Dating for Real: the Second Time Around

The first time we dated, summer 2008
Summer 2008, when it all began

The first time we dated, I repeatedly told Nick I would not be his girlfriend “until I had peace about it.”

What that looked like and felt like, I had no idea. I spent our dates and weekends together in a state of utter panic and constant comparison to my last relationship. I would run off pros and cons list in my head, keeping track of all the elements he was missing that didn’t measure up to my expectations. Sometimes it felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack because the accusing voices in my head refused to shut up. I had never truly experienced peace in a relationship before, but somehow I knew I would recognize it if it appeared, and I wasn’t willing to move forward into a committed relationship until it materialized.

More than anything, when I met the person who would be my future husband, I wanted to know, deep down, that this was the person for me. I was not willing to leap blindly into my future, hoping for the best.

Nick and I had maintained our friendship through the duration of my six-month relationship with my TN ex. He was encouraging and careful not to overstep his boundaries. But a few weeks after Nick and my friend Rachel visited me in Knoxville for my birthday, and weeks before I my ended my crumbling long-term relationship, Nick wrote me the most incredible email I’ve probably ever received.

At the Brooklyn Bridge before I moved south, February 2009
At the Brooklyn Bridge before I moved south, February 2009

My favorite part is this:

“When you are not around I struggle to have full enjoyment in my life. It doesn’t matter what I do, I am always thinking to myself, “Man, I wish Erika was here beside me to enjoy this.” When I am watching tv, movies or listening to music, I am always hearing myself go, “Erika would love this, she would laugh, cry, or aw at this moment.” I don’t think these things about anyone else, even my best friends of several years. There’s something vastly different about you. When I spend time with you, I connect deeper with every moment of whatever mundane activity I am doing. In a way you are like salt to my soul and you enhance everything you touch…

I really don’t know what I am expecting by sharing all of this with you, however what I do know is that I feel like the timing is right to share these things. I am not expecting you to end your relationship with him immediately or that you or I need to move to each others given city. I just want you to know that there is someone out there who you can love you better than he or anyone else ever could or want to and that person who capable of doing it is me.

I love you. Always have and will, no matter what happens to us in life.”

That email was the most beautiful and devastating thing to receive. I knew my current relationship was falling apart at the seams – it was only a matter of time before I would finally admit defeat. And in the year prior, I had wavered so precariously in my relationship with Nick that I did not want to allow history to repeat itself. Nick had become a dear friend, one of my best, and I was not willing to lead him on. However, when I broke things off w/ my ex in June, Nick began pursuing me again. I tried to discourage him, noting that we were over 600 miles apart, and I loved my community and life I had built in Knoxville despite having my heart broken.

I tried to convince him to let me go and to pursue that new cute girl I had seen him hanging out with via Facebook. I told him I couldn’t deny that I wonder who both of us would grow into in a few years’ time, but I would never want that fact to hold him back from something incredible in the place where God has clearly called him to be. I determined that if he found a girl in Hoboken, his love life would be a lot easier than trying to win over the basket case he had fallen for in Tennessee. I felt broken and bruised and in no way capable of pursuing love.

Cheering for the Vols, Sept 2009
Cheering for the Vols, Sept 2009

For the rest of the summer, Nick asked in various ways to give us another chance. He knew we would work, and that my feelings for him ran deeper than I was willing to admit. A few times I mentioned I wanted to visit him, but he wasn’t ready to see me unless I wanted to explore the possibility of more between us. Finally, he decided to come to Knoxville over Labor Day weekend, but wanted to take me on a date. I told him he would do no such thing. He was welcome to come visit as a friend, but two months after breaking up with the person I thought would be the love of my life, I was nowhere near ready to date again so soon.

He decided to visit anyway.

The day of Nick’s arrival, I found myself fidgeting anxiously in the airport. As I waited in the baggage claim area, the escalator descended and Nick came into view. My heart leap in my chest simultaneously declaring, “There’s my best friend! And damn he looks good!” I knew then that my resolve to remain friends was melting. Our time together had yet to start, but already I was done for.

Labor Day Picnic, September 2009
Labor Day Picnic, September 2009

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity and conversations. Everything came with ease, and I found myself flirting with and drawing closer to Nick effortlessly. We went to our first Vols game, picnicked with friends, watched “Boomsday” fireworks, and found ourselves once more on the dance floor. We even went on a  date. On Nick’s final night in Knoxville, we sat by the water in World’s Fair Park and finally had our DTR (define the relationship talk). I was so nervous, but we were both aware that things between us had drastically changed.

More than anything else, I was keenly aware that I finally had peace.

It settled over me slowly as the weekend passed, like a comforting blanket. For the first time in years, my mind was quiet for days. The book of Philippians talks about the peace of God that “surpasses all understanding,” and I had no doubt I was experiencing it. The chattering monkeys had gone mute. There were no voices, no comparisons, no lingering questions about whether my previous relationship still needed another chance. I was from my self-induced mental prison. I was free to move forward.

The night we officially began dating again, September 2009

We agreed to give a relationship another chance, despite the 600+ miles between us. Common sense would say that I had no business trying yet another long-distance distance relationship, but I could tell that our situation had changed significantly. Nick asked that I would let him know before Thanksgiving if I was ready to be in a serious relationship, intentionally considering whether or not we were headed towards marriage. As crazy as that may sound to some, we had gone in last time with very little conversation about our expectations and having clearly communicated goals helped tremendously. A month later, we became “official.”

So dear ones, to those of you who are longing to know what it will be like when you finally meet “the one” – at some level, you have to trust your gut and if you are a follower of Christ, the promptings of the Holy Spirit. You have to lean on the promises you know God has made you in your quiet conversations alone in your room. He knows your heart, and His way of working things out for your good may not be in your preferred timing, but He is listening. Be open to where He is leading you, even if it does not make sense to your rational mind.

What do you expect it to be like when you meet “the one?” If you have already met them, what was your indicator that this was it?

6 thoughts on “Dating for Real: the Second Time Around

  1. Erika, this is beautiful. What a blessing to experience such a true and amazing love. It’s pretty much like a fairy tale (I kid, I kid)! I can only hope to feel love like you and Nick.

      1. Haha! I hope that means you weren’t also the Julia Roberts/Richard Gere couple from their previous movie…

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