In the past when I have been in a relationship, one of two things has happened:
Either (a) the new man in my life would be emotionally distant, unpredictable in his affections (except when sex was on his agenda), and inconsistent in his attentions outside of the bedroom. Or (b) he would be not quite so distant, rather affectionate (and even more so, when sex was on the menu) and fairly consistent in his attentions to me outside of bed, which meant he would actually have a conversation with me as long as the game wasn't on.
I know what you're thinking: that I wasn't doing a particularly good job of picking the right guys. And you'd be right. I have had a track record of being with men who were always unavailable to me in one way or another, the kind of guys whose behavior -- while never abusive in any way and not even horrible by most people's standards -- would push every button to trigger my baser insecurities and deep-seated abandonment issues (yeah, I've read all the self-help books and done the therapy, so I know the big words).
And whenever I would get the feeling the relationship wasn't going anywhere, I would do what I thought was the only sensible thing under the circumstances: I would try and leave him before he'd leave me, as I inevitably assumed he would do, sooner or later. The more I liked him, the harder this would be for me to do, but I would do it anyway, out of nothing more than fear of being hurt even worse if I stayed until he left me, and a desire for self-preservation. It was my defense mechanism: be the one who leaves first because at least you have control over THAT. You can't make him stay, you can't make him love you or even to call you when he says he will, but you can sure as hell have the last word as you walk out the door and leave him standing there. And maybe if you're lucky he will regret you for the rest of his life and die penniless and alone. Be honest, girls: isn't that what we are secretly hoping will happen to all our ex-boyfriends?
It didn't always work out quite this way -- on occasion he'd beat me to the punch and bail first -- but 9 times out of 10 this was more or less the scenario. Hence, a string of short-term relationships punctuated by much longer stretches of singledom.
As I got older and a bit wiser, more self aware, and a bit more confident, the relationships got a bit longer and even a bit healthier, even when they ended -- as in when I finally, at 32, broke up with a guy for all the RIGHT reasons, and with no acrimony or second guessing afterward. He really WAS unable to give me what I needed, as he was still suffering from being unceremoniously dumped by his fiancée (and in fairness, she was quite horrible about it), and we both agreed he was not in the right place to be the kind of boyfriend I had a right to expect, so we parted ways. It was the first time I could recall leaving a man, not out of fear of him leaving me first, but because it was the healthy thing for me to do for myself.
The next relationship after that was the one I thought was The One. We fell for each other quickly... just one date and we were pretty much "in a relationship" by the following weekend. We spent every weekend together after that, and eventually a change in job for him brought the opportunity for him to stay at my place for half of the work-week as well -- a sort of "semi-living together" thing only with none of the commitment or sharing of finances (hmmmm... this should have been a red flag for me). But at the time, I thought it was fantastic, the best thing I'd ever had up until that point. I couldn't imagine anything "better" -- even while I was patently ignoring the clear signs of long term incompatibility, such as his overwhelming need to declare to my friends and family (without being asked), "No woman will ever force me into marriage". I knew this to be evidence of his own insecurities and never took it personally, but nonetheless this was not a desirable quality in someone you think is The One. We lasted about a year and a half before the shit finally hit the fan.
Recovering from that one took a very long time. On the one hand, I felt like the breakup was the right thing to do (and yes, I was the "dumper" not the "dumpee"). On the other hand, my early conviction that he WAS The One had been shattered, and I began to doubt my ability to trust my own intuitions about men. I had been "so sure" he was right for me; how could I have made such a terrible mistake?
As time went on, and I replayed parts of my relationship with that man over and over in my head, I began to see that maybe he wasn't as different from "the others" as I had thought at first. I realized there was the same emotional unavailability in him that had appeared before, although it showed up differently and was a little harder to recognize. And worse yet, I was as insecure about myself in the relationship with him, even though I know he did love me sincerely, as I was with any of the losers I had dated previously. Bottom line: I never felt safe, secure and sure of myself in that relationship, ever. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. When I finally admitted this to myself, it felt, suddenly, like all the work I had thought I had done on myself, on growing and evolving as a person, had been for nothing. I knew that we were not really right for each other, and from that perspective I grew to accept that he was NOT The One and never would be; but my confidence in my ability to make good relationship choices was battered and bruised. I doubted myself. I was older, wiser, and still hadn't gotten it right. And now, I was 36. Uh-oh.
