Meeting James was like getting hit by a freight train. I didn’t see it coming and it knocked the wind out of me.
I was always the type that was either all in … or you don’t exist to me. There was seldom an in between and finding a guy that captured my attention so fully was a rare, almost once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
We met at a bar and the chemistry was electric. I was captivated like I’d never been before. I wanted to know his entire story, I wanted to immerse myself in that story, I needed him in my life and I couldn’t fathom how I ever existed before him.
We were in that happy, lovey-dovey stage for about two weeks when the bubble burst. He got a distressing phone call one night and spent an hour outside of the apartment dealing with it while I tried to keep my cool and not think the worst, as I’m so prone to do.
But it was bad. It was his ex. And then the twist- they had actually broken up a mere week before we met! He was at the bar that night for his first night out as a single dude in almost two years. And then he met me. And then he somehow found out about me and now he was mad and he thought maybe he wanted him back. And he thought maybe he wanted him back. And why, oh why, does nothing ever work out for me?
He took a week to figure out where he stood with him. It was a week of me barely able to catch my breath. And then I got a blessed call from him one day, the call that said it was totally over with him and did I want to hang out that night? Yes, yes, a million times yes!
And so began a beautiful love story.
Just kidding. It was a mess. A horrible, toxic, codependent mess. But I needed him. And he needed me. And that was enough. Except there was one thing I really wanted…
So, my “boyfriend,” the guy I was spending every single night with, the man I basically did everything with, and everything for, wouldn’t call me his dude. He just wouldn’t do it. He said we were exclusive. We weren’t seeing other people. So that was nice and all, but he was still technically “single” and I was not his.
He said he was just too scarred from his previous relationship, that the title is more a psychological thing for him, that he will never again make a relationship official on Facebook (remember this part!), that he will never be so quick to call someone his boyfriend (remember that part too!). Of course he cared about me, of course I was special, but he just wasn’t into labels and let’s just drop it.
So I dropped it. And I tried to show him that I was the best “boyfriend” ever. I did everything for him. I cared for him, I was supportive, I was there whenever he needed me. I basically abandoned myself and my life to serve him.
It was so bad in so many ways, but this isn’t an article about the perils of being entangled in a toxic relationship. This is something else. This is about staying with a guy who will not commit, and convincing yourself that somehow you still have this deep, magical relationship.
Long story short, our relationship was bad. Then he broke up with me and it was awful and sad. And actually, he told me he loved me for the very first time while we were breaking up. No man had ever said that to me before, but it actually only made the pain worse.
I didn’t think I could survive without him. I didn’t know how I would exist. But somehow I did. Somehow I found the strength, and somehow I found someone new. And he was great! We started dating and I was just in awe of the ease it all. But then James came back. He called me one night, begging to see me. I resisted, but let’s be real, I didn’t have the strength or conviction to put up much of a fight when it came to him.
So he came over, I told him I was seeing someone else, and he totally lost it and he needed me back. After a few weeks of deliberating, I made my fateful choice. I chose Eric. And he finally gave me the love and commitment I had desperately been seeking!
No, just kidding. That didn’t happen. He still wouldn’t call me his boyfriend, our relationship was still horribly toxic and codependent, and I still willingly shackled myself to him even though I knew full well there was much better out there. There was better at my fingertips and I let him go!
The way he fought to get me back meant something to me. I thought it meant he needed me, that he couldn’t live without me, that some way and somehow we would make it work.
Then summer came and I went home for a summer internship before starting my senior year of college. And then he cheated on me. Well, I guess I never really knew if it was technically cheating since we weren’t technically official. But it sure felt like it. And that wasn’t even the worst of it…
Two weeks later, the guy he cheated on me with was his official boyfriend! Not just official, also Facebook official. How? What? Why? HOW???
I felt like I had been sucker punched. This can’t be real. This makes no sense. I called him immediately to make some sense out of it and it was like talking to a cold distant stranger. He didn’t offer me much insight beyond, “Well, it is what it is. What can I say?”
In my mind, this meant one thing: I just wasn’t good enough. He has something I don’t. He is something I’m not. But what?
And thus began my years-long spiral to discover why I wasn’t good enough, and how to make myself so.
I just couldn’t understand. He told me he couldn’t be in a relationship right now. Was it just a lie?
I know I’m not the first to ask this question. And here is the truth of the matter…
He just didn’t want to be in a relationship with you.
I know it’s hard, I know it’s painful. But that’s just the truth. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t a match, maybe something he couldn’t put his finger on was holding him back. Whatever the case, he just didn’t want to be with you.
Years after our tumultuous relationship, James and I became business partners. With time and perspective, it was so clear to me what an awful match we truly were. We’re great as friends and business partners, but as a couple, not so much.
And maybe that’s what he felt inside, maybe that’s what held him back. But it didn’t matter. Our relationship was never good. Even when it was good it wasn’t good. We were two broken people trying to hide from our broken-ness by spending every waking second together. That does not a healthy relationship make.
The guy that came after me was different. He didn’t know he was broken. With him, he had the chance to step up and turn himself into someone new. And he did. He was a completely different person with him than he ever was with me. He was who I always wanted him to be with him and that just made it all so much worse. But their relationship also didn’t last and was over in under two years. So it goes in the game of love.
The point is, you have to take his words at face value. When he says he doesn’t want to be in a relationship, he means it. The reasons don’t matter, the facts do. I would have spared myself so many years of torture and tumult had I just taken it at face value. And I see men making my mistake all the time.
Yes, it is a serrated knife to the heart to see the guy who wouldn’t commit to you commit to someone else. All it really means is he isn’t and never was the right guy for you. The right guy for you wants to be with you. And it really, truly, seriously, isn’t personal.
You don’t have control over how someone else feels. All you can control is being your best self and making yourself a vessel to receive love. That’s about it. If you do that and it doesn’t work, then it never would have worked. That really is all you need to know.