And Now You Know
Recently, I found myself spiraling emotionally after I opened the door again on a relationship that had long since passed its expiration date. Why? I'd like to believe it was because there was real potential, we were compatible intellectually and values-wise, being in his presence put me at ease, and he could keep pace with the jet-set, purpose-driven life I aspire to lead. However, that was not the case; I knew it and he knew it. Hell, even one of my closest friends an ocean away in London knew it and had counseled me after speaking briefly with him on the phone, "Courtney, you know how we can be honest with each other. I have to tell you; I don't think he's the guy for you. Knowing all that you have to offer, you can do better." But other forces were at play.
The two months prior, I had been dating a very practical, very consistent and wholly inoffensive forensic accountant-cum-local councilman for two months. Let's call him "Daniel." Daniel was self-aware, mature, and thoughtful in a way I hadn't experienced in years, if not ever. We talked and traded jokes with ease about our seemingly polar opposite political views. He shared with me how he had campaigned and won as the underdog on a platform of bringing transparency and fiscal responsibility to local government in his area and how he had kept his word by live-streaming all of their meetings and held fast to his principles even when he knew he was in the minority on some votes. With me, his word was his bond and if he said he was going to call, he would; he was both spontaneous and proactive about dates. Furthermore, he would call just to check-in when he knew I was in the midst of a very busy or otherwise stressful week. You know, the basic stuff that any guy should do, but that we often take for granted or find lacking in a world where texts and social media have usurped real conversation and real connection and where one's word is easily broken by any litany of excuses. And if my own intuition wasn't enough, on one of our dates, we hung out with a psychologist who separately raved to me about what a thoughtful guy he was and how I had chosen well.
So why then had I retreated to entertaining flirtatious conversation with a man (let's call him "John") who offered none of those things, who gaslighted, threw weeknight college-style booze fests that ended with beer cans and food littering his lawn, and was only financially solvent thanks to the indulgence of his grandparents and parents? Aptly nicknamed "Mr. Boring" - a moniker Daniel himself coined after detailing one of his weekend hobbies of regularly cleaning out his Honda CRV (yes, even his car is boring) - I was convinced I was missing the "spark," the passion, that had ignited my relationship with "John." Said spark that lasted all of one month before the flame blew out and reality set in as to who he really was and how wholly incompatible the two of us were. And if I'm honest, I saw signs early on in the first week of that seemingly euphoric first month in the little "white lies" and omissions that became evident regarding his roommate situation and his actual job, among others. But he had swept me off my feet; he had lied to get out of work (unbeknownst to me) to spend a weekend with me; he had planned fun, spontaneous dates, whipped up creative cocktails, and danced up a storm with me in his living room with the music on full-blast.
Whereas, with Daniel, AKA Mr. Boring, the fun was different; we slow-danced and line-danced at a small, live-music venue, easily mixing and mingling with the crowd but also retreating into one another as the song and the mood dictated. We dined at some of the best restaurants across the city, talked openly about our past and present hurts, wants, worries, and dreams, and settled naturally into the silent moments. We even started to entertain vacation-planning together, with Costa Rica and Chicago at the top of the list. It felt safe when he enveloped me in his arms and kissed my temples; I never felt rushed or anxious or worried when I was with him. But rather, I felt an unfamiliar calm that made it easy for me to balance our relationship with settling into my new job and the pitfalls and perils, as well as joys, of house hunting.
However, there was one catch. Daniel, like his brothers, struggled with infertility that meant he was only able to naturally conceive one child from early on in his previous marriage. While he was open to artificial insemination and/or adopting a child, the toll his infertility had exacted on his previous marriage meant that he was unwilling to endure the financial and emotional burden of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Yep, less than two months into the relationship, we were already discussing IVF. What can I say? I know what I want, and he didn't shy away from the hard stuff. However, I struggled with the thought of building a family in unconventional ways because I didn't want to play Russian roulette with the DNA of any future offspring. I had met an incredibly kind and consistent man, soft-spoken but resolute, affectionate and sensitive, with the most beautiful green/brown eyes; and I somehow felt cheated that any child we might raise together wouldn't have his many wonderful, innate qualities.
So, rather than sit with the discomfort, lean into it, listen to what it was trying to teach me, I rejected it and, in turn, rejected Daniel. I sought escape in the reckless abandon, the familiar "rush of emotion" that I felt with John, as well as the hedonistic fun (which wasn't actually fun for me, which another good friend repeatedly reminded me when I shared that I wanted to get back with John). John's life was complicated. He was in the midst of yet another career transition, a nasty, years-long custody battle, and otherwise in the midst of rebuilding some semblance of independent adult life, five years on from his divorce. But John had two healthy little girls, which meant my dream of motherhood could potentially proceed as I had always planned for myself. And so despite the calamitous end to our relationship, I found myself knocking, literally and figuratively, at the door of folly and frustration. There's a quote from Maya Angelou that my dearest and wisest of cousins always shares with me when I am befuddled by people's actions, "When people show you who they are, believe them." He had shown me who he was, and he was not the one for me. We quickly fell into the usual pattern of miscommunication and arguing, with me accusing him of gaslighting, lies, and not being true to his word, and, in turn, him bemoaning not being heard and not wanting to be called out for the things I didn't like about what he did, or often didn't do.
So now I know; there's no running from the discomfort that I felt about the unfamiliar yet mature nature of my relationship with Daniel and the fact that, despite how wonderful he is, he most likely won't be able to give me the biological child I so earnestly desire one day. With discomfort, we can't go around it; we certainly can't go back. We can only go through it and learn and grow from it. That in trying to escape the discomfort, we only cause ourselves more discomfort, more pain, more tears, more disappointment, and, worst still, more wasted time. In the end, in choosing to sit with it, to live in it, and to love in it, there is always something even more beautiful to be had on the other side of it. And yes, Daniel, AKA Mr. Boring, and I, are talking again;).
Photo Courtesy of Zachary Keimig