I’ve been on and off Bumble for two years. Mostly off. Mostly because it’s been so hard to find men who are interesting on there. It’s even harder to find a guy who is interested in me. I don’t mean attracted. I mean – a guy who asks me questions, and listens. Pretty simple, but very rare. It’s been next to impossible to find someone like that through online dating apps, so I’ve mostly avoided the app life. Occasionally, I drunk swipe but refrain from sending the first message.
It’s late summer or early fall. I wake up to see a message notification from Bumble, which confuses me because I’ve been avoiding Bumble like a coworker with a cold who refuses to take a sick day. Reading the message, I remember drunk swiping the night before, and apparently, I sent a message to a guy complimenting him on his bio. It was short but very funny. He thanks me and lets me know that he worked hard on it. I’m intrigued and look at his profile, this time sober.
Our banter continues and he asks to hang out, but due to travel schedules, we can’t meet for another two weeks. This is always a risk – to text someone you barely know and have never met. But it works, we meet, and it’s worth the wait. Our conversation is comfortable. He’s interesting but he asks me questions as well. Just like he did in our text conversations. He’s equal parts smart and socially aware. He’s confident but not arrogant. As the night continues, his humor opens up more, and it’s a level of sarcasm I rarely hear from anyone other than me. When I wake up the next morning and realize we stayed up talking until 6:00 a.m., I am buzzing.
I am embarrassed to admit how many men I allowed in my life (and back in, and back in) who I knew were a**h**** but I thought if they just liked me enough, they would change. I pined after men for days, weeks, months who were telling me the whole time they were not interested in me. And definitely not interested in what I wanted. But I did not have the self-worth to identify this and walk away.
I was so nervous that no one else would ever show me a shred of affection that I convinced myself that terrible men were decent, kind human beings worth my time. I shrugged off the delayed response times. I put up with the guys who disappeared for weeks at a time, only to send a text message in the middle of the day like nothing happened. I made excuses for the men who never committed to a date but preferred last minute meet-ups.
This is why: when you are searching for happiness outside of yourself, you will hear what you want to hear. Or what you need to hear. And that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, specifically with men. More specifically, men I am romantically interested in. As I developed an attraction to a man, I heard what I wanted. I ignored the red flags. I inferred what I needed to in order to feel affection. Because I was terrified to walk away.
In the days following the wonderful first date with Bumble guy, I’m not ruminating. I’m not daydream dating. I’m not rushing to write everything down just to process it. I don’t have to – he didn’t go anywhere. He’s present, remembering important events I have throughout the week, wishing me luck before and asking me how they went after. Our quick phone call turns into a three-hour conversation. After we hang up, he texts me that he wants to see me, that night.
I’m not writing our vows or even deleting Bumble. This is not a relationship. We are very much still in the casual dating stage and there are many things I’m withholding from him. But I am enjoying this feeling of comfort. Not having to guess if he likes me. Of course, I still wonder what he’s thinking. And when he tells me he likes me, I have trouble believing it, but I let my doubts go and I start to settle into this feeling.
There’s a difference between falling in love or lust with this guy and settling into this feeling I am describing. Based on how well it’s going, it would be easy to start getting carried away fantasizing about our future together and start describing my feelings for him as “strong” or “intense.” But why? Because he asks questions? Because he keeps in touch? Because we have fun together? None of that is an indication of anything other than we enjoy spending time together and he is a guy worth dating. This doesn’t mean anything other than this is exactly how I am supposed to be treated.
When things start shifting, and I no longer feel the same warm attention and curiosity from him, I don’t make excuses for him. When his interests fades, I don’t take it personally. If he found someone he likes more, I am happy for him. I’m not devastated. Because he’s not the source of my light. I don’t depend on him for anything. And I walk away.
Walking away is not the same as getting over it. It’s not the same as forgetting about him. It’s just seeing the exit sign and taking it without hesitation.
I’ve been terrified to walk away from trash men my whole life. When a guy continues to text me but refrains from making any concrete plans, I would tell myself he’s busy or aloof, and aloof is sexy. Or when a guy didn’t text me back, I’d tell myself I was being needy. I was asking too much. I needed to be the cool girl, play hard to get, because men like the hunt.
Neither of these were or are the case. Some of these guys are a**h****. Some of them are not in the place to date. Some of them just aren’t into me. No matter the reason, I didn’t have the confidence or self-worth to walk away. I had to cling on to any sign that he’d fill my void. That he would be my light. Because I was so scared I would never find a person to love me.
And I’m sad that this guy, who I held in such high esteem, is no longer interested me. Because I will miss our long games of twenty questions. I will miss his sarcasm. The distinct sound of voice, that has the slightest nasal hint to it but is deep enough to be sexy . But mostly, I am sad because I don’t know what I did to make him suddenly change his feelings for me. I don’t want to know what it was though. I have so many theories but I can’t handle hearing the reasoning. More importantly, I’m not going to change anything about myself after I hear it. It will only result in making me feel worse.
I can think of a few things I wish I did differently, but deep down, I know it had nothing to do with me. I didn’t do or say something to creep him out. I don’t have some character flaw. We’re just not supposed to happen. It’s that simple.
I am still scared of not finding someone. It’s a thought always looming over me. I’m terrified I’m not lovable. But I am. I have to believe that and keep telling myself that when I don’t believe it. And when I meet the person, who it is supposed to happen with, they will take me as I am. Exactly as I am. Until then, I’m not afraid to walk away. Because walking alone is so much less lonely than clinging to someone not interested in me.
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