Prologue – There are some things in my life that are incredibly difficult to write about, but these days I think perhaps they are the most important for me to tackle. These are the things we tend to hold in, our private miseries that expose us as vulnerable and human, bringing all of our insecurities to the surface and making us fear that exposing them them may make us have to admit some of them as true.
But if I try to articulate this when I am still trying to come to terms with it all, it may help others who are going through it themselves. Or it may remind them that they are not alone. Because the story isn’t unusual and many of us share it. And from being there with many others who have gone through it (and having gone through it myself a time or two), I know there really should be no shame in it. I have always been very private about my romantic life, at the threat-to-national-security security clearance level (as friends and family can attest), but when trying to live out loud we sometimes need to share parts of that story….because it is a very big part of who we are.
I found myself falling for him, this guy I knew. He was intelligent and funny. Compassionate. Kind. He had the ability to be friends with both men and women, something important to me, who counts both among my closest friends. I have had to end several relationships because men were not comfortable with this part of my life. He gave me great advice, advice that rang true with who I am and what I believe. He encouraged me to do hard things and supported me as I did them. He told me stories that were both funny and heartbreaking. He was easy to talk with on any number of subjects. We could go from silly to serious in the same sentence. I could say anything without offending or embarrassing. He made my life better and more fun.
But, as I look back, there was never any true indication that he was interested in me as more than a friend. Oh, I wanted to make it so. He banters well, and is engaging and flirty. I read more into it than he ever intended. I thought maybe his feelings were on the same level as mine. The “maybe” in that sentence is significant….a part of me also knew maybe not. Probably not. The sign I wanted to ignore? While we were in constant communication, he never craved spending time with me. He would never inconvenience himself for me. He was satisfied with a text life and not much more. I struggled with that throughout, but would always make excuses for it. He was tired, he was stressed, his life was just too complicated now. All true, and possibly real factors, but still when it gets down to it, it really doesn’t matter. The conclusion is the same. I was trying to force a relationship.
Sometimes you have to face the fact that they’re “just not that into you”. My friend Steve raised a lot of that to the surface when I was explaining it all to him and he made me answer out loud the questions I had been asking myself. Not liking the answers I had tried to avoid them and spin them into something that was not quite the truth. But I can’t lie, or avoid the truth, with good friends or when speaking out loud. Steve’s line of questioning was quite like a deprogramming. My mind had joined the cult of stupid and I needed to face facts. Stellar friend that he is, Steve was not going to let me stay in my fantasy land, which was a fun place to be most of the time, quite honestly, and I did resist vacating the premises.
Steve kept going back to a few points. The biggest, the one that would cover all of my excuses, was “Men are simple. You’re trying to make him complicated.” I was. I could come up with believable reasons for all inconsistent behavior. But as Steve pointed out, if a man is really interested in you, they will crave your presence. Their nature will force them to pursue you. It will not seem like an inconvenience, or too much work, or something that will add stress to their life. Relationships, good relationships, make life richer and take stress away. The phrase I like to use is “salve for the soul.” Good relationships heal us and strengthen us and make us feel better about who we are. If someone really wants that relationship with you, nothing will get in the way of making it happen.
Other questions that Steve asked me several times (being a lawyer he would ask me to answer the same questions over and over until he felt that I “got it”) was “Do you think you are good for him? Do you think you would make his life better?” Those questions seemed weird to me at first, but when I said “Yes!” for about the third time Steve said “Then can you see that this is about him, it’s not about you?” While I still struggle with this conclusion, it did make me look at it in a different light. I think we were/are good for each other. Truth is that at this time he just didn’t fully want what I had to offer. He didn’t share my vision of us. Or, darn it, he just wasn’t really attracted to me. Whatever the truth, we just weren’t in sync. And no matter what, you can’t dictate another person’s point of view. Nor should you want to.
