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It Really Was You

Coming to Terms With a Love That Never Was

It was easy to fall for you, and I was one of many swept away by your charm, your good looks, the high-powered-business-exec-with-expensive-sports-car lifestyle. But, for me it was so much more. It was that someone like you could fall for someone like me. It made me think that you saw something in me that no one else did, just as I felt that I saw in you what all the others didn’t. I didn’t love you for your money, I loved you in spite of it.

I loved you because we sat and chatted over coffee in a hotel lobby until the early hours of the morning on the night we met. It was because you took me as I was, treated me like an equal, and never tried to change me. It was because you made me laugh, and you made me feel wanted. It was because you brought out the best in me. It was because despite only knowing me a few weeks, you seemed to know me better than I knew myself. It was because when I was with you, I could be the person I wished I could be. It was because you projected this cavalier, devil-may-care persona to the world, but you let me see your softness, kindness, and vulnerability. It told me I could trust you.

Inevitably those perfect weeks had to end. I lived in New Zealand; you were from Australia. You did warn me: “don’t fall for me,” “this can’t be serious, it’s just a bit of fun,” “I’m too old for you,” “you’ll meet someone else,” “I’m afraid I’ll hurt you,” “it’s better for you not to get involved with me,” but it only made me fall for you more. I thought you were putting me first, sacrificing your own happiness, and chance at love to protect me from the complications of your demanding work life.

Your departure sent me into a downward spiral. I couldn’t believe, didn’t want to believe, that it had meant nothing. I knew there was something there, why else would you have tried to protect me? But then, if you did indeed love me, how could you have given that up? Why couldn’t you have tried to make it work? Eventually, the only conclusion I could draw was that it was me. I was too flawed. You weren’t protecting me; you were telling me lies, rather than telling me the truth that I was the reason you couldn’t love me. You did say once that I was too intense, and so it all started to make sense. I had failed to live up to what you needed. And so, I spent years trying to change, trying to be the person you wouldn’t reject.

Yet, it still didn’t seem to be enough. Years later I met someone new–the attraction was instant, and we really seemed to get along well. But, right from the start he said those same lines about not wanting to hurt me, and being unable to commit. Again, I fell for it–he was trying to protect me from the complications of his high-stress job. And again, I struggled to understand how he could love me enough to want to protect me by keeping me at a distance, but not enough to commit to a relationship. Again, he told me I was "too intense," and I tried to change, tried to become the person he wouldn’t continue to reject. But I only hurt myself, and in the end I had to leave.

So here I am now, 18 years later and all alone–still single, never married–just as I was when we first met. I’ve come to terms with my flaws, and see now that I was using them as a means to justify the pain of rejection, as a means of self-flagellation to dull the pain of losing you.

Now that’s over, I’m thinking of your sacrifice. What were you really protecting me from? What if you had made the other choice and committed to me? After several doomed relationships and bitter disappointments, I didn’t meet someone else as you predicted I would, and I’ve ended up alone anyway. How am I better off now? What did you spare me from? How has my life been easier thanks to your decision to protect me?

At a small church by the side of a lake you asked if I would maybe marry you. At the time we had only known each other a few weeks, so of course you said it flippantly, but what if you had asked me for real? What if you had thrown caution to the wind, and risked it all? Do you look back and feel you made the right decision, or do you have regrets too?

It’s taken me a long time, but I finally understand. You didn’t push me away for my own protection. You didn’t make the hard choice to end things. You made no sacrifice at all. It was never about me. Because it was easy for me to choose love, and to risk everything for love, I assumed it was the same for you. But, now I see it wasn’t. You weren’t thinking of me, trying to protect me; you were thinking only of yourself. You were a coward, choosing the easy choice by walking away. It was easier to end things than to open up and commit yourself to the work that would have been needed to have a relationship.

I finally understand, because now I am like you. It’s no longer easy for me to love. I’ve become hard and cynical. It’s easier for me to avoid getting involved with someone altogether, than risk getting hurt. To love now would require me to open up, and to give more than I am able to, so it’s easier for me to walk away.

I lost you, only to become you.

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