Dear Steve – Put down your fishing rod and sit down. It finally happened. I’m engaged. I’ve been waiting a long time to write those words to my fellow columnist, Steve Chaconas. He’s enjoyed at least a decade of being entertained by my dating stories of both woe and “whoa!” “But Lori, I don’t get it,” he’d say as he was drawing back to cast his line. “What are these guys thinking? – More importantly, what are YOU thinking?” Now the question is, “what took you so long?” The truth of the matter, I guess, is that I just wasn’t ready. It literally took meeting the right guy – actually – let me rephrase that – letting the right guy into my life. I guess you could say that for most of my dating life I was ‘otherwise engaged’ in allowing the wrong men into my life.
For those of you who have been a serial reader of Single Space, you likely know and appreciate my dating journey and maybe it’s even helped yours – or at least provided some “oh no – she didn’t!” moments and laughs. As I recently told my good friend, Lisa, I feel like the poster child for Kay Jewelers. If nothing else, perhaps you’ve picked up a nugget of wisdom along the way or maybe I’ve spared you from a dating faux pas or 12. No doubt I made pretty much every mistake there is to make and then some. The most important lesson for me in my dating and relationship journey, however, was to understand that at the end of the day, I deserved better. I was picking (and letting myself be picked by) the wrong people and scratching my head wondering why it wasn’t working. Duh. It wasn’t working because he was an alcoholic or he had commitment issues or he was narcissistic or he was an A-hole or he was [fill in the blank]. I allowed myself to be treated poorly on many occasions and put up with a lot of stuff that I shouldn’t have, and it didn’t feel good. Let’s face it – I wasn’t scratching my head – I was hitting my head into the proverbial brick wall. And, it hurt. A lot.
In my own mind, I thought I was making poor choices because I wanted a relationship so badly that I was trying to make Mr. Right Now fit into my picture of happiness. Looking back, however, I think that the truth of the matter was that I was subconsciously throwing up barricades because I was scared to commit – I was terrified of letting down my walls and letting someone REALLY know me. From outward appearances, you probably wouldn’t think that was the case as I have a lot of people I’m honored to call my friends. Letting that one person really ‘in’ just wasn’t happening. Trust that I’m not saying this smuggly, but finding love for me meant truly understanding what I brought to the table (warts and all) and really looking at the person sitting across from me at the table. I mean really looking at HIM and not his perfect lips or mysterious dark eyes. It meant looking at the man and wondering if he was going to be the one who would show up and call when he said he was and stay true to his word and be consistent and honor me and make me laugh and care about my feelings and not want to do anything to lose my trust. At the end of the day, that’s the man I wanted to spend my life with – not the guy who never answers his phone or has an excuse for why he didn’t show at my friend’s birthday party or who flirts with the waitress as I’m sitting across from him. All of those things and more were part of my journey and they were icky and awful. It took meeting XXL for me to realize that it was time to put up or shut up. He was the real deal and he wasn’t backing down so it was time to let someone in. Trust me – I played it super cool at first. I never played games with him – some part of my mature brain knew he wouldn’t put up with that, and I’m not really a game player. What I did was keep him at arm’s length for as long as I could (which wasn’t long). XXL was smart enough to know what was going on and patiently waited for me to come around. Lucky for me.
The other part of the equation for me was learning to be happy and content on my own. For those of you who are feeling really single in this moment, trust that I can appreciate how hard that can be on some days – especially with the approaching holidays. I’ve always said that living a single life is not for wusses. It takes courage and strength and a lot of perseverance. You really have to dig your heels in and wallow in your singleness before you can truly find a place of peace and contentment. Spending time with yourself and knowing who you really are (not the ‘you’ who shows up at weddings and happy hours) is a powerful thing and not to be taken for granted.
The actual engagement happened on my recent birthday – XXL totally surprised me – which is no easy task in itself. I thought I was getting date night, but I got date night with a diamond! Woot, woot! We had discussed marriage and I knew it was inevitable, but thought the proposal was awhile off. I’m a Virgo (procrastinator) so left to my own devices I would have probably made some lists, weighed the pros and cons, and come up with ten reasons why we should wait for a more opportune time. Good thing for me that XXL is a take charge/make stuff happen kinda guy so he wasn’t waiting around for the ‘perfect’ time (there’s never one) to take the next step. God knows that it was a long enough journey finding each other so when you realize he or she is the one, it’s time to get the party started! I stopped being ‘otherwise engaged’ and let myself be fully engaged – engaged and committed to being with someone who truly cares about me, loves me unconditionally and enjoys my company (on most days). I am committed to being fully engaged with someone whom I care about and love and cherish for all the right reasons. Color me engaged in that endeavor. The morale of the story is that our engagement wouldn’t have happened unless I was ready for it and ready for my own version of Mr. Right. If I hadn’t been ready, Mr. Right aka XXL would have not called for that second date and I wouldn’t be sporting this beautiful piece of bling. Did I mention it’s beautiful?
Don’t worry – I’m not going to drop everyone now that I’m a plus one. As in life, we have options. We can cast the net for a new single writer – God knows it’s time for me to pass the baton. Or, you can share this next chapter with me. Cramped Space? Happy Space? Relationship Space? Double Space? The journey is ours – we will figure it out.
~ Written by: Lori Welch