I will be okay.

I don’t like to talk about relationships.

No, really.  I don’t.  I hate talking about them because I don’t know what I’m doing.  I overanalyze situations.  I overthink things.  I don’t necessarily make myself sick over it, but it gets to the point where I feel completely helpless.  Am I saying too much?  Should I text him first?  How soon is too soon to tell the family?

This, my friends, is what keeps me up at night.  I know, I know… total first world problem.

But I’m actually finally getting “back out there,” whatever that’s supposed to mean, and to be quite honest, dating is scary.  I spent most of high school dating my way through the starting lineup (joking – I mostly dated the bad boys in school).  After high school, I got engaged.  When that ended, I found myself in a new relationship – one that, for all intents and purposes, lasted roughly eight years.  In the moments when I wasn’t with that person, I was dating other people.  Most notably, I was engaged again in 2013.  When that ended, I went back to the safe place, the security of the eight year relationship.  I’ve never been “alone.”

Though I can’t say what I’ve been for the last almost year is alone.  After realizing that the eight year relationship was most definitely not going anywhere (he had a girlfriend, come to find out after he’d kissed me and told me this time was going to be different) I decided to strike out on my own.  Since then, I’ve been surrounded by the people I love the most.  I’ve been discovering myself, immersing myself in my writing, in music, and in Jesus.  I’ve found myself, really – what I like, what I dislike, what I believe, what my convictions are.  I’ve been throwing myself back into my passions and having fun with my friends and not giving a second thought to the fact that there hasn’t been a romantic interest in my life.  I haven’t been alone, I suppose; I’ve just been single.

And happily so, I might add.  I didn’t really start to “get back out there” until a few months ago.  I went on a date with a guy that I talked to previously, but it never went anywhere because of aforementioned eight year relationship guy.  He was nice, though a bit too young for my taste.  I don’t mind dating guys who are younger – don’t get me wrong – but I do have an issue when it’s evident that they’re too young.  I know plenty of 24 year old men who are more mature than 30 year old men.  It just depends on the person.

So, after a string of bad dates, ranging from the guy who was too young for me to the guy who just wanted to have a fling because I seemed “like a good time,” I retreated again.  I wasn’t yet ready.  I couldn’t bear the heartache of being told that I was nothing more than a good time.  I needed more time – time to build myself up, time to keep on writing, time to keep on discovering myself.  I wasn’t in a rush.

And I’m still not in a rush.  Don’t get me wrong – a husband and babies are all in the plan.  I may make jokes about the fact that I need a baby as much as Pamela Anderson needs another boob job, but I really do want to have kids one day (so much so that I looked at the sperm bank online, but that’s another story for another day).  I just know that it’ll all happen in God’s time.  I can’t rush what He wants, and He doesn’t want to rush me, either.  It’s a delicate balance between Him and me.  I’ll know when the time is right.

But none of that stopped me from talking again to another man – a man who has faced his fair share of demons.  He’s been in worse shape than me, has walked in a valley that I do not believe he’d wish on his worst enemy.  My heart hurts for him even now, as I type this.  He’s the kind of guy I could certainly see myself with.  He’s been on my heart for the last year, since the last time we spoke and I told him, plainly, that if he wasn’t looking for what I was looking for, we needed to part ways.

Which brings us to about a week and a half ago.  I was driving to Charlotte to visit my best friend, and was stuck in traffic.  I know most of you are wondering what I possibly could have been thinking, getting on the road on a weekend when the east coast was under threat of a hurricane, but my actions cannot be explained.  I needed to see my best friend, and I wasn’t above making the drive to go see her.  Some people understand me better than others – and she’s one of them.

But nevertheless, there I was, in traffic, stopped, sitting and looking around at the other drivers wondering what they were all thinking (spoiler alert: we were all bored out of our skulls wondering when we could drive again) when my phone chimed.  I never EVER have the sound on my phone, but decided to have it on for the drive down so that I would know if my grandma tried to contact me.  It wasn’t my grandma sending me a text, but this beautiful, troubled soul I described above.  He was driving down to Hagerstown for something (I didn’t ask, he didn’t tell) and said the drive down made him think of me.

