Falling in Love On Fridays: Tomorrow or Ten Years from Now

It’s no secret that I’m a little skeptical about online dating. Though I’ve technically been a participant in the love interwebs for years (off and on), I’ve yet to find what I consider someone I’m into enough to date long term. I know that statistics show that lots of people meet their significant others online (1 in 5!) but I just haven’t found much success and often feel like throwing in the towel. But my friend from college, J, makes me want to give it another try. She’s recently engaged to a man she met online and their story will make you get on Match for an hour tonight. No joke. Oh – and just try not to cry during the proposal video. If you want to write your own Falling in Love on Fridays post, click here.

Tomorrow or Ten Years from Now

After getting dumped by my boyfriend of two years, I had given up on love.  I would go out, flirt with guys at the bar, and then go home disappointed, realizing that there were no good men out there. I felt like a sad imitation of the gals from Sex and the City: Hopelessly romantic and also a little hopeless… After one of my nights with my girl friend Lillian (and way more than my half of the bottle of wine), I decided it would be cathartic to create an online dating profile. That way, my not-completely-sober self rationalized, I could highlight my best qualities, something I don’t often do in my self-critiques and realize how awesome I am.

I created a profile on a religious dating site, mainly because the guys my friends found on regular dating sites turned out to be absolutely horrific. Immediately, I was receiving messages and emoticons from guys, some of whom were too old, a little creepy, and just so, so wrong for me. It made me laugh a little, though, and I felt better about myself, realizing that at least somewhere out there, guys thought I was worth pursuing.

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I took a break from the site and retreated to the beaches of North Carolina under the pretense of house sitting for a friend. She was visiting her boyfriend over the 4th of July holiday, so I had 4 days by myself, with only her dog and my dog to keep me company. I laid out, got some sun, read, wrote, and just allowed myself to accept where I was in life.  Like most of my trips to the beach, the salt water washed away my worries. Here I was, surrounded by thousands of tourists, with no one sitting next to me. No one talking to me. I was alone among the masses, and I felt more at peace than I had in a long time. I finally accepted that it was okay to be alone, and that refocusing on improving myself was now a priority.

I drove home refreshed, realizing that for the first time in a long time, I was freed from my insecurities, from my unhappiness. I was me once more, made whole by the sand, sun, and surf. It had been a month since I had joined the dating site, and I thought to myself, “Give it one more go.” After all, I was back to myself, the type of girl who could look on something like a dating website as an opportunity and not necessarily a last resort.

I had a few messages from a few different guys, but none of them really caught my eye. So I did what any girl would do: Scroll through the guys in my area until I found a cute one and then stalk him. I wasn’t planning on messaging anyone, since I still just had the “free profile” that wouldn’t let me send messages, but it was fun to “browse” the available men. One page down, then another.It was interesting seeing the men in my demographic and how varied they were. And then, I saw him. Tall. Good looking. Not too old. Not already divorced. Professionally successful. To say I fell in love with a picture and profile is a stretch, but it was close.

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My newfound sense of purpose gave me the courage to bite the bullet and send my first message, something I equated to walking up to a guy at a bar. Really, was there any difference between me approaching a stranger at my local watering hole and sending a message through a social forum? No, I told myself, there wasn’t. Plus, if he immediately rejects you or doesn’t respond, you don’t have to slink away in front of his friends and a bunch of random strangers. I typed out my short message and hit “send” before I lost my resolve. Then it was time to sit back and wait…

A day later, as I was checking my email, a notification message from the site popped up. The mysterious “Brad” had responded to my message. Thrilled that my first foray into online dating had resulted in at least a consensual message, I clicked open my email and read his brief message which was punctuated with tons of questions. What did I do? How did I like NC? Where all have I traveled to? I eagerly replied, answering each question in depth, wanting to give him the fullest version of myself. I hit “send” again and felt a sense of hope. Hope in my newfound freedom. Hope in this conversation with a stranger. Hope in myself.

We officially had our first date at a minor league baseball game, way better than the coffee date that was originally planned. He changed it last minute due to my love for the sport. We laughed. We ate hot dogs. We danced and sang to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” We stood next to my car, and he pointed out the stars to me.  Then we went on a second date. Then we had lunch. And then… and then… The days turned into weeks. The weeks turned in to months. He met my friends. I met his. Then he met my family. And then I met his. We started speaking about the future, marriage, kids, family, all the things you plan for in your head when you’re with someone you love. And every time we talked about it, every time he got nervous thinking about the future, I’d tell him the same thing: “I’ll marry you tomorrow, and I’ll marry you 10 years from now.”

