“You think love means someone has to get hurt terribly,” said my love guru.
I had just finished recounting my entire dating history for her — from middle school until present day. It took up nearly the entire session. I told her about the boyfriend who had blindsided me by telling me he was gay, the guy who left me for the woman he eventually married, and finally, my regrettable one-night stand marathon immediately following my sister’s wedding.
I expected Dr. Diana, my new love therapist, to shake her head and pronounce me a hopeless case. Instead she smiled and casually ran her hand through her auburn hair as if we were talking about what we ate for dinner yesterday.
“Thank God you’re here!” she laughed. “Love is f**king hard. And you can quote me on that.”
Who was this woman who felt confident she could take on the insurmountable task of helping this defeated thirty-something find lasting love? She had just heard my track record. Was she insane?
Pause for a second.
You may be asking yourself why I sought the help of a love guru in the first place.
It all began when I was about to have sex for the first time with the guy I’d been dating — we’ll call him Spontaneous Guy. I call him that because I am not spontaneous. The most spontaneous thing I’ve done this week is switch up yoga for spinning class.
I met Spontaneous Guy at my local watering hole where I was having a drink with some friends on a Thursday evening.
He walked over to our table and asked, “Why aren’t you having a drink with me?”
That made me laugh and he had an adorable smile, so I let him sit and talk to me for an hour. He walked me back to my Brooklyn apartment and we stood in my stairwell. I wasn’t expecting it when he pushed me up against a wall and kissed me.
My knees went weak.
“I haven’t had a kiss like that in a really long time,” he said when he pulled away.
“Me neither,” I replied.
And I meant it.
After a month of dating, Spontaneous Guy and I were about to have sex for the first time. He had the condom on, ready to mount. I was good to go, or so I thought. And then I started to cry. Like bawl. It was embarrassing.
“I don’t know what to do,” Spontaneous Guy said, fully confused.
“Nothing. Just sit here with me until it passes. This happens sometimes,” I explained. But as soon as the words slipped out of my mouth, I knew it wasn’t normal.
“I don’t get you,” he said. “You send so many mixed signals. I don’t know if you want me or not.”
I felt a fresh wave of shame. He was right. I was sending mixed signals. But not on purpose. I really liked him, I was just too scared to dip more than a toe into the dating waters. Some irrational part of me was convinced that no matter what, things would end badly with Spontaneous Guy.
Also running through my mind was the email I got earlier in the day from an old flame. We had gone on two good dates over a year ago but he had just gotten out of a relationship and I was only wanting casual sex. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Old Flame’s email said something to the effect of, “Thinking of you … in a better place … dinner?”
Laying in bed with Spontaneous Guy, I spiraled into an panic of unparalleled proportions. Was I ready to get into a relationship? Did Spontaneous Guy even want that? Was he just going to be another dude who ditched me once he bedded me? I apologized for my emotional breakdown and I sent him home without sex.
I woke up the next morning and made an appointment with Dr. Diana Kirschner author of Love in 90 Days and Sealing the Deal. One of my friends had read her books and swore by them. She’s engaged now, by the way.
So back to my “relationship killer,” as my love guru would call it. As Dr. Diana pointed out, I have come to believe that love means someone gets hurt terribly — usually me. Why do I think this? That’s how it’s always gone down for me in the past. But now I’m letting my past dictate my future — this belief is making it impossible for me to find love.
“So what should I do about Spontaneous Guy? And what about Old Flame?” I asked Dr. Diana.
“You’re going to date them both,” she said firmly. “That’s how you protect yourself. And then you’re going to find a third guy. You’re going to date them all and see which one steps up and wins your heart.”
“Three guys! I can barely handle one,” I protested.
“You’re not going to sleep with any of them,” she explained. “Dating, kissing, canoodling, fine, but no sex. And I have to approve all of them.”
I stuck out an unsure hand and we shook on it.
This dating three men at once thing is way out of my comfort zone. But I am willing to take the risk, to try something new in order to find the loving long-term relationship I want to have in my life. I am willing to change. I think this will be an empowering first step toward realizing that love doesn’t have to mean that someone gets hurt.
I sent Spontaneous Guy an email telling him I really liked him but that I wanted to take things slow for now. The next email I sent was to Old Flame. I accepted his dinner invitation. Game on.
Check in next week for another “Love Guru” column!