Boston University. 2009. Fall. I am a senior and have about four credits worth of actual classes and 26 credits of drinking and partying. But then the worst thing possible occurs: I fall in love.
And I mean IN LOVE! Can’t eat, walk differently, wanna start volunteering in love. She was quite perfect in my eyes and she thought very highly of me as well. It was a relationship based on giving to each other as much as possible, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
The relationship was amazing and intense, but also very new. After a month of bliss I wanted to tell her I loved her. And that brings us to the night when I lost my mind, and nearly my college sweetheart…
I was drinking. Weird, right? Girls, if you haven’t noticed by now, that’s usually the beginning to every story that ends in shame and regret, just a not-fun fact. Anyways, Katie (let’s call her that) decided to stay in that night. Nothing too crazy. She was low-key and the type of girl who preferred a glass of wine and a bad Jennifer Aniston movie over the typical college-shenanigans scene. Guess what I preferred…
So I get to the bar with my usual crew and over the course of $2 Pabsts, Jager, and the obligatory “We’re graduating soon!” conversations, we are all feeling lubricated and have a sense of urgency. You remember the urgency I’m talking about. Something happens in your brain where you tell yourself you will never, ever for the rest of your time on this beautiful blue earth have fun again…ever. So what do we tell ourselves? PACK IT IN! QUICKLY! TIME IS RUNNING OUT! At least that’s what the final SoCo and Lime was telling me around midnight. I could almost feel the miniature red devil on my shoulder whispering in Animal House-style: “Do exactly the opposite of the right thing!” And that’s exactly what I did.
Do you understand my thinking? It makes all the sense in the world while no sense at all. It was a perfect boozestorm of thinking that I won’t get married anytime soon, youth is supposed to be the time to solely have fun, and am I really gonna stay with this girl until were both old and grey? I can still remember it like it just happened. The thought: “Wait, I’m not ready to marry this girl. I may love her and she may be perfect, but it’s my senior year, I need to enjoy myself!” And then it spiraled. I remember the exact place I was standing dividing the dance floor and the bar. I stood there and convinced myself that I wouldn’t squander my youth and it was hook-up time. It was that simple.
I grabbed the hand of a girl that I knew would grab my hand back. I led her to the middle of the flashing blue, purple, and green lights and as the house music peaked and then dropped, I made eye contact. The kiss was over nearly as quickly as it began. The kind of quickness that makes you question if it actually happened. I always arrived at the same stupid answer: it did happen. It didn’t matter which way I cut it…it happened.
A few seconds of sloppy, stupid making out and then I was suddenly frozen in place as my body took control. It sent my feet running towards the exit. No explanation to the girl or crew I came with. My body informed my mind—It’s time to go home, and get there as fast as you can.
It seemed like the cab was waiting just for me and I jumped inside and told him my address with a voice that must have been choking with anxiety. I threw cash at him when we arrived back at my high rise, ran upstairs, jumped into bed, called Katie and told her everything that I just did.
Right about now you may be wondering why I did it, why I risked losing a girl who I had spent months trying to win over. Why I almost threw it all away when our relationship was in a strong, solid place, when I finally had her hard-earned love. The short answer is simply that I freaked out.
The moment a guy decides to commit to a girl, he instinctively thinks of all the girls he may be missing out on. I think that’s the root of what society calls a guy’s “commitment issues.” A guy will say it’s not natural to be with one girl or he’s scared he’s missing out on something else brighter and shinier. It’s like a deep version of FOMO. That is the reason. Every guy feels this way at some point.
The idea is to get over it, to know this is a natural, unfortunate instinct and not a real feeling. It’s something we dudes feel probably through some sort of evolutionary survival-of-the-fittest kind of thing that I am not equipped to, nor have any interest in, getting into. The point is that it exists.
Guys will eventually realize that the brighter, shinier object that they have convinced themselves they’re “missing out on” doesn’t exist. And if she did, she would only have that sparkle for as long as his short-sighted brain would allow. In all likelihood what he’s looking for is right in front of him waiting to give him what we all want: comfort, home, love, reliance, purpose.
That’s right! Always remind yourself we are in this ship together, guys and girls, and a rising tide lifts all boats. Guys do want the exact same thing as girls. I know it doesn’t look like it, but check this out: when you were nine, some boy came over to you on the playground, pulled your hair, kicked you in the shin, and then ran over and swung on the swing with Kristin, who happened to be your best friend! And he was madly in love with you! We don’t change much. But around our early- to mid-20s, most are realizing that stability and real connection beats fleeting desire. We just act on that new consciousness differently and more slowly than you do.
This is not to say every guy will run out and cheat the second you commit to him, or when the relationship deepens. But most men will feel a pang of panic over the prospect of being with one woman for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t matter how magnificent you are, there is no rhyme or reason to it. It just is.
These fears will begin to abate as soon as he finds a truly great woman. It’s not possible for a guy to get over that FOMO feeling without the right girl. That’s what gives him the greatest shot of success, and there’s still risk.
Let’s give it a name. Let’s call it “Relationship Fomo.” Get it trending.
If you think you have found the exception, you’re wrong. “The exception” just allows his intellect to outweigh his short-term emotions to the extent that he looks and probably is ready to fully commit. This is what all guys are striving for and some will reach. Some will be born with the DNA to snap out of their “hook-up culture” lives and some will need a wake-up call, or more like a wake-up punch in the face, like I did.
I had the right girl, but being young and dumb and drunk temporarily shut down my higher knowledge. But from that night on, I knew I would never make the same mistake again. I realized that hooking up with all the drunk girls in all the bars in the world could never, ever compare to being with one amazing woman.
Now let’s go to Part 2: why she stayed.
She stayed because I did what I did. Not the kissing part. The part of guilt and gut-wrenching immediate depression, of telling her everything, of running, and mostly the part of honesty. Hard, cold, tough honesty. Honesty that ruins everything or makes everything stronger. Those are the only two choices when a guy is such an utter, stupid moron.
She didn’t immediately forgive me. She took her time in making a decision and her friends really surprised me by encouraging her to stay. When they heard the story, they did not bombard her with the typical “Guys stink!” and “Once a cheater, always a cheater!” I mean I’m sure they used some four-letter words too, but at the end of the day they assured her that a guy that runs out of the bar nauseous, admits to his transgression and takes full responsibility may be a guy worth giving a second chance.
We stayed together for a year and the relationship was incredible. A big part of that is she was able to forgive and mostly forget. She didn’t continue to punish me for my mistake and because she still held me in such high regard, it made me want to be my absolute best self.
Why won’t I do it again? It felt like hell. It felt really, really bad. And that’s just how I felt. What about her feelings? I felt the effects of them both and it weighed on me heavily and I never want to feel that again. I never want to hurt anyone like that again. I am only sorry it took the incident to make me realize. And I am so grateful that she didn’t put me in one over-generalized category of CHEATERS. She realized I wasn’t a cheater, but that I cheated, and that right there is the difference.
So that’s my confession, I hope you enjoyed. Please share your thoughts and questions in comments!