Girl Talk: I Always Ask The Big Questions

Can you see yourself with him forever? I asked myself just, oh, the other day.Yes. Yes I can. I had asked this question of myself a few months ago too, but about someone else. The answer was the same. And about six months before that. Same question, same answer. Did I mention I’m currently single?

This week, I read Dater X’s latest column with great interest. The idea that maybe we should be asking ourselves bigger questions — “Can I see myself marrying/spending my life with this person?” — about the people we date is not a foreign concept to me. I ask myself that question almost right away with nearly every single person I date; and, with a few exceptions, my subconscious usually answers “yes.” At least at first.

When things didn’t work out, I realized that they weren’t the one I was looking for and I moved on — with plenty of tears but without much regret. I’m always hopeful that the right one could be next.

Related: Dater X: Learning To Ask The Bigger Questions

A friend of mine recently told me that I am a person who is “quick to love.” She meant it as a compliment and, for the most part, I took it as one. I give love quickly and easily, often before it has been “earned,” and that leaves me vulnerable to disappointment. I’ve envisioned the long-term potential with many people before I’ve known them long at all.

But first, let’s go back to three years ago, when I was actually planning on marrying someone who I had known and been with for years. I had a ring on my finger! I knew what our first dance song would be! Wedding dates were being batted around! Naturally, if you had asked me then, “Amelia, can you actually see yourself marrying so-and-so?” I would have answered, “Yes!” But the thing is, I was totally lying to myself. I had many, many moments over the course of our nearly five-year relationship where a feeling of dread would creep over me and I knew something wasn’t right. I pushed that feeling away every time. I was intent on making a family of my own and he was the one it was supposed to be with. Try not to judge me too hard; I may have been in deep denial about our chances at real, lasting compatibility and happiness, but my intentions were true. I loved him; I wanted it to be right. I needed to see myself marrying him because that was the opportunity presented and I couldn’t foresee another.

Related: Girl Talk: I Want To Date A Good Guy

Then he broke up with me and never looked back. Now he is marrying someone else. I have since realized my own denial about the glaringly obvious signs that we were wrong for each other; I know I will never find myself in that heartbreaking situation again. Surely, when I do meet someone I can see myself marrying — or being with forever, as I don’t feel tied to the institution of marriage — I’ll know that my desire is true because those red flags won’t be there. Denial is no longer an option for me — I know it too well to be fooled and to fool myself again.

But the thing that drove me to that place remains — my deep, burning desire, nay, need to form a family of my own with someone. These aren’t bad things, of course; but I want it so badly that I often look for it right away, too quickly, often before any substantial red flags have had time to show themselves. My denial could have denied me the lasting love I deserve, and now that it’s out in the open, I pursue it with an almost reckless abandon. If it feels good and there’s no creeping dread to be found, I’m all in. Even though I’ll never ever ignore the signs of a incompatible partnership again, and am terrified of feeling that level of heartbreak a second time, I still don’t enter into my relationships a skeptic.

Related: Girl Talk: When I Grow Up I Want To Be Tami Taylor

Over the last few years, I’ve dated guys who are more compatible with me, at least in superficial ways. There was the guy who shared my love of hip-hop and lefty politics; there was my boyfriend of six months who was creative and, at first, very affectionate; there were guys who started off as friends and seemed suddenly “fated”; there were lots of writers. Most recently, there was the poet, with whom I had an incredible spark and a connection that deepened very quickly, but our passion for each other waned as the unexpected realities of life revealed disparities we couldn’t overcome. The three men I specifically mention here, along with a handful of others, have all fit perfectly into the empty space next to me and together we made the US I wanted … at least for a time.

When things didn’t work out, I realized that they weren’t the one I was looking for and I moved on — with plenty of tears but without much regret. I’m always hopeful that the right one could be next.

What I would like to find is a balance where I am capable of loving with abandon, but with just enough skepticism because the future is truly unforeseeable. I want to be mindful of my desires for the future, while still allotting time for my relationships to grow and true natures to be revealed. I want to continue to trust my judgment even though I’m sometimes wrong. I want to love freely, but with restraint. And I want to continue to ask myself, “Can you see yourself being with this person forever?” and answer “Yes” as often as it feels true, but with an addendum: “And if it turns out not to be, that’s okay too.”

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