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For the first time, I didn’t need a ring to define my relationship. I knew I had found the one, the guy who could make me laugh until I cried and who could cure my tears with laughter. So many people say, “I knew he was the one…” and I finally knew what they meant. It didn’t matter to me how long it would take. Our friends started asking about engagement, proposals, the possible future wedding. And as always, I’d tell him, “I’ll marry you tomorrow, and I’ll marry you 10 years from now.”

We celebrated Christmas. We celebrated New Years. We went dancing and cooked dinners for each other. Each and every day, I woke up feeling happy. He didn’t define me. He still doesn’t. I was finally in a place where I was comfortable with myself, and I found someone who loved me for me. All my faults and failures, he accepted. Through his loving me, showing me how someone else could view me, he allowed me to learn to love myself, and for this, I will be forever grateful to him.

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People get cynical when it comes to online dating. I knew I was. For months after we started dating, people would ask, “So, how did you two meet?” and Brad and I would both exchange a look. I was the only one able to tell the story with a straight face because to both of us, it was still so ridiculous. We’re old-fashioned, and we met through the internet? But somehow, in this crazy mess of life, we found each other. In the end, the means of how we met don’t matter. Boy meets girl. Girl falls for guy. It’s a story as old as time.

The Guy I Met at the Dog Park

The sun radiated over the Hudson River, warming my face and creating shadows across the pages. I tried to look up to catch a glimpse of the sunset, it’s endless weaves of orange and yellow hues luring me in, but the light was too bright, my eyes too sensitive. This was surely the best time of the day to be at Riverside Park, a place I frequent if not for its quiet beauty but for its proximity to my apartment. The dog run is just a few blocks away and on evenings like last night, when I was too tired to run and to curious to just sit at home on Netflix, reading with a latte while Lucy plays is just about the perfect end to a hectic workday.

I didn’t put any effort into my appearance, instead, I just slipped off my work attire and melted myself into sweatpants I’ve had longer than I’ve been with any boyfriend. I pulled my hair into a crisp, loose bun and with a quick dab of Chapstick, I was out of the door and in the park by 7:30. While the sun played hide-and-seek in between the trees and stinging my eyes, I cursed myself for not bringing sunglasses, and worried that my lack of view would make it impossible to save Lucy from the occasional mean dog who mistakes her for a plush toy.

Scanning the dirt field to ensure her safety, my eyes watched a shadowy figure enter the park. I couldn’t make out any features, but I could see the width of his shoulders, the length of his legs. He threw a tennis ball and a black-and-white puppy chased after it, and through the rays of sunlight, I could make out a slight, yet gleaming, smile. I immediately look to his left hand, searching for a symbol of commitment, but hoping for a sign that he’s single. I watch the dog scatter around the park, clearly not much more than a few months old, and as if she could read my mind, Lucy wanders over to the dog, happy and eager to make a new friend.

As I usually do, I hold my breath while waiting to see if the dog of the handsome owner will be kind toward my girl, but I relax when I see them start to play and smile as I hear the stranger with a face I haven’t seen yet, come and sit down at the bench next to me. He brought a book too, though I can’t make out the cover. He glances over at me and grins. I return the gesture. With my legs curled up underneath me, I shuffle just enough to make my stretchy everyday pants look somewhat attractive, and I return my focus to the book I can no longer concentrate on since there is a possibility just a few feet away. He calls after his dog – Cecilia – and Lucy follows closely behind, most literally chasing her pal’s tail. Without hesitation, I see my white fur ball hop into this man’s lap, and though I apologize for her sudden breaking the rules of the dog run, I also make a mental note to give her some extra treats for being such a great wingdog.

“Oh I’m so sorry! She’s too friendly for her own good,” I say, quickly standing up and walking to retrieve her.

“It’s fine, really. This one is a trouble-maker too…,” he responds, looking at me for the first time. His eyes are blue. My heart clenches onto a fragile piece of hope it hasn’t felt in a long time. Don’t let your mind create romantic visions, Lindsay. Don’t do it. You’ve only just met a man, he means nothing. Not yet. Maybe not ever, I remind myself.

