Know When to Hold ‘Em
For the majority of my life, I have been the “single friend.” I have never really minded it. I liked being the third wheel, and I always had enough friends around me that at any given point a different couple needed a third wheel.
It’s not that boys hadn’t been interested or that I didn’t date. I did date. I just had this “thing.” Once something got serious, I decided that I didn’t like the guy anymore. Normally within the first two weeks. Suddenly, something wasn’t right or he was too needy. It was generally the “needy” thing. I had been the caretaker in my family growing up, and I didn’t want to be burdened right away with some guy’s issues. And they always seemed to have issues… right away! Like there were these guys just hanging out, living life, and waiting for some girl to come along and fix them.
I also made some bad choices and made myself available to unavailable guys. Believe me, I’ve thought about all of these things: the fear, the bad choices, the majority of my adult life without a boyfriend, and I’ve moved beyond that. But, when I met Tom, I was still in the midst of grappling with some of those decisions and feeling very wary of men.
Tom and I met through a mutual friend and got into a discussion about our love of traveling. I had just returned from Germany and was planning a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand. He had just won a trip from his company and was planning a week in the Caribbean. Imagine my surprise when he called me a few days later to invite me on this trip! Always one to take any opportunity to travel, I said yes.
We went to the Cayman Islands and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. Accustomed to staying in hostels and on friends’ couches, the Ritz was beautiful and overwhelming. We drank chilled glasses of Pinot Grigio poolside, and I did my best to dissuade him from pursuing me. I didn’t like him.
One night, we were walking on the beach, and he tried to kiss me. I freaked out. I was so angry that yet another guy would see me as some girl he could just kiss, especially after sharing with him everything that had happened. I was pretty cold to him for a few days, but he was still very kind and open to me, and eventually I realized, “Oh crap. I think I like this guy.” I didn’t know how to change my mind and have a serious discussion about it, so instead, plied with alcohol, I returned the kiss he had attempted a few days earlier.
That still wasn’t all. We came back to the US, I panicked again (usual MO), and it took a few good conversations with friends to realize what I was doing. I actually sat myself down and had a logical discussion with myself. (I told you I was a relationship Athena!) “Heather, you’ve only ever run away from nice guys, and where has that gotten you? Just give this guy a chance.”
So I did. I liked that he was self-sufficient. That he wasn’t 100% needy right away. I still left for a month to go to Australia and had a blast with my friend Tara. We had amazing conversations and I felt an awesome connection with him.
I live my life with no regrets, absolutely, but there are two things especially I would highlight about this relationship that I will never, ever regret.
1. I am worth being someone’s girlfriend. I wasn’t his best friend, his relief from something else. I was 100% his girlfriend, and I was worthy of being loved and loving someone else. I know a lot of people that don’t know who they are without being in a relationship, but I needed to find myself in a relationship, and I did. And I’m a pretty awesome girlfriend.
2. I felt myself fall in love with this man. I know exactly where I was when it all just clicked. We were sitting at the front corner table of a restaurant in Delaware called Culinaria, sharing stories about our days, and I felt my heart just burst. I will never, ever regret that. Ever.
We had a few pretty good months. There were normal stresses in there, and probably some issues that are red flags in hindsight, but I was happy. I was also learning. I had never been in a relationship before and understanding some of the give-and-take is a natural part of that experience. Tom got worried in November because he thought he was going to lose his job, but he made it through the layoffs and actually secured an even better job.
I was thrilled for him, but what I didn’t realize was that this happy news would only last for a few days.