Three Words, Three Years

The ultimate goal of dating for me is to become head-over-heels for someone, really smitten. Where the fat cherub in a diaper hits you with that bow and arrow and you say those three simple words all the time: “I love you.” It occurred to me that I haven’t said that to anyone since 2016. Of course, I tell my son this all the time, but as far as a significant other? Someone I am in love with? Not in over three years. I miss that.

Actually, I did tell someone I loved them in 2017, if I recall – maybe it was late 2016 – but it was blurted by mistake! I was exhausted, it was late, about 2:00 a.m. I was saying goodbye to my then-girlfriend as I was leaving her house. You know how you say something automatically, without realizing you just said it? Like when you say “how are you” to someone, and then say “I’m great, thanks” – even though they didn’t reply to your greeting with “fine, and you?” That’s what it was like, except her eyes got as big as dinner plates and I knew that was a mistake. I knew then she wasn’t looking for that kind of relationship. So telling her how I felt, without saying I loved her was a struggle: I would joke that I could only say “I really, really, really, really, like you a lot,” or variations of that. I couldn’t tell her how I really felt as I knew she didn’t feel that way – or perhaps wouldn’t allow herself to feel that way – because that’s not what she wanted: ultimately, she needed to see what else was out there. I became expendable and we parted ways. It was hard, but I learned a lot – like never talk too much when you’re just exhausted!

Prior to her, I was with someone for five years or so and said those three words every day, I made it a point to, and it was great to hear it said in return. But a few years back, I realized I couldn’t recall her saying “I love you” to me except in response to me saying it. I thought long and hard about this – I could not remember if she ever said it first, unprompted. I think she was testing me, so to speak. Not that I was ever keeping score (though it often felt like she was), but in that inevitable mental post-mortem on a failed relationship there’s things that you realize, and those things are often a string to pull on a whole mess of related issues. Sure enough, that definitely was.

I suppose ultimately its not a big deal – come the end of this year I’ll have been single for a solid year which is a record for me. I sometimes wonder if I’m chasing something that’s getting farther away. But I’ll keep at it, because I really want to say those words again. Its the best when I can’t wait to tell someone that and I miss that connection with someone where you want to say it, because you feel it. And while saying “I love you” to someone might become automatic, for me at least, it always means exactly what it says.

“Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop” – H.L. Mencken

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