I always love those moments in movies and TV shows when someone in a complicated relationship is honest about what they want, even if it means risking their relationship. Christa recently pointed out that I love it because it’s what never happened in my relationships. In all my pseudo-relationships I was only brave enough to own up to my feelings when I was ready to say ‘Goodbye,’ instead of ‘Make a choice!’ None of my pseudo-boyfriends were ever brave enough to express what they wanted (or even to say Goodbye).
I’m more than jealous of those character’s bravery. I’m jealous of their clarity and decisiveness. So often I didn’t know what I wanted with my pseudo-boyfriends. Even when I did know, I didn’t want to make a decision. I loved having guys who cared about me so much, who wanted to communicate with me so much, who needed me so much that I ignored everything else. Most of all, I ignored our incompatibility. I ignored the persistent voice telling me, “This wont work! Like the woman in Jerry Maguire, you love these men because of who they could be. Not who they are. You love them because of what they are to you. Could you really be happy with that?” And the other voice saying, “Do you really think you can love this relationship enough for the both of you when you can’t even love him for who he is?”
Instead of answering these questions, instead of seeking clarity, I lived in indecision. I love the critique of agnostics in Life of Pi, that choosing indecision as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. Yet, for so many years I was an agnostic in my relationships.
For a while it worked well enough for me. I sort of got the best of both worlds. I got to perpetuate the bliss of crushing while also getting the emotional support of dating. I learned how to be a good girlfriend without having the obligations of a girlfriend. Etc. But it’s incredibly painful to feel both wanted and rejected simultaneously. It’s stressful to need and be needed by someone so badly in a relationship that lacks both commitment and obligation. Eventually, you have to choose to move because the place you are isn’t where you want to be.
After I was brave enough to finally be honest with my last pseudo-boyfriend and myself, after I finally made the decision to end a relationship that couldn’t go anywhere, I had to ask myself an important question. Not if I wanted to keep sort-of-but-not-really dating men who aren’t even brave enough to say ‘Goodbye’ let alone ‘I love you.’ (Though that answer is clearly, No). Not if I wanted to keep caring so much for men who I was waiting to become someone better. (Though, obviously, that answer is also No). But, ‘What do I want?’
All those years, I mostly just wanted a chance to learn about relationships without the risk of getting stuck. I was okay risking getting hurt. We’re all supposed to be young and reckless and get our hearts’ broken. I didn’t want to miss out on that when I was young. But I didn’t want to be too reckless. I didn’t want to give up too much of my freedom and independence, though I wanted to learn some interdependence. I got what I wanted from a broken heart to a lesson in interdependence.
What now? Now that I’m done with men who just aren’t that into me (and vice versa). If I was in a movie my answer would be to rush into the arms of someone who I can love for who he is. I wouldn’t have to suffer through another confusing relationship or if I did one of us would finally be brave enough to say, ‘I want you!’ But, sadly, my life isn’t a movie and that man hasn’t yet shown up. And to be honest, I’m okay with that.
Right now, what I want is to enjoy my singleness while it lasts and to make space in my life for more than skinny love. I’ve stopped pressuring myself to be in love. I’m letting go of some of the unreasonable expectations I got from my own romanticism and romantic comedies. I’m learning how to develop better boundaries with my guy friends and to listen to my instincts when they tell me that someone isn’t suited for me. Most of all, I’m having fun as I learn to be more brave and decisive.