My name is Rich I’m 40 years old and live in Cambridge, MA. I’m from a strong, solid Irish Catholic family and have a solid if boring job. By all accounts I’m a fairly stable, normal guy. The kind of guy you’d strike up a conversation in a bar with. Oh, did I mention, I lived almost 39 years and had never been in love? For real, not even close. It’s kind of like Andy from the 40 Year Old Virgin (well, except the virgin part). Oh, I’ve had a few crushes and even a couple of semi-long relationships, but none of it was ever love. It’s not like I didn’t want to fall in love just after it didn’t happen I kind of stopped trying. Because of events in my life the past decade I actually thought better of letting anyone get too close. I figure why go through the hurt and anguish at this point? Never being in love means never having your heart broken. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to 40…
We met quite by chance online and started talking every night. Not some singles service or online dating, just met and hit it off. We talked every night although rarely about anything more then friend stuff. Somewhere along the line I fell in love with her. I felt foolish, in love with someone I never actually met. But I was smitten. I started to realize that maybe the feelings were mutual so we started vague conversations about getting together. Now, what I haven’t told you to this point is the fact she was 16 years my junior and lived 6 states away. Still, dauntless on our efforts, we managed to pick a date and I went to meet her.
I won’t say it was love at first sight (since I was already there haha) but the chemistry was very apparent. We followed up with 2 quick trips up here. I was honestly having the time of my life. I felt alive, felt goofy, was saying and doing goofy things and I really liked it. As she was leaving she told me she really liked what we had but was not ready for a committed relationship of any sort long distance or otherwise. I agreed and in my head I thought that was perfect. My friend’s all joked I was living a rock star life. A young, pretty girl I saw once a month with no commitment. What could be better? They couldn’t of been more wrong. When she got home from that trip, she said something to me I’d never heard before…”I think I love you”. To even more of my surprise, I heard a strangely familiar voice, my own, saying “I love you too”. My 39-year loveless streak was at an end.
I’d like to pause here to talk about love. Love is used in so many ways it can be confusing. You can love your mom, love your dog, and love the chicken picatta at your favorite Italian restaurant. If you believe popular culture, love hurts, love stinks, love is a battlefield, love is a many splendor thing, and love means never having to say your sorry and all you need is love. So what is love? I’m probably the wrong man to ask having only experienced it once and previous to that, everything I knew about it was what I saw in movies and read in books. So, to me, love is that feeling you get for someone when every second you’re apart is agony, the feeling your heart is going to pound out of you chest whenever you see the one you love, you can’t be in the same room with them and keep you eyes off of them, you can’t be near them without longing to make contact with them, a minute apart is eternity and 50 years together is too short. That’s how I see love and that’s the state of in love I was in!
Now that’s out of the way…I’m not going to get into too many details but from probably September until November to call it an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement. I’ll take the brunt of it as I thought the idea of an open relationship would be fine. Well, it wasn’t, not even close. For the first time in my life I was madly jealous. It wasn’t just jealousy, it was disappointment. For the first time ever, I wanted to do the things I had only thought of doing; sending random gifts, writing love letters, I even took a stab at bad poems. None of it got a reaction even close to what I expected or wanted. Again, that’s my fault. Not everyone acts or reacts to things the same…but god it was frustrating. It started to pre-occupy my thoughts. Seeing her was one thing. I can only think of one time when we were together that things were ever strange. It was the long times apart that I really got jealous, maybe even paranoid. I was in a bad state of mind to the point my friend’s and family was starting to worry. I was in a quandary as I kept doing and saying the things she said she really liked and wished more guys would do but after doing or saying them, I felt…let down.
Things really hit the fan in November. I will not get into specifics, but I was hurt more then I ever knew I could be, at least short of death of someone close. I was devastated, angry, heart broken and other words I can’t begin to describe. I was hurt so bad I was in tears. By the terms of our relationship what happened should have been ok, but it just WASN’T! I really should have just ended it right there. I really wanted to. I guess I was so in love at that point she could have done anything and I would have forgiven her. I think she felt bad, she said she did, so we moved on. I guess I never really fully healed from that. We were actually quite blissful right through Christmas and spent an awesome New Year together. We were in a total state of euphoria for about a week after, and then the walls came tumbling down.
