When It Could Be Love

I’ve been feeling broken. I’ve been afraid to love intimately, though my soul craves it.

I always knew romantic love would be the hardest to master. The earliest memory of me actively rejecting romantic love was in middle school. When I saw how nosy, gossipy and intrusive all my classmates became if anyone decided to date, I resolved to not be a part of this experience altogether.

It wasn’t hard to make the decision. My parents never showed much affection in front of me, so I wasn’t even comfortable with the idea. Friendship seemed the easiest way to go. I could hang out with the guys and get to know them personally without the threat of romance ruining the relationship.

It also made sense as someone who was constantly moving around. It was bad enough having to say goodbye to friends. Moving was inevitable in my mind. It would be easier to keep in touch, or lose contact with a friend than a lover.

According to this life rule I’d created, I could receive everything I needed to feel whole from friendship alone. That included intimacy. Intimacy, for me, was more verbal than physical. I needed to share secrets, personal experiences and deep philosophical thoughts with people one-on-one. I am a good listener and am able to make friends with just about anyone. I also believed that these were the main reasons anyone would talk to me. If a guy showed any interest, I figured it was because he saw friendship potential, not anything more. I didn’t know or recognize someone else’s interest in me beyond that unless it was blatantly expressed, and when that happened, I usually panicked and rejected it.

I thought I could keep up this act of “not needing romance in order to feel fulfilled”, but time always changes things about your life and yourself. I started to become different. Recently realized I had started to crave something more than friendship.

In university, like the rest of the adult world, I found that couples rarely start out as friends. I got asked out a few times by complete strangers. In an effort not to be completely overwhelmed and controlled by my fear of romance, I forced myself to confess to someone. It was a small crush, and I was turned down, which was a relief. Later, I forced myself to say yes to a different person when they asked me out on a date. I felt proud of myself, but then I stupidly realized that saying yes wouldn’t be the hardest part. The actual date would be the most stressful obstacle. Despite these two milestones, I was still embarrassingly naive about and uncomfortable with romantic love.

Not to mention that moving was still a part of my life and I moved five more times after university. I continued to make guy friends easily enough, but felt extremely lonely and lost when they found girlfriends and couldn’t hang out anymore.

My next act was to seek that verbal intimacy with an old friend from high school. Talking to him felt wonderful. The time difference worked in our favor and the distance (being on opposite sides of the world) helped me avoid the stresses of pursuing a physical relationship. Despite all these perceived benefits, I slowly started to both miss and crave meeting men in person.

At a friend’s request, I tried joining a salsa class. As a complete novice, I was suddenly forced into physical, nonverbal communication with the other classmates—a complete departure from my usual pattern. During class we rotated partners, and giving each male classmate my complete trust to interact closely through the dance had a strange effect on me. There was intimacy but very little verbal communication. I was finally getting a small taste of the other aspect of intimacy that I believed was associated with romance and because I learned to handle it well while dancing, I began to wonder if I could handle it in the form of a romantic relationship.

The classes left me conflicted. In my mind, I was going back and forth between pursuing romance, fully committing to it and settling for the loss of male friends as they went on to meet romantic partners. I finally realized I was too stubborn and afraid to pursue romance seriously. Besides, I still had every intention of continuing my nomadic lifestyle. Could I really jump into love while still believing that travel is a priority? I was already practiced at avoiding that path and finding out the answer.

I decided to take my heart out of the equation. And then, I stopped enjoying salsa classes. The decision to treat dancing like a science left me feeling empty. The connection I felt with one dance partner in particular was very confusing. I told myself that I wanted him as a friend. Since there was little time in class for talking, I was feeling frustrated that I couldn’t rely on my old (safer) patterns of verbal communication. In reality there was something deeper going on. It was partly the “dance partner connection” that my instructor once told me about, where you find out who you ‘click’ with on a deeper level through movement alone. It was also me finally craving love. For the first time it hurt not to pursue it, and not to pursue him. Though I felt uncomfortable admitting it, romantic love finally felt acceptable in my mind.

I told myself, “Why not see where this goes?” And so I will.