Intimacy is a funny thing. When you open yourself up to someone, you’re exposed. Naked emotionally and physically. But you don’t have control over how the other person will act or react to the exposure. All you can do is hope you both will be honest, open and willing to learn together in the process.
I don’t think anyone goes into a relationship thinking there will be an expiration date. Or knowing when. Some relationships last as long as canned soup. Others, romaine lettuce. The reality is the majority of us will date a lot of lettuce before we find our life partner. A tipping point will be reached and we just outgrow the person we are with. We stop learning, we stop being honest with each other, stop compromising, and sadly, stop loving.
Matters of the heart is a school of hard knocks. Lessons cannot be learned in books, in movies or through others. We learn to love through kisses, hugs, tears, heartbreak, pain, frustration and late-night fights until we find acceptance and understanding. Or let it go.
I met the first person I truly cared about in a summertime romance when I was 16. Everything was lovely and enchanting. He was “the hot guy.” The one that I thought was too attractive or too cool for me. He was three years older. A college guy. All the girls around me wanted to steal his attention. But I stole his. And when I would catch other girls glancing over, I’d smirk a little inside. He picked me.
We climbed up light towers and watched summer sunrises. We went on long drives in his Mitsubishi, belting every song on the radio. I’d sneak into his house after his parents went to sleep and we’d make out on his couch for hours. It was perfect and innocent.
When the summer ended and I had to say goodbye, I sat on his driveway, not wanting to let go. He said he’d always call, and he did. But, in time, the calls dwindled down to zero. The phone never rang, and I found out he met someone else that fall. But, I always wondered “what if?”
Five years later, I moved to New York, and learned he lived a few neighborhoods away. I reached out and he invited me over for dinner. We ate. We drank. We laughed. We caught up on our lives. We kissed and even slept together. I woke up the next morning, next to this guy whom I’d been asking “what if?” about for years. The one who put butterflies in my stomach and hope in my head. It wasn’t there anymore. It felt like we were two completely different people holding on to this fragment in time where we were perfect for each other. It was long gone. I kissed him goodbye and realized goodbye really meant goodbye.
There will always be the one that is poisonous. Kryptonite. All logic tell us to run far, far away. But angel eyes and sweet words cloud all judgment and blind us to reality. For me, this one was the one I shared all my firsts with. He was the first boy I shared my hopes, my dreams and my fears with. The one I first got drunk with. Had my first cigarette with. He’s even the one I lost my virginity to.
Years later, we found each other at a time when I was lost, in the darkness, looking for light. Because of our history, I felt like I could trust him absolutely. I gave him so much of myself. And I needed something back. I needed a rock. I needed someone to be there. But he was just as broken as me. He led me along a destructive path because I was lost and not strong enough to turn around.
Don’t let others forge your path because you’re lost.
I fell for my first love pretty hard. We met when we were studying abroad. At the time, he was absolutely not my type. He was sort of a hipster, overly academic, extremely opinionated – almost to a fault. I was an overly bubbly, blonde sorority girl from a part of town that he loathed. I realized there is something to the fact that opposites attract. Over the course of our relationship, we sort of ended up meeting in the middle and our extremely opposite personalities seemed to mesh into a compromise. We were perfect for each other in every way.
Until we weren’t.
I’ll never forget the day he broke up with me. I think part of me thought that day would never come. That he’d be my one and only. I know nothing is out of the blue, but it felt like this was. I spent countless sleepless, wet-pillow nights wondering what went wrong. Praying he’d wake up and realize he made a huge mistake letting me go.
Catharsis came two years later. When he finally explained to me I had done absolutely nothing wrong. We were just at two different places at the same time. And had he been a little more mature or prepared for a relationship that serious, things would probably have turned out differently. Which sucks.
Different doesn’t mean incompatible. But it does take compromise.
Differences are hard. And not just differences in taste of music or the sports teams you root for (even as intense as those can be). The most frustrating difference I’ve experienced in a relationship is when you have different emotional needs and process things differently than your partner. I have an artistic temperament. I’m extremely open and vocal about what and how I feel – from organic food to abortion. When a type of person like me is involved with someone who is more reserved, more introverted, and incredibly careful with emotions, it is ground for a lot of miscommunication and a lot of frustration. Because both parties just do not truly understand how the other person ticks.
After countless frustrating conversations, it’s easy to question whether it’s worth it. But as long as there is care, love and each party is willing to give a little and meet halfway, it works. I’ve learned to dial-in some of the silly things that make me crazy and he has learned to deal with the fact I emotionally unload when I am stressed instead of sequestering. In return, I’ve learned to give him space and time when he needs it.
Every experience we have in love and the pursuit of love is a growth experience. The more ones I find, the easier it gets. I learn more about myself. The things that set me off, the things that bring me joy. I know what I am willing to give and what I expect to receive. I trust myself and my judgment.
Not every one will be the one. But I’ve found it’s best to give some ones a shot and be surprised how much you learn.