I wait for his text.
There’s something wrong. I can feel it in my gut. That uncomfortable butterfly feeling—not in a good way—that eats one up from the inside out.
My mind starts obsessing, looping all the negative possibilities over and over and over: I’ve pushed him away. I’ve become needy. I’ve sent him too many texts, and now he’s annoyed. He has a girlfriend. I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, or interesting enough. He’s met somebody else. He’s decided I live too far away, and it’s not worth it.
Why did I allow myself to hope for something different this time? He told me he was tired of the relationship games, so I was brave and vulnerable. I took the mask off and let him see my soul. I showed him my life, my children, and my work. I thought it was an even exchange. He answered my questions honestly and openly. He exposed himself. What the hell happened? How do things change in 24 hours?
“Be mindful,” I tell myself. “Don’t make assumptions and, for God’s sake, don’t carry expectations. Walk your talk!” I wonder, “Why is it so much easier to give advice to my girlfriends?”
I try to stay present and quiet my mind, but I end up arguing with myself. “He’s like all the rest—playing me. You’re being irrational!” I watch my thoughts bounce back and forth. Then, I try soothing myself. Perhaps he’s busy or lost his phone. Logic cuts through my theories. He’s always responded right away. I know he’s losing interest; I’ve made it too easy for him. Why didn’t I play the game?
It’s the game we all like to play in the beginning.
Feign interest, but not too much interest. Send short texts so as not to reveal too much. Be casual, like the relationship could go either way, and we’d be fine with it. Definitely do not be the last one to text. Let them reach out first. Don’t always respond right away. Give them a little mystery.
I’m so tired of this game. Why can’t we all be real and remove the mask? I beg to nobody in particular that he won’t give me the disappearing, silent act. I’d rather hear the truth; I’ll survive. In my mind, I plead, “Tell me that you have a girlfriend, you met someone else, I’m not your type—anything but silence, please.”
And then, I hear ping. “Hey, what’s up?”
“Hey, what’s up?”—really? His casualness angers me. I want to send a snarky reply, “Glad to see you’re still alive?” or at least make him wait a day-and-a-half for my response. Instead, I sit with my feelings.
I know my anger is coming from fear. It’s a fear that many of us carry: the fear of abandonment. A fear I’ve struggled with my entire life. This fear has driven me into unhealthy relationships. The type of relationships where I have to earn a man’s love, work for it, and lose myself in my desire to please. These relationships have not served me well and have led me to men who will never be emotionally available.
At this point, I make a decision to respond differently than I have in past relationships. I relax and choose not to make assumptions. I don’t make him wait or pick a fight. No more games. I respond, “I’ve been outside working in the yard. How’s it going?”
I realize that as soon as I put conditions on this relationship, it is doomed to failure. I’m going to try something different this time. I’m going to be a more mindful version of myself and allow him to be himself. If he doesn’t accept me in my stark nakedness, then someone else is waiting for me. I’m going to surrender us to the universe—allow our relationship to unfold organically without force or impatience.
Changing one’s script is not easy, but I’m determined to do it. I will love loosely. I vow to release control of the relationship and throw out these weapons of destruction: manipulation, guilt, coercion, expectations, and assumptions. I will continue to be open, honest, and vulnerable.
I choose to love mindfully.
I’d rather feel the pain of rejection than wear a mask of illusion. Keeping my thoughts from wandering into the future will take discipline. It’s fun to get lost in what could be; yet, it’s dangerous to ponder all that could go wrong. Instead, I choose to take our relationship a moment at a time and discharge the words “what if” from my vocabulary.
However, I will not be taken for granted, used, or emotionally abused. If my new love decides to play games, he will soon be playing solitaire, as I will not try to make him love me.
Although I’m not sure where this new relationship is headed, I’m content with that.
Author: Jill Carbone
Image: “Blue Valentine”
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell