For more than seven years now, I’ve been living in a cage — but the cage always had an open door. I could fly away anytime I wanted.
But I didn’t want to leave the cage. I was waiting for a woman I loved. I was waiting for someone else to change. I lied to myself. I angrily told myself — at times — that I wasn’t waiting for her. But something in me believed — against all evidence — that she was going to be the love I needed. Any day now. And so I waited and waited, wasting years of my life.
I can admit that to myself now. What’s been harder to admit is that I’ve been making excuses for behavior that hurt me. I would have told anybody else that her behavior showed she didn’t care and wouldn’t care, not in the ways that her words had said she did.
But I needed to believe in her. I needed to believe in her love. So I made excuses for her.
She never asked me to make excuses for her. I did it because I didn’t want to give up on her. More than once, she encouraged me to wait for her, though. (“Don’t give up on me,” she asked several years into my wait.) But I’m the one who invented the excuses which allowed me to justify the complete mismatch between her words and her actions.
I met her many years ago, but nothing really happened between us at first. I was more interested than she was at the time, and then she eventually started dating someone else seriously. For years, we were just Facebook friends with no real connection. I kept up with her — and was sorry that I had never been able to get closer to her — but that changed about eight years ago.
She got in touch with me out of the blue. She had gotten a business inquiry at her job from someone with my name. She said she thought at first that it might be me, but then the man’s poor grammar made her realize it couldn’t be me. It was just a funny little incident. A coincidence.
But we kept talking. Over the weeks and then months, we got closer and closer. Eventually, we each confessed love. Before long, we were talking about our future together, not in a “what if” way, but in words of genuine expectation.
I still have all of her cards and emails. I know what she said. I know the things she promised. We talked about our future children’s names, what our house would look like, all sorts of things. I know how much she said she loved me.
Even then, there were things I made excuses for. On two occasions, I wrote her long emails sharing important things from my past — very emotional things for me — which I thought she should know. She didn’t respond to either one. Not in our conversations. Not in an email. She didn’t even acknowledge the very personal and important things I had shared with her.
When I finally brought it up with her, she said vaguely that she had trouble dealing with certain things. She couldn’t explain why. She just said it was the way she was. It never made sense to me, but I read all sorts of things between the lines of that. And then I expanded all of that over time as a way to make excuses for her behavior.
Something changed to put the brakes on her intense professions of love. I will never know what it was, because she wouldn’t talk to me about it. I invented reasons for her. I made excuses for her.
Then she promised that she needed a few months — maybe six months — to decide what she wanted, but six months came and went with no explanation. She made it clear that she didn’t want me to give up on her, but she never explained anything. She never said she had changed her mind about her feelings. There were occasional gifts and random communication, but that’s about all.
She never seemed to have any awareness — or concern — about how her behavior had affected me. She was completely aware of the state of my feelings for her and what the period of separation had done to me, but that wasn’t enough to cause her to be honest with me about her feelings or to disavow what she had once promised.
And for all that time, I invented excuses to explain why she was acting in this way. I took bits and pieces of her behavior and came up with psychological theories that would explain what was allowing this — and I hoped that something would happen to change everything.
I waited for a phone call that was never going to come.
Her behavior was inexplicable at best and selfish at worst, but I was the one who chose to wait. I was the one who chose to make excuses for her. I was the one who chose to hope that the day would come when she would call one day and say she was ready to go back to where we had been seven and a half years ago. I was the one who believed that we could find a way to get past everything — and to make it all make sense.
It was my choice. I was wrong. If I had been wiser, I would have been able to say, “You know what? An emotionally healthy person doesn’t act this way with someone she loves.” And I would have given up on her. But I wasn’t wise enough to do that.
At least not until about 10 days ago. Something happened. The details don’t matter. She had gotten in touch with me a few days before to tell me something which gave me concrete hope for the first time in years. Then she sent me an email to reverse that. She was completely within her rights to do what she did, but I’m not sure it even occurred to her how much her reversal was going to devastate me.
And something changed inside for me on that day. I had no more excuses for her. I had to admit that a woman who loved me could not have done all that she had done, no matter how many excuses I made. Suddenly, it was over.
Many people have a tendency after love is over to hate the other person and to see the worst about that person going forward. I can’t do that. I saw the good things about her very clearly and rationally. I didn’t imagine those good qualities. I knew exactly what she was capable of being at her best.
I was willing to overlook fatal flaws — which I believed she would overcome with growth — because the good parts of her were so powerfully good.
I won’t regret having loved her. I will always think highly of her, and I will always regret what could have been. I’m not angry with her. I’ll always wish the best for her in the life she’s chosen for herself. I hope she’ll be happy.
But what I won’t do anymore is to make excuses for her.