But it was too late, I could feel the fantasy starting to brew:

They met at the dog park on a beautiful August day in 2013. She wasn’t feeling her prettiest, but then again, her mother always told her that she’d meet someone when she least expected it and especially when she wasn’t trying at all. He saw her when he first walked in but she was devouring her book, barely looking up and he had thought she didn’t notice him at all. He loved the way she seemed so comfortable and confident, like she came to this park every single day, just to read, perhaps to play. The dogs must have known it first, before either of them could sense the chemistry that was so easily evident between them. Once she stood up, he knew he’d have to ask her out. When she looked into his eyes and finally saw his face from behind the sunlit cloud, she hoped he’d at least offer to buy her a drink. And he did. Five minutes later, they were sitting at the Riverside Park Café, looking out onto the river that wraps around the city they’re not from, but a place they both love more than anything. It had taken long enough to find one another, but here they were.

… she’s still a puppy, actually. Trying to train her and it’s really tough,” he continued, breaking me out of my daydream and back to reality, where Lucy was kicking dirt on my leg while licking my feet.

Oh, do you take her to PetCo? I really enjoyed the program when Lucy was her age,” I offered and he nodded along, squinting up with the sun in his eyes.

“I’ll have to look into that. You must be a regular here, huh?” He grins, placing his hand above his brow to look at me.

We talk about the area and raising dogs, and something tingles inside of me, even though I really do know better than to read too much into meet-cutes. He gets up and we walk around, chatting about our lives in the city, and throwing the ball that Cici chases and Lucy then chases after Cici. I can feel the tension grow, and though I try my very best to never be desperate, I desperately plead with the universe to make the sunset last longer so the darkness doesn’t come and swallow away this beautiful scenery, in this beautiful span of time, where for the first time, in a long time, I’m actually entertained talking to a man.

“Mark!” I hear as his attention changes quickly, and I realize we hadn’t exchanged our own names, just our pets’ names. I brace myself – and cross my fingers – that I’ll see a sister or a mother when I turn to face whoever is calling his name. She’s a beautiful brunette, wearing the same running shoes that I have. She looks pretty, even post-run, and Cici jumps up to greet her, and she tells her to sit in between giggles, just like I would if Lucy did the same. He goes up and embraces her, and then introduces me to his…

..fiancé.

She shakes with her left hand – possibly because she might feel a bit threatened – and I admire her sparkly diamond. He tells her all of the helpful advice I gave him: where to get their dog groomed inexpensively, joints that allow dogs to sit at the bar stool next to you, where to get the best deal on training pads and waste bags. I nod through the conversation as his bride-to-be excitedly thanks me for all of the help, and just as quickly as it happened, they walk away, hand-in-hand with Cici… into the sunset.

Okay, not really – it was mostly dark by then, but it sure felt that way.

I knew I had two choices in that moment: I could get discouraged and disappointed that my almost-date turned out to be taken or I could remember that not everything is ever as it seems. Yes, they’re engaged, maybe they’ve even set a date. Perhaps he’s uncertain about their future and they don’t actual click in all areas of their relationship. They could argue every day and have mismatched sex drives, she could have laid down the law of the ultimatum, forcing him into engagement after several years of dating. They could be college or high school sweethearts that would rather get hitched than to figure out the dating life post-university, or he could be a terrible boyfriend that she’s settling by marrying. There could be a million things wrong with their relationship or nothing at all. But no matter of how it’s going or how it’ll end up or who those people are, I’ll never know.

And they’ll never know much more about me.

To Mark, maybe I was just an opportunity to talk to a pretty girl other than his girlfriend, or maybe as a new pet owner, he could relieve some anxiety from someone who has it – at least somewhat – figured out. I could be the symbol of freedom that he sometimes misses, no matter how satisfied he is with his relationship. He may see me as a younger version of the life he once had or wish he had, where he could just sit by himself in the park, passing time without being pulled away or distracted by anything than your own timeline, bedtime, deadline. He may envy the power of independence or long for one single day without wedding planning or trying to decide what to cook for dinner or being nagged to take out the trash. He may see some value in my current status that I’ll never see until I no longer have it.

Or it could have just been a simple, short and quite meaningless conversation on a Tuesday night.

But regardless of what it meant or didn’t mean, what it symbolized or not, the truth is that no matter what part of the pond you stand – the single or the taken side – the grass always looks a little greener. At least every once in a while, anyway.

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This Won’t Be The Last Time

This won’t be the last time you cry.

