The Day My Lover Hurt Me To My Core
And now I sit, completely shattered.
I swiped right. He had an air of confidence in his photos that made me want to be near him. His profile description was mysterious and cryptic, which engaged and challenged me. He wasn’t like the others on Bumble, who had posted bathroom selfies or pictures of themselves flexing at the gym. Most Bumble men bored me or disgusted me or offended me. But not this one. I wasn’t looking for a relationship, though.
When I created an account on Bumble, I thought it was entertainment and good practice. I hadn’t dated in almost four years, and this seemed like a great way to get to know the single me — the one who flirts and dresses up and goes out on dates — because it had been so long since anyone had seen her. I was too busy being a mom, working two jobs, working out and trying to keep my house in some kind of order. I had been working on me — intentionally, spiritually and fully — and after years of becoming the best me that I could be, I was finally ready to give dating a try.
I had a few mediocre, dead-end dates, but then I met Z and he shook my soul. He took me to some cool places, and we did random, creative things like wading through freezing cold water in fisherman overalls and walking over abandoned bridges just to see the best sunsets. He showed me a world and a way of life I never knew existed. He was patient and reliable, respectful and honest (so I thought), youthful and wise. We spent one night each week together, creating memories and getting to know each other. It was easy, effortless and magical.
Still — I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I was too busy. I had no intention of having a traditional boyfriend. I didn’t want my kids to know I was dating. I didn’t want a man who would pressure me to move faster than I was ready to or expect me to get a babysitter on my nights with the kids. I wanted simple. Private. Personal. No pressure. Before going on Bumble, as a matter of fact, I even prayed for that. I asked God to send me someone who had his own, full and independent life. I didn’t want a boyfriend; I wanted a friend with benefits.
And that is exactly what I got: a best friend with too many benefits to count. I didn’t realize, however, that I was falling in love. I loved the way he lived his life, from the philosophical quotes he would write on his dry erase board to the fact that he shook hands with and introduced himself to every homeless person who asked him for money. I loved the way he put his dreadlocks into a half ponytail that would stand straight up and accentuate his cheekbones. I loved how he loved being a dad, and how he expected nothing less than perfection and excellence from himself in any given moment. I loved the way that being around him helped me to be a better version of myself. I loved him, but still … I wasn’t looking for a relationship. We never had the talk. I never asked him if we were exclusive. Maybe I thought ignorance was bliss. Maybe I was attempting to be this hip, new-age woman who could handle a so-called “situationship.”
I know that there were many times I suspected he was indeed dating others. And I know that the chatter in my head (read: denial) told me he wasn’t seeing anyone other than me. I judged him (and us) based on how I felt in his presence; I felt amazing and important. He made me feel like a top priority in his life. He never said he loved me, but I felt it and I swore that was enough. Or maybe, just maybe, I was lying to myself all along. Because while I didn’t want a relationship, I did want monogamy. And aren’t those the same thing?
And so, on a random Thursday when we took a spontaneous and exciting day trip to New York City, it all changed. I found remnants from a night he shared with another women in his apartment — and my heart sank. I felt sick to my stomach. I was hurt to my core. And I was sadder than I have remembered being in years. Not because of the betrayal (can you call it that if we weren’t exclusive?) as much as the fact that this was over now. It had to be. There was no way to proceed or justify or let denial win.
The undefined relationship that brought me happiness and excitement and peace and fun ended — just like that. Unexpectedly. Without much fight from either party. Without explanation or remorse or compassion.
And now I sit, slightly shattered with so many questions. I am going over every conversation, replaying every kiss and hug and phone call and text for clues, details and confirmation that what he did was either oh-so-wrong or totally and completely forgivable because, well … we were not exclusive.
Am I slightly to blame because I never stated that I wanted and expected monogamy? Am I to blame for my sharp denial skills? Was our year together real at all or was the person I got to know a total and complete phony? I am driving myself crazy looking for answers that I can’t find. I want closure. I want validation that what we had meant something to him, too. And I guess, more than anything in the world, I now know that I do want a relationship. But only if it’s with him.