My husband, Kyle, once told me that the phrase “burst into tears” took on a whole new, literal meaning for him the first time I tried to break up with him. He said tears burst forth from my eyes and my face burst into a full-on cry.
We were a few months into our first round of dating (of two), sitting on the edge of my bed, knee-to-knee, having a talk. It was the night after my big debut with his college friends, and after weeks of agonizing, I thought I had seen clearly that Kyle was a wonderful person but not my soul mate. Sobbing to him on the end of my bed, I struggled to explain my feelings and found a way.
One of the traditions in Kyle’s group of college friends is “The Interview,” where someone is put on the spot and has to answer questions thrown at him or her by the group. At the party the night before, Kyle and I had been nominated to be interviewed together. Someone put forth the question: “Is it love?”
I told Kyle that when we had been asked that question, I knew he didn’t love me. And he sat there, looking at me – in all my hysteria and blubbering – patiently, with no idea in his male brain why I was so upset, and said, “But I do love you.”
And I said, “But I don’t love you.”
“That’s okay,” he said. “Everyone falls in love at their own pace.”
I was stunned. This was a maturity and composure I hadn’t seen yet. This was character. This was selfless love. He did not get defensive, and I suddenly felt achingly jealous of his future wife.
I had been waiting for someone like Kyle my whole life. We shared the same values, he was the most adorable person I’d ever seen – tall and runner-skinny with dark wavy hair, and BEST OF ALL, he pursued me. He called me up and asked me out to dinner for a first date. Then to see a movie. Soon we went to a Minnesota Twins game with his parents, who were lovely. For some reason, he was crazy about me.
But, like so often happens, I started analyzing everything with my girlfriends. I was afraid our personalities didn’t complement each other, that we didn’t have enough of a “spark”. I wondered if he had enough depth, if I would always feel so keenly that I was two years older (which I am). It bothered me that he was so busy with his studies and work and running and had to schedule me into his hectic life. I just didn’t feel romanced. I was anxious about leading him on or wasting valuable time in my dating years. Still, there was something about him – a goodness, a sweetness, a quiet but fighting spirit, a humble nature – that made it impossible for me to give up on us. So, I became neurotic, continually planning to break up with him, mentally breaking up with him, crying, and then deciding not to break up with him after all.
We went on a “break” a month later, and then he finally ended the relationship. He said it just got too hard. Then, when I didn’t have him anymore, I suddenly saw with great clarity: I did love him, as a person, and would have fallen in love with him in time. I waited, hoping he’d change his mind for a year. Then another year passed. I dated. I did yoga sculpt. I moved on. But I didn’t find a new soul mate.
Why didn’t I realize how right he had been about love? In hindsight it’s so clear. I needed to relax, to let love grow at its own pace, or trust that if it didn’t, we’d both end up okay. The more I analyzed Kyle, the more I misjudged him. The more pressure I put on the relationship, the worse it got. In my anxiety and rush to determine whether we were on the path to marriage, I compared him to my dad and to the imaginary husband I’d been planning for years. What I missed was seeing Kyle for the treasure he was: a young, imperfect man struggling to make something of himself. He was my match according to all the important things in life – his character, his work ethic, his morality. But I almost threw it all away for a fantasy.
Then, after two years, Kyle came back into my life. Out of the blue, he asked me out and we met for a drink. We had both met a lot of people, but nothing ever felt even close to right. It wasn’t that we’d had a great love affair the first time around – we didn’t date long enough! It was that we truly saw the qualities of a future spouse in each other. This time (we call it “Round Two”), I knew exactly what mattered and who I wanted to be with: him. He was more established and ready to give his all to a relationship. There was no pressure, no anxiety, and we fell in love. Now I am the lucky girl who gets to be his wife. We have a little girl, Mary, and another baby on the way, and this life, full of real love, is more natural, fulfilling, and fun than anything I ever imagined.
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