But it is most important to say that this guy is not a jerk (as we often tell our friends they are when a guy isn’t interested in them) for not feeling about me the way I feel about him. You feel what you feel. So many factors impact. There is often no rhyme or reason. When I looked back at it all, the signs are so clear. He had never made promises or proclamations or had done anything but be who he was, where he was. I see now that in some ways he warned me. He told me what his priorities were and a romantic relationship wasn’t one of them. But the logical conclusion just wasn’t where I wanted to head, so I ignored it.
This weekend (after my de-programming was complete) I finally did tell him that I had realized he “just wasn’t that into me” (by text….it seemed fitting, though that may have been wrong. I’m not always brave), and he somewhat tried to deny it. He said he felt we were headed in the relationship direction, but we were becoming friends first. He said he just wanted to proceed into the relationship slowly because he had made the mistake of moving too fast in the past. But he really didn’t argue with any sort of intensity. I think he was just being kind. Or is shielding himself from the reality, too. I’m fine with moving slowly in relationships, in being friends first. I think that is often a wise course of action. But even when developing friendships you need/you want to spend time together. If there is always an excuse not to do so, does that person really want to be your friend ? Your real friends find ways to spend time with you, even when their lives are busy or there are other obstacles. They open their life up to you. They draw you close. Because once again, you are salve to their soul and they to yours. You interest them, you delight them. You are not a burden that adds to their load. If you’re keeping each other at arm’s length (or keeping miles between you, all of the time), how is it possible to grow a relationship? There’s slow and there’s no.
It’s tough to be single. I really don’t want to go through this part of my life alone, but alone is much better than hanging out in someone’s waiting room for an appointment that is not on their schedule. During this time of life I am resolved to be braver, take chances, and boldly go after what I want. I deal with reality, operate from a position of strength….and try to overcome my weakness.
Truth is I want to share my life now with a great love. It may not ever happen, but I remain hopeful and open to it. I will continue to look for someone with this guy’s great qualities – someone smart, funny, mature, kind, hard-working, and an encouragement to me being the best me I can be – but I also need someone who is willing, ready, and able to hold my hand and jump into the relationship together. Settling for less leads to heartbreak almost all of the time. If he couldn’t jump with me, it was time to walk away from the possibility and instead be available for another guy. A guy who will look at me and smile and willingly (and a bit recklessly), reach for my hand and jump. If you run into this guy, send him my way. Because I am ready for him now. I am also willing to wait for him and I still vow not to settle for less.
Postscript – It was incredibly painful (and frankly a bit humiliating) as I began writing this, but I knew I had to do it. Even if the idea of it made a bit sick. Once I started, I found it helped my perspective. Several of my friends have been through various relationship disasters lately, and have bravely shared with me their personal pain. I need to be willing to do the same, but to even do it a bit more openly. I think we need to discuss these things with each other more, and not keep them hidden. We need to release it and be open to better. When we hold it in, often we end up letting it do major damage….such as making us see ourselves as less than we are….and hardening ourselves to the beautiful possibilities we can gain by learning from our mistakes (if we made mistakes) and being ready for what comes next.
Truth is this….it’s been worth every emotion given or gained. I don’t regret a moment. I am not broken….though admittedly there are a few cracks. They will heal and make me stronger and more interesting. My life is richer for knowing him and having gone through it all. Hopefully he will come to trust me as a friend, as I do him.
The most important lesson I’ve taken away for my single friends? There are amazing folks out there (this guy an example….not an exclusion). We need to keep our eyes open and try until the right combination and the right timing clicks into place. We need to enjoy the journey until we realize it’s not good for us, or them, and then we move away and towards something that is. I have tons of amazing single friends. Really spectacular women and men. When you other singles find one that attracts your attention…..don’t hesitate to get to know them. They just may be waiting for you. Be kind, and as honest as you can be throughout. If things don’t work out, end it well and turn around and try again. Let’s explore the possibilities and have fun in the pursuit. It should be fun, and it shouldn’t shatter us. Because they’re “just not into us” does not mean we are lacking. It means nothing except it’s time to move on towards someone who is.