I was the one who ended it. I didn't want to, but it had to be done. I stopped believing him. There were no lies or manipulation or deceit. I trusted him, but I couldn't bring myself to let that trust lead to belief. No matter what he said, I didn't believe that he wanted us. Oh, he might have thought that he did, but I knew better. I could see what he had yet to admit to himself. He said, "I'm in this," but all the signs said, "I'm about to bail out." I wasn't going to be the girl I'd been in the past. The one who sees the STOP sign but keeps going anyway. I wasn't going to be the girl who believed, even in the absence of trust, only to be let down by what was so plain to see. This time I paid attention to the warning signs and bailed on him before he could bail on me. I filled the void he left with affirmations that I had done the right thing. I read the writing on the wall and acted accordingly. But the day I got a glimpse of his turmoil I realized I had read everything all wrong.
The beginning was perfection. Playful flirting under the guise of friendship blossomed into something much more. Long nights, lazy days, and an unquenchable craving for one another. "I'm not a phone person," he would say three hours into a call. But he became one for me, because that's what I needed. He wanted me happy, and I just wanted him. It was good, so good I had to keep making sure he was real. "Are you sure?" I would ask him. He said he was. His word wasn't enough. I had learned that saying something doesn't make it true. I watched, and waited for his actions to stop matching his words. It's impossible to be happy when you're constantly on the lookout for something that will make you miserable. Then, it happened. One day he told me he was too busy to see me. I had heard that before in a different time with a different person. When R was too busy to see me it was because he was seeing someone else. Now that is what "busy" meant to me. Another day he said, "I'll be back to see you later." J said he'd see me later, right before he left forever. To me, see you later meant see you never. Over time my three hour conversations turned into ten minute check ins. K checked in daily, then weekly, then monthly, then not at all. I saw all of the signs flashing in front of my eyes and they all said the same thing "IT'S OVER!" The fact that the shift in his behavior coincided with an increasingly demanding work schedule, an unexpected financial mishap, and a series of family crises was irrelevant. Prior experience taught me that a change in behavior always meant a change in feelings. I didn't want to be stupid and think he could be an exception.
Signs are meant to be heeded, warning of us of danger ahead. When Terry McMillan faced her gay ex husband on national television, Oprah asked the famous author, "Didn't you see the signs?" Obviously she didn't, but I guarantee she will from now on. In fact she will look for them. She'll be smarter, more aware, more observant, ready to catch anything that is remotely suspicious. She won't let what happened before happen again. Neither will anyone. Everyone from Dr. Phil to Tyra Banks tells us to look for the signs. The signs that he's cheating, that he's lying, that he's fallen out of love. Books like He's Just Not That Into You offer a step by step guide to identifying disinterest. We're told to learn from the past so we don't repeat our mistakes. We're supposed to protect ourselves, be on alert lest we get our hearts broken once again. We begin to think that actions always speak louder than words and certain actions can only mean one thing no matter what the situation. We forget that in order to interpret, we must first know the context. Signs can't exist by themselves and most definitely cannot define a relationship.
Dating is like walking through a dark jungle. There are lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my) ready to pounce at every turn, leaving carnage in their wake. For protection we teach ourselves how to recognize their approach and watch for them coming around the bend. And when we sense the danger is sneaking up on us, we defend ourselves. Thrashing, kicking, wailing, and beating until it's destroyed. And it's not until we step back from the melee and behold what we've killed that we see that the beast was really a bunny and we were never in any danger in the first place.