When I was a malleable young college boy
, there was a very special
girl in my life. She was all the things my first love wasn't: practical
. She had stood by me through the painfully bad love with my first girl in high school, and saw something worthwhile in me even though I wavered between the two of them for far too long. That was high-school stuff, though, and now I was more mature, better able to distinguish mere chemical attraction
from a mutual respect.
There was one wee problem - this little dreamboat was also a simmering stew of needy insecurity (thanks in part to bad experience with her own first fella, and my aforementioned waffling in our early courtship), heavily spiced with a prodigious skill of emotional manipulation, against which my young ego had no defense. To my inexperienced mind, it made sense that if I really loved her I should want to be with her all the time... She disliked all my friends, and she eventually managed to alienate all her friends as well. Within a year or so, I had classes (with no free time between because I was on the phone with her) and sleep, and every other waking moment was spent at her house. I did homework there, I ate meals there. We didn't go out, since we were ostensibly saving for a wedding; we had no friends to spend time with anyway. If I wasn't with her, she would call to check up on me, making sure I wasn't with my "other girlfriend" (her words; may that indicate the thin veil over her insecurity). If I wasn't by the phone at home, I had better have a good excuse. Ditto, if I failed to call her between classes as expected. And excuses there were: The car overheated. All the pay phones were occupied. I was listening to music with the headphones on. I was sleeping. I was in the shower. Small, plausible lies, but of course they grew more implausible with use. And I felt bad, conflicted - on the one hand, I recognized my own cowardice, and on the other, I still didn't quite understand how love could be so suffocating. What was wrong with me?
With nothing new to tell each other, and very limited external stimulation, the relationship stagnated. We bickered bitterly and constantly. We had each others' company - more than we could stand. The sex stopped. She lived with her mom, and we couldn't make love at her house because her mom would know. This was an article of faith with her. She grew more and more reluctant to fool around at my house, until one day I realized - We hadn't had sex in a year. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been glad to see her, nor the last time she had looked glad of me. We tried to dedicate some time apart, to renew old friendships, but it was too little, too late. One night, we quarreled, probably no worse than usual; I loved her, but I could no longer stand the strain that attended our time together. I stormed out of her house, and she tried all night to reach me on the phone. Where was I then? In the arms of a tasty cashier from the hardware store where I played security guard.
Some people are at their best in a coupled relationship; I consider myself one of them, perhaps moreso than ever. I think I've learned to distinguish between mere neediness and a mutual respect. We all get weak and tired sometimes; one of the many rewards of a coupled relationship is the knowledge that there's one more person who will uphold you when you stumble - perhaps more than anyone else. The whole point of my story is in this caveat: no one person can be there all the time. If you're prone to need support, develop a support network, because it's too much to expect any one person to carry you.