“I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to end up alone,” he said.
That answer to my question caused pause and did leave me scratching my head, slightly conflicted yet not wanting to jump to judgment.
It was definitely the polar opposite of my reason for seeking a companion.
The question was returned, as we volleyed back and forth, immersed in the exploration of each other.
“I am happy alone because I love my solitude, but I believe life is meant to be shared and I want to spend it with someone special,” I replied.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but I can assure you that my vision was as clear as clear can be when I met the man who I truly believed I’d journey through time with.
As a matter of fact, my vision was clearer than it had ever been.
Love was something that I still believed in, but I wasn’t completely sold that it was meant for me. I was convinced at this age and stage, God had other plans for me, yet I’m tenacious and still harbored a glimmer of skeptical hope that my person may be out there.
At that time in my life, I had been in such a good place, personally and professionally. Years of solitude and a conscious decision to remain un-partnered allowed for deep introspection that resulted in enlightenment. I’d made peace with myself for being perfectly imperfect, tossed aside any fears that continued to paralyze me, and found myself ready to open my heart to the right person.
With cautious yet willing receptiveness, I knocked down those walls that barricaded my heart and walked carefully into the arms of—what I thought was—love.
I read the manual, I knew what to do, and I applied the techniques required to ensure the relationship I was entering was genuine, sincere, and real. Despite challenges and differences, starts and stops, I truly believed and trusted that this person was my person. Everything else was wrong because it was preparing me for this—the right one.
But how do we know if a person is right? How do we trust what we hear and observe about a potential partner and make sure our hearts don’t override our heads? How do we know that what they say, how they act, and what they promise will prove true?
In the beginning, there can be flowery words, small acts of valiance, and what may seem like overzealous interest.
There will certainly be differences, opposing views and perspectives, but at that time there is most often a willingness to put all of our cards on the table while soaking up the light romance, gentle care, and talking through potential conflicts—not seeing them as deal breakers.
The truth is people only show us what they want us to see.
Some are master showmen, earning Academy Awards for their star performances.
Some are guarded and slow to reveal, maybe allowing you in a bit, but never fully opening their minds or hearts.
And some people are real—the rare few who say what they mean, mean what they say, and are genuine in their interactions with others. Interactions with all others, not just potential partners.
Over time, the performers usually strip off their costumes and forget their lines. They grow bored, can’t stick to the script, and move on to another show.
The guarded either pour their hearts out, opening the doors to let you in to who and what they are, or they flee the scene of the crime, never to be heard from again.
And the authentic souls—well, they either find their tribe or face a life filled with disappointments from believing in people who, well, only showed them what they wanted them to see.
I had no expectations. I tempered the pace. I was open, honest, and real. I was me, the only person I know who to be.
It was scary, angst provoking and hard for me—and I shared that.
My exact words were, “You’re going to have to hold my hand through this. Getting this close and sharing such intimacy is really hard for me. I’m fragile.”
And the reply was, “Don’t you worry. I got you. I’m great with fragile things.”
It was exciting, alluring, and enticing—and I said that everything that was happening then was expected over time. There was no honeymoon period. What I said I wanted was what I needed for a lifetime.
My exact words were, “Don’t give me a sales pitch, because this is what I expect always.”
And the reply was, “I wouldn’t give you anything less.”
Ironically, as I sit here today along with so many other scorned lovers, I just can’t wrap my head around the how, why, who, what, or when. Yet I was there; I watched it fall apart, crack like a meringue that cools too quickly.
He may have stayed forever, but I couldn’t take the distance. At some point, there was a switch, a change. There was a stranger in my home and after years of starts and stops, saying goodbye was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But being alone with someone by my side was never a way I wanted to live and it wasn’t healthy for either one of us, so someone had to say it, had to do it, and had to put an end to the madness.
Friends and family know me to be the person who vehemently states that we cannot change people. We either love them for who they are or release them from our lives.
