It just feels instinctive to be guarded and self-protective doesn't it, and it seems to only get worse with the burden of age.
While I believe the vast majority of people want intimacy, they want love and partnership, to me it feels like a pretty friggin' huge leap for mankind to move from slightly awkward, questioning, confused dating; to just accepting someone's love. Feeling it truthfully. And wanting it to be so.
I'm talking about shattering glass.
You know what I mean by glass, don't you? That translucent wall most of us live behind until someone meaningful comes along and breaks it. And then when they do, an all-consuming surge of suppressed emotion floods into the naked soul: love, fear, infatuation, panic, and hope. And there really is no turning back from that. Even if the relationship ends, that part is never reversible. That flood changes us forever inside, for better or for worse.
For every man I've ever loved, I can recall the exact moment when my glass wall broke and I let love in. It never happened upon first meeting, or even on a first date. I am not a love-at-first-sight person, although I totally believe in lust-at-first-sight. Letting love in sometimes took weeks, sometimes months.
The first time was when my dog died. My beautiful little schnauzer called Rosie who was hit by a car. I was all of seventeen years old and I wandered around in a fog for a whole week, tortured by her loss. I went through a bad experience as a child and believe I developed some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. My parents bought me Rosie to help me get better. But, after she did, when I lost her ten years later, my friends brushed it off with a casual, Oh no, how sad... anyway, are you free this weekend? There's a great party... I'd switched off by that point. I just wanted Rosie back.
At that point I had started dating this cute older guy. I wasn't sure where it was going, until I was in his car one day and he asked me what was wrong. I was embarrassed to be so upset over just a dog, so I told him casually and hid my hurt. He immediately pulled the car over. He turned and looked deeply at me. He took my hand in his and said I'm so, SO sorry. The look of sorrow and concern he gave me was so sincere it broke me.
And the glass shattered. We were together five years.
There were others, but I won't go on about them. This post was not designed to become a shrine to my ex-boyfriends!
But with B, it was a fairly surprising moment.
Before meeting B, I had been dating a man from another country for a few years. I wrote about it in this post. But the part I left out is that he cheated on me. A lot. I don't know exactly how much, but a lot. While we were separated for much of our relationship, we were extremely close at the time. We were glued to our webcams and our months spent visiting each other's countries were charged experiences indeed. We had both promised to be true, and it was a real relationship.
I hadn't known anything about all this cheating, and for several other reasons, we broke up months before I met B. A few weeks after I met B, this ex boyfriend emailed me and told me he wanted to speak on webcam. I didn't want to drudge up the past and couldn't work out what he wanted, but I agreed. When we spoke, he told me how sorry he was for everything. He looked pained and stressed. I was surprised; he had done no worse than me. The relationship didn't work because of things like cultural differences, a lack of really decent conversation, and of course, distance.
Don't be silly, I said. You have nothing to apologise for.
No you don't understand, he replied. I was not faithful to you. I cheated on you. I just had to tell you the truth and I couldn't lie about it anymore.
While I will always question the fidelity of a certain previous boyfriend, this was the first time I'd really been cheated on. Confirmed. Undisputed. Confessed. By a man I had deeply loved when he had done these things. I asked him how many times, thinking he would say perhaps once or twice. He told me he wasn't sure, and guessed it was around twenty times.
Suddenly, things all made sense. How could I have been so stupid? The times when I would call him early in the morning or late at night and he wasn't home; his insistence on constant STD tests even though it had supposedly only been us; his constant need to know what I had been up to, because he was thinking if he had done it, so must have I.
I felt awful. Enraged. Heartbroken. I didn't want him back. I just felt so wounded for the girl who had loved him at the time, not so long before, and the betrayal to her. If you have been cheated on, you'll know: the visualisations, the unanswered questions, the unwanted scenes that play out in your mind.
I had a new boyfriend, B, and I couldn't hide my hurt from him. I was shocked by this news - rattled - for a few days. I had to tell him the truth. I expected B to be put off by it, to say the least. Why had I even been talking to this ex? Why was I so upset about it, if the relationship was over? I was prepared to cop it from him too.
Except, when I told B, he didn't say anything at first. He just looked down for a few moments. He furrowed his brow, then turned to me. I'm so sorry, he said. That's just awful for anyone to hear. What can I do? He was filled with concern.
This incredibly selfless, compassionate, and belevolant man consoled me. He hugged me and told me how sorry he was for me while I cried over another man's indiscretions. It was so kind, so unfair to him, and such a strong indication of the kind of partner he would turn out to be. A real man.
And my glass shattered.
And love flooded in.
My insides - forever changed.