They say that timing is eveything, and over the past few years I have found this cliché adage to be, well, true. The more I date, the more I’m convinced that whether or not someone is “ready” for a relationship is the key to things working out or totally tanking. As a case in point, I give you:
The Dude Where’s My Boyfriend Timeline of Timing (Abridged Version*)
Let’s go back to the spring of 2009, the second semester of my freshman year of college. Enter Dumb Jock (the stereotype is, in this case, very, very legitimate), who I (dumbly) fell for—hard. He treated me terribly, ignoring me for weeks at a time and then wanting to hook up again, but for some reason I couldn’t stay away. When we finally ended things (i.e. when he started ignoring me completely), I was crushed. For a year. It’s almost laughable to me now—I’ve gained enough distance from the whole situation to be able to lovingly call that period the “Dark Days” of my dating life—but at the time I felt completely lost and hurt. For several weeks I went to bed crying and woke up still crying. It took me months to feel vaguely okay, and even longer than that to feel remotely secure enough to really put my heart into another relationship. Obviously, the guy hadn’t been right for me, but he had been someone who I’d experienced a lot of “firsts” with, and I felt the loss keenly.
I was still in my recovery phase during fall 2009, when I hooked up with a guy who was clearly looking for more with me. I thought that I was open to exploring that with him, but the experience of being with someone while continuing to mourn someone else was bewildering, and I quickly called it off. In the spring, I was finally ready to move on from Dumb Jock, and so began another weird hybrid of a hook up/relationship with a different Dumb Jock, who was only slightly better than the first. (What was I thinking? It remains a mystery even to me.) I went through another rough period after splitting up with Dumb Jock 2—in much the same, silent way that I’d split up with Dumb jock 1—but I came back to school in the fall of 2010 feeling fed up with dating losers and ready—for real!—to graduate to an adult relationship.
Over that summer I’d been keeping in touch with a guy from my school, and things seemed promising. We hung out platonically a few times at the beginning of the semester, and one night when he came to my room we started fooling around. He was pretty shy and even though we were lying on my bed cuddling it didn’t seem like he was going to do anything, so I kissed him. (Not an easy thing to do for someone who had been wounded in the recent past—I was proud of myself.) He kissed me back, but only barely—and a few days later showed up to my room again, in daylight, to tell me that he wasn’t ready for anything.
Fast forward through the spring, summer, and fall, when no one of major interest shows up and I remain ready as ever. And then, in the winter of 2011, I meet a guy who I’m 100% sure is My Next Big Love, and things go swimmingly for a week or so, I prepare to take his last name and wonder how many kids he’ll want to have, and BAM—you guessed it, folks: he’s not ready. And then I’m not ready, because I’m 100% sure that I’ll never love again, and my heart feels like it has shriveled up and withered away. And then I’m ready again, because I realize that that guy kind of really blew, and that I deserve better. I’m ready now, but being ready, I’ve found, often means that you need to wait. For a long time.
Not to get too scientific about it, but sometimes the conditions are right for love. You’re both in the right place in your lives, you both want the same things, there’s chemistry between you and also intellectual attraction, your families like each other. But there are so many things that go into making a relationship work, it’s such a hard balance to strike. If one tiny part of the equation is off, the whole thing could go under.
But then sometimes the stars align. You’re ready and he’s ready. It never ceases to amaze me.
*Abridged because I’m only hitting the highlights here. If I detailed all of my college mistakes, this would likely turn into more of a pity party than the mere hang-out session I intend it to be.