You’ll cry when something, somewhere reminds you of something, somewhere you did together. You’ll cry when another week has passed, another month, and you haven’t heard his voice or about his life. You’ll cry when you spend the evening at the bier garden and you’ll swear you can feel him around you, but you only realize that maybe you’re going crazier than what you thought. You’ll cry when you’ve had a little bit too much and you long for the arms you knew instead of the silence you hate. You’ll cry after a particularly stressful and successful week at work because you want so badly to share your news and your trials, but the person you yearn to tell the most is no longer your person. You’ll cry when your friends say that maybe, now, this time, you should really move on. You’ll cry because you know they’re right.

No, this won’t be the last time you will cry.

You’ll cry after a Friday night date with a nice enough guy in a nice enough place where you had a nice enough evening. You’ll cry because he didn’t laugh at your silly joke the same way, or because you didn’t get that rush in your heart that you’re convinced is only reserved for people in fairy tales and on your Facebook timeline. You’ll cry because you’re terrified that feeling won’t happen again, but you date to give yourself hope that maybe it will. You’ll cry because you should be stronger and prouder, more mature and more resilient than what you are. You’ll cry because everyone tells you time will heal, but time just seems like it makes you feel.

No, I’m sorry. This won’t be the last time you cry.

You’ll cry when you meet a wonderful, incredible man on a Tuesday afternoon at a coffee shop on Fifth. You’ll cry not because you’re sad or defeated but because you can sense even the tiniest speck of hope starting to spread inside that you thought had turned bitterly cold. You’ll cry when he does call you when he says he will. When you feel yourself falling for him after only four dates. You’ll cry because again, you’re back in this place- the scary place – where your eyes turn to rose, your heart grows fuzzy, your belief in love expands. You’ll cry because it’s here you are the most vulnerable; it’s from here where you know things can turn terribly sour, or unlike before, go incredibly wonderfully. You’ll cry because you don’t want to wait around to find out but the optimist in you — the romantic– knows you will.

No, as much as you pray it will, this won’t be the last time you’ll cry.

You’ll cry when after more breakups and makeups, long fights and guys who weren’t worth your time, you find one who is. You’ll cry because you were proven wrong, that really, love is in your cards after all. You’ll cry when that man – who is less and more than what you imagined he would be — gets down on one knee and asks to share this life with you. You’ll cry as you agree in that surprising moment and at that altar, where he looks equally as uncomfortable in a penguin suit. You’ll cry when you share all those firsts together: first home, first time you have sex in that home, first time you get tired of having all his stuff around, the first time he says something he didn’t mean. The first time you do. You’ll cry because even though you married that perfect man for you, he is still intolerably human, and so are you. You’ll cry when hurt each other and when you come together in that king bed to get over it. You’ll cry because you learned how to love and how to be loved unconditionally.

No really, this won’t be the last time you cry.

You’ll cry when the stick is positive. You’ll cry when you first feel that tiny kick from a tiny person growing inside of you. You’ll cry because it’s Wednesday and you’re pregnant, and you don’t need much more of a reason than that. You’ll cry – and moan and yell and scream and think your body can’t handle it – when you give birth to that baby. You’ll cry when you hear her cry for the first time. You’ll cry when she calls you “mom” and when she walks without your help. You’ll cry in your car – or on the street – on her first day of school, both preschool and kindergarten. And first and fifth grade. You’ll cry when she doesn’t win the spelling bee or the soccer game, when she starts noticing differences you hoped she wouldn’t. You’ll cry when she no longer needs you to hold her hand when she crosses the road or to cook her breakfast in the morning. You’ll cry when you see her growing up day by day, month by month, year by year, older and older, more and more out of your reach. You’ll cry when she comes home from middle school, upset that the curly-haired boy in her class checked “no” when she hoped he’d check “yes,” and she asks you if she’ll ever have to feel this way again because it hurts so badly.

And you’ll tell her, “Yes sweetie, this won’t be the last time you’ll cry. But I promise, it will get better. So much better.”

Love Me That Much

Today, sitting on the boardwalk at Long Beach with Mr. Possibility eating the unhealthiest lunch you could imagine (Italian ice, nachos and hot dogs with a side of Red Bull and Vitamin Water), I was so distracted by an elderly couple a few benches down, I hardly heard a word Mr. P said.

The couple, probably in their late 80s, wearing matching yellow polos and khaki pants ate chocolate ice cream cones while they watched the kiddos (yeah, us 20-somethings) frolic on the beach below. It appeared the woman wasn’t completely there, as a nurse aid sat feet from them, observing sorta-intently. But the couple talked, the woman laughed. The man looked at her with love in his wrinkled eyes. She smiled up at him. And ice cream dripped from her chin to nearly her knees, staining her Land’s End-inspired attire.

