The classic adage states: “it is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.” While there may lay truth to this saying, it begs the question of comfort or consolation.
Now as a single woman in my early 30s, in the 21st century, recently out of a breakup I feel a bit like the protege of Carry Bradshaw’s character from Sex and the City: a wounded yet still somewhat hopeful romantic just aimlessly looking for my person in what seems like a dating apacolps of swiping, ghosts and more misses than hits. This isn’t how I pictured where I’d be at 33 years old. It’s a far cry from is as a matter of fact. Yet here I am, trying to make sense of it.
In the midst of my daily work commute, and in between teaching students about double digit multiplication and the California regions, I got to thinking about my dating history. From the handfuls of weirdo first dates; the douchebags that reveal themselves after a few dates; and the no rhyme or reason ghosts that don’t call back, there are three men in my time of dating that have stood out. And these three men, I have indeed loved, and each one has been vastly different from the last.
The first man I’ve loved, we’ll call him John. John was a classic story of unrequited love. I was in the college, as a junior transfer to San Francisco State University. Not two weeks after my mom moved me up to the hilly city, John (a friend from SoCal) moved to the east bay for a job. He was a familiar face that was comforting as I navigated living in a city of strangers and living outside my parents' place for the first time. We were the best of friends, and spent lots of time together. We even trained for our first half marathon together with a couple other familiar faces. I even met and vetted some of his lady suiters. In the midst of my first year of living in San Francisco, and much to my dismay, I fell for John. Confessing my feelings to John was one of the most nerve racking things I’ve done. And not because I was fearful of rejection, but because I knew rejection was imminent. Yet, even when he didn’t return my feelings, I don’t regret sharing mine with him. Thankfully, and to his credit he was a perfect gentleman about my declaration and confession. It took awhile for me to be okay; and even for John and I to be okay. Yet with most things of the heart it took a decent amount of time for that to happen. Now over a decade later, I look to John as a close long standing friend and often refer to him as a big brother from another mother. Our resilience in the face of strain, speaks highly of the kind of friendship we have, and the kind of people we both are.
John taught me friendship of the most loyal kind.
The second man I’ve loved, we’ll call him Charles. Charles was a classic story of love at first sight, and a Prince Charming by most modern definitions. Charles and I matched on Eharmony some years ago. Even the mere sight of his profile smile and stance got me reeled in. Hook line and sinker, and I was a goner! After the back and forth message dance, we met a week later for our first date. Despite my confidence and experience dating, I was nervous as I hadn’t been in a long time. And after a five hour first date that flew by with him ending it with a walk to my car, and asking me to go to Mass, I keeled over with my hand to my chest in an enthusiastic “yasss!” A man who wants to take me to church? Sign me up! The man wined and dined me; he made all the moves; and was the first man I had brought home to meet the family since high school. He footed every bill, and showered me with gifts, flowers and all the words any girl would want to hear. He was sincere, heartfelt, classy and gentlemanly. A single look from him would make me weak at the knees and melt. Charles was the first time my heart felt at home. It was a surreal feeling, and one that’s hard to explain or rationalize, but if you know the feeling, you just know.
Like most things that seem too good to be true, it sadly was the case with Charles. Months into a relationship with me, he came to realize he jumped the gun with me too quickly after a previous relationship (yes, I was his rebound girl...don’t ever be anyone’s rebound). I was shocked and shattered when he broke my heart in his car, in the parking garage on the eve of my 31st birthday. The last time I ever saw or heard from Charles was the afternoon after, as he took me to a painfully romantic lunch overlooking Newport Beach, and he dropped me off at my place as we stood with solemn dispositions in my driveway. And after we said our final goodbyes I turned away from him and his car and walked with a heavy heart to my doorstep before collapsing and erupting in tears after closing the door with a broken heart. It took me a very long time to heal from that heartbreak.
It’s incredible after all we shared that I haven’t seen or ran into him since that last goodbye. Just like that he was gone, disappeared from my life, never to be seen again; except his memory that remained like a ghost lurking to torment me with it’s unrelenting reminders of his trace. For some time after the breakup, I almost wondered, did it even happen? Was it real or just a dream? And with time, my heart did in fact heal and I was able to move past it. I knew I had reached that final point of healing when I stumbled upon an old necklace he gave me, and the sight and memories that ensued didn’t bring a tear to my eye. After selling it on Poshmark to some woman in Alabama without any hesitation, I knew my heart had healed. I was finally and truly free. Time really does heal all wounds.
Charles taught me what it feels like to have your heart feel at home; he taught me what I deserve and how I deserve to be treated (well, aside from the whole birthday breakup timing); he taught me the magic in romance and the butterflies that follow from a connection that’s difficult to put into words.
Bear with me as this is starting to sound a lot like an Ariana Grande song.
