When we last left our heroine, it was autumn, and just like the leaves on the trees, her perception was about to change...*
I have never decided when to be in a relationship.
I suppose that before relationships got complicated for me, they were easy to get into: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, they become boyfriend and girlfriend. Easy as that.
Then there's the rest of the story - and all the stories that have brought me to the place I am at right now: Boy breaks girl's heart. Girl outgrows relationship. Boy and Girl grow apart. Boy has girlfriend on the side. Girl has commitment issues. Boy has been hurt. Girl is 33 and jaded. Girl goes on strike. Girl has life-changing epiphanies. Girl realizes she has never initiated a relationship.
It isn't as romantic of a story and one that is rarely told, but it's true. I've never been a part of the process of getting into a relationship. I know that sounds odd, but I've never really been the one to decide when to get into a relationship. I've always waited to be told when it's time to be together.
Once, when I was in middle school, I had a friend come up to me and say "you should like Jason. I was trying to think of a girlfriend for him, and I thought of you. He wants to go out with you and I think you would be a cute couple." I had never even thought of Jason as a potential boyfriend but since he liked me and wanted to date me, I went ahead and said yes. Fortunately, Jason was a great boyfriend and definitely a good "puppy love" story. Unfortunately, being told when to get into a relationship is a pattern I have continued.
I've never taken the time to go through the process of getting to know someone and allowing my feelings to grow for him - naturally and organically. Any relationship I have been in has consisted of me meeting someone and jumping into being boyfriend/girlfriend and then we would begin the task of getting to know one another. As I wrote in part one, I jumped into relationships because I needed the validation. Quickly getting into a relationship made me feel like I was wanted - and I liked it. When a man wanted to be with me without really knowing me, I had the reassurance that he liked me and even better, there was a guarantee that I wasn't going to be rejected. After a while, the guarantee wasn't enough and I would crave more validation. It was a viscous cycle of insatiable need that always ended badly.
The flip side of an instant relationship is being rejected or worse, being strung along. The award for the longest string still goes to Astro Boy, who, despite wanting to be with me every single day wouldn't commit to me. Never mind that we functioned like boyfriend and girlfriend, I never got the label of being his girlfriend and never got the validation I needed in order to feel safe and secure with him. I wasted a lot of time on him - as well as all the first dates I went on, knowing full well that a relationship wasn't going to transpire. I went on the dates because I needed the attention and whatever fake affection I was going to receive. While I can sum up in about five minutes whether or not I am going to click with someone, I was still giving out my phone number and going on the dates because I just needed to feel wanted.
Lately, I've been thinking about who I am and who I want to be, both on my own and in a relationship. As I said last week, a possibility that I had given up on a long time ago became a possibility once again. When the possibility first arose, I wanted to jump into a relationship immediately because there was a spark. The spark didn't lead to anything and I gave up on the possibility of us. Two years later, the spark appeared again and now burns a little brighter, a little stronger - and the path we are on requires more patience than I ever thought possible.
At first, I thought the pace of this path would kill me. Walking a path with someone who has requested patience is just about the hardest path I've ever been on when it comes to relationships. Taking things slow and learning about each other has taken me to the depths of my issues around rejection and abandonment. There are times I would rather give up and just go on some first date (with some guy who won't be 1/16 of the man that this person is), but then I remember the lessons I am learning through this process and that there is so much more to gain versus losing. What I have found out about myself is so much more valuable than I could have imagined. For the first time in my life, I realize that I have the opportunity to question whether or not I want to be in a relationship.
This isn't a thought that occurred to me right away. At first, I thought I was just waiting for him to be ready (as has been the case with men in my past). I figured I would stick around for a while and see what happened, all the while keeping my guard up. As we began to communicate and really get to know each other, I began to realize that getting to know someone is something I've never done before. I also realized that I am not necessarily ready to just jump into a relationship. In the past, I found myself getting into relationships because I was too afraid that no one else would want me. Because we are walking our paths and not jumping off a cliff, I'm also getting the chance to get to know myself, and the desperation continues to disappear.
I have learned that I don't need daily calls and texts in order to feel validated. I don't need constant reassurance to feel safe and secure. I am learning that I am enough. I'm learning that trust is something that is earned and that he is learning to trust me as much as I am learning to trust him - and we are learning to trust ourselves in the process. I am learning to speak up and voice my needs without being afraid that I am going to chase him away. I get scared at times, and I have to remind myself that we are building something on our own terms and walking our individual paths - and even if our paths don't eventually cross, I would rather go through this process than go on a million first dates. He's worth it, and so am I.
The story goes like this: Boy and Girl met a long time ago. Boy and Girl are finally getting to know each other. Girl is discovering that she is so much stronger than she ever thought she was and has the power to make decisions on her terms. Girl is learning to trust herself and will know when she is ready for a relationship. When she is, Girl will make the right decision. That is a guarantee.
Next time: A Lot of Friends
*For the whole story, read parts one and two.