He didn’t notice at first and neither did the nurse (who was now engaged in an intense conversation on her cell phone in Spanish), but then he saw the destruction. He grabbed his own napkin and opened it to reveal the clean part inside and started rubbing her face before he realized he just didn’t have enough. He looked over at the concession stand and then at the nurse helplessly, probably thinking he couldn’t leave her alone but needed to get something to clean up the mess.

Maybe it’s my Southern manners or my tender heart that leads me to tears during Animal Shelter commercial with Sarah Mclahlan singing, but I instinctively stood up in the middle of Mr. Possibility going on about something (as he usually does) and ran to get a handful of cheap quality paper towels. By the time I reached them, the nurse had came to the rescue but without proper tools. She looked relieved when I showed up with my gift and thanked me profusely. I grinned at the couple and they returned the gesture to me.

“It’s good ice cream, isn’t it sweetie?” The man asked his wife. She nodded sweetly and looked up at me, maybe trying to find words, maybe  unsure of what was going on. I wished them a good day at the beach and the man labeled me a “kind young woman” as I walked away to rejoin Mr. Possibility and his miniature pile of nachos.

Though we enjoyed the rest of the day by the shore and now both have sunburns to show for it (apparently an Irish background doesn’t serve anyone well in the blistering sun), as we caught the LIRR back to Penn, I couldn’t get the image of those woman’s eyes out of my head. They were light blue and freckled with specs of green, just like mine. There were lines and ages spots lining her lashes like liner, but she still breathed an air of youth and naivety. She was beautiful in a way someone can only be beautiful once they’ve loved a lot, lost a lot and have found a peace within themselves and their lives. It’s not a beauty I’ll ever claim, but maybe some 20-something will see that same luster in me one day.

Looking over at Mr. Possibility as he reads his second book of the summer, holding his bookmark (a picture of us) in his hand, I thought about age. Could I love someone through decades of trials? Through career and baby bumps, mortgages and struggles, carpooling and soccer games, ballet lessons and retirement funds? When they start to lose their hair or when it turns nearly all gray instead of wisdom-inducing highlights? When their belly competes with Santa’s, when sex isn’t as passionate or frequent, when illnesses strike, when miscarriages happen, when kids grow and then leave, when houses rot and things and people fall apart?

And will someone love me that much?

To sit by me on a bench as chocolate ice cream dribbles down me and still want to take care of me? To protect me and stand by me, no matter how many wrinkles I sport or when the time comes that my boobs rest near my knees? To see me through menopause and the battle to keep myself in one piece, as I’ve read in dozens of magazine is something that’s difficult with a house full of kids and a husband who needs more attention. To support my career and support me if it doesn’t go exactly as planned – or if it does, to not be intimidated by my success? To hold my hand when I feel unsteady and one day, when I need it to even walk? Will someone see through the age and still be able to picture the same face they fell for when I was 20 or 30-something, full of vitality and courage, unbothered by the world and uninterested in its damnations?

I don’t know the story behind that couple. I don’t know if their romance was fiery and complicated, or if they were high school sweethearts or letter writers from some war. I don’t know if they have children or if those children have children. I don’t know where they’re from or why they decided to sit on Long Beach on a Friday afternoon, right before the clouds encompassed the never-ending blue sky.

But I do know that regardless of where my life takes me, how many magazines I write for, how many loves I have, or how many days I spend at the beach, listening to the sound of the ocean and feeling the sand crinkle between my toes, one day many, many moons from now, I hope to be standing by the side of a man who would rather eat ice cream with me and think about all the love we have and the memories we’ve created - like the time I showered myself in a chocolatey mess – than be anywhere else in the world.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for those Louie Armstrong moments that just keep coming. 

An Intimate Intimacy

I used to wait for the moment when dating someone where our belly buttons touched.

This, obviously meant we were A- Laying down, B- Had our tummies exposed, and C- Close enough to let them meet one another. To me, this symbolized a certain level of intimacy – especially since when your stomachs are rubbing up against one another, you’re not exactly sucking in and positioning yourself seductively. (You know, sheet draped about your body, exposing just enough skin to entice, as the sun colors your body at the right angle and you don’t move, pretending you’re asleep, until he comes in and devours you? We’ve all done it, I promise.)

