“We’re dating, but not dating.”
He tells me this one Sunday night, my head resting on the nook of his shoulder, our hands intertwined. We had just come from the Getty, and were crashing after being in the sun all day. I had given up on trying to describe what we were doing at that point. It didn’t really matter to me. What we are, is not built to last. What we’re doing, will eventually end. The same can be true, I guess, of all relationships. But ours will have a self-inflicted ending, a choice to find something more serious.
This has always been clear. When we met, both of us were damaged, both stuck in the past, both not willing to invest energy in anything that’s real. That’s what I call it, when I call it anything. A faux romance. A faux relationship. But I think that’s what I think we do as humans. We twist people around, based on ours needs. What I wanted, when we met, was the benefits of a relationship, without the restraints of one. I wanted kisses, cuddles, sex, someone to sit and watch tv with. Someone to go out with. Someone to talk to, late at night. I am addicted to intimacy, the warmth of another person, someone I can tell my stories to.
So, without realizing what I was doing, that is what I found.
I told friends about him, and they were confused, for good reason. I couldn’t explain. Someone who I was intimate with, and not just behind closed doors. Someone who stayed the night, and well into the next day, just so he could hold me. I was confused too sometimes. But the thing was, I didn’t want more. I didn’t want to be his girlfriend.
And it’s not that he’s a bad guy. A guy that wouldn’t be worth it. He’s smart, funny, weird, and sexy. But when my last boyfriend broke up with me, I developed a skill I didn’t know I had. The ability to build walls, and keep people at arm’s length. I have no idea if this is good, or unhealthy, although I bet it’s the latter. But when I met this boy, my heart and ego were still bruised, so I let him in, but not too deep. I had no desire to fall in love, to get hurt again. I had just been burned so painfully, betrayed by someone I trusted fully. I knew people we loved could betray us, but I had not experienced it personally, at least in this way. So without really realizing it, I made a vow to myself.
You will not jump in again, with both eyes closed. At least, not yet. Take time to let yourself heal.
It’s just now that I’m understanding why I let this relationship happen the way it did. I think it was the only thing I could offer someone else. I was so sad when I met him. But I’m not in the shadow of my ex-boyfriend any longer. If he comes up in conversation now, it is rare, and is usually greeted with my girlfriends and I murmuring “asshole”, before moving on. The truest way I know this is I believe I am ready for something real. While I dreaded it before, I’m excited by the possibility of really being with someone. Of being someone’s partner.
Someone they can rely on, someone they can trust and confide in. Someone who has my back, who is ready to fall in love.
Before I met my ex, I was always able to fall in love quickly, throwing reason out the window. I want to be smarter this time around, but I don’t want to lose that completely. I like my ability to let myself go, and love someone despite their faults. To let them in. I don’t believe I’ve completely lost that. It will just be different when I do. I know what it’s like to have that pain, to live with it.
And I can’t go back.
I can’t be the person I was before it happened, I don’t know how. It makes me sad, but mostly it reminds me that I’m much stronger than I knew I could be. I am enjoying my time with this boy, in this faux relationship. But going forward, I’m breaking down my walls.
It’s time for something real.