It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself through just one relationship.
By engaging in this one relationship, I have experienced every emotion, and have begun to discover the capacity of my soul to feel joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, hope and despair.
And I have treasured every second of it, and have begun to embrace the fullest measure of all that I have experienced so far.
The biggest lesson I have been learning is the stillness of pursuit. There is a constant ebb and flow that happens; a push and pull. This woman has been in my life for almost a year now, and we have gone from strangers to friends, friends to best friends, best friends to friends that have confessed their feelings, friends that have confessed their feelings to friends who are unsure, friends who are unsure to friends that are estranged, and friends that are estranged to friends who have grown and reconciled, and finally friends who have grown and reconciled to friends that have a uniquely complicated relationship that is no longer easy to define.
Through every stage, I have had to battle with issues that have been deeply rooted in me ever since I started dating. I was a timid kid. Somewhat shy, comfortable in his own skin but very insecure overall. And I haven’t been in the best relationships either. Looking back my timidity had been mistranslated into cowardice, and sometimes it was. Looking back my desire to spend time with her had been translated as jealousy or too persistent, and sometimes it was.
But after meeting this woman, I embarked on this journey that would forever change me. It was a relationship that I stepped into that finally challenged me to be the man I always wanted to be. It made me want to finally fight for someone. It made me want to pursue.
For almost a year it’s been a constant struggle for me to continue to fight. It took me six months to finally muster the courage to ask her out, after spending all this time voluntarily in the friend zone. I was comfortable as her friend, but I was also miserable, watching her enter into a relationship and watching myself do absolutely nothing about it, even though I knew I was better. I watched myself grow sad, I allowed the situation to defeat me, and I let that circumstance erode my self-esteem. But it also made me treasure the friendship we had. And it helped me practice the art of gratitude over bitterness. One thing I learned from the experience is that you can still practice kindness even when things don’t go your way. That even if you don’t get the girl, you can still endeavor to be the man you always wanted to be. That you can still choose to be a force of love and good, even when you get nothing in return. In my past I was a very jealous, bitter, spiteful person, and it brought me comfort to know that I could still choose love, even when it felt like love would never choose me. That I could do it for a woman I loved even if she never wanted to move into romance.
I was halfway across the world when she told me that relationship ended. I wanted to hug her but I was as far away as one could possibly be. We continued to talk, and when she went overseas herself, our relationship started a blossoming process that grew into something more than friends. We began to flirt, she wanted to tell me everything that was happening there, I re-arranged my sleep schedule to be awake when she was. Even though we were on opposite sides of the world, I never felt closer to her. Then we had a conversation that challenged me even more. And I made a decision to ask her out when she came back.
One thing to keep in mind about this whole relationship, by the way, is that our timing is terrible. Like, it’s laughably, outrageously bad. It’s one of the things we joke about. In any case, I was so nervous about a week before she would arrive back home. I drafted this whole spiel of what to say, how much she meant to me, the adventure I would like to live out with her, and it hit her like a ton of bricks… both in a good way and a bad way. It was good because I finally got tell a woman I loved how I felt, and even more so that she shared the same feelings about me. The bad news was, well, the timing. She needed space, she was depleted from the trip, exhausted from a battle she constantly fights, and this confession was just too overwhelming. And after about two months of me pursuing more and her not having a clear response to give back, things just subsided.
Here is where the real learning started to begin. The real, hard-hitting, heart-wrenching lessons that I have had the displeasure of going through. I found myself waning in my previously unconditional type of love. The constant force of good I was so intentional about creating and exuding in her life was starting to turn more selfish, darker, more possessive. All of a sudden, the struggle to keep bitterness at bay became an all-out war inside me, as if there was a dam of it that I had no idea was piling up and growing and starting to spill over the walls. I found myself overwhelmed, and I finally discovered the limits of my seemingly infinite amount of patience that I once had. The struggle became real. I started to feel so, so lonely. So depressed. I started to lose my faith. I started to lose hope. I started to lose sight of the idea of love. The things I once proudly championed were starting to feel like false truths that I had no idea why I believed it in the first place. It was a dark and dangerous place to be. I started to say things out of frustration and loneliness that eventually just drained her. Our conversations that were once productive started to just go into circles and find no resolution. The closeness we once had started to drift. And I was painfully aware of it happening and felt powerless to stop it. I felt out of control of my own actions and wreaking havoc upon a relationship that I so desperately wanted to keep intact. That my grip on what I wanted was so tight that it was constricting the life of the one I only wanted to give myself to. That my jealousy wasn’t flattering but smothering. And it was painful to release her in the end…
I say all this not so you could feel bad for me, but to understand the process of what I have been going through. Like I said in the beginning, this relationship has challenged me, stretched me, and grew me in ways I never thought possible. It’s for that reason that this relationship still means so much to me, because it has made me painfully aware of my limitations and how much more growing I need to do. It made me realize how unprepared and not ready I am to be entrusted with a heart. At least not right now.
I’ve learned how much I desire control. I’ve learned how much not getting what I want upsets me. I’ve learned that sometimes I say things because it sounds like I care about their happiness, but really I say it to be manipulative and get someone to be what I want them to be before they’re ready to be it. I’ve been truly learning how to remain still and letting the moment be enough. To let the process do its work in me, to mature me, because what I’m learning in these moments are crucial elements being forged inside of me to help me retain the relationship that it will eventually be. That I am just not ready for that kind of caliber of a relationship. That I can’t just throw a tantrum and be passive aggressive when I don’t get what I want. That I need to cultivate even more patience and more forgiveness and more gratitude because the kind of relationship I want to have requires that I go through this process.
I am learning that to pursue with my love is sometimes to be still. That perhaps the timing is so wrong because I’m rushing things out of excitement and immaturity. That there is virtue in giving space, and there is no rush. After all, in the grand scheme of things, even a couple of years of being alone and never hanging out is worth it if it creates a lifetime together with each other. That love, perseverance, and kindness wins if you give it a chance to blossom in your life. That confidence and masculinity is vulnerability, and wisdom is knowing when to be that way. That growth is learning to bear the weight of the consequences of your mistakes, and letting that texture and shape your character. That when you choose to persevere through unimaginably, unbearably difficult moments, you start to acquire all the skills you need to nurture the relationship that you will one day be entrusted to nourish and put effort into. That you can love someone by being still. You can pursue with prayer, and you can pursue with patience. You start to realize the loneliness of not being chosen, but then that leaves your soul with the realization that God has chosen you. You start to realize that when God is all you have left, He becomes everything you have ever needed.
So, the ride isn’t over. There is still so much to go through, so many decisions to make, so much to keep persevering through. So much to learn. So much to grieve about, and so much to feel joy about. I’ve already gone this far, and I have already been challenged by so many situations, and as many as I have failed, I have succeeded in many. I keep asking God to take this all away, and all He says to me is, “I’m here.” I have been victorious in battles I never thought I’d win, and I have lost battles I thought were in the bag. But I want my life to be an example of what it means to persevere, not because there is a girl at the end, but because it shows the power of what love can do. I want to overcome not so my life has a good ending and I get the girl, but because the world needs to know that love can win and it must win. And I will never stop pursuing this goal to have love win, even if it means I have to be still for a very long time.