My boyfriend and I loved our story of how we met. When people would ask us to tell it, we would both brighten up and jump at the chance to share. After 4 years of dating, we each had our own part to tell in the story, our own unique ways of enhancing it with our gestures and our tone of voice. I would tell the beginning and then he would intervene at his designated spot that we had perfected over the years. It had just the right amount of humor, romance, and dysfunction. We were writers, so I suppose that had something to do with us appreciating the value of a good story.
The Beginning: Meeting
It started on a February night when I went out on a date with my best friend’s boyfriend’s brother, John. This date led to an invitation the following weekend to get drinks at the local bar with all of his friends. I walked into the bar, and my attention was immediately drawn to a dark haired, dark eyed guy who was standing at the far end of the room chatting with a bunch of John’s friends. In appearance, he looked to me like the guy I always imagined myself ending up with. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I had some kind of gut instinct that this person was going to be meaningful—that he would be important to my life in some way.
I made my way to the back of the room and started chatting with him. I quickly learned that we had a lot in common including the fact that we were both Italian and our families were oddly from the same tiny, random village in Italy. Even though we may drive each other crazy, Italian people like to find other Italian people to hang out with. We were no different. We appreciated that we came from the same background.
M and I hit it off instantly, and sadly it became pretty clear to John that my attention was unapologetically shifting over to his friend. Normally, I would have felt bad, but in this situation, I simply didn’t care. We talked the rest of the evening, but we never exchanged numbers. The next week I went out with my friend and her boyfriend who was also friends with M, and I asked him to give M my number.
3 months passed, and I never heard from M, but I knew I eventually would.
I reminded myself to make sure I picked up any local random numbers since I was inclined to reject numbers I didn’t know.
His call finally came on a Saturday night in April while I was blow drying my hair and getting ready to go out. I instantly knew it was him when I saw the unknown number. It rang twice and then it stopped mid-ring. I had no idea why he had hung up, and I assumed it must have been a mistake, so I picked up the phone and called him right back. He picked up on the third ring, and the first conversation that would kick off our relationship went something like this:
“What the hell took you so long?”
“You don’t even know who this is!”
“I know who this is. What the hell took you so long?”
He laughed and quietly said, “I’ve just been busy. Will you forgive me?”
He later told me that he hung up the phone because he had been casually dating 3 other women at the time, and didn’t understand why he was compelled to pick up the phone and add another one to the list, but he did it anyway and then chickened out and hung up.
Clearly, I wasn’t scared to call back and call him out.
Since I had last seen him, I had gotten accepted into grad school in CA and was planning on moving at the end of August. It was probably stupid to start dating him, but I did it anyway. My numerologist (yes, I go to one of these occasionally) would later tell me that I am “ruled by the fair maiden,” which means I will always choose feelings of the heart over logistical circumstances. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that she is right about this in regards to my romantic relationships.
We went out on 8 of the most perfect dates where we laughed and talked about everything and nothing at all over sushi, movies, and a baseball game. He said often in our conversations, “I can’t believe I’m telling you this. I never talk about this stuff.” I did the same. Once the summer started coming to a close, he told me we should just be friends.
I was sort of devastated by his suggestion to just be friends, but I quickly realized it was probably for the best. Every few months, one of us would call the other and we would spend hours on the phone catching up. Our relationship molded into a friendship, and eventually I stopped thinking of him as anything more than that. I saw him once in awhile when I would visit home, and occasionally we would make out, but it was all pretty innocent.
The Middled: Dating
3 years of building a friendship turned into something completely different in the course of a few seconds. We came together on one summer night when I was back home visiting our hometown. We were both sitting on my parent’s back patio, and he surprised me when he leaned in and kissed me in the middle of my sentence and said, “Are you ready to give us a shot?” Without any question or hesitation, I just said, “Yes, let’s do it.”
And, that was it. It was that simple. We were dating and we were committed to making it work. We didn’t know how exactly, but it didn’t matter. We had come this far, so we would figure it out.
And, for the first 3 years of dating, we did. For a multitude of reasons, he never moved to me, and I never moved to him. Many external factors got in the way. In the last year, the cracks in our relationship slowly started to create a big crater that upended the foundation of our relationship. Neither of us could get around it. We were both on opposite sides with opposite viewpoints, and with changing environments that kept us apart.
And, the End
When he first said how unhappy he was, I booked a last minute flight to try and save the relationship. When I arrived on the first night after he had fallen asleep, I went downstairs and sat in his kitchen. I put on his piano music, and I read through tears all of our meaningful e-mails that I had saved over the last 4 years. I cut and pasted them all into a word document and printed them out. I finished at 5 AM, just as the sun was rising. I stapled them all together and left them on top of his computer, so he could read them while I was asleep. On the first page, I wrote, “This is our Story in print.”
I got back on a plane at the end of the week, and I told him I would do whatever it took to make it work.
That trip was followed by 8 torturous weeks where we spent hours talking in circles, going down a rabbit hole we couldn’t get out of it, bringing stuff up that neither of us knew the other cared about or disliked until it was too late. We cried. We screamed. We said mean things. We both paced our halls until all hours of the night. We barely ate or slept during that time. I lost 12 pounds. People started asking me what was wrong and why I looked so frail. My roommate left post it notes for me around the house and on the kitchen cabinets reminding me to eat and keep my head up. It was the most awful time I have ever experienced thus far in my life. I’m sure it was the same for him.
In my final act, I spent two weeks creating an I-movie that compiled all of our most meaningful pictures, songs, and inside jokes into one 20 minute long slideshow. On the first slide I wrote, “Our Story isn’t just in words. It’s in pictures too.” This was my last attempt to work it out, to bring to light all of the good times, to try and drag him out of whatever abyss he was lost in and bring him back to solid ground.
It didn’t work. The conversation that would end our dating relationship went something like this:
“That was a beautiful movie. Thank you so much for doing that. Really, it was incredible. That must have taken you forever.” He was focused on the mechanics of how good the I-movie looked rather than telling me how he felt about the actual content of the video. I quickly got to the point. “I’m glad you liked it. How did you feel while you were watching it? Did it remind you of all the good things that have made up the course of our 4 year relationship? What do you want to do?”
“I want you to live your life.”
“Are you sure you really want to break up? Because I know myself, and once you leave, there’s a really good chance, I will not trust you to be in my life again. You’re absolutely sure that’s what you want?”
“I want you to live your life. I want you to live your life.”
“Okay, well that’s it then. I guess you have to go live your life too.”
A New Story
So, this is our story now. There’s a beginning, a middle, AND an end. There will presumably be someone else for both of us, and someday we will have to create a new story with that person.
We did have the makings of a great dating story, but our paths changed. Somewhere along the way, they diverged and I went one way, and he went another. Our season has come to an end, and that’s our story now.
It’s painful, and many days I’m in disbelief that I’m not still telling people our other story. Some days I wake up and open my eyes and I think, “I’m single? Really? How did I get here? How is this my story?” Other days, I wake up invigorated and ready to take on the day as a free, unencumbered woman.
I have my own journey and my own story to create. It’s going to take time, but I guess the old saying when one chapter ends, another begins, is suitable for this time in my life. As I write these words, I assume I am starting that new chapter…
Thanks for taking the journey with me.
My writing was also featured on Eat Drink Be Skinny. Check them out for some more great personal development and dating articles!
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