It was about 12 years ago, at a ski resort in South Lake Tahoe. It was Thanksgiving, and my best friend and I had decided to take advantage of the long weekend and get out of Los Angeles to spend the holiday with her family in their vacation cabin. So there we were, two single girls in our late twenties headed off for a fun filled weekend at the slopes. Skiing? Oh no. There was none of that involved. We were there for a much higher purpose – to meet MEN! So we spent the weekend doing what we did best – we shopped during the day, and went out on the town at night.
It all started off innocently enough. Early that Saturday night, while we were walking down the main strip of town, my friend ran into one of her good friends from high school. She was now happily married and had a little boy. We all chatted, and she invited us over to her house the next afternoon. Why not? We were heading home anyway, so we could stop on the way to catch a quick glimpse of what this mythical “happily married loving relationship” thing that we had heard about but never actually experienced ourselves looked like.
As soon as we walked in the door that next day, I knew that fate was smiling on me. There he was – my tall, dark and handsome (not to mention well built) prince charming. When we ran into her the night before, she somehow forgot to mention that her good-looking brother-in-law was staying with them for the holiday. There he was playing peek-a-boo with her son, just like a big kid. It was destiny! It had to be – this was just the way I always pictured it: a random meeting, just when it was totally unexpected; no set up, no clubs, no beforehand planned strategies for where we were likely to find the most men, just a chance meeting. He looked up at me, smiled and said hello, then went right back to playing with his nephew. It melted my heart. Instantly I thought – wow, what a great Dad he’ll make (in hindsight, I’m sure he realized the image he was projecting as well, but we won’t be too skeptical at this point).
After he finished with his pint-sized playmate, we started chatting. We talked the afternoon away, and into the evening. He was a big hockey fan, and I, being from Canada, was (by default) a hockey fan as well. We really hit it off, it was a magical day. But one glitch - he lived in the San Francisco area, me in LA. No problem! I was sure that true love knew no bounds; that a long distance relationship couldn’t deter fate. This was my guy, who was surely going to be the future father of my as-of-yet un-conceived children! He was heading home that night as well, so we reluctantly said our goodbyes, exchanged email addresses, and headed back to our respective cities. The entire drive home I was secretly envisioning my future trips to the Bay area.
When I got to work the next day, there was an email from him - and not just a short one. It was a two pager. All about the great time he had talking with me, how much we had in common, how amazing that we had met like that. I mean, he likes hockey, I like hockey, he loves golf, I love golf (I neglected to mention they were things I loved because they involved meeting men and not so much because I loved the sport itself – oh, the things we do for love). I was smitten. He invited me up to see the Canucks play the San Jose Sharks – he had season tickets. I was in! It was so exciting.
We had the most wonderful, romantic weekend in the City by the Bay. I didn’t want to leave, didn’t want it to end. I left him with a photo to remember me by (the one of me wearing my favorite blue cashmere sweater that set my eyes off just right – I wanted him to remember me at my best). Many emails and long phone conversations later, I was flying back up there for his big company Christmas party. In his apartment I noticed right away that he had my photo in a frame on the mantle. That was it! This was getting serious. Then back again for New Year’s Eve at his country club.
Then came the big Bay Area golf tournament – I can’t remember now exactly what tournament it was, but it was big. Every golf fan in California knew about this one, so of course I pretended to know all about it too (I quickly read up on it on the internet so I would know my stuff). He was able to get tickets, and he invited me along. I spent nearly $500 at the best golf shop in LA getting just the right outfit to wear to a golf tournament, including cute little shoes that went with the outfit perfectly (oh I loved those shoes!). I must have looked like Golf Barbie. Just before I left to head up there, he told me he had a surprise for me – tickets to the Billy Joel concert, right up front. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe how well this was going, how fate had been so kind. That is, right up until I walked through the door of his apartment.
I noticed it immediately; it felt like I’d just been hit by a bus. My picture was no longer on the mantle. I felt immediately sick to my stomach. I knew this could mean many things, and I couldn’t think of any that were good, or even neutral for that matter. Right away my brain was trying to justify it – he must have moved it to a better location. I casually glanced around his apartment, hoping beyond all hope that I would spot it on an end table, or on a shelf in the entertainment center. It was nowhere to be found. My brain kept trying – he must be having it cleaned. I mean people do that, right? It must be at the frame cleaners. Unfortunately, while you can lie to others (which I certainly don’t recommend), you just can’t lie to yourself. I suddenly couldn’t speak, and I’m sure I looked pale. He asked me if I was OK. I murmured something about not feeling well, and quickly bee-lined it to the bathroom.
