“Kevin, this is going to take 110 percent commitment if it’s going to work,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I answered. “I just can’t do that. I’m sorry.”
These were the last words exchanged between me and a girl I thought was someone special.
After my last semester of college, I was going to be away for a summer, and the distance was something that concerned my girlfriend at the time. But 110 percent was not something I was willing to give. Perhaps if she asked for 50 percent we would still be together, but both she and I would clearly have been unhappy.
After our breakup, I can remember trying to explain to my friends and family why I wasn’t willing to commit to a girl who was in every respect wonderful: She was thoughtful, fun, energetic, and passionate. We shared the same values, and she was loved by my family. My concerns at the time were not about who she was, but about how crazy she seemed to me to ask for my commitment and dedication.
It wasn’t until much later that I started to realize just how immature I was being. Of course a relationship requires commitment, and 110 percent at that. She wasn’t crazy to ask for that. But I still couldn’t explain why I found myself retreating from the right ones and instead pining after women who treated me badly. Clearly, something was wrong with me, not the loving and sweet girl who just wanted to be with me.
What I realized can’t be explained in one post, but the heart of it is that I loved the experience of love, not the person. I loved the excitement of meeting someone new, the intoxicating surge of passion for someone out of reach, and the distance between us that fanned my ever-increasing desire into flames. But the love that comes from commitment, that deletes distance and increases intimacy, was what I should have wanted. The grip of passion is only an exciting intro to the good stuff yet to come.
A year or so after my change of heart, I started dating a girl who I liked a lot. She was the kind of girl worth investing in, and I knew it. But she had to leave soon for a year abroad. I didn’t want to be taken for a fool, hopelessly waiting a year while she was whisked away by some smooth talking Italian.
We started talking about us and about what to do when it was time for her to leave. All I needed to hear was that she was willing to work on us, even if she was away in Europe.
“Sorry,” she said, “that’s something I just can’t do.”
That was, strangely, the happiest breakup I ever experienced. I finally knew that I was willing to commit and build a relationship (even while spending a year apart from the person I loved), rather than just experiencing the longing of a passionate romance but never being fulfilled. I’m ready for something more. And I’ll be ready when the right girl comes along.