Funny how the first guy I fell in love with (and lost my virginity to) was someone my whole family hated. “He’s such an asshole!” my sister kept saying. Meanwhile, my mom did her best to ground me enough to keep me from him, and my dad had a fit when he found out I’d started going on the pill. I didn’t know enough to see that he was a jerk with authority issues, but I did take him back after he broke up with me to date another girl. After she dumped him.
My next boyfriend was worse.
He thought hitting was normal, and frankly, so did I. We both came from backgrounds where it was just a part of life; him witnessing his mom getting put in her place, me getting put in my place by my mom. We seek what’s familiar, even if it’s bad for us, right?
After three years (and several midnight moves) I was finally ready to shut that door forever. Calling the cops helped seal the deal. But the pendulum swung far, far over to the other way, and my next boyfriend still carries a scar above his lip from my hand. I thought that one was actually the best I’d had, till I found out he couldn’t handle being on his own for two months without calling up his ex to fill the void.
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After that I had a short stint with a guy who couldn’t get it up unless I bought him dinner and trinkets, followed by another two years each with more two guys who might as well have been twin souls. Both of them had girl “friends” they were in constant contact with. Both of them sought out girl after girl to fill their empty self-esteems. Both of them made it clear that they would have chosen someone else instead of me, but hey, there I was so, okay.
And even when I knew most of that, I stayed.
Then I met my current husband. I was married at the time, to someone great for once. I mean, this guy was so safe I actually proposed to him. No way was I letting someone so devoted, so calm, so unwilling to fight, get away from me. I needed the emotional greenhouse he offered. I was broken, in need of shelter, and he provided that for me.
When I met my second husband I didn’t know anything about how to date in a functional manner, but because I was married I kind of got a baptism by fire.
He’d met me in a bar. He liked what he saw, and found a way to meet me again. That second time he asked me out, and I flashed him my wedding ring.
“I’m married” I said. End of story I thought, but when a man has a certain woman on his mind he’s like a dog with a bone. Seeing as we’d met because our paths crossed through common ground, he made sure he’d bump into me time and again. He made himself available “as a friend.” He helped me out. He eased his way into my life. And though my attraction for him grew over the next few years, I didn’t break my vow to be devoted to my husband.
“Nothing without permission” was our motto, as my first husband and I explored alternative sexuality in an attempt to ignite our dead intimacy. But it was this route that finally did us in, because the day he wanted permission to explore something with another girl was the day he gave me permission to explore the man who would one day become my second husband.
And when those two years of him courting me finally came to fruition, watch out.
Nothing could have stopped that runaway train.
And so long story short, I realized I’d outgrown the safe, protective space my first husband provided and was ready to step out into the elements again. It was rough, to say the least. I felt too guilty to enjoy my new life. And we had too many lows throughout our relationship, culminating with him not wanting to “be with me” but not wanting me to be with anyone else, either. And there I was, stuck. Not wanting to move on from what I imagined could be something so good, if only we could clear all the issues that constantly kept us fighting.
He was sleeping at my house but “didn’t want to define the relationship.” I was letting him, and calling him my boyfriend. Until one night at a Christmas Party when a HOT guy chatted me up, finally asking if I was seeing someone. I couldn’t believe the words that left my mouth.
“I’m in love with someone who isn’t sure if he wants to be with me.”
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I was on MDMA that night, a drug some might consider an ultimate Truth Serum since it was administered by psychotherapists during therapy sessions in the 70’s. Unable to deny the truth to myself anymore, I went home that night and told him if he couldn’t commit to me, I wouldn’t stay committed to him.
So I started dating.
But I started with a strategy I wasn’t going to back down from. See, I’d read a book by Steve Harvey, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. The insights were eye opening. Set the bar low, and get low level, lazy guys. Set the bar high, and get a good jumper. Someone willing to work at winning me, instead of someone just taking what was available.
I met someone amazing. Someone handsome, fit, successful, intelligent, worldly. The whole package.
“I don’t kiss for three months” I told him, and he was surprised, but fine with that. He courted me for a couple of months, till my husband got scared of losing me and stepped up his game to win me back. It wasn’t hard to untangle myself from the man I was dating, since not kissing meant I wasn’t blowing my feelings for someone super brand new (and basically a stranger) out of proportion.