I locked the door behind me and sat there for a while, doubled over, trying to think of how I could handle this. Should I say something? I couldn’t bring myself to. I was not the confrontation type (this was the old me). I came up with a plan (albeit a very weak one) – I’ll just go along with the weekend, and I’m sure it will sort itself out. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason my photo’s gone, and that reason will reveal itself soon, and I’ll laugh to myself at how silly I’d been to be worried about it.
Unfortunately, while my conscious brain was telling me to lighten up, my unconscious brain seemed to know better. I spent the rest of the weekend in a dismal haze of anxiety laden sickness. Through the golf tournament, the concert – the whole thing. Teetering on the brink of nausea the whole time, eventually actually throwing up, my conscious brain still telling me it must have been something I ate – just a case of food poisoning, that’s all.
As it turns out, my plan did in fact work, and it did sort itself out. A well timed phone call while he was out running an errand put all of my questions to rest. The call went to the answering machine (back then people still had land lines with answering machines hooked up), and I could hear the message his ex-girlfriend left for him – thanking him for the wonderful, romantic night they just spent together, and saying she couldn’t wait to see him again and how happy she was that they were back together. When he got back, I still didn’t say anything. I just said since I wasn’t feeling well, that I wanted to get to the airport a bit early. He dropped me off, and that was the last I saw of him.
Why didn’t I come right out and ask him what had happened to the picture when I noticed it was missing? Because I was afraid of what I knew the answer would be. I panicked. I saw that I was on the way out. I felt that something had gone horribly wrong somehow. Again. That rejected stamp coming out – again. This relationship that I thought was showing so much promise was dissolving rapidly before my eyes, and I couldn’t bear for it to end. I felt that if I just didn’t believe it, it wouldn’t end. And I knew that if I confronted him about it, it would end. If I could just stay in a state of denial, it might not. The problem with this type of behavior is that it’s literally toxic, and in this case it made me physically sick.
It also made me realize that I had been going against my true nature for the entire relationship. I had my blinders on, while I was trying on golf outfits and scouring the internet so I could learn the right golf terminology – as if I was cramming for a final exam. This is not the stuff of a real relationship. This is the stuff of “I want it to be a relationship, so I’ll make it into a relationship in my mind”. Unfortunately, doing this makes us miss many of the signs that seem obvious when we look back on it with clear eyes and a clear mind.
The truth was we just weren’t right for each other. He was still interested in his ex girlfriend and it had nothing to do with me. And nothing I said, did, or didn’t do could have made that different. That’s the part I didn’t get. I thought if I could just show him how I was everything he had ever wanted in a woman, it would work. If I could just be what I thought he wanted me to be. Unfortunately that meant being everything except my true self.
It’s about confidence. Confidence in yourself to know that when things aren’t quite right, it’s not something that you did wrong, or something that you didn’t do that you should have done. Instead, have the confidence to know that if you’re being your true self, it’s impossible to do anything wrong. If you’re being your true self, and things don’t work out, it’s because he’s not the right one for you.
Please save yourself from going through this kind of stuff. It’s no way to live. This kind of stuff isn’t about real, true love. It’s about our anxieties, our old patterns, our old unhealthy ways of viewing relationships as a place where we need to convince someone of our worth, of why they should want to be with us. That we need to change to be what they want. But in a real healthy relationship, there’s no need to do any convincing or changing. No need to show someone all that you are and all that you can be. You just are. You just live your own life. And let your true self shine through. It’s not a contest; not a game where anyone needs to prove anything. Because when you see that, when you truly know that, you won’t attract the guys who aren’t the right guys for you. You’ll recognize early on that he’s not right for you, however handsome and charming he may be, and you’ll choose to avoid going down a path like this in the first place.
It’s about getting clear on who you really are, what you’re looking for and living a true authentic life that’s about you, and not about changing yourself to be what you think the guy wants. It goes back to the basics of getting to know yourself well enough in the first place so that you know what to look for in a guy from the outset, what will allow you to be happy in the relationship. And if you’re getting mixed signals from a guy and you don’t know what’s going on, it’s about speaking up and being direct about what you want in a relationship instead of waiting it out, thinking it will work out on its own.
Finally, it’s about knowing when to cut your losses and walk away when the writing is clearly on the wall – clear in the things that he says, and does. Even when it hurts. Especially when you’re starting to second-guess yourself and wonder what’s wrong with you. I understand all too well that it’s never easy to walk away from your dream relationship. But many times, that’s all it is – a dream. Something we’ve made in our minds into a relationship because we so want it to be. Once we realize that’s all it is, a dream, walking away gracefully is not that difficult. More importantly, it’s the only real choice we have. For ourselves. To get to the relationship that we really want, that we truly deserve, that we will find when we finally let go of the current one that isn’t working.
That’s the only way to get to the real thing.