The conversation was making me uncomfortable. I knew what it felt like to be in her position — and I hurt for her, because I knew what she must be going through.
“I’ll give you the moon,” she had said earnestly. “Just give me another chance. Give me time to improve myself. I can be whatever you want.”
This was Sunday evening at dinner. She’s a young woman who I dated for a few months several years ago. Things had ended badly when I broke up with her. She had gotten angry and said some ugly things — and then she called a couple of days later to apologize.
We hadn’t spoken since then, but she recently reached out to ask if we could talk. Just talk, she had said. It didn’t have to be anything more.
Sunday was the third time I’d seen her. I’m not entirely sure why I agreed to it. Part of it was empathy, but part of it was self-interest born of fear. I’ve felt so alone lately that part of me wondered whether I had made a mistake to reject her.
Maybe it would be better to have a partner who really wanted me, even if I didn’t want her. Maybe that would be better than being alone. I agreed to see her.
At first, it had been nice to see her. Despite how awkwardly things had ended several years ago, we were comfortable that first time nearly two weeks ago. Things were relaxed. I had enjoyed it.
In my heart, I knew it wasn’t anything that could go anywhere. I was honest enough with myself to know that what felt good was merely having my ego stroked. I had felt so alone and so unwanted — at least by anyone I wanted — that it felt wonderful to have a woman treat me as though I was special.
The ego satisfaction was enough for the first meeting to be pleasant. She hadn’t changed in the last few years, but my bruised ego enjoyed the attention so much that I left that first meeting feeling good.
When we met the second time a few days later, the ego-fueled glow was already gone. She was still happy and bubbly, but I knew that I was fooling myself to even investigate this. Nothing could possibly come of it.
She’s a good person. She has a good heart. She’s attractive. She has other good qualities.
But she’s not a good match for me. She never will be. It’s not about any of her choices. She simply doesn’t have some mysterious something which interests me. I found myself bored as she talked. I felt guilty, but I couldn’t help it. This felt just like the long weeks I spent with her a few years ago.
I agreed to see her a third time — this past Sunday — because I wanted to make sure things ended on a better note than they did before. But I went into the date knowing why we were here. And she seemed to know that this was where something was decided, too.
She made her case just like a good salesperson. She told me that she knew there were things that had bothered me about her. She knew I hadn’t liked her very rural accent. She knew I wished she knew more about a broader array of topics. She knew I wished she had read more and learned more than she had learned in her one year of college. I hadn’t told her those things, but she was right.
She told me she wanted to go back to college. She told me that she wanted to be more like me. She was ready to promise anything, because she knew she could make me happy. And that’s when she promised me the moon.
Things ended far more amicably this time. She wasn’t angry with me. She hugged me as we left. I felt better than I had at the end the previous time.
In the two days since then, I keep thinking about her and I keep thinking about the earnest seriousness with which she promised me the moon and whatever else I wanted. I have to admit that I still feel a bit guilty — even though I shouldn’t — because I struggle when I can’t give people what they want.
I know that being with the wrong person is the only thing worse than being alone. I know that I would’ve been very unhappy with her. I also know that would have eventually made her unhappy, whether she realizes it now or not.
But beyond this particular woman, it’s left me pondering a longer-term issue. What if you simply can’t ever be what another person wants, even if that person wants you?
When I love someone, I tend to look at it as though there has to be some way I could win this woman. There has to be something I could do, something I could say, something I could become — something that would make her see the possibilities that I see for us.
There has to be some way that I can win her love. There has to be some way that I can convince her to choose me.
But with this woman I’ve recently seen, there was absolutely nothing she could do. She simply wasn’t who I needed. There was no way for her to change that. No matter how hard she tried to make herself into the person I wanted, that would never be who she was.
Even beyond my feelings of guilt, I have real empathy for her. I know what it feels like. There might be worse feelings than not being wanted by the object of your love, but I’m not sure what that would be.
And that leaves me full of fear that the best I can be might never be enough to win the love I need. Maybe I can never been enough — in some way that I can’t control.
I’m not sorry I met her again. It was nice to end on a better note, even though I doubt I’ll ever see her again. Mostly, I’m glad I saw her because of what it allowed me to clarify in my own mind.
I have been unhappy enough — and lonely enough — lately that I’ve really wondered whether it would be better to just have any decent partner than to be alone. I knew better, but feeling lonely does something so painful to your soul that it can start warping your thinking.
Seeing her put that idea to rest.
I don’t want to be alone, but being miserable and alone is better than being miserable and tied to someone you don’t love. That’s a version of hell on Earth that seems even worse than the unhappiness with which I’m living now.
So for that, I thank this woman, even though she’s not for me.