The first thing you’ll encounter is an overwhelming sense of resistance. You’ve gotten so good at being alone. You’ve told yourself there’s nothing more desirable than being single. You’ve probably said the phrase, “I’m just not big on commitment” or some derivative of it multiple times. And you genuinely think this. There’s a mental block there, a wall preventing you from falling again. And though it’s cliché and you expected it to be there, you’ll be surprised at how easily it crumbles down. Though you’ve convinced yourself you’ve learned your lesson—you’ve been burned and have no intention of returning your fingers to the flame—the insidious thing is that you don’t even notice it’s happening. One second you’re convinced you’re impermeable and no one breaks your heart; hell, no one can even get to it. The next, you’re surrounded by the remnants of your resolve, and you know you’re done for.
And then comes the panic, like some sort of fear bubbling in your blood. This typically coincides with the butterflies and the smiles to yourself and the stolen glances. It’s the most fucked-up combination, the adrenaline and the anxiety. You’ll spend sleepless nights wondering if you’re ready for this again, and then their name will blip on your phone or you’ll remember what it’s like to kiss them and then suddenly you don’t care anymore. And repeat, ad nauseam. And as you fall harder and harder and they get closer and closer to you and the parts of you you’d locked up and hidden away, the more scared you’re going to get. And you’ll realize you don’t actually fear commitment; that’s a cop out. It’s a fear of repetition. You’re not afraid of monogamy or settling down—you wouldn’t have gotten this far if you were. No, it’s a fear of the possibility of heartbreak. And it’s a damn cowardly fear, but the logical part of you will tell you it’s inevitable. Fortunately or unfortunately, very few people listen to logic, and you’re unlikely to be an exception, despite how hard you’ll try to fight it.
You’ll cave in, of course, because whoever it is that’s chipping away at you has convinced you inadvertently that they’re worth it and that you stand no chance of resisting anyway. Relief comes next, as all the tightly wound cables holding you back start to slacken and something inside you gives in. And you’ll still try to convince yourself you’re in control. But you’ll realize something—falling in love for the second or third or fourth time is almost exactly like the first time, but just with some frame of perspective. The same rush of endorphins, the same desire to want to know everything and every place and every bit of them, the same exchange of promises, the same memorization of them and their constant presence in your thoughts. And yet it feels like you’ve never done it before, and it somehow doesn’t bore you. In fact, you like it.
This will scare you and excite you in equal measures. But you’ve gained some grip on reality you didn’t have before and will end up trying so hard not to make the same mistakes you did before that maybe you’ll end up on the opposite end of the spectrum. That’s OK. You were the possessive, controlling girlfriend? You’ll fight every instinct you have to blow up his phone with messages. You were the lazy, inconsiderate boyfriend? Well, it’s all flowers and love notes this time around. And though your impulses will be strong, you’ve learned your lesson…you think. You hope.
And you’ll make love like you’ve never done it before. You’ll do all the stupid shit that you thought you’d never want to do again. Those love songs that used to make you sick? You’re listening and humming along. The overt public displays of affection that annoyed you when you were freshly single? Who gives a shit? You’re happy. Those little love notes you swore you’d never write again? Break out the stationery. Maybe this time those words won’t be as cheesy—and of course the lyrics and genres of “our song” will change—and perhaps you’ll try to keep your tongue in your own mouth a little more this time… but damn it if you’re going to stop yourself from doing it at all.
Every day you’re with them you move a little bit farther down the scale from the person you tried to convince yourself you were to the person you actually are, and it’s when you’ve finally gotten to the other side you know you’ve fallen, hard and irrevocably. This is one of those moments that’ll hit you square in the chest. It’ll usually happen when you’re lying in their arms or vice versa, when you’re watching them sleep softly with the rise and fall of their chest and you’re overwhelmed by the urge to never let go. And you’ll want to slap yourself as soon as you feel it. You’ll want to laugh at yourself and at this quirk of circumstance. But the one thing you won’t want to do is leave. You couldn’t even if you tried.
See, it’s an epiphany, the culmination of the millions other little ones you’ve already encountered to get this far. It’s the most terrifying one yet—that you’d gladly get your heart broken by this person. That you’d rather be here than having sex with strangers you met at the bar. That though you’re good at being alone, that you’re a full person, you’d rather be with them than without. Falling in love again isn’t about two broken people trying to fill each other’s gaps and make themselves whole again. It’s about two whole people coming to make something new together.
I guarantee you, it’s the cheesiest, most cringe-inducing realization you’ll have, but you’ll smile when you get it. Because you truly, genuinely have never felt like this before. And you truly, genuinely know this is how it’s always meant to have been.