After the first date with my boyfriend, I remember feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. Here I was at 43 years old and I had finally made the decision that I was ready to commit my life to another person. I wrote in my journal on New Year's Eve that 2014 would be the year I found love. And a few months later, there he was, my perfect soul mate.
In the beginning, it was everything I had hoped it would be. We spent nearly every waking moment together and during the time that we were apart, we texted or talked on the phone. I have always been skeptical of relationships that seemed too perfect. And I never believed I would find that kind of love, even if it did exist. Yet, here I was saying and doing the things I had denied myself for years.
It was liberating to be so unabashedly in love. I expressed my emotions freely and talked about our future together as if it were a real possibility. For once, I didn't let my head get in the way of what my heart wanted.
But then things started to change. Whenever I would want to go and do something with my sister or my friends, he would become really quiet. At first I would console him and try to reinforce how much I care about him and that going to do something with another person didn't change that. But the more I tried to explain, he seemed to disregard whatever I said.
The hardest thing was the inconsistency in his behavior. Sometimes we would have a wonderful day and it felt like we couldn't get any closer. Other times, I would get the silence over the phone. I wanted to try and understand the difference so we could have more of the good times and fewer of the bad ones.
It reminds me of a psychological study that was done many years ago. They put rats in a cage with a food dispenser that would drop out a food pellet when the rat pressed a button. In the first experiment, the food pellet was released every time the rat hit the button twice. When the food container was empty, the rat would hit the button twice but no food came out. After a short time, the rat lost interest and stopped pressing the button.
In the next experiment, they changed the number of times the rat had to hit the button to get the food pellet. Sometimes it was twice, sometimes five times and other times it could be ten times. Even when the container was empty, the rat would keep coming back and hitting the button because they were never certain when the food pellet might come out.
I think that is what has kept me invested in this relationship. The good times with my boyfriend have been so amazing. I just keep coming back and pressing that button to see what will happen.
My boyfriend and I had been planning to take a trip together for my birthday. At first I wanted to go south to the smokey mountains. I've never been there before and I heard that the views are spectacular. But as the trip got closer, I checked the weather and discovered that it would be 89 degrees and rainy in Tennessee, while it would be sunny and 78 degrees here in Michigan.
We talked about changing our plans to go somewhere with more desirable weather, but in the few days leading up to the trip we never really made a final plan. All of a sudden it was Friday after work and we were supposed to leave on Saturday. I called my boyfriend to try and nail down our plans, but the conversation quickly turned to other topics.
He explained to me that if we were communicating better, we would already know where we were going on vacation. And he told me that he felt there was distance between us. I couldn't disagree with him. I knew that things between us had been up and down over the last few weeks. But I was really trying to figure things out and make the relationship work.
I hate to have important conversations over the phone, especially with my boyfriend. So I got in the car and drove to his house.
The strangest thing about our situation is that we both seem to want the same things from our relationship. We both want to feel close to the other person. We miss the long phone calls and romantic text messages. We want to plan our future together and have something we can look forward to. And yet neither of us feels like we are getting what we need from the other person.
It just doesn't make any sense. If we both want the same things, we should just do them for each other and then everything would be fine.
By the time we went to bed I wasn't sure if we were broken up or not. But we were both exhausted and there was nothing else to say. As I laid down in bed next to him, I started to wonder why I always think I have the power to fix people. Most other people would come across someone who is emotionally damaged and just walk away. But I believe that I can make things better. And I have such a strong desire to help that I can't let go.
That night I told my boyfriend that he is like a coconut. There may be a tough exterior but I know that if I can crack that coconut, all of the things I am looking for will be inside.
The next day, we decided to go on our trip. I suggested Mackinac Island, since it was just a few hours away and the weather would be nice. There are no cars allowed on the island, which is part of its rustic charm. You can walk, ride a bicycle or take a horse drawn carriage wherever you want to go. The only downside of the horse drawn carriages is that you spend a lot of time avoiding puddles on the street because you can never be sure if the puddles are water or something that came from one of the horses.
One evening we were walking back from dinner and I saw a penny in the street, right next to the curb. I am one of those people who always pick up pennies for good luck. When I pointed out the penny to my boyfriend, we both had the same thought about what type of puddles that penny might have been exposed to earlier in the day.
"Maybe I will just leave that one for someone else to pick up," I joked.
"That reminds me of a song lyric," he said. "Some things are lost, some left behind. Some things are better left for someone else to find."
It was by a band called Uncle Kracker. "You know," he continued. "I think in the song he was talking about people."
"Yes," I replied. "I think he was."