When Love Comes In Threes

If love is a labor, I’ll slave to the end.

I once read somewhere that studies have shown we fall in love with three people in our lifetime, each for a very specific reason.

Our first love often happens at a young age, and you eventually grow apart or call it quits over silly things.

When you get older you may look back at this person and think what you had with them wasn’t really love. But the truth is it was. It was love for what you knew love to be at the time.

There are different depths of love.

The second love is the hard one. You get hurt in this one. It teaches us lessons and pain that makes us stronger. This love involves heartbreak, lies, abuse, drama and damage.

But this is the one where the growth happens. We realize what we love about love and what we don’t. The difference between red flags and green ones.

We learn the difference between healthy and toxic. People that are for us and people that are for themselves. This love and this heartbreak turns us inward.

We become closed off, careful and more considerate. We learn exactly what we want and don’t want.

The third love comes blindly. And maybe it isn’t “in love,” but it’s “I care.” You stumble into it without even thinking twice. I care shows up without warning.

There are no butterflies. It makes you feel at ease, safe and enough in your own skin.

You don’t go looking for this love, it comes to you. You can put up any wall you want but somehow this person breaks it down. You’ll find yourself caring about that person without trying.

They may look nothing like your previous ‘types’. But when you look in their eyes, you see hope. You find beauty in the most simple parts of them.

You do not feel pressured to hide certain parts of yourself. Your flight mode is disengaged.

You can envision marriage and family and building a life with them. You thank the universe for them.

For the first time, you start to believe that a love doesn’t have to be so difficult.

I thought this rule of thirds was interesting and eerily accurate as far as my dating/relationship/situationship history went.

I concluded that I’d been in love thrice. Out of respect, to preserve some degree of anonymity and some degree of my own dignity, I will name no names.

Anyway, the first was when I was going into my senior year of highschool. I met JC on a mission trip in Jamaica. He was family friends with my godmother who was bringing her confirmation class on this trip, and by some odd stroke of luck I got to tag along.

When I met this boy, we clicked almost instantly. I’d never felt anything like it before. I had never been on a date or in a relationship. This was completely new territory.

Maybe it was because we were in this foreign exotic place with no cellular access to the outside world. Maybe it was because I was in a vulnerable place at home. My parents were about to send me to inpatient treatment for an eating disorder. The secret that I’d developed an obscene relationship with food and my body beginning sometime around my sophomore year, was finally out. I’d become a downward spiraling depressed, skin and bones version of myself.

Montego Bay Jamaica in full bloom.

It was obvious and still I was in denial.

Or maybe it was the universe sending me this boy to teach me about love, so that I’d finally understand that good love does not come with terms and conditions.

I stopped believing that I was something to behold around 5th grade, my therapist would blame it on some flavor of daddy issues combined with unusually low self esteem. Yes, in true basic white girl form, I have daddy issues.

The complicating factor here was that JC had a girlfriend back home. I was aware of this. And so we remained in a just friends-zone, as in didn’t even come close to…but still figured it’d be worth while to remain friends after this week-long trip.

To have someone understand your mind and enjoy you for who you are at your core is a different kind of intimacy.

Since we were from different cities, we kept in touch by texting, with daily phone calls and Skype chats. I fell hard and fast. He told me he was too.

I can pinpoint the exact moment that I felt love in my heart for this younger boy. We were on the phone one night, before either one of us had spoken our feelings towards each other into existence. I was telling him about my weekend plans and mentioned that one of my guy friends was having people over. Although this guy friend and I had no history together, JC was protective, and maybe even a little bit jealous.

JC’s curiosity became a little defensive and I asked “Yeah I might be going over to Nick Fischer’s (no relation) house this weekend but what’s the big deal, who cares!?”

He was still with his girlfriend at the time, but there was not an ounce of hesitation in his reply, “I DO!”

Pause.

Excuse me?

And he did. I could feel it. He cared about me and it was unconditional. The feeling of feeling cared or in love with someone who also felt the same for me shook me deep.

It was special, almost euphoric. I chalked it up to love, and for the first time said I love you, but there was no fairy tale ending. And young love never lasts as far as I know. We ultimately grew apart and he ultimately chose to stay with his sweetheart.

My second love was, in fact, the hard one. I didn’t allow anyone to get close again until after college. Finally after moving back home and out of my mom’s house I downloaded the apps, dated around for two years or so, and then I met JG.