He and I had something of an odd relationship.  Most of our time was spent in small, quiet diners or sitting in either of our cars at the top of the mountain.  Our time together was never rushed.  We would talk, or we’d sit in silence and take in our surroundings.  We’d have dinner, or we’d have coffee and discuss what was going on in our lives (if we were so inclined).  We’d plan it days in advance, or he would randomly text me to tell me he was driving down to come see me.  There was nothing constant about it, save for how easy it was to be with him.  He didn’t push me, and I didn’t push him.  We moved at our own pace, in our own time.

But he didn’t want a commitment (isn’t that how it always goes?) and just wanted to push the sexual boundaries on our relationship.  I couldn’t do it, though.  I couldn’t fathom putting myself in a position like that again, after spending the better part of eight years of my life with someone who just wanted sex from me as well.  I cared deeply for this man, but I cared about myself more.  I issued the ultimatum, and he decided that no relationship with me at all was better than a committed relationship.

I don’t begrudge him that.  Like I said, he had plenty of demons he was facing at the time.  I cared deeply for him – and still do – and I couldn’t bear to put any pressures on him that he didn’t need.  My ultimatum was not issued in the hopes that he would just choose me, but rather so he would understand that I couldn’t give him what he wanted.  I already knew he couldn’t give me what I wanted.  When we ended, I was something of a wreck.  I was fine on the outside, doing my work and spending time with my family and taking care of myself, but on the inside I was a mess.  In hindsight, I think my concern for him was what caused my inner chaos.  I was worried if he’d be okay, if he needed me, how he was doing, what he was doing…

But one day I realized I couldn’t keep doing that to myself.  I needed to worry about myself.  I needed to move on.  I needed to let him fix what needed to be fixed and either come back to me, or make someone else happy.  It wasn’t my place to take care of him.  It was my place to take care of me.

All of this information flashed in my mind when I saw the text from him.  I panicked, of course, and wondered if I should even respond.  But I’m a bleeding heart.  I don’t like to ignore people.  Even when my coworkers text me and I can’t relate to what they’re saying, I try to tell them something to let them know that I’ve read their text messages.  I get Facebook messages from people who want to make small talk and I respond, even though our conversations are brief.  I responded to him, told him I was driving to Charlotte and that I hoped he was well.

And that was that… or so I thought.

It was less than a week later that I was sitting with my phone in my hands, wondering if the decision I was about to make was the right one.  I had no pen and paper, so I made a pro/con list in my head.  I weighed the odds – whether he’d even want to talk to me at all, what the impact would be on me if I talked to him, if I could handle him walking away again if this went south – and sent the text.

It was something simple – “Hey there.  How are you?  Sorry we couldn’t talk last week.”  He responded in seconds, telling me that he was doing well, was working a lot, looking at a promotion, and he understood I couldn’t talk.  I was driving (more or less) and my safety was more important than talking to him.  He asked how I was doing.  I told him I was well, enjoying my position, loving every minute of my job even though it presented its own set of unique challenges.  I told him I was happy.  He asked if I was seeing anyone.  I told him I wasn’t.  I asked if he was seeing anyone, and he said he wasn’t.

Okay, so we made it over that hurdle.

I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted the conversation to go in, wasn’t sure I could stomach another rejection at the hands of this man.  Instead, I let him lead.  He would say something about going out, and I would tell him I wasn’t looking for the casual thing he was looking for when we last spoke.  He said he wasn’t just looking for something casual, and that he’d missed me.  Before I could even respond to that message, he told me that he’d finally taken the time to think about his emotions, and he’d missed me so much.  He wanted to see me.  He wanted to spend time with me and see if there was anything between us.

My heart… jumped to my throat.

I won’t go over all the gory details of our conversations since then.  We emailed a lot because he said that’s easier for him when he’s at work.  We exchanged a few more text messages, and then… silence.  The silence came out of nowhere (for me) but I think I started noticing it when I was trying to hammer down plans for us.  I didn’t push – knowing too well that pushing this man will not get me anywhere, and also knowing that this man doesn’t need someone nagging him – but I did ask, once, when he wanted to get together.  He responded an hour later, saying this week would work.  I told him to let me know, and left it at that.

And then I didn’t hear from him for two days.