The belly button moment came several, several months ago with Mr. Possibility. I wouldn’t say belly-button-touching was something we necessarily had a problem with – that part of our courtship was rather seemless. There were obviously other issues (which if you access archives, you can find) and it took a while for him to admit and for me to admit to the bounds of exclusivity. As I’ve said, having a boyfriend and calling it that didn’t sit well with me until I finally accepted it. And ultimately, announced it to the many lovely readers (and haters) of this blog (and me).

But as our relationship has progressed and I’ve continued to grow up – I’ve come to discover that intimacy has nothing to do with belly buttons. Or sex, really. It doesn’t have to do with the act of physically being naked and maybe this is a stretch, but I don’t think it has too much to do with being vulnerable. Intimacy – true intimacy – is based on being remarkably comfortable, having the framework of trust that’s tested and true, and has more to do with you than it has to do with them.

It is impossible to be intimate with someone (as in coming as you are, makeup and push-up free) without being secure in yourself. The majority of us have been wrapped up in the smell of sex and attraction the next morning, plotting the best track to the bathroom, without waking up the guy, so we could freshen up before he wanted round two (insert Bridesmaids opening scene here). I’ve admittedly felt that way far into dating, and even into a relationship. It wasn’t until I found peace in my looks and in the flaws that make those looks beautiful that I stopped caring if Mr. Possibility -or any guy who may come after him – sees me as less than perfect. I’m not perfect, but neither are they.

But being Clinique-free doesn’t define intimacy either – that’s just the part we most associate with reaching intimate levels. The real test of intimacy is a test we give ourselves, often encouraged by our friends who grow weary of our complaints, insecurities, and late-night texting sprees induced by Mr. Vodka and his old pal, tonic.

Being intimate with your partner means being stable enough to know when to stand up for yourself. When to say, “No, this is not enough for me. I need this from you because I know you and I care about you.” If you can’t ask for what you need with the person you’re the closest too, who sees your acne before it comes to the surface, who hears your irrational emotional outbursts, waits for them to pass and then holds you until you fall asleep – then you’re not really intimate with that person, you’re just keeping them around. If you can’t express your desires other than the ones that are sexual, then you haven’t reached a level of intimacy, you’ve only just orgasmed. And let’s be real – it’s easier to do that alone than it is to do with a man, until you train him.

It’s not simple to reach intimacy, I’d go as far to say some couples who race to the altar, haven’t found their intimate level yet. A big part of it is respecting your partner, but the most important element is respecting yourself. And if you know what it is that makes you tick, what you need out of a relationship, and what part of your body and your heart needs to correlate to the other person, then you know how to ask for it. You know how to express yourself in a way that will not only make falling in love easy, but make the tougher stage – staying in love – easier. And it’ll make the sexual part of intimacy…that much more…intimate.

A Broken Give-a-Damn

The day before my college graduation, standing in streets covered with a slippery thin sheet of ice, Mr. Idea and I screamed at each other hunched under an awning a block from my apartment.

It wasn’t either of our finest moments.

It ultimately led to me throwing a high-heeled shoe in his general direction out of frustration, unchartered emotion and a little bit of booze. It didn’t hit him but he was astonished at my actions so much that he screamed (much to the dismay of my roommate): “You threw a shoe at my face! Lindsay! What’s wrong with you?” Equally as loud but through a thick stream of tears and unflattering nose-runnage, I replied: “I just want you to make me feel like you care and you don’t!!! Why can’t you just make me feel better?”

I’d like to say I’ve grown out of that immature statement but the truth is, I’m not sure we ever do. Maybe those totally-Zen, consistently healthy and one-with-the-world people are clear and peaceful in their relationships, but I don’t happen to be part of that demographic.

I’m emotional. I’m impatient. I can overreact. I have a tendency to overanalyze. I think people should give me just as much as I give them, though I don’t take all that much. When I’m mad, I cry. When I’m sad, I cry. When I’m furious, I need to take a walk (and apparently throw things). And when I’m upset in a relationship, as I was with Mr. Idea and probably as I’ll be with any man I date, I tend to think they should make me feel a certain way.

They should be understanding and kind. They should sometimes prioritize me above other things. They should have my best interest at heart and work hard at bettering my life, just as I hope to make their day-to-day brighter. Promises should be made and kept, not haphazardly planned and forgotten. I consider myself a great catch and you, whoever it is that I’m dating, should treat me as such. You should know what you have when you have me, and gosh-darnit – you should make me feel like the most amazing creature on Earth.