I first laid eyes at him at the gym, the spot at which I typically noticed the guys I would later match with on the apps and strike up a conversation with.

Dating culture in the 21st century effectively eliminated the acceptability of any sort of face to face “hey, hi, I see you here often, I’m X” approach. You had to match first , and then you were safe to awkwardly acknowledge that you’ve been going to the same gym as this person and see them regularly, behind the protection of your cellphone screen and a clever opening line.

For example: something abut velcro sneakers and walking around Mervyns in our old age.

My friends and coworkers rolled their eyes at my see, swipe, match routine, but hey, it worked more than once. Don’t knock it til ya try it!

Anyway, I’d noticed this man handful of times. He was older, in verrry good shape, had tattoos, seemed to be a tall dark and handsome type with a stoic and serious face. I was intrigued by him, he didn’t look like the “type” I’d pictured myself growing old with since being a young girl, but still, I wanted to know who he was when he wasn’t pumping iron.

To my knowledge we’d never actually made eye contact. But later I learned that he’d taken notice to me too. He thought it was cute that I braided my hair while I was on the stair-stepper.

I, on the other hand just thought my hair/stair routine was efficient, killing two birds with one stone and saving some time. Almost like paying one fee for access to a gym as well as a pool of fit, local, single men.

What can I say, I love a good bargain.

It took two or three dates before he was ready to tell me that his last relationship was actually a marriage that ended in a divorce. He’d recently left the woman who he’d spent the past six years of his life with. She had a kid, they had a house, a white picket fence, two dogs, the whole nine yards together.

I, quite oppositely, had never even been in a real adult relationship before. I was as far as you can possibly get from yard nine. Still, we took a gamble, went against the odds, booked a sponaneous trip to Puerto Rico together only three months in, and the rest was history.

The streets of Old San Juan

But that was when it slowly started to get hard. We fought regularly, our relationship was tumultuous and despite the fact that we loved each other more than I’d ever thought possible, the undercurrents of fire and toxicity became too much for either one of us to handle.

When we called it quits, we both walked away with heavy, broken hearts.

It was devastating and reminded me of that scene from Sex and the City when Carrie asks:

The Most Ridiculous Sex And The City Quotes | Betches

I had a difficult time trying peace with the way things ended and recovering the parts of myself I’d lost to the ups and downs…and surprises:

Nonetheless, I learned more about love, connection, relationships, my body and myself because of my time with JG. For those reasons, I am unconditionally grateful, not spiteful.

When I was just about ready to take a hiatus from men and dating for awhile, guy whose name didn’t start with a J came along.

Before you ask, yes, he did in fact go to the gym too.

In hindsight I do remember noticing him for the first time. We made eye contact when I was on my way out the door once. But I thought nothing of it until after the fact..

FATE, is that YOU?

I say I’ve fell in love thrice because guy whose name didn’t start with J only half counts. This was more like one of those situationships. An “almost” that we never defined and was short lived due to bad timing, or at least that’s what he told me.

The coasts of South Cali

After what I went through with my last love, meeting guy whose name didn’t start with J seemed like a huge breath of fresh air.

It was something that looked like a love I only understood to exist in romantic movies and country songs. One where he shows up at your work place to surprise you. Shows up out of the blue, just to say hi, because he knows it just might make your shift a little brighter.

A type where he says sweet things like, “I don’t care if you smell like smoked meats and seafood because you’re coming from work, I miss you. I just want to see you.”

A type where instead of running for the hills when you accidentally let your freak flag fly..and mention the alleged ghosts living among you in your apartment…he arrives at your door, with Amazon’s best sage candle.

Everything just felt good. It felt easy. He left very few, if any, of my boxes unchecked.

It was the closest I’d been to an honest, uninhibited, healthy romantic experience. I was feeling joy again and like I could be my true, authentic, weird and embarrassing self without being judged. I felt accepted. I felt safe. And well, I felt stuuuupid giddy.

Unfortunately, he was an almost love. A so close, but not quite. We were both half in and half out.

In true nice-guy form, he let me down easy and told me he was not over his ex. It took me a little while after that to realize I wasn’t over mine either.

They say timing is everything, and perhaps it is. So until the universe sends me that I guess I’m just an outlying data point and a girl who’s been in love thrice.

Nice to meet ya.

Badlands South Dakota, February 2020.

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