I think on some level, I made a "decision" at that point, and chose to believe I would most likely never find the kind of love I wanted -- a love where I could be myself, feel accepted and cherished, and where I would never doubt how he felt about me. I still had some small hopes in that direction, but no real ability to believe. Maybe, I thought, I was destined to be one of those people who would have a great life otherwise, but where love was concerned, would never have that one special person. Would never be respected, adored and wanted the way I had witnessed with some of the women I knew who were in fantastic relationships with excellent, loving, attentive, caring men. Oh sure, I thought, I might be able to have little bursts of romance here and there, but maybe I would have to accept that some people end up alone and single forever, and as horrible as it sounded, maybe I was supposed to be one of them. So I decided to pour my energies into the things I COULD control: my career, my friendships (which are first rate and a source of great joy and comfort, every one of them), and in enjoying my life solo in every way. To cement this decision, I (mainly unconsciously) packed on a huge amount of weight to an already pudgy form, to make doubly sure no one would find me attractive. Self-fulfilling prophesy, you know.
Fast forward nearly 10 years to the present date. Occasionally I made half-hearted attempts at dating, but never going beyond the first date and always being disappointed by what was "out there". During the later part of this decade of self-imposed emotional exile, I finally started to emerge from this emotional cocoon I had built around myself. I started to realize that I was not living my life fully, consciously, but I was living only half a life that was so work-focused that it was unbalanced and unhealthy. I was grossly overweight and bored out of my mind with my life. It was during that time I started making a new plan for my life, and a commitment to start living boldly, to start doing more things I really wanted to do in order to create the kind of life I wanted, even if I was overweight and single at the moment.
I started to imagine, just a little, the possibility of finding some love in my life again. I lost some weight, although not as much as I wanted, but enough to start to feel attractive again and much more bien dans ma peau. And I began to focus on starting over, creating a new life abroad for myself, in Paris -- even if that meant being (and perhaps staying) single in Paris. I thought: "I have always wanted to live in Paris, so why am I waiting until I have a man in my life to do it? Why not just GO?"
I have been here in Paris nearly a year now. A year in which I have had time to reflect, shift some of my thinking and begin to be open to love again. This has not been an easy task for me, being open to love. My track record does not exactly lend itself to inner confidence in this respect. But I worked on it, really worked on it, and over time, especially in just the past couple of months, I did begin to really, TRULY believe I could not only HAVE love, but that I DESERVED it. And this was a first for me, the actual BELIEVING.
It is less than three weeks since Georges and I met. I know, without a doubt, that he is the one, THE ONE, I have been waiting for my whole life. He is the one with whom I NEVER have doubts, insecurities or fears of abandonment. He is the one who is ALWAYS predictable in his feelings towards me (although he continues to amaze me every day with his ability to express himself so freely), emotionally available and consistent in all respects. He never leaves me waiting, wondering or guessing. He lets me know every single day (and usually MANY times a day) that he is thinking of me, and WHAT he is thinking. Sometimes he makes me laugh, and sometimes he makes me cry with the intensity with which he looks into my eyes at certain moments. He shares information about himself without me having to ask. He shares his vision for how he sees us, as a couple. He is his own man, he is confident and secure in himself, and does not feel the need to try and dominate or control me, and as a result I can let myself be vulnerable, emotional, softer, and I can give up control. I feel no need to run, to leave, because I am not afraid of "being left". He puts his arms around me, and I am already Home. He is everything I asked the Universe for, and more, so much more.
I was watching one of my favorite films the other day, Fools Rush In (which, by the way, is based on a true story), and afterward I told Georges about the plot (he hasn't seen it) and my favorite line in the movie. These two people meet "accidentally", and they are from two different worlds, two different cultures, but they have an instant connection and strong chemistry. She is used to being very independent, on her own, and she tries to push him away; he is used to going through his life emotionally unattached to any woman. But it is bigger than both of them, and in one scene he describes how he feels about her, how he got up that morning and he couldn't decide what to have for lunch, but his life made sense. Then she shows up in his life, and he knows exactly what he wants, and now his life doesn't make any sense. "Because you're The One," he says. "You are everything I never knew I always wanted."
Georges said: "That's us." Neither of us thought this -- Us, this love we have between us -- was "out there". I didn't know it even existed outside of "movie love", and I doubted (even while I harbored hopes) whether I would even find anything remotely close. He wasn't even open to it, never thought he'd ever want to go down that road with someone again. It is crazy (I know, I keep saying that), but there it is, and it's real. We love, and it's done. We are completely overwhelmed, and accepting it anyway. It is so much better than anything either of us ever dreamed possible -- and we know we're only at the very beginning.
As my best friend -- whose husband is also one of the best guys around and still totally crazy about her even after many years and four kids together -- said to me the other day: "Isn't it wonderful to be adored?"
Yes. But even better is the knowledge that I can trust myself, trust him and trust love this time. When you know, you know. Even after just 19 days.