I’ve been blessed to love a few good men in my lifetime. And by a few, I mean three.
The word ‘love’ isn’t something I throw around casually – though it seems to be a word to describe me, according to my friends. Even in my most intense love addiction moments, I know how important and potentially harmful those three little words can be when they’re strung together and dangling in between two people. In the past, when I became brave enough and there was no way to escape that lovin’ feeling, I willing proclaimed and gave my heart to each of these men. Two reciprocated, while one was quite unrequited – but the all-consuming feeling I possessed, didn’t change in the least. Though it may sound cliche and against any independently geared mindset – when I’ve fallen in love, I’ve gone balls-to-the-walls without holding back, and allowed myself to be emotionally available because I didn’t feel like I had a choice. And really, with these three characters, I never quite cared if my decision was revoked by the masters of fates, anyways.
Each of them, in their own way and right, swooped in, and within a short amount of time, I found myself completely infatuated with this man who so easily became a vital part of my existence. In looking for patterns in past relationships to help make the future less complicated and heartbreaking, I’ve discovered the men I’ve loved have all viewed me in a similar fashion.
They’ve all crowned me with the title of “The One Who Got Away.”
And no, this isn’t by my own interpretations or inferences, but months after the relationship came to a close, they informed me of their regret, of their thoughts of “what could have been”, and how above all other things, wished me the very best in happiness…and in love.
Mr. Faithful, the high school boyfriend and very first love, was devastated when I broke up with him a mere three days into the college experience. After I crushed his heart for a chance to date Mr. Rebound, and then karma broke my heart in return, I went crawling back to Mr. Faithful. He refused round two…until we crossed paths a year later, and attempted to rekindle the flame that was lit outside of Biology class, four years before. Though it ultimately didn’t work out, in one of our final conversations he said, “Linds, I hope you know you’ll always be the girl I compare everyone else to. You’re the standard. You’ve raised the bar. And I know this is dumb, but I think you’ll be the one girl I could never really get a handle on.”
A few months later, I started seeing Mr. Fire, and found myself blind-sided by this rugby player who played the game as well as he played with my heart. Though we never officially slept together, dated, or shared sweet-nothings – our connection was something both of us have determined as “unlike anything else.” He ended whatever-we-were-doing out of the blue, and then we ran into each other before I graduated at a bar. And as if he knew I needed to hear “why” I wasn’t what he wanted (and the girl he was on Facebook with a day later, was), he smiled at me, pushed the hair out of my face, and took a deep breath. I gave him a puzzling look, and he said: “I was afraid of not having anything to offer you and I should have just sucked up my pride and took the chance that I could make you happy. Tigar, when you move to New York and make big things happen, know that to me, you’re beautiful. You’re the girl who got away and I will always wonder what could have happened between you and me.”
And last by not least, my most recent ex-boyfriend, Mr. Idea, who though I loved the idea of, I also did love him and what we shared. Even as complicated, messy, and toxic as it was. Over Christmas, when I wouldn’t grant him the second chance he thought he deserved, he asked if he wasn’t good enough for me. I quickly rebutted his statement by letting him know that we were both great people, but not great together. In a rare moment where he allowed himself to be vulnerable and off of his incredibly high-horse, he said, “I want you to be happy and I’m sorry I can’t contribute to that happiness anymore. You’ve been the love of my life and I’m so thankful to have known you. I guess, Linds, you’ll be the girl who got away, huh?”
While I’m completely flattered by each of their sentiments and will always hold the conversations and intimacy close to my heart, if I’m honest with myself, when I fell in love with these guys, I felt like I lost myself. I became so enthralled, so indefinitely invested in these partnerships, that I let me get away. The me who valued her independence, her alone time, her confidence, her ambitions – disappeared and these men became the most important element of my life. My priorities were damned and they were deemed deserving of all of my attention.
To their credit, they never asked me to change. They never discouraged my vibrant personality or my fearless determination to become a writer in New York – but when I was with them, whatever they wanted, whatever they needed , from pancakes to cleaning their apartment – became my responsibility. Even if they didn’t ask me to do them a favor, I showered them with all of the affection and attention in the world. Friendships and family ties became strained, my work quality fell, and I can distinctly remember standing in Mr. Idea’s bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, and wondering: “Who are you, anymore, Lindsay? Are you really the girl who is defined by her boyfriend?’
So now, a few years and experiences stronger, I’ve realized my tendency to do this in a relationship. I’m well aware of my mothering-like qualities when I fall in love, even if in the dating scene, I’m far from a mommy-dearest. And this journey, in all of its ups and downs, has helped me to know how important it is to keep yourself in tact, even when butterflies are swarming your head and tickling your tummy.
This, of course, is easier said than done. A large part of the reason I allowed myself to become lost in my partner was out of fear. With Mr. Faithful, I was so afraid of being alone that I attempted to go back to him, even when I knew he wasn’t the man for me. Mr. Fire appeared to be everything I had ever wanted – and was somewhat stunningly unattainable – and to keep him, or lure him into committment, I wanted to please him. And Mr. Idea came into my life when everything else was uncertain and before a dramatic change, and I wanted nothing more than to have one steady thing. So if I had to comfort him, put him first, and bake him cupcakes constantly, I’d do it, so I wouldn’t have to face myself and my apprehensions.
Basically, fear of singleness swallowed up my faith in who I was. And instead of finding myself again, I sought to seek a new definition in a man I loved. That if love was truly the answer to all of my problems, how could I not make a man, my everything?
There is a fine balance between being in love with a person and still being able to be in love with and focus on yourself. Even though relationships are give-and-take, the giving shouldn’t always be towards your partner by taking away bits of who you once were before you met them. True love, who is deserving of attention and three fine words, will want you to keep yourself as much as you want to keep them.
And if being the lady who slipped away means I must lose myself, then I’d rather be the woman who even if she destroys a relationship or picks girl’s night over date night, or isn’t accommodating or agreeable, she is still, above all other things, herself.
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