Thank you, Next.

I was single for a long time. 25 years to be exact. Not just single as in never married, single as in NEVER having been in any romantic relationship. I had this weird notion that my first boyfriend had to be my husband. There were guys I liked or that liked me along the way, but I quickly shut it down because I knew there was no future. That was…until I met him.

I liked this guy A LOT. Like, fill up notebook pages with Mrs.-Rachael-His-Last-Name. We were destined to be together; I just knew it. He seemed to like me too. He was always flirting with me, never passed up an opportunity to brush my hand or grab my pinky with his as he walked by. We would go out with groups of friends, but he would pay for my food. We texted EVERY night and most mornings. I held his hand once. He kissed me on the forehead another time. It was magical!

Then came Valentines day. The Day of Love and Friendship as it is called in Mexico. I really did not expect anything other than a “Happy Friendship Day” text from him. Nope. I got nothing. The both of us lived in and worked on church property, so we usually would cross paths everyday. That day, for some strange reason, he was no where to be found. I was worried, hurt, confused, pissed.

The next morning I knew he could not avoid me because we had to be at the church staff meeting. When I arrived, he was there just as I expected. In this particular ministry we always had an open prayer time before the weekly staff meeting.  While all of the staff, myself included, were walking around the sanctuary and praying, this guy tried to catch my eye time and time again as I walked by him.  I was too busy pretending to be deep in prayer to notice. At the end of the prayer he deliberately walked up to me and whispered in my ear, “Happy Yesterday!”

I melted. A smile cracked my lips and I finally met his gaze. He smiled back and turned to walk away. He had not taken two steps when the reality of what happened washed over me. An anger rose up in the pit of my stomach, I JUST GOT PLAYED!

I wish that I could say I learned my lesson and that was the end of playing games with him. Nope. It took me months to fully realize he was not really interested in me and even longer to accept he was just stringing me a long for (I assume) the sake of his ego.

It was one of the hardest, most confusing seasons of my life. My very real feelings felt 100% illegitimate. One day he was flirting with me like normal-the next he had a girlfriend. And I was somehow supposed to be okay with that because we were never anything official?!? It was hell.

At the time, I did not have the ovaries to initiate an open exchange of communication and confront him. There was never any closure. I just stuffed everything down and tried my best to continue work and ministry along side of him and his significant other without missing a beat. While in private I was processing through the anger, hurt, jealousy, betrayal, as well as grieving the death of my hope and expectations about our relationship.

Fast forward to the next year, someone else came into my life. I’m hesitant to say it was love at first sight, but there was definitely something special about him from the moment I met him. Not being someone who makes the same mistake twice, I did my best to keep it light and casual. I was not going to be overly emotionally invested in just a “friendship” again.

This went on for several months. I enjoyed his company, it was clear there was chemistry between us, but we were just friends. During this time I worked hard to not read into any interactions and to take everything at face value in order to keep my expectations in check.

One night, after a group of us watched a movie at his house, he drove my friends and I home. Conveniently, he dropped everyone else off before me. On the drive to my house he started nervously rambling about his recent breakup with his last girlfriend. It was so awkward and out of the blue, but made sense with what he did next.

He stopped in front of my driveway and I started to get out of the car. As I did, he grabbed my hand and in not-so-many-words said, “Rachael, I like you and want to pursue a serious relationship with you.”

Finally I knew for sure how he felt, but I was strangely conflicted. I was not sure what to tell him other than to be honest. I told him I liked him too, but needed time to think and pray.

He was clearly head-over-heels for me and for some reason it was offputting.  This is what I had been dreaming about since I was a little girl. You’d think I’d welcome his directness after my last experience, but no. It was terrifying to me. I’d never had someone be so sure in what they wanted and so open in communicating that to me. I pulled out the only tool in my relationship-tool-box that I knew how to use well, distance. I ghosted him while I figured my isht out.

It is humorous now, but I felt like I was losing my mind. The back-and-forth, pro’s and con’s list, seeking council from everyone in my circle of trust. Then add all my own personal trust and intimacy issues and the pressure I put on myself thinking If I committed to dating him I was committing to marry him.  For 10 days he waited patiently while I was a crazy person, and my crazy did not scare him off (I added that to the pro’s list). The lightbulb finally went off when I realized there are no sure things in love; I would have to be brave and take risks. All I needed to do was decide yes or no and we could work out the rest…or not.

It just happened that my housemate orchestrated a casual meeting for him to come over to our house to tell her about some products he was selling. The three of us sat there in our dining room and talked for hours with no agenda, no pressure, it was easy.  My heart was at rest, I felt peace in saying, YES!

The icing on the cake and happy coincidence was that my official yes came on Valentine’s Day! One year later from the guy would not even commit to saying Happy Valentines Day; God brought someone into my life who cared enough about me to be forthright and honest about how he felt and what he wanted from the beginning. We were married a little over 6 months later. And while we have had our ups and downs (marriage is work) my husband is everything I never knew I needed and so much more!

Thank you to the first guy who broke my heart for teaching me the importance of grounding my expectations in reality. A lot of my pain from that “relationship” was self inflicted. I was in love with the idea of the person and the potential of the relationship and could not see reality. I overlooked red flags and other obvious warning signs he was not into me. The whole thing could have been nipped in the bud had I not been swept away by the lalala of it all.

After changing who I was entirely to try and become someone I thought he would actually like;  thank you for teaching me the gravity of being honest and authentic with who I am and what I like. Lying or exaggerating things that are not our true selves or our true desires creates a weak foundation to build a relationship on. It also prevents the other person from fully knowing you and loving you well.

And lastly, thank you for teaching me to value myself enough to require clear and honest communication that is backed up by action. Define the relationship people! Be honest about your expectations about what your relationship is and where you think it is going and check in often. It might be time to move on if their words do not match their actions or if they are hesitant to define things. Sidenote: Do not be so stuck about gender rolls in a relationship thinking the guy has to be the one to pursue and take the lead at every step of the relationship. There is nothing wrong with a woman initiating the conversation to define the relationship or taking the first step in pursuing a relationship. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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