But what happens when we do accept a person for who he is, then he changes? Not the kind of change that is positive and affords for growth and improvement, but the kind that impacts the lives of those who love them and strains, if not ruins, relationships?
“I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to end up alone.”
Fast forward in time from the day he made that statement and I now know that I should have followed my gut. Had I done that, our third date would have been our last date and I may have avoided years of unnecessary heartache. Had I done that, New Year’s Day would have been the end and I may have avoided years of unnecessary heartache. And so on.
But reflecting back on it all, had I done that, I would have missed out on some really good times and valuable lessons that needed to be learned. Not about relationships, because each one is unique, but about myself and what relationships mean to me.
I wouldn’t trade the experience, the bittersweet memories, and most of all the growth and wisdom that can result from even the most tumultuous of times if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, receptive, and honest. Not only with ourselves, but with others.
And if only he’d asked me to stay—but he didn’t, and it confirmed every gut feeling I’d ever had.
So today I sit here thinking our entire relationship was a lie, years of my life that I’ll never get back.
Here are five valuable points to ponder when you’re asking yourself if a person is right for you:
1. Listen carefully.
Statements, as innocent as they may seem, can be warning labels. One in particular I’ve come to trust completely is, “I don’t want to screw this up.” I’ve lived and loved long enough to know that they will, indeed, screw it up. Fabulously, perfectly, and royally screw it up. Hear it, trust it, and love at your own risk.
I heard that on Route 495 years ago, driving home from work, and offered my exit stage right. If he said it, he will do it, I thought. But he insisted. He asked me for years to stay. Until he didn’t.
Careless comments spoken when one’s guard is down can be filled with insight.
“All women are like that.” “I’m never getting married.” “I hate my mother.” “Why do I care? Won’t affect my life.”
Listen, digest, and ask yourself if this person is right for you.
2. Do the actions match the words?
As a woman who loves words and takes them seriously, it’s more than difficult to ensure my safety.
On the flip side, I don’t trust words. Whether it be a potential partner or a sales pitch, words are words. Show me who you are.
I recall all too clearly that night my inquisitive mind and love for words was thrown in my face.
“Must be nice to have an answer for everything.” “You and your words. You take them so literally.”
Right person? I guess not. What he grew to love, appreciate, and ask for was one day unwelcomed. The man who I thought loved me for that inquisitiveness and curiosity to research anything and everything, somehow seemed to resent and loathe it.
Words are how I express myself, describe how I am feeling, and paint the picture of what’s going on between my heart and my head. And for others who do the same, tread carefully.
It is what one does, not what one says.
If his words are tall yet his actions fall short, walk away.
Anyone can say anything. There are a great many bags of wind out there. But it is the person who can show their love and care without saying a word who hold promise.
3. How does he treat other people?
Is he kind to animals? Is he patient with others? Is he polite to restaurant wait staff, store clerks, and strangers? If his mother is alive, is he good to her—even if he may not like her?
If not, he may not be right.
How he treats others is how he will eventually treat you, no matter what he says. He may treat you differently at the start, but in time you’ll be treated like everyone else.
4. Does he take responsibility or place blame?
We all play a part in the demise of things.
We are not completely void of faults nor are we innocent victims. Even if we are treated in a certain way, how we react is within our control and we should take responsibility for our behavior.
If he doesn’t take responsibility for the role he’s played in various situations or relationships and blames circumstances, other people, or grows defensive and is the perpetual victim, he may not be the right person.
5. Follow your gut.
People may dismiss it and some may think it ridiculous, but I am a believer in gut feelings along with intuition and a sixth sense. It’s your body’s immediate understanding of something before your mind even joins the party.
If it doesn’t feel right and something makes your skin prickly, trust that. It could save you from many things.
Not once in my life has my gut been wrong and every mistake I’ve made has been because I disregarded it.
It is said that when you trust your intuition, it is the ultimate act of trusting in yourself—so follow your gut.