I’ve always been a commitment-phobe and it’s kept me from getting into serious, meaningful relationships. It took dating a guy who also wasn’t keen on locking things down to make me fall head over heels in love.
The future has always made me panic. Even the thought of the future brings a certain heaviness to my heart. I’ve always kind of been at a crossroads about where my life would lead. I could end up alone like my mother or dependent like my father; I could lead a glamorous city life or a wholesome rural one. The absolute only thing I was sure about was my career, and even that took longer than necessary. The idea of being in a long-term relationship set my anxiety on edge.
My love life was no exception. You wouldn’t believe how many failed relationships I’ve been in that have all ended the exact same way: with me freaking out. Actually, before this year, I couldn’t last more than three months with one person. All it took was a couple of months or sometimes just a week before I would snap. Thinking about being with someone, being dependant on them, and not being able to pursue anything or anyone else just put that pressure on my chest.
I was always looking for something to go wrong. I started looking for dealbreakers right out of the gate. It could be something as big as a deep-rooted moral problem or as small as the way he ate his food, but suddenly, despite being so into him before, that one thing became so obnoxious that it couldn’t be overlooked. I knew that I was self-sabotaging but I just didn’t know how to stop myself. It was only a matter of time before I suddenly started to dread being around the person I was seeing before just ending the relationship altogether.
I met the guy who changed all that at a party. I’m known to do stupid things when I’m drunk, but luckily I happened to be sober (well, sober-ish) that particular night. We met over some cheap booze and talked about mutual friends, the terrible music, and bad made-for-TV movies. As expected, nothing serious and nothing outstanding happened, just two strangers getting acquainted.
It didn’t start as a relationship. Obviously we didn’t go from discussing the logistics of Lifetime movies to being madly in love—we were friends first. We majored in the same subject, had more mutual friends than seemed believable, and we got into a habit of going to cheap movie nights at the local movie theater. It wasn’t until a few months later that things got intimate, and even then we decided against a romantic label. Let me tell you, that was a breath of fresh air.
He said he loved me when he was drunk.I thought I was the stupid drunk. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was how often we saw each other both in and out of the bedroom, maybe it was my killer personality. Either way, after taking him home from a friend’s birthday party, he just spewed out those three words. Maybe I was drunk too because I found myself saying them back. I couldn’t even bring myself to regret it the next morning.
I started to feel disappointed. Nothing really changed after that. No labels were given, no new arrangements were made, and it was barely spoken of. I knew that he didn’t want to talk about it. He’d been clear since the beginning about the fact that relationships scared him and this wouldn’t be one. So maybe I lied—something did change because all of a sudden, I wanted more. I didn’t need a label or a declaration of undying love—in fact, I would be perfectly OK if those three words weren’t spoken of again—but I needed something. Clarity? Security? Exclusivity? All the things I had shied away from now began to nag at the back of my mind.
The turning point was when he moved overseas for a few months. He was going to spend a few months in Central Europe to see his family, but that was long enough for panic to set in. We weren’t sleeping with other people; neither of us had since we started being intimate but it was agreed upon that we could if we wanted. Had that drunken night changed things? Assuming could mean the end of what we had going on and suddenly that became a scary thought, so I talked to him. I couldn’t handle games and I couldn’t handle not knowing. I remember seeing that familiar panic in his eyes; the fear of settling, the fear of attachment. However, he did agree not to get with anyone else while he was away.
After a while, a label became convenient. We’d been “together” for about half a year at this point. Suddenly, friends began to ask, parents were suspicious, and even strangers were beginning to pry. I don’t think either of us was keeping what we were doing a secret, but it started to get harder to explain. I couldn’t hit the “It’s Complicated” button when I was talking to someone, especially when they pointed out the fact that we were acting just like a couple. That’s a phrase neither of us got a break from and every time it came up, I felt him begin to distance himself. Still, one day, I’m not even sure how, we both decided it was easier to just call it a relationship. He was my best friend and I was his. We were openly attracted to each other, and as much as I hate to admit it, we definitely acted like a couple.
I’m still a little insecure about it. I think I’m always going to feel like I’m a bit more open to a future together than he is. There are still times where I’m hesitant to refer to him as my boyfriend for fear of him running off, but honestly, his reluctance has just pushed me to drive this relationship forward. I know how much I care about him and I know he cares about me, that’s never been the problem. I know his fear because I’ve felt that fear. Every time I ended a relationship, I’d look back and call myself out for being ridiculous, and now I look at him and see the same thing. I can’t be like that anymore. I need to be able to take this risk for the both of us.
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