dating

'After five years with my boyfriend, I invited him to meet my family. He refused.'

From the outside looking in, we were so happy together. Even from the inside looking in, we were happy. He was the kindest, most thoughtful, most loving man I’d ever been with.

After five years together, we knew each other’s bodies like we knew our own; our sex was mind-blowing every time  —  sometimes we had sex three to four times in a day. 

He respected me, inside and out, and I respected him. 

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He supported my professional ambitions and my personal hobbies. He never raised his voice at me or acted unfaithful, and I never did with him. 

He encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, and he taught me something new every day. Even my best friends loved him, saying that he was one of a kind.

We were two people, completely and utterly in love with each other. Both of us were in awe at how perfectly we fit into each other’s lives, like missing puzzle pieces. I still consider him one of the best people on this planet, even years after our relationship ended.

You may ask, what’s the problem here? He sounds perfect, doesn’t he?

The problem with us was that we lived in a fantasy  —  a bubble floating away from the rest of the actual world.

He was an older man with adult children, and although he and his wife had separated long before we met, he told me from the start that his children were incredibly protective of him and would never approve of his relationship with a younger woman. He couldn’t bring himself to introduce me to them.

But we were just having fun, and I had no interest in getting involved with his family or becoming some kind of stepmother to adults my own age.

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After a few months of being together, I met his best friends, his employees at his office, and even his ex-wife’s best friends. I traveled with him to Spain and London and had dinners with his business partners and their wives. 

I was having the time of my life with a person who felt like destiny.

Of course, as one can predict, the years passed us by and we fell harder and deeper in love. Genuine love. The kind of love that only two people completely immersed in each other can have. The kind of love that feels like it’s a once in a lifetime love. Mutual, consuming, beautiful.

And we did a fantastic job of ignoring the elephant in the room, which was our future. For most of our relationship, the two of us avoided hard conversations about where things were headed. Instead, we chose to "live in the moment" and have fun.

You only live once, right? And if you’re in love with a person, even though you doubt there’s a future together, is it stupid to stay in the relationship for just one more year? What about two? What about five years?

Well, stupid is a harsh word. And I would never call myself stupid for choosing love. But I would call myself someone who was totally aware of the situation and looked through rose-coloured glasses instead.

After five years together, things weren’t casual between us anymore. 

Holidays apart were hard, family vacations even harder. 

I had half-way moved into his place and he had many of his things at mine. We weren’t seeing anyone else, in fact, I hadn’t had a first date since we got together. We were in a serious relationship except we had passed none of the regular relationship milestones.

My parents knew of him but had never met him. And I couldn’t deny that it would mean a lot to me if they did finally meet the person who had really changed me for the better, personally and professionally. 

When he met me, I was unsure of where my career was going. Five years with him, and I started my own successful business. I was an all-around a happier and more evolved individual.

But I wanted him to share me with his family. I wanted to share him with mine. And no, that is not a lot to ask of someone. In fact, it is a very bare-minimum request. 

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When I presented the idea at dinner one day, he said he’d think about it.

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I tried not to cry at the man that I loved from head to toe who didn’t immediately say, "yes!" at the invitation to meet my family. But I said okay. I was used to suppressing my actual desires for a future with him, a fact that disappointed me greatly.

Ultimately, he said no. He couldn’t meet them. He couldn’t introduce me to his kids. He just couldn’t bring himself to lose his relationship with his children — something that would absolutely happen if they met me. 

He cleared his throat and began to cry.

"I think I need to let you go. Because you deserve someone who can give you these things. I am keeping you from finding true happiness, and although I’ve conveniently convinced myself that I gave that to you, I can’t lie to myself anymore. I think I’m hurting you with every day that I selfishly keep you to myself. I’m sorry because I love you. I love you more than I’ve ever loved someone. And I know that you’ve loved me with everything you have. But..." he trailed off.

I cried like a baby. I didn’t let him hold me. 

I packed my things from his place, and I sobbed uncontrollably as I dragged suitcase after suitcase into my car. 

And while I was absolutely heartbroken that the fairytale I had envisioned in my head was not real and that my best friend of five years was letting me go, deep down, I knew this was the best thing we could do for each other. I knew it. 

I refused to say it aloud, but in my heart, I knew it was past the time to move forward.

The moral of the story is more than just not settling in our relationships. 

We hear this message often, and most of us know not to settle when dating new people. Besides, it’s so simple to walk away from red flags in the beginning. You’re not as invested; the feelings aren’t as strong.

But when you’ve been with someone for many years, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of denying what you want out of a relationship because you think you can be happy with less. This is what I’ve learned and what I think this relationship, above all else, taught me to make me a better and stronger person.

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We should never settle in our relationships. We should never reach a point where we are used to accepting less and are scared to ask for more because we’re fearful of the answer we know we’ll get. We should never feel like it’s not important if our needs aren’t being met.

Sure, you can do as my ex and I did. You and your significant other can lie to yourselves for as long as we did. 

And yes, you can be happy while living in denial. Not just on the outside, but on the inside too. You can be in a happy relationship with love and care and kindness while also living in denial about what the future really holds for the both of you.

Because it is so easy to live in denial. God, it’s actually the easiest thing ever. 

I mean, it’s effortless for as long as you can stuff your feelings, needs, wants, and desires into a dark box and seal it up in the back of your closet and pretend it doesn’t exist. Because when you do that the first time, it’s easier and easier each and every time after that, to continue adding things to the box. To put conversations off, to wait until tomorrow, or next month, or next year.

Living in denial is something I wish I could take back, I spent five years doing it. But the lessons that truly change us for the better are never learned easily. If they were, they wouldn’t have the power they do to transform us.

And I, I was transformed after this relationship ended. 

I met someone months later who was just a friend at first, someone eager to be with me. All of me. 

He met my family, and I met his. He loved every inch of me  —  there was no elephant in the room. I didn’t get my happy ending with him either, but I saw something beautiful emerge from both relationships. 

I was growing, becoming surer of myself and my wants. I was becoming a stronger person, a happier person. 

And I thank my ex of five years for being part of that. I wish things had ended differently, but love doesn’t always work out the way we want them to. 

I’m proud of myself for getting to where I am today, and I can’t wait to see how far I go from here.

Feature Image: Getty. 

The feature image used is a stock image.

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