Something just clicked in her head. We were talking about seeing each other sooner then later when BOOM. She said it was too much. We were moving too fast (she was probably right), she was too young to start getting serious (again probably right) and a bunch of other things. I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. In a week we went from seeing each other more to once a month was too much. This was really the beginning of the end. February was brutal, particularly Valentines Day (I should have stuck with my hatred of that fake Holiday). We saw each other 2 more times and again, something changed with her although not necessarily something I said or did but I was lumped in. I really lost it and made a regrettable phone call. I was drunk and wounded and it was stupid. We took a small break, and then made up but it was pretty much a done deal by then. She went away for 2 weeks but promised we get together when she was back.
At this point it finally sunk in it was over. I didn’t want it to be. I was starting to feel like that person everyone knows grasping desperately to something that wasn’t there, just didn’t exist any more. I said I’d wait until she got back. You know, absence make the heart blah, blah, blah. Well needless to say, I was disappointed as usual. I really get my hopes worked up sometimes. It was just…nothing there when she got back. Out of the blue one night she says lets get together next weekend. I say sure. Now, for whatever reason people underestimate me. I knew her idea was to get together to see if we could just be friends, no kissing, etc. and as she was going to be visiting her friend the next week she wanted our status cemented before then. I pretty much suspected this but I’m a believer in chemistry, so who knows. The drive there was emotional because of this situation as well as impending disaster occurring back home which I didn’t know about until 3/4 the way there. I was a wreck by the time I got there. I was greeted with a hug…and that’s all. I felt my heart being ripped out of my chest. To quote the great Harry Chapin “now another man mighta been angry, now another man mighta been hurt” but I swallowed by pride and sorrow because at that point I needed a friend. It was an oddly fun yet uncomfortable time. Some of it was so natural and seemed normal and was obvious there was still chemistry, but some of it was just awkward. I let my frustration show a few times. We talked before I left. She admitted about planning on not kissing me etc. and I was a little pissed. I mean, I'm adult, we're trying to re-establish something, I should have been given a choice. I told her if friends are what she wants to be, that’s what we’ll be. Once again it was my voice, but I have no idea who actually said this. We left it with a long hug and a platonic kiss on the cheek. I also realized I was still madly in love with her and likely always would be The ride home was rough with me reflecting on what I woulda, coulda, shoulda done. The bottom line is I followed my heart for once in my life and it simply wasn’t enough. I still loved her, proabably will for a longgggg time.
We’ve spoken since about us a little. I really do consider her a great friend but sometimes going through what we (or I) went through, sometimes being friends again isn’t an option. She thinks we can see each other again just as friends. I don’t think I can. I can’t be with her without staring at her, wanting to touch her, wanted to kiss her. She doesn’t believe me but when I look at her, I see the most beautiful woman I have ever known. I just don’t know that I can go back. I still love her, so I guess I have to let her go.
So, in the long run, was it worth it? Hell yeah it was. I had some great times. To me the highs of my time with her far outweighed the lows while I think for her it was the opposite. I learned some valuable lessons about myself, what I’m capable of, and relationships in general:
- I learned you don’t have to run away from love and that whilst heart wrenching, it’s a pretty wonderful thing
- That I’m capable of being the giving, caring, romantic guy I’ve always seen myself as but never let anyone see it
- To what lengths I’d go to not lose something precious to me. From lowering my moral stand, taking hurt I’d never take from anyone else, to dragging a common friend into the fray when I had no right doing so as her loyalties could only be in one place.
- That while age and distance can certainly make a relationship harder, it’s really being 2 people of the same mind that determines whether something works or not
- That there is a give and take to every situation and nothing is ever black and white but shade of gray.
I guess when Shakespeare penned “better to have loved and lost then never have loved at all” he knew of what he spoke. While I hate losing what I had even for a short time I’ll treasure that time forever. I feel confident now that someone else will come along, maybe I’ll even fall in love again, but that would still mean settling for second best. I’ve always said people who settle are simply fooling themselves. I guess I’ll be fooling myself.