I fidgeted in my seat.
We met at an Indian restaurant. I was dying to talk about it. He was dying to talk about it. And finally, I thought, I’ll get some clarity on the whole situation.
But after 45 minutes, he folded his hands and we locked eyes.
And honestly, how could I not be?
After nearly a decade of dating, I’d gotten used to false starts as the norm. It was all I knew. To the point where if someone showed consistent, clear interest in me, I was turned off.
Call it an anxious attachment style, a bad dating history, the life of a gay man, or evolution. I’m not sure what it is, but the best dating experience of my life had fallen into my lap.
And I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel something…more.
Dating has always felt chaotic.
Start talking. Grab coffee. Plan a second date. Go on second date. Catch “feelings”. Watch as they slowly drift away. Cease talking.
Rinse and repeat.
My brain felt alive in these moments. I wanted them. And I wanted them badly.
This cycle became like an addiction.
In fact, I think I would literally get high from it. It was empowering to tell myself I deserved better (and I do, obviously). It was empowering to fire up the breakup songs. It was exciting to get back on Hinge and match with a few more strangers.
It was, quite literally, fun in some sort of masochistic way.
So then imagine what happens when after a decade, it stops.
A guy actually wants to continue past the second date. And, in fact, he wants to see you multiple times per week. He wants to make plans. You’re now seeing each other consistently for months.
You feel calm. You feel comfortable. You feel happy.
Which sounds nice. It really does.
But the calm — the saneness, feels wrong. It feels boring. It feels like your brain wants to resist falling for him and instead chasing the next weirdo that will hurt you.
I’ve had to reckon with the idea that maybe I’ve had this all wrong.
Maybe my feelings towards people were obsessions, not love. Maybe they were long, drawn-out addictions that I confused for genuine emotions.
Maybe part of growing up is realizing this isn’t Disney.
That the sparks and the fireworks and butterflies are not good signs— but actually hints that you should run.
Maybe love isn’t chaos. Maybe it’s just kind.
It’s safe, harmonious, and grows with time. Not something that hurts you over and over again when you keep coming back for more.
Wrapping my brain around that has been difficult.
It’s okay to feel safe. It’s okay to feel calm and comfortable. And it’s not okay to feel obsessive, anxious, and all the “butterflies” that we’ve come to associate with love.
It’s time I gave that a try.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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