One of the weirdest things that people say to each other about relationships is “When you know, you know.” It means that when you’ve found the other person to be your singular life partner, you’re practically struck by a bolt of lightening. You just know.
It’s a weird aphorism, because it’s so often untrue. Many of us know people who actually don’t know. They’re ambivalent about the person they’ve been dating, even for a long time, or they’re ambivalent about commitment, fidelity or the institution of marriage.
Then there are the other people who do know, who do find someone, and then they get proven wrong. They know someone is right for them, but life turns around and tells them, “Actually, you don’t know.”
A couple of years ago, I found someone who said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, too. I could visualize what our children would look like toddling across the floor and imagine growing old and wrinkled together. When I introduced him to my parents, my father said, “I think he’s the one.” We moved in together and talked about the future in terms of proposals and engagement rings and what city we wanted to live in. For a couple of years, we played house and I was really happy most of the time. It wasn’t perfect every single day. But I knew and I trusted myself to know.
So I was completely shocked when he suddenly broke up with me right out of nowhere.
The heartbreak was one thing. Lord knows I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the sudden re-navigation of my life:basically getting kicked out, finding a new place to live, replacing my furniture I’d gotten rid of when we moved in together, dating again. All that stuff was relatively easy, though, because it all involved action items. Save up money for a deposit on an apartment. Browse Craigslist. Plan a trip to IKEA. Reactivate my online dating profile. Figuring out what the fuck had just happened to everything I had believed to be true and trusted about my relationship was an entirely different beast. And that beast doesn’t provide answers.
I really had believed the hype in my own head that knew he had been “the one.” I knew it and I was wrong. That wasn’t supposed to happen! If I couldn’t trust myself about that, could I trust myself about anything? I felt for a long time — and still struggle to this day — like I can’t trust anyone who I let get too close to me because they’ll do a complete 180 and abandon me.
That was some really shitty muck to drag myself through. It had to be done, though. So I started seeing a therapist once a week and I feel like I owe this woman everything. I was able to see the bad things about Ex Mr. Jessica more clearly, look at parts about myself that I wanted to change or do differently, and admit to the ways our relationship would have struggled. I should have stood up for myself more. I would have never been satisfied with our sex life. His parents never would have thought I was good enough for him. I had felt like an outsider in someone’s life when I should have felt appreciated and accepted. In time, I stopped being heartbroken about what I had lost and actually felt relieved about what I had escaped. I knew better.
So, why the initial panic? I suppose I had myself convinced for awhile that Ex Mr. Jessica had been my one big love in life and … that would be it. Wrap it up at 26, hon, because you’re all through! Fortunately for me, I didn’t believe that bullshit for too long: the first guy I dated seriously after the breakup helped me realize that I got more than one chance at deep and incredible love. Why, I don’t know, but it had been inconceivable to me that I would ever love someone as much or more than Ex Mr Jessica, that I’d meet someone else who I would want to spend the rest of my life with, that there would be someone else about whom I would just know.
And I did. When I met Kale and started falling in love with him, I just knew. Again. He sees me and loves me and accepts me for exactly who I am. I have never felt like he wants me to be just a little different. His family loves me. Our sex life is awesome. I feel completely embraced by everyone in his life, especially him. I brought him home to meet my parents, and my mother, this time, said, “I think he’s the one.” And I agreed with her. I’ve never been happier and more comfortable in my own skin before in my life. We married in the beginning of October.
I was cautious, of course. That uncontrollable feeling of I-can’t-imagine-my-life-without-you brought a kneejerk reaction of But-you-could-leave! I wasn’t Labrador retriever puppy enthusiastic and optimistic anymore. Ex Mr. Jessica had broken that innocence of falling in love. But he’d also given me a deeper gift — an understanding of all the reasons that he wasn’t really right for me, and, in contrast, the reasons Kale really is. I’m grateful to have learned it. The price I paid was being wrong and getting my heart broken. But that’s okay. Now I not only know that Kale is a great life partner right for me, I know better.