There have only been a handful of instances in which I’ve dated a guy I could actually see myself marrying. The thing about me is I’m very good at talking myself out of relationships for a wide range of reasons: they don’t want to travel, don’t like the outdoors, aren’t willing to do artsy intellectual things, can’t hold a conversation. You name it, I’ve probably used it as an excuse to stop dating someone. It seems, the longer I spend time with someone I’m dating, the more disillusioned I become with them.
I basically self-sabotage.
Ryan was, I would say, the first guy I didn’t do this with. I liked what I learned about him. He was well-traveled, intelligent, interesting to talk to, and hilarious. I enjoyed spending time with him and getting to know him. And he broke the two-date curse (where I legitimately couldn’t get past the second date with any guy).
I was so infatuated with him that I even brought him around to meet my friends (something I’d never done before).
I thought things were going so well. We were exclusively dating (a first for me), were starting to become comfortable around each other, and he’d come over to my apartment where I’d cooked an amazing meal to impress (along with his favorite dessert, key lime pie).
Perhaps my food was unappealing, but that was the last time I saw Ryan.
While he and I didn’t text or call every day, I did get worried when I didn’t hear from him for over a week. I texted him, asking if things were okay.
Work, he told me when he finally called me back, was crazy busy. He’d be able to do something next weekend.
A few days later, I texted him to make plans. A few days went by without hearing from him, then the weekend came and went without a word, and when I saw on Facebook that he was alive (he’d gone to Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day river dying), I concluded he was ignoring me and attempting to ghost rather than ending things in person.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve totally ghosted people. However, it’s always been with people I’ve gone out with a couple times, not someone I’ve been dating regularly and had established a relationship with.
So, I sent him an email. I’ve never been one for dramatics and I certainly wasn’t going to try to convince him to continue dating me (I can accept when someone is no longer interested). What I did want to know, however, is why Ryan had rather suddenly ceased talking to me. I hate anything unresolved because I will obsessively overanalyze the situation in order to understand it.
Which really isn’t healthy.
Because if I had done something to upset him, I wanted to apologize (and then learn from my mistake so I wouldn’t do it again in the future).
I wrote up a short message, just asking for some clarification and insight, recognizing his obvious decision to end things (even if slightly immature). He replied a few days later (and to be honest, I wasn’t even sure he would even do that). He apologized for how he handled it, explaining his company had decided to send him on an extended assignment to China, which he felt didn’t let him maintain the relationship we’d started.
And it wasn’t just him leaving for China, either. Apparently, he knew my life plan better than me, saying that his goal to return to Texas as soon as possible didn’t match with my immediate grad school plans (joke’s on him, then, since I ended up moving to Texas a year and a half later for said grad school).
Whatever the excuse Ryan gave me, I did learn that communication is essential, whether it’s for the early “getting to know you” stages, or working through problems, or deciding to break up. When I ended things with the guy I was dating last summer, ghosting him would have been easy (I was returning to Texas for 4 months to finish out some grad school obligations), but I remembered all the questions I was left with, the hours of reflection and nitpicking over what I had done that warranted this type of reaction, and the stunted ability to move on (because there’s still a part of you that wonders if things will be rekindled). Even though ending things unequivocally can hurt, at least there’s a definite end without lingering “what ifs?”
In addition to discovering strong communication skills are key, I also learned the importance of unfriending former dates from Facebook. Around the holidays, less than a year after we’d stopped dating, I saw on my newsfeed that he’d gotten engaged to someone he’d met when he returned to Texas in late summer.
Wow. Bit of a sucker punch, that one.
Though, in hindsight, Ryan was partly right regarding my life plan. After moving to Texas, I discovered the state wasn’t for me so it’s probably a good thing Ryan and I never worked out. Even though at the time I thought he was making uninformed assumptions about where I thought my life was going, he was correct in assuming that Texas wasn’t a place I’d end up (at least not in the long run). Obviously, Ryan and I weren’t meant to be, but as a wise friend of mine has told me, “Each relationship helps show you what you want (and don’t) and brings you closer to the one perfect for you.”
Wise words, that.