A long time ago, on a cold Saturday night at the end of February, I met a boy in a sketchy bar on New York’s 8th Avenue. We passed each other a few times and smiled shyly, both too afraid to make a move. Finally, frustrated by the lack of action, his friends took matters into their own hands and told my friend to introduce us.
Making A Move
Unlike most single men one meets in bars, he was sweet and warm, not to mention relatively sober. He did not attempt to touch me or make a move; he simply made polite conversation and asked for my number. Three days later he called me to invite me to dinner, and the rest as they say, is history.
We dated for three and a half years. He was the model boyfriend in every which way, for those of you Sex and the City fans, he was the Aidan to the many Mr. Bigs and Mr. Post-it Notes that followed: sweet, generous with time, affection and money, and incredibly caring.
Rock Solid Love
He would have given me anything that I ever wanted and more, and would have made an amazing partner. Ours wasn’t the kind of love that made people cry at the movies, or had earth-shattering moments of drama. It was a simpler thing –boring by some standards, rock solid by others.
I was 23 years old, barely a month out of my last relationship. I knew nothing.
Get Married Or Leave
My US visa ran out, and my work permit fell through. I was suddenly faced with a choice – get married or leave the country.
I’ve thought about that choice for the last ten years. Not that I can take it back, not that I can change the way things turned out, not that it was necessarily even the wrong decision. But I still wonder today if I actually understood the choice I made.
The Beginning Of The End
I was restless, and he was ready for commitment. We had talked about marriage, and a future together, but I didn’t know if the American suburban dream could be mine, but I realized it was everything he wanted. I had to accept, with a great deal of sadness, that it would not happen. Although we stayed together for a few months after my move, it was really the beginning of the end.
Let The Dating Begin!
After that, I went out with men of all types, personalities and from all different walks of life. Like many men and women I grew frustrated with the game and the available choices. My New York man, my Aidan, had spoiled me, and I was never able to feel the same with anybody else.
The Honeymoon Phase
Three years of singledom later, I entered what was possibly the most dramatic relationship I’ve ever been in – equal parts passion, violent tempers and drama. At the beginning he was totally enamored by me, hung on to my every word, gazed at me like a little puppy dog. Yes, it was the honeymoon phase, but at some point, the dynamic shifted – and suddenly I was giving much more than I was receiving.
3 & A Half Years Later
I say this like I’m blaming him. I’m not. Part of it was that he was not truly capable of giving me what I needed, but then again I also shied away from communicating this gap. Also, over the course of time, I allowed him to treat me more and more as expendable, and three and a half years (clearly my threshold) and another move later, we ended things over a teary phone call.
On To The Next One
This was followed by another relationship, much shorter-lived and different in every way except one: this person went from almost overwhelming infatuation, to the point that I felt like I was put up on a pedestal, to moonlighting on a dating site and barely responding to Whatsapp messages, let alone phone calls or date nights. There were other factors of course; these things are rarely simple, but they are irrelevant to divulge here.
One morning, after a sleepless night of trying to figure out why I couldn’t get this one thing right when I’ve been successful in all other areas in my life, I found myself writing a message to my New York ex.
I wrote him to tell him he was an amazing person. That he should know that he deserved all the happiness in the world. I also wrote that I was sorry that I had never been able to appreciate him as much as he deserved to and that I felt really bad for any hurt I would have caused him. I wrote him without agenda – the man is happily married with a ten-month old daughter, and I am no home wrecker. I just needed peace.
He wrote me back a day later. He held no bitterness or grudges. He remembered everything about our relationship and I with fondness, and knew I hadn’t meant to hurt him. But most importantly he said I didn’t deserve to struggle this much to be with someone, that I deserved better.
When I read this, tears sprang to my eyes. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulder. It was then that I realized that my guilt for my New York ex had been holding me back from being what I perceived as too demanding in my later relationships. I had always considered myself too selfish and felt I needed to give more than I received.
Time To Receive
It is not that I want to stop giving: not at all. But I also want to be able to receive now. For some reason, after the message from my Aidan, I actually believe I deserve it.
It is never bad to be giving in a relationship and you should certainly do it without agenda of receiving something back. But when someone is giving you the same benefit, many of us our conditioned to feel we don’t deserve it. I know I sound like a cheesy L’Oreal commercial now, but when it finally sinks in, to accept what you need to sustain yourself, it is most empowering feeling in the world.
To Love & Be Loved In Return
I know now that I won’t repeat my mistakes, and I know now that I won’t put myself into a situation where I’m miserable or with someone who puts me down. I’m allowing myself to be loved. One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain and reads: “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I would love to hear what you thought about my story, and let me know if you have had a similar experience in the comments below!