Discomfort is True
I believe that the feelings we have inside us can be misleading. Sometimes it is the most uncomfortable feeling we have that can be the true answer.
I met my last boyfriend through an Internet dating site. We had an amazing connection over email and talked for five hours our first time on the phone. I was so nervous when I was driving to meet him that I made a wrong turn and barely found my way out of a confusing cul-de-sac neighborhood. Already late, I ran the entire three blocks to the café from my parking spot. Not an auspicious beginning. I found him on the outdoor terrace and sat down, at what seemed to be the only table completely in the sun. It was ungodly hot. The food was terrible. I don’t remember a bit of our conversation; I was sweating and uncomfortable and just wanted to leave. I wasn’t attracted to him at all.
Or was I? I agonized over it for days. A computer scientist with an artistic bent wasn’t my usual type, and he clearly hadn’t exercised in a while. The more serious boyfriends I had had in LA were all volleyball players or lifeguards. But then, as several of my friends pointed out, those relationships hadn’t lasted. Still, I was convinced something was wrong. With other guys I had dated, there was an instant attraction. I decided that I had to stop seeing him; the stress was too much for me.
I called him to break the news. We chatted first about innocuous things, and I remembered how much I liked talking to him. I kept a running dialogue, afraid to face that once we hung up, I’d never talk to him again. I asked him whether he’d felt any chemistry at our meeting. He agreed it wasn’t the best first date, but he was willing to give it another shot. I suggested a platonic friendship. In no uncertain terms, he informed me that he was looking for a relationship, not more friends. He insisted that I make a decision. His firmness of purpose, combined with the fact that he used the word ambivalence correctly, won me over, at least temporarily. It was a few more weeks before I was able to accept that I was dating him. Once I did, once I relaxed and allowed myself to like him, I found a deeper and more meaningful relationship than I could have ever imagined.
Just when I was convinced that I had found a lifelong partner and father of my future children, his own uncomfortable feelings started bubbling up. He decided that something must be wrong, and left. I wish I could remind him that his past relationships, in which he hadn’t felt so much anxiety, didn’t end well. Maybe the discomfort indicates the one that would. Uneasiness signals a chance to grow – that’s what I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.