him to stay, anyway. I think if I had not, he probably would have attempted to get back to his own place. I wanted him to be safe, sure, but also… well… I didn’t want him to leave either. It certainly wasn’t something I’d pre-planned… but that “staying over” line got crossed really early on too.
I worried at first that skeeping together would define things from there on out, but it didn’t. The fact that it did not was what drove me to take my profile down. He took his down too and declared himself “all (mine) all the time.” When I expressed concern that he would get tired of me, he assured me he wasn’t (and I wasn’t getting tired of him either), so I let it go and started to trust him. This is a big deal for someone with trust issues. When it came time for the Ohio trip, I was happy to introduce my friends to a really nice, not crazy guy. He fit in very well. They liked him a lot. I felt like I’d finally found a catch.
He made an effort to spoil me in ways only one other person ever has. It was easy to fall for him. It became harder and harder to stop the “I love you” words from flying out of my mouth. And I knew I was going to have to say them eventually, when I had control over them, rather than at a time when it happened haphazardly. But I really figured, at worst, because he seemed very emotionally mature, even if I did say them and he didn’t feel that way, it wouldn’t affect the trajectory of the way things were going.
Even now, I can’t say that the fact that I said the words themselves caused the end. He had already begun to change, shortly after we returned from Ohio. Things seemed different… HE seemed different. I tried not to worry about it, thinking that he’d tell me if something was up, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was “off”… I’m sure that the fact that I chose to tell him I loved him likely didn’t HELP whatever was going on in his head… but I can’t say that it caused the change because the change happened before I said the words.
I cried all the way home after I said it. I still don’t know whether it was because I was relieved that I’d done it after so much buildup or if it was because he’d said “Thank you” or if I knew, right then, that I’d done the wrong thing. I facepalmed the rest of that Sunday. I thought for sure I’d really messed it up, but then he seemed normal again… normal enough to hang out with Cole when he came to visit. Normal enough to throw a get-together at his house. Yet… after everyone went home, there was another shift.
It felt like something was hanging over our heads in a way it hadn’t before… and he held me that night more tightly than he ever had before – almost in the way you hold something that you think… or that you know… that you’re not going to have around for much longer. That scared me more than anything, but I did my best to let it go.
We talked later about what I’d said, and he said he didn’t feel the same way and didn’t know if he COULD. I replied that I didn’t need him to right then and he said he felt ok about it but didn’t want to go to New York. He said he wanted to slow down… pull back some. And I said ok and took him at his word that he was ok now. Or if they weren’t yet, that we’d work to get them there.
Things continued to disintegrate, though. He became more and more hot and cold, my anxiety levels were at an all time high. The last night he stayed here, I don’t think he even really wanted to BE here (and I wish he hadn’t stayed… it didn’t do me any favors at all, since I woke up with two panic attacks that faded only after he’d left).
I reminded myself that this was not how I wanted to live – I’d spent six years living in constant panic, in anxiety, and it made me sick. Further… I’d told myself, WAAAAAAY back in 2012 (circa 3.0), that if I was having to dip into my Xanax prescription just to date a certain man, that was not the man I needed to be with.
Something had to give. I could not live like this anymore.
On St. Patricks Day we made plans to meet. I asked him if he wanted to come over after – and to let me know one way or the other so I knew to clean my house. He said he was coming.
And so, I cleaned my house. I made my bed. I took a shower and put on makeup so I didn’t look as bad as I felt (because a sinus infection was beginning to come on). And I drove downtown and searched for a parking spot. When he got there, he asked if we could sit down before we had dinner and then said he thought we shouldn’t see each other anymore.
Without even thinking about it, I simply agreed. I look back at this now and I wonder at myself for saying it so calmly… it wasn’t that I didn’t agree (I did… things had become completely unsustainable). And I wonder at myself even more that I was able to verbalize (for the first time ever) the words I needed to use to, at the very least, stand up for myself to a person who had done the one thing I had asked him not to do – he crucified me for my feelings. Maybe not as blatantly as 3.0 did a decade ago, but by pulling away the way he had, by not talking about it… by changing – by LETTING it change him and then making me wonder WHAT had changed. And, most of all, by lying to me, and worse, lying to my best friends (who are like my family) when he was with us all.
I didn’t say all of that of course – only pointed out that he HAD punished me. It was a short, yet civil conversation. In the spirit of the entire less-than-two-month relationship, it was… well… “normal.” Even if it was the worst kind of normal. I guess I could have stayed at the concert that night, especially after he expressed that he wanted to be friends, but it didn’t seem appropriate right then. At the end of the day I feel lied to. And I feel really violated about how he slept here, in my bed, with me the Friday before, knowing he felt like this. Knowing he was going to end it.
So I went home. The last image I have of him is the sight of his Jeep heading downtown. Rather than following him out to that main road, I turned and went a different way. Since then I’ve had time to analyze this, but this post is long enough. I’ll write an analysis of what I think likely happened next week.