I like you and I want to date you

No, not you. At least probably not you. This post isn’t a confession to that special someone, rather a realization of words I’ve never said in my life. They seem easy enough, don’t they? You meet someone, you develop feelings and you express your expectations. Unless you’re me. 

The other day I went to my first counseling session. We went over all the details of my life for her to develop a basic understanding of me, and then she asked why I decided now was the time. At first I almost blamed my father’s recent problems but then I realized surprisingly he wasn’t the catalyst. It was, of course, a boy.

I tried to explain as concisely as possible because time was running out. I’m 26 and I don’t know how to have a healthy relationship. In the eight years since my last official relationship (equally unhealthy), I’ve had a few casual flings that just left me feeling rejected. I always felt like a secret to the boys I chose. They never seemed to want to openly date me, or even see me while it was still light outside. They made me feel convenient and I was too afraid of the rejection to tell any of them how I actually felt. I’ve lived the last decade of my life compromising and refusing to push the issue because it meant I could pretend for a little while longer that I had finally found something.

I told her I recently met someone new and I can’t even receive a message or respond without experiencing an overwhelming amount of dread and terror. And about how a piece of my past recently came back into my life and I could feel myself wanting to slip back into the darkness.

At this point, she asked a few more questions about the one who resurfaced, and then asked if me I ever told him how I felt. I responded I made it clear. I told him I missed him and I liked talking to him. But then I stopped talking as I thought about it more. No. I never actually told him. 

She continued and asked if I had ever said that to anyone. I quickly filed through the short list in my head and realized I never told anyone, no matter how strongly I felt, that I liked them and wanted to date them.

The closest I came to it was in college with this boy I was sure I loved. I had liked him for almost a full year, after he quoted the Bible to me at the bar. In one magical and unexpected move, it seemed like just maybe it was finally falling into place. I’m not sure if he told me he wasn’t looking for anything serious or if I just picked up that vibe, but I rolled with it because I didn’t want to lose him. One night, after hanging out, we were texting about feelings.

It’s important to interject I only actually communicated with this boy directly 40 percent of the time. Most of the time I desperately passed my phone to my best friend because it was easier to face any possible rejection through her.

The night in question, she wasn’t there. She was home for the weekend and away from her phone and I was panicking. He asked me how I felt and while I had words upon words upon words, I couldn’t say them and risk him not feeling the same. So instead I said, like the casual and cool girl I was, that I wasn’t looking for anything, but if I was it would be him. To my delight, he replied the same and again my brain thought maybe I hadn’t screwed up too bad. Maybe it would be all right.

It was a week or so later and I was at the bar for the weekly Thursday trip, but he wasn’t there this time. I drank too much and kissed two other guys while I was there. I couldn’t say no. They wanted to kiss me and it didn’t matter what I wanted because it felt good to be wanted.

Of course I told him the next morning. I felt horrible. But he said it was cool but that was it. It wasn’t the same again. For years I felt like it was my fault and I broke this growing thing between us because of my issues, but I can see the bigger picture now. Yeah, I made a really stupid mistake, but he wasn’t innocent either. We were both young and reckless.

Foolishly, I held onto hope for him for way too long. It’s rare for me to actual meet someone I like, so losing that was hard and he lived in the forefront of my mind until I found someone else. With each new connection, I hoped maybe this time would be different, but it never was.

Rejection was just a lesson I kept learning until it became the only truth I knew. 

No one asked me on dates. We didn’t take any photos together. There were no social posts. Just me and him at home, watching TV, late at night. Sending texts about hanging out, but only after a certain time. They didn’t seem like bad guys either, which meant I was the problem.

Were they embarrassed to be seen with me? Did they want something casual? Were they unclear of what I wanted so kept quiet themselves? Was I just convenient? Did I even matter?

These are the thoughts that echo when I meet someone new and run through every reason why he couldn’t possibly like me. I think of the reasons the others didn’t, and soon they become his reasons too. Now I’m so cautious I don’t even really want to try.

I used to think the right guy would change everything. I don’t need a prince on a white horse, just a guy who would text me and make it clear he liked seeing me. Who would ask me to dinner and maybe eventually ask me to be his girlfriend. I believed the right one, or at least a right one, could prove they weren’t all the same.  

You’re just setting yourself up for failure if you look for a savior in humanity.

Recently, after meeting new person, I realized there was no one on this earth who could come in and break through my insecurities by saying the right things. Most likely he would say them and I wouldn’t believe him so I would find a way to ruin it myself to stay protected. If I want a healthy relationship, I need to be healthy.

My goal is to be able to say ‘I like you and want to date you’ without fear of the consequences. I want to remember what I want is important and holding onto someone based on what they want will only make it hurt worse in the end. I don’t think rejection is ever easy, but I don’t want it to be debilitating anymore. 

This is what I want to say and believe in full confidence: To everyone from my past, I liked you and wanted to date you. Maybe you didn’t feel the same way, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m less or I need to feel like I’m nothing. Hopefully we both find what we’re looking for now.

It’s all a journey, right?

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