Right?

Well, maybe that worked once upon a time in never-never land, but in real life, in real relationship that are messy, complicated and flat-out irritating at times – things aren’t so cut and dry. While your partner should make you happy and positively affect your existence, they are not and should not be responsible for making you feel any way. And if you find yourself yelling at the top of your lungs, Jimmy in hand, begging them to make you feel differently – maybe you should check yourself. Check your emotions. And above all – check on the relationship.

There will be ups and downs and there will be fights. Hell, arguing can even be healthy occasionally and shows you how someone handles themselves in the heat of the moment or when tensions brew. But if there are more bad times than good, if you’re not getting what you want, if you’re not feeling what you want to feel, if you’re not finding that loving feeling as often as you’re battling the urge to run away – then what are you doing?

You’re waiting for someone to make you feel a way you can’t with them and maybe asking them to feel something they don’t. And if you can’t and they don’t, then the answer to your questionable exit strategy is…go. Breathe. Revel in yourself and in the possibility to meet someone who doesn’t frustrate you. Who doesn’t stand outside in the cold threatening to break up with you on the eve of your college graduation.

Because really, the only person who can make you feel the way you want to feel is you. The you who one day finds a love that doesn’t make you doubt or wonder constantly. And if you’re with the wrong one, you can never meet the right one. If you’re too busy fighting, you don’t have any energy to love. And if there is no love left, then girl, go out and find it.

And before you find it, find yourself. Decide your give-a-damn is broken and make yourself feel so in love with you that nothing else can compare.

It’s About Him (Not Me)

I’d like to think one of my better qualities is my ability to self-motivate. I’ve been known to give myself mini pep talks –admittedly sometimes out loud –encouraging myself to keep truckin’. And when I get in cheerleading mode, I become super focused, zoned-in, and shockingly quiet. I’d rather the outside world leave me alone to have my own private song-and-dance, without anything like reality interrupting me.

The only issue with being in hyper-concentrated-let-me-be mode is that inevitably, you gotta’ deal with other people. And you have to deal with them when they get in that mode, too. Mr. Possibility has been leading a busy life recently, putting him in the get-s***-done state of mind. Studying for a very difficult test that will help his career when he passes it, he’s been stuck in coffee shops and his apartment, only glancing at his beloved BlackBerry from time-to-time, and keeping himself entertained with the giant highlighter I picked up for him. He’s easily amused, apparently.

Anyway – because he’s under a lot of stress and is worried about a pivotal certification and I can offer no guidance on the subject matter, we haven’t been spending as much time together. And when we have been, tensions have been a tad high. We even officially had our first knock-down-drag-out fight last week. Some of the knick-picks have been his fault and some have been mine, but I’ve had to accept a very important fact that I should have learned from He’s Just Not That Into You.

It’s really not me. It’s him.

And this test, sincerely has nothing to do with me. It’s hard not to internalize the influence of everything else outside of a duo. Our lives don’t circulate around our relationships and the sun doesn’t depend on love to rise, but when the person you spend your freedom with needs to be distant for their own needs, how do you stop feeling like it’s you they want to get away from? How do you stop thinking you’re the cause and if only you could say the right thing, you could take away the worry? When truthfully, the only fix to ease the ailment is letting them mend their own wounds or get through their personal hardship with their own will.

That’s the thing about being focused – when you need to complete something – the only something to shift your mood, is you. I’m the same way, so if I can’t accept Mr. Possibility when he gets in that rut, then I’m being dishonest about who I am, too.

And if I think about it, our arguments have stemmed from not being able to relate and from outside factors that neither of us can really control. So with some tough personal love, I’ve decided that space is the best thing I can give him. With that separation, too, comes the liberty for me to relax, get more sleep, see my friends, get caught up on things I’ve let slide, and enjoy my own company. It also prevents unnecessary disagreements and falling outs that don’t need to fall apart.

Because life, loving yourself, loving someone else, dating, and even sex – they all have to be balanced, as René Descartes would say, to make the machine that is your body, function. And if not everything that goes on in your mind, your body, your existence, has to do with another person, then you can’t expect your significant person to make you the center of their everything. Nor, in my opinion, should you want them to.

Sometimes, someone can care about you greatly, but parts of their lives…just have nothing to do with you. And really, it’s okay for it to be about him, not about me.