I dated a nice guy once. I called him Mr. Red (you may recall him from Perils, part 1). He was funny, he was helpful, a good listener, and the sex was real good. I felt like I had met someone I could be with for a while, and be happy. But then he warned me… he warned me that he was not as emotionally available as I was. True, we had both been through bad breakups recently, but his had left him crippled. We talked about it, and we talked about it some more. And all the while we had fun. Granted, I was gone for a lot of the summer, what with trips and internships, but any time we got to spend together was amazingly awesomely fun.
He didn’t want a label. He didn’t want to get too close because he ‘didn’t want to hurt me’. He wasn’t ready, he kept repeating. So I tried to protect myself. We would take two steps forward, one step back; it felt kind of like some kind of tentative emotional dance. My intuition was worried… “L’s, it whispered, you like him too much, which won’t serve you well in the end.”
“I know,” I’d respond, “but I can’t turn away. The current’s too strong. If I don’t see this through I will always wonder.”
He finally awkwardly admitted that he had “feelers” for me. He felt himself getting attached… and according to him, that brought his defensive walls higher. He was scared. I was too, I didn’t want him to feel that way, but secretly I was excited. We had so much fun together, we spent every moment we could together. I hoped for the best. Maybe the scales were falling into equilibrium?
So at summer’s end I came back to Tally for the start of school, and happily into his arms. “Now,” I thought, “Maybe we can build something. Ya know, now that I’m actually here.” And it felt that way at first. We spent every night together. Unless I had class or he had work, we were together; laughing, cooking, dancing. He came with me on a mini road trip; he met my sister in Jax, my parents in Gainesville, and he met so many of my friends. I was giddy.
We had a few hiccups during that short time; a night of too much revelry which led to some weepy conversations and some panic. But we always came back to each other, still wanting to try. Then I went to Italy, on a 10 day vacation with my parents. During which, we talked when we could via FB messenger. Then he told me he had a breakdown. I’m really empathetic about those, I’ve had so many myself. I asked him to talk about it… and that talk led to him essentially admitting that he was still in love with his ex. That stung more than I can express. Yet still he said, “I want to keep seeing you, I just can’t make any promises.” I felt bad about myself after that… it felt like I was competing with this ghost… this ghost who, according to all he had shared with me about their relationship, really didn’t deserve him. In my opinion, she took advantage of his kindness and treated him like crap.
And then, I got this confusing string of messages from him…
My heart stopped… and with a rushing in my ears I responded, “You’re talking to *******, aren’t you?”
Mr. Red: …yes, I am.
Me: She wants you back now, doesn’t she…
Mr. Red: No, it’s a lot. Enjoy the rest of your trip, we’ll talk when you get back.
Me: That means she does…. If you’re planning on breaking up with me, just tell me please. I’d rather just know than spend the rest of my vacation wondering.
…Well, we all know how that conversation ended. He tried to apologize, he tried to justify. He “didn’t want to hurt me”, remember? After all, he was a ‘nice’ guy. I lashed out in anger and pain and said the typical mean things you say when you’re wounded, ‘you’re a pathetic asshole’, ‘you’re gonna get exactly what you deserve’, ‘NO, we cannot be friends, are you crazy?!’
When I added it all up in my head, I just didn’t understand. She was terrible to him. She did things I would never consider doing to someone I loved in a million years. What hurt me the most was that it felt like he didn’t even think twice. It felt like in the end, I didn’t matter at all to him. He didn’t settle down to make a pro/con list, he didn’t even need time to think it over. Just…. *poof*
Here’s the trouble, nice guys. You think that by being ‘nice’, no one will get hurt. But his actions, all his actions, completely contradicted his words. So, I beg of you, nice guys, please hear me out:
- If you’re still that hung up on your ex, you really shouldn’t be dating in the first place.
- Sometimes, you have to be a ‘jerk’. You have to keep yourself distant, both emotionally and physically.
- What does that mean, exactly? You can’t see her every day. You can’t be her shoulder to cry on. You can’t talk with her about her fears and her problems with depression and anxiety and then tell her that you may be the man who can handle her special brand of “crazy” (*Sigh*, yeah he told me that).
- You have to recognize the kind of heart you’ve got in your hands. If you want to protect it, you have to figure out just how much to hold back. Sometimes, that means cracking that heart in the beginning; otherwise, her pain will just be worse down the road
- Understand that you have an immense amount of power in a situation like that… and to be utterly cliche, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’
- Because if you don’t do these things, you are going to hurt her. You may not want to, but you will. It’s an inevitability.
I want to hate him, but of course most of me doesn’t. Most of me just wants something I’ll never get: for him to feel bad, for him to miss me. But relationships are never like they are in the movies. Getting dumped sucks, and I’ll get no Say Anything salve.
So, I accept the pain of rejection and hope that one day that Nice guy, that guy that actually can handle my ‘crazy’, will show up already. *Looks at watch and then eats obligatory break-up ice cream as she binge-watches Netflix*