About two months into our relationship, I panicked. I felt completely unworthy, feared abandonment, and was tired of the ‘scream fests’ in the middle of the night–not to mention concern over damaging my steering wheel. I was terrified of trusting a man with my heart, so I told Tim I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t made for this ‘male-female’ love relationship thing. It would be better for me to stay single, than to mess up his life.
With that we broke up. Parted ways.
That lasted just under 24 hours. The instant he wasn’t in my life, I felt a sense of loss like I had never experienced before. I decided I was willing to go through anything, to be with him.
We spoke the next afternoon, and decided to meet that evening, to talk. I told him how terrified I was, and that I was willing to fight through the chaos of my feelings, for the sake of our relationship, if he was willing to hang in there with me. He was.
And so the romance began again. And, with it, the rise and fall, just as before, of my battle.
From the beginning, Tim made it very clear that he wasn’t ‘dating’. It was courtship–a serious relationship hopefully resulting in marriage.
He also wasn’t one to toss about things like, ‘I love you’, before he was convinced that he would, in fact, marry me. Why, or how that came up, I don’t recall. After he told me, and I seemed surprised, he asked me if I could honestly say that I love him. For me that was easy. Of course I could… but I wouldn’t until he knew he loved me. That felt far to risky.
Shortly before I said yes to being his girlfriend, I had already said ‘yes’ in my heart to marrying him, if ever he asked. And I had said it to one other person…
I had a ‘little buddy’, Timmy, with the Big Sister program. He was a sweet little guy, about 10 years old at the time. He met Tim, along with some other youth, for the first time several weeks before Tim and I started dating. After Tim left he asked me, “Are you going to marry Tim?”
“I don’t know, Timmy,” I said, “he’s not even my boyfriend. We’re just friends.” said.
“I know. But, if he asked you to marry you, would you say yes?” he asked. I was taken off guard by the question, and it forced me to contemplate what I really thought and felt.
“Yes,” I said, after a moment. “I would marry Tim if he asked me to.”
Timmy lit up.”Good! I like him! I didn’t want you to marry that other guy from the states.” And that was the end of the conversation.
So when Tim asked me if I could genuinely say I love him, I could. It wasn’t infatuation. It was driven by an awareness that he was a good match for me, someone who would bring out the best in me. And I believed that, in spite of my broken story, I had much to offer him too. I needed his calm and steady strength. He needed my crazy, spontaneous, out-going self. In my mind, the decision had been made before the emotional entanglements of romance had even started.
For Tim it was different. He is cautious. Deliberate. Contemplative. And not one to run around breaking girls’ hearts. He needed time.
I struggled with this only because I couldn’t understand why anyone would kiss someone they don’t love. The fact that our official courtship started with a kiss, after a good six months of spending time together almost weekly, and more than once a week at times, may not have been the cultural ideal, but it wasn’t the end of the world for me. However, I couldn’t separate hugs and kisses from love. For me it wasn’t just affection. It was love.
What we discovered, in talking about it, was that our definition of ‘love’ was different. Even if I had been uncertain about marrying Tim, I could have said, “I love you”, and meant it. For me, love was the expression of my heart, not totally based on feelings, but somewhat. For Tim, love was a solid commitment. And when he was ready to say, “I love you”, he would also be ready to say, “Will you marry me?”
That talked out, and resolved, our relationship went smoothly again for a while. I had my times of stress and anxiety. And my screaming sessions didn’t end, but we communicated well, and enjoyed our times together.
And then insecurity took its toll again. My greatest fears were that either he would abandon me, or he would marry me, and regret it. I didn’t want to ruin a good man’s future. In a state of inner anxiety, one Sunday night about fourteen weeks into our relationship, I told him that he would be better to move on, to find a stable girl, someone without all my issues.
Tim stepped closer to me, looked me in the eye, and put his arms around me. My arms were between us, so I pushed and resisted. Gently, but with determination, he locked his arms around me. He stood firm and steady as I struggled, not hurting me or making me feel threatened, but letting me know he wasn’t walking away.
No man had ever treated me with the kind of love and respect Tim had given me up until that point. He had never made a move to harm me emotionally, physically or sexually. And because of that, I didn’t feel terrified in his arms. Furthermore, it all happened in seconds, from the time I spoke the words until he said something that broke the power of fear in my life.
“Trudy, I’m not going anywhere. I’m in this for the long haul,” he said, trying to look in my eyes. But it was difficult, with me looking down, trying to avoid eye contact–the way I always do when I am afraid.
He held me for a moment, and then said, with a certainty that surprised me, “I will marry you one day, girl.”
In that instant I knew everything would be okay. He believed in us. It was only a matter of time…
© Trudy Metzger
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