love should come with a road map & relationships with a travel guide

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The other day I made T a friendship bracelet. I’d made him a similar one at work last summer and he wore it until it broke. As I sat there tying the little blue and green strings into knots I couldn’t help but remember when I’d made one for a different boy. Remembering how naive and hopeful I’d been, so inexperienced when it came to dating. I remember I’d made it his favorite color and he’d “forgotten” it in my basement. That should’ve been a sign. Especially when I ran out to his car to give it to him and he just shrugged and gave me a look. At the time I hadn’t thought twice about that moment, but now it lives in my memory as a missed indicator that something was wrong.

I couldn’t help but wonder… do we accept and ignore things in our dating relationships that we would never put up with in our platonic friendships? Do we push little tell-tale signs aside because we have a crush? And is that really good for us? What about our intuition, our gut, our instincts… where do those go? There’s times when a girl really needs a little red blinking sign in her head that says something like “danger, entering rocky relationship ahead” or “caution. sketchy dude.” When you are in deep infatuation with a person, those little signals all seem to hit the high road. But why? Isn’t that when we need it most? It isn’t until we’re flat on our butts with the air knocked out of us that we realize we’ve missed all the signs. Is it part of the experience of having a crush… or do we do it to ourselves? If it’s inevitable that your crush is going to crush you, is it possible that we don’t really want to know?

It may be true that things aren’t always so black and white. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the problem is, because the problem isn’t visible. And perhaps there doesn’t appear to be one to an outsider, but you know it’s there. Throughout my life there’s been times when I’ve been seeing a guy or talking to a guy and all of a sudden something changes and I can’t shake the feeling that somehow we’ve reached a fork in the road and he went one way and I went another and we can’t go back. But this often occurred when there wasn’t even a relationship to break in the first place: When there was never really anything to begin with, it’s even easier to fall apart. It got me thinking that maybe in these scenarios you and your crush aren’t even compatible at all… Just two people wanting so desperately to find love, companionship, and someone to hold their hand, that we try so hard to fall for the wrong person. I could dream up an ideal world in my head where so many of the men I’ve liked became the perfect boyfriends and we always had stuff to talk about and went on all these fun dates… but in reality, it simply never happened. Even if the guy hadn’t done anything “wrong…”  he hadn’t necessarily done anything “right” either. Sometimes nothing’s wrong, but everything is.

Sometimes our warning signals and wariness finally come out only when we meet a nice guy- as if we don’t believe he could actually be nice, and that somewhere lurking deep down, he’s hoping to make us cry. I was like that with T. After so many years of pining after the bad boys that broke my heart and the too nice guys (you can read my thoughts on too nice guys here) that I had lukewarm feelings for, I had finally met a guy who was the complete package. So what did I do? completely and utterly panicked. Naturally.

If we had met at 15 it would have been a completely different story. All it would’ve taken was a meeting of eyes across a crowded room. But I wasn’t 15 anymore. I carried years of distrust- and finally there it was. My wariness that someone might hurt me. Coming out at the completely wrong time. It was only after I took some time to myself one day to think of all that he had done, all that he was, and all that I knew he could never be that I realized BAM, I had somehow gone through the dating trenches and ended up with a really great guy. How did I do it? I have no effing idea. But that’s the thing that keeps us going, isn’t it? What keeps us believing the lies and the bullshit- we’re hoping against all else, that he’s the one.

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