I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I always say you have to give it a few years to let the wounds heal, but eventually, provided you are both rational and reasonable people – you do have the ability to become friends with your exs again. Over the years, I have gotten some criticism from people. It is always either I still have feelings for them or they say, “What’s the point?”
I usually respond with telling my critics that there was a reason why we got together in the first place and why it lasted as long as it did. While we obviously grew apart, for a time, we were best friends. And there is nothing wrong with getting coffee with an old friend… even if you did have sex with them at one point.
We met up at my local Starbucks and I picked a seat not in direct sunlight. Some people are fortunate enough to look spectacular in bright sunlight – I am not one of those people. Every scar, winkle, blackhead that I have ever had comes out and my dark circles get amplified to Misfits level. Call me vain, but let’s be real – when meeting up with an ex after a few years you kind of want to make yourself look as presentable as possible. Harboring romantic intentions or not, you know you would pick the spot with the best light. Admit it.
So I ordered my coffee, sat with my back against the window and waited. She showed up a little late and apologized. I stood and gave her a hug. She smelled the same and it brought back so many memories. She was just as beautiful as I remembered and her smile lit up the room. We sat down and made uncomfortable small talk for a few minutes but eventually we both started to feel a little comfortable sitting across from each other as friends and began speaking more naturally. We joked and I made fun of her shoes and said something like, “See, that’s what you wear when you start dating nerds.” We laughed and she busted my balls and I remembered that was one of the things that I liked so much about her – she could take a joke. Everyone thinks they have a good sense of humor but the truth is, a lot of people simply don’t. They can dish out the joke but they can’t take it when they’re on the other end. And when a person can tolerate my obnoxious sense of humor and still give it right back, it magnifies any feelings I have for them by a hundred.
But as we chatted away, I remembered why we broke up. Somewhere along the line I realized I wasn’t in love with her. Not just that I wasn’t IN love with her, but that I never had been. And maintaining a loveless relationship with a good person with a good soul wasn’t fair, so I walked away for all the right reasons.
She asked me how my dating life had been going and I remember having to hold back my excitement. I wanted to blurt out how many dates I had been on. That I was flirting with over a dozen women and that my number had tripled since we broke up. Instead, I just said that things were going really well in that area and left it hang in the air with a devilish grin.
“Oh, well that’s good. I truly am happy for you.” She said, “So tell me about her. Is she the one?”
“Oh, wait.” I said, “Which one are you talking about?”
“There’s more than one?”
I paused because I could see this wasn’t the direction I had been expecting.
“Well, uh,” I was stalling for time. “Uhh, I mean, I guess there is more than one.”
“Christopher. How many women are you dating right now?”
“YOU’RE DATING SIX WOMEN?” She shouted a little too loud for the Starbucks.
“Well, just three seriously.” I said in an attempt to make things a little more understandable, “The other three are ones I see only about once a week.”
I could tell she wasn’t impressed. Up to that point I was actually slightly proud of myself. I remember thinking I was never the kind of guy who had the ability to date multiple women at one time. I had always considered myself lucky that I could talk a woman into kissing me. I mean, I knew a handful of women found me attractive over the years but I figured a lot of that had to do with my magical combination of over-convincing them to buy into my ridiculousness followed by some pouty faces. Basically, I had lived my life thinking one day they would wake up, shake the sleep from their eyes, and say, “Wait, what happened? WHO AM I DATING?!?”
But I had gotten to a point where dating women was literally a full time job. I would sleep over at one woman’s apartment, go to lunch with another, dinner with another, then sleep at a different woman’s apartment. I stayed at my own apartment maybe once a month. And at the time, it was a nice feeling. I had done the impossible. I had become the guy in the movie I had always envied – and the gloating must have shown on my face because my ex gave me a sigh of disapproval. She wasn’t impressed and she shouldn’t have been. She knew me as well as anyone possibly could and she said, “You are wasting your talents.”
“How do you figure?”
“These poor women.” She said, “None of them have a chance.”
“I don’t understand.” I said, “I’m giving them all a chance.”
“No you’re not. You have so much to offer and you’re giving each one of these women calculated pieces of your personality. There is no way you could possibly give each one of these women what they deserve because you’re already plotting what you’re going to do with the next one in your head. And you can’t give someone a fair shot of getting to know you if you’re never fully present.”
She was right and she knew it. Worst of all, she knew that I knew it. But at that time in my life, I had to go through my journey. I had to see if I could so I could understand it and if I could understand it, well then I could control it. But what was great about that sunny afternoon was that she reminded me that I am a wonderful man when I allow myself to be and that I have gifts that are meant to be shared, and shared correctly and with respect.
I don’t know if i believe in absolute monogamy. I think that definition differs from person to person and that blanket relationship expectations do more harm than good. All I really know is what works for me. And what works for me is doing everything I can to respect and receive the love someone is willing to give me. Whether that is because they don’t see the lines or wrinkles, or because I talk a good game, or simply because they are in love with my fire – I should be present. I should acknowledge their investment – as we all should. That whether or not we believe we deserve the love and trust they give us is irrelevant. Because it is not about our perception of ourselves, it’s understanding our value to another person. And the best way to do that is to give them our thoughts, our time, our attention, and our sincerity.
And in the words of the immortal poet of our generation, Miss Taylor Swift:
“If you chase two rabbits you lose them both.”