I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I pulled the baked potatoes out of the oven and placed them on the table. She called from the other room and asked if I needed help and I said no. I sat down and looked at the table. I had just spent an hour making dinner for the both of us. It was something I liked to do ever since my mom would leave me home alone when I was younger and my friends would ask what we had in the house to eat. There was always something nurturing inside me that got a small amount of satisfaction from seeing someone eat something I made.
I took a few minutes out of her view to just sit and take it all in. It was one of those warm late summer nights where you almost felt obligated to be outside enjoying one of the handful of perfect evenings you can only truly appreciate after brutal Chicago winters and scorching summers. I looked out the window and envisioned just walking out. Not a word. Not a goodbye. Just walking out and walking away forever.
She had done nothing to warrant this behavior. She was beautiful and lovely. She had a great sense of humor and liked touching me while we watched our nightly shows. She was a “catch” by anyone’s standards and was the kind of woman that you would be proud to take to meet your parents. But what my friends and family didn’t know, and what she didn’t know was that she didn’t excite me. And while that isn’t her job, it is the reason why we choose each other. Our partners are not put on this earth to make us better people, but they are there to motivate and inspire us. They should enhance the positive aspects of our personality and help minimize the negative. That is why we commit to them. That is why we choose them over everyone else – because we believe they will bring happiness into our lives so we invest our time, energy, and faith into who they are as a person. And she… well, she was just… there.
As time progresses, we tend to become complacent in our roles. What is known is comfortable and the more we stay stagnant, the more we will avoid change. And while there is nothing wrong with easy relationships, sometimes we need to take a few minutes to ask if we are satisfied. Sometimes we need to look out the window and ask if the person who lies next to us in bed every night makes us feel like a sound investment. But most importantly, do they make us feel fulfilled.
And as the baked potatoes began to cool, I thought about the amazing woman sitting in the other room and how I felt suffocated. Trapped in mediocrity. And I couldn’t shake the thought of someone who would be a more perfect fit, for me and for her. Someone who would look forward to seeing her every day and someone who would challenge me as a man. Someone who would make me laugh and fall in love with her all over again. Someone who wouldn’t grow tired of reminding me how lucky they were to have found me and someone who could never understand just how lucky I was to have found her.
I stood and walked to the refrigerator to grab the sour cream and butter for the potatoes and I burned with guilt as I began to set up the dinner. Tonight wasn’t the night to walk out and never come back. So I put on a fake smile and called out, “Dinner is ready,” into the other room. She walked in and thanked me for working so hard and I felt villainous. Like she could smell the secret on me. And I watched her move. The way her arm grazed mine. The way she held her fork. The way she flung her hair over her shoulder to keep it away from the food. The day would come and it would be horrible and surprising. And I knew she would try and reason with me. She would attempt to convince me that I was making a terrible mistake. And it would be in those moments when reason escapes us and we forget that it takes two people who are equally enamored and in love to make a successful relationship. She would cry and I would feel awful for breaking her heart and knowing there was nothing she could do or say that would ever make me truly fall in love with her and that is the tragedy of love. Knowing that the person across from you has earned and deserves your love but you are simply not the right one to give it to them.
I ate my food and we talked about our day and we slept in the same bed. This went on for a few more months until the feeling of being trapped overwhelmed me and I ended things and they went exactly the way I had expected. After a healthy discussion, I walked out with her crying on her couch and I never walked through her doors again. And I felt just as awful as I had expected.
Years later, I can easily tell you that I made the right decision and she would complete agree. In the beginning we gravitated toward each other and for a time we were compatible in all the ways you need a partner to be. But we evolved, we changed, we grew and we fought the slowly emerging truth that we simply weren’t right for each other. And like two people desperate to hold on to the familiar, we lied to ourselves and each other. We tried to convince ourselves that we were truly in love, and while I still love her – I know now that I was never IN love with her. And that really is the most important component.
No relationship will ever be perfect and there will be more than a few days when you will contemplate leaving or shouting at the top of your lungs, but at the end of the day you should be happy with your investment. That the person you are giving all of your time, energy, and faith has not only earned it but appreciates it, and appreciates that it comes from you.
The same way you feel about them.