Now the third and final man I’ve loved is quite different from the other two. But all three of them are not like the others, so touché. We’ll call this man Daniel. My story with Daniel is an on again/off again sort of a story. We met by chance when a friend of mine dragged me to a Catholic mixer of sorts in LA on a summer night over a year ago. At the closing of the evening he approached me and the chemistry was instant when we both quickly discovered we’re both Catholic school teachers; and one of his colleagues was a classmate of mine from grad school. Like most savvy men in this modern world, he was smooth to find me on Facebook, and we hit it off. Daniel, certainly made some grand gestures; and sure was a sucker for these gestures. He showed me what a man of action and service looks like. And for the first time in a long time I felt I could be myself with someone romantically. I didn’t have to put up a facade, and I could really be vulnerable with my insecurities. It felt natural to be with Daniel; it felt good to be with Daniel; there was no fluff, no smoke and mirrors with Daniel, but it felt the most real and honest scenario. I felt the most comfortable with him.
Believe me when I say, I’ve never been a proponent for the whole on again/off again relationships, but I was certainly eating my words in this case. After breaking up, moving on, and several months passing by, Daniel popped back in my head, and I could not shake it for the life of me; I fought it for over a month. So despite any other dating move I’ve made, or despite better judgement, I reached out, and we reconnected. And while I wasn’t sure what to expect in this uncharted territory, it was a great reunion. If I’m being honest, we were both pleasantly surprised how we just picked up right where we left off. And why wouldn’t we? There wasn’t any dramatic end to our initial breakup. So why wouldn’t our reunion be anything but good natured? To quote a line from How I Met Your Mother, “when you date someone a second time around, you aren’t starting over, you're picking up where you left off.” And that was indeed the case for Daniel and me. Regardless, of the stigma of “getting back together,” it was so good to reconnect, and it felt great to be in his presence again, and catch up over the past few months. Having dated before, there was a new sense of steady awareness of each other, and how to operate. And after some more months of being together and dating, and doing all the things we used to do, it felt comforting and familiar. I was pleased that some things were indeed different (on both ends), and I was content with taking it slow and steady. I enjoyed the similar humor and silly antics we both did to each other. The daily teacher rants or stories from his school and mine was comforting to share and we definitely appreciated the fellow teacher venting partner.
Without disclosing too much information, the relationship was good, and I’d argue it was better the second time around. We didn’t have any dramatic argumentments; and neither one of us lied, cheated or stole from each other. We genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, and had plenty in common, not least of all the attraction. But much to my dismay, he broke it off for reasons that I’m still trying to come to terms with and accept. And it wasn’t until being in the shadow of this recent breakup, I came to realize that I am in love with Daniel. Great, after the fact, I figure this out - fantastic!
Daniel taught me more than I can put into words. He taught me how a man can take care of me physically; how his actions speak louder than his words; and he showed me how a man can go out of his way for me. He taught me a level of intimacy that comes with insecurities, personal demons, and overall health; and the rawness and sincerity that can come with it. It was a gift to see just how wonderful that level of intimacy can be.
Now don’t get it twisted, by no means was our relationship a bed of roses, or some unrealistic fairy tale where he swept me off my feet, but there was still goodness between us and our relationship. I cannot speak for Daniel, but for me, it was the hardest I worked mentally and emotionally in a relationship, and with that, and for what it’s worth I treasure my time more because of it. Despite the end of our run, and even our second run, it was still worth it and worth wide, and there were plenty of moments that were fulfilling. In the midst of the hurt and heartbreak I bear, you’d think I’d regret our second go around. Simply put: I don’t. Something drew me back to him, and while I may not understand why, I have to put my faith and trust that there was a purpose for our reunion. While he brought goodness to my life for the time we were together, and what he taught me about relationships, I know (at the risk of stroking my own ego) I know I brought a level of reciprocity to him and taught him a thing or two in our process as well.
With all sincerity, I wish him nothing but the very best. The man is a good guy, with a good heart; he’s just not my guy. C’est la vie! Perhaps one day in the distant future, once our time isn’t a bittersweet memory, but a just a fond memory, we will run into each other, and we’ll talk fondly with each other before wishing each other goodwill.
There ya have it, three very different men, and three times I’ve fallen in love. They say that third times a charm, well I’m hoping for me, the fourth time will be forever. So wherever my forever man is I hope he can have the friendship John gave me; the romance Charles gave me; and the real intimacy and acts of service Daniel showed me.
So while I don’t exactly appreciate the old adage of “it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." I rather cling to the revised phrase by Hunter Hayes, “it’s better to have loved and lost, than lost the nerve to even try.” So while I’m doing the work to take care of myself post breakup and heartbreak, I remind myself in the midst of the process, this too shall pass. The clouds will clear and the sun will shine again, and life does indeed go on.