I used to be the girl who was “in your face,” always pestering and hounding and trying to find out what a guy thought of me.  Thankfully, as I got older, I managed to rid myself of that habit.  When I didn’t hear from him for an hour that night, I didn’t push him.  I let him answer on his own.  When our conversation ended that night, I decided to let him talk to me the next day, because I didn’t want him to think I needed to talk to him every single day.  I was okay on the days he didn’t talk to me, but my heart soared on days when I saw that he’d sent me a text message.  I wasn’t quite putty in his hands, but the man who’d stolen my heart was stealing it away again… or so I thought.

I’m now at day three with radio silence from him.  But unlike the last time this happened, I’m not pushing him to talk to me.  I’m not hounding him and blowing up his phone with text messages or his work email account with emails.  I’m not begging him to spend time with me.  Over the last year, I took some time for introspection.  I didn’t want to be that girl – the desperate one who would go out with a guy at any time, no matter what else was going on.  I didn’t want to be the annoying girl whose name was tossed around like a joke.  I hated being that girl.

So… I stopped being that girl.  This silence from him is enough for me to close the book again, but the last week and a half of having him back in my life has also given me a glimpse into the kind of man I want, too.  When he said we could see each other, he wanted us to meet half way.  He wanted to “hang out” and “see what we could get into.”  He wanted casual, even if he wasn’t saying it.  Which was another reason why I didn’t pursue him further, and allowed him to talk to me when he wanted.  I wasn’t readily available for him, either, not wanting to encourage something that was not going to happen.  If I’m going to expect more from the guys I date, I need to expect more from myself as well.

But along with expecting more from myself, I also expect more for myself.  I don’t want to “meet halfway” and “hang out.”  I want to be picked up at my door, and maybe have my car door opened for me (flowers are always optional, if only because I’m allergic to them).  I want someone who can’t wait to talk to me, even if it can only be a five minute conversation where he tells me that he’s going into work and he’ll see me on the other side of it.  I want a godly man, one who can be both my partner and my leader – which, trust me, is not something that came easy to me.  I was always the rebellious one, promising myself that my wedding vows would say “love, honor, and cherish” instead of “love, honor, and obey.”  But as I got older, I saw the value in that type of relationship, and I know that having that godly partner and guide is, truly, my heart’s desire.

But perhaps most important of all the things that I want – all the things that I deserve, really – is someone who will wait for me.  I can be honest and say that I’ve given my heart and pieces of myself away to men who didn’t deserve it.  I’ve had my heart broken so many times I lost count.  I’ve been used, and I’ve allowed myself to be used, albeit blindly in some instances.  By saying this, I am not saying I demand someone who has been wholly sexually pure, but that I deserve someone who sees the value in waiting, even if he hasn’t done it previously.  That’s the reason why I got myself another purity ring – to remind myself that though I’d made mistakes, I could stop now, and take the purity vow and wait.  I can do that because God promised that He would forgive, and I have sought His forgiveness – and continue to seek both His forgiveness and His grace daily.  I seek His guidance, too, and I think that is why I’ve been able to come the realization of all the things I deserve and want so desperately.

Maybe I won’t hear from this tired soul again.  Maybe he’ll drift away – as I assume he has already done, and do not begrudge him that – and that will be the end of our story.  Maybe he’ll get it together in the future, and will be ready for all the things I want.  I won’t be unhappy either way, because I know that whatever happens with him is what’s supposed to happen.

But I also know I won’t be pursuing him.  I won’t badger him, and I won’t put my heart out on my sleeve for him.  I’ll be cordial if I hear from him, and will probably delete his number one day down the line if or when my current phone becomes obsolete (let’s face it, with all this advanced technology, it’s a possibility!) but I won’t be “that girl.”

At this point, I think honestly I’m going to retreat again.  I know my heart well, and while it isn’t broken like the first time he walked away from me, it does hurt a little.  I lose a little hope each time a new match doesn’t work out – even if it’s something as simple as a bad date with a guy who’s a little too young for me.  I need to refocus, center myself, and go back to the drawing board.  Maybe I’ll go on another date in six months, or maybe I’ll still be single.  The thing I’ve learned from all of this is that no matter what happens, IT WILL BE OKAY.

I will be okay.  I will move forward, even if I am moving forward without a significant other.  I will be happy, because my happiness is not dependent on a man.  I will be whole, because I refuse to give parts of myself to another person again outside of the bonds of marriage.

I will be me, because that’s all I can be.  And I WILL BE OKAY.