Man, that is a long title, but honestly, I couldn't find a shorter catchier way of saying it. I know I promised a blog about church and dating and the rules. I am still working on that one. And, I finished this one first. So, here it is. Even though the title is so long it breaks all the blogging rules.
Maybe I need to put a disclaimer here before I start. While, I am writing honestly about my life here on this blog, I am painfully aware that my life intersects with other people... people who are private citizens. My goal on this blog is never to gossip, slander, rant, or complain about others. I am working hard to preserve this last boyfriend's privacy and will never use his name. But, this ex-boyfriend and anyone reading this should keep in mind this blog is about me and what I've learned about myself.
Also, this is not the only reason I ended the relationship. It is the one I'm willing to put here as it lines up with what I've already been writing about.
We dated for nearly a year. We picked out rings. He bought a house. We had chemistry. He was kind and generous. He played loud music and watched documentaries and talked a lot about fishing. We had fun. And we were both in a place in our lives where we were ready and able to say "yes."
And then, early in December 2016, I ended it.
Our first meeting went like this: We arranged to meet in Hyde Park for a walk in the foothills. I brought my dog Oliver because he's a really good judge of character. I remember trying to keep things casual. I wasn't sure we had much in common except that we had both moved here from California at the same time. He seemed nervous and shy. I asked him about his life and we talked about our work. We stopped at Java (the coffee shop) near where he parked to sit and chat and get a drink. It was sunny and all the restaurants and shops that make up Hyde Park were busy. People were eating lunch with friends, out for walks, riding bikes. He was complimenting me on how well behaved Oliver was around all these people when I saw my mom's bike out of the corner of my eye. It happened quick. A neighbor was eating lunch at Sun Ray, the cafe next door. She saw my mom and yelled, "Hey, Patrice!" And without even thinking, I pointed to her as she rode down the street, groceries in her basket, and said, "And, there goes my mom." I was laughing. He turned bright red.
Later, he would recount this moment as embarrassing. But, I wasn't embarrassed. I got the sense that he felt we were never really alone... that someone was always watching... if not my parents, then a neighbor or a friend from my church. While I acknowledge, life here in Boise runs at a different pace and neighbors actually speak to one another here, this is not something to be ashamed of. I love this about my life. But, yes, Boise can feel like a small world at times.
The truth is, I come from a large and unruly family. I was raised surrounded by neighbors and friends even in San Diego. I remember once in High School, I pulled up to the gas station and ran into my parents mechanic (who went to my church), he mentioned that he saw me talking to a new young man at church. I also remember thinking, "Sheesh, maybe it's time to move." As an adolescent, being known like this was weird. As an adult, I appreciate that I was surrounded by a community where I was known, loved, and looked out for.
Although, this kind of community did not disappear when I moved to Los Angeles. I was a part of a large church community and I lived in the same square mile as all 300 students I worked with as a guidance counselor at Fuller Seminary. I could not go out on a date without being seen and (more often than not) approached by a student. At times, this felt like a complete invasion. As I look back on it now, I see that maybe I had recreated the community I was raised in... Maybe we humans are always unconsciously doing just that.
I remember sitting at my desk one day and hearing my name in the waiting area just beyond my cubicle. A student was whispering to another student that she had seen me on a date the night before. In truth, I was having dinner with my cousin from Chicago who was in town on business.
Move along, people. Nothing to see here.
After years of this sort of thing, pointing out my mom from a crowded sidewalk was a nonevent.
As time progressed and this ex-boyfriend and I started seeing each other more, the hard part was actually finding a time when we were both available. We worked opposite schedules. We would take afternoon walks after I finished school and just before he went to work. At least once a week one neighbor or another would mention to me or to my parents that they had seen us holding hands and walking the dog. Sometimes, as I was telling him about my day I would tell him that so and so had mentioned seeing us. He would sigh and say, "Amie, you're an adult. Why do you care so much what people think?"
I got the feeling he never believed me when I tried to explain that this was not the case. And it would take months for the weight of what his words really meant to fully sink in.
We were together for 10 months and in that time, we only spent time with other friends on 3 occasions. He had met my family a few times, but shyed away from that as much as possible. He always excused himself from things that involved the other people in my life. He would tell me how important family was to him. But his actions, his eye rolling when I would make plans, his complaining in the car ride over, his looking at his watch and wanting to leave early said otherwise.
So, most of the time I was having to choose between my tribe and him. I felt guilty about making plans with friends. I felt like I was always making excuses for his absences. More often than not, I felt alone even when I was with him because he showed no real interest in my life outside of him.
I thought being in a committed, adult relationship meant merging our whole lives. This was clearly not happening.
I am aware that meeting my parents for the first time might seem daunting. But, they are not faking their love, support, and concern for me (or my siblings) or the people in my life. I also understand that not everybody was raised with this sort of love, generosity, and support and aren't sure how to handle it when they are finally able to rest in this place.
I remember a few weeks after my sister and her husband married we were eating dinner together in the backyard in the house we all grew up in together in Escondido. Ryan, my brother in law, and I were clearing the table and loading the dishwasher when he turned to me and said, "I had no idea marrying into this family would be like marrying into the mob." I was scraping leftover beans and watermelon seeds into the trash. I laughed so hard I dropped my fork and had to dig through the trash to find it.
I told you, my family is large, loud, and unruly.
But, when my sister came to my parents and said, we want to get married under the oak tree in the back yard, every single one of us spent the next three months laying tile, planting white hydrangeas, and climbing trees to wrap the whole yard in twinkle lights so we could make their wedding incredible. And it was.
So, when I showed my parents the house he bought, they arrived with tool belts, food, music, and a whole lot of know how. It took two weeks for my mom and I to dismantle the dated 1980's kitchen and transform it. It was a lot of work. But we enjoyed every second of it. Can I show you what we did:
I wasn't doing this work to earn his love. I was doing it because I wanted to make sure our future together made him feel at home. This was my way of telling him I loved him... that my crazy tribe of people loved him.
As I look back on the "discussions' we had as the Holidays approached, I do not regret the relationship. I know I gave 500% of myself to it. But, I also do not regret leaving it. The thought of committing to a lifelong marriage with someone who left me feeling so alone, frightened me more than the prospect of being single.
But, I am pretty proud of the fact that I learned how to dismantle and remodel a kitchen with my bare hands, so I have that going for me.