But we hadn’t resolved anything, so it wasn’t long before anger and frustration wedged itself between us again. And once again, he broke it off. But this time I was tired of his indecision, and our inability to fix our shit.
“Are you sure?” I asked him on the phone, dialing his number after receiving his break up email while standing in line at a fast food joint. (I know. Seriously, an email after over 5 years together.)
“Yes” he said. “That’s too bad” I replied. I didn’t say it in an angry way, but quietly, with simple resignation. I was done chasing after him, and if he wanted out, so be it. Too bad for him, I thought, cause up to that point I’d still had some fight left in me.
But this time, I changed the locks. Got his stuff out of my house. Erased anything that reminded me of him off social media. I cleansed the man right outta my life.
I resisted my urges to call him. To text him. To email him. To run to his house at 2:30 in the morning and collapse into his arms bawling, choosing instead to curl up in a fetal position on my living room floor and let the pain flow from my eyes, as I sobbed out the last of our dead relationship.
And then, I was ready again. I met another amazing man. This one was steady as a rock, protective, as gentle as he was strong, another whole package, and willing to drive two hours to spend time with a girl who wouldn’t kiss him for three months. Granted, it was in an Audi with a wicked stereo system – who wouldn’t want to spend hours in that car, listening to amazing house music with the sunroof open? I know I loved it…
We cuddled all the time. Held hands constantly.
Slow danced in my kitchen.
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My ex (now husband) started to see me slip away again. I’d moved on but he thought we’d repeat the same, tired pattern, like we always had. Fight too much, break up, take a break, get back together again. He hadn’t realized that I was serious about starting over, ending the destructive patterns I kept repeating. He’d misjudged what happened once my mind was set, and when I told him I was developing feelings for this new guy he went into overdrive.
“You need to stop texting me” I finally said, “I’m starting to feel anxious every time my phone goes off now. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m done. Finished. I’ve taken the time to redefine my next relationship. I’ve taken the time to redefine me. I’m not going to have the same thing we had again. Things are going to be different for me going forward, and what we had isn’t what I want anymore.”
Finally, he stopped trying to convince me I was wrong to want something different. Stopped trying to convince me that what we had together was good enough to repeat going forward. Stopped trying to make me the wrongest person in our relationship. I’d stepped forward into a new life, and he decided to step forward with me.
I accepted him back.
I called the man I’d been dating. Broke it to him gently. Again, not kissing meant it was easier on both of us. It wasn’t so much a break up as simply a decision to not go down that route. I’m sorry, you’re great, but life is pulling me this way and I’m going to follow my heart. Have a great life my friend. (He’s now married to a fantastic woman.)
I did this No Kissing rule three times in total. Once, unwittingly. Twice with purpose. And you know what? Because of those experiences I know for a fact I was able to make the right decisions when it came to love.
I was able to keep myself from going too fast, rushing into relationships that would have deviated my path. I look at where I am today and I breathe a sigh of relief. I’m home.
Here is where I am safe, where I am loved and supported, and yes, cherished. Here is where only gentle hands touch and uplift me. Here is where I have the freedom to explore new heights. Would I have otherwise been in a place that feels as much like paradise as this one does? Who knows, really. We can’t tell what we would have been, we can only define how we become. And so I look at me now; my accomplishments like eliminating fights within my relationship (three years and counting!) and my books on love, my personal happiness, my husband’s satisfaction, my happy dogs, and everything feels right.
I put on my Social Scientist hat and look at the results of this strategy on myself, and the results for those who take my advice and follow in my footsteps. And I have to accept the conclusion that not kissing for three months helps. It keeps us from choosing someone too quickly, so we stop blocking out the ones who would, ultimately, make all our dreams come true.
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Chantal Heide is an Author and Motivational Speaker, focusing on dating and relationships. Her booksDating 101,Comeback Queen, Fake Love Need Not Apply, No More Assholes, After The First Kiss,Fix That Shit, and Say Yes To Goodnessare available on Amazon. View her BOOKS page for more information. Be sure to sign up for her mailing list to be eligible for giveaways.