When it’s time to call it off

I want to share more of my story, and know most everyone who is close to me already knows all of this. But I also know there are way more people who don’t.

So I’m going to continue sharing.

I left off in January of 2012, with John deciding he still wanted to date around, and me wondering what the hell just happened.

Over the next month our relationship became more and more strained. I knew John was dating other women and I had no idea if he would ever let go of that pattern of casual dating and see what we had.

He was messaging me daily and we still did a lot of things together. But it wasn’t the same.

We planned to meet up for coffee on Valentine’s Day, but the day before while chatting on the phone I asked a question that was on my mind most days.

I asked, “Do you see us getting into a relationship?” He simply said, “No”. So then I asked, “Do you EVER see us getting into a relationship?” His response sank me. “No, Loretta, I don’t ever see us getting into a relationship.”

At that point, I knew I couldn’t continue this way, so I told him goodbye. It was time for me to move on. And boy did that feel strange and oh so sad. In my heart, I could see us having a great relationship. But I couldn’t force it for John.

It was time to call it off. 

The rain outside matched my mood perfectly. So I kept myself busy in the rose gardens and even found a side job at a local winery.

I kept busy in the rose garden

That week John wrote this column for the newspaper.


The Real Trouble with Valentine’s Day

(This was the first column I didn’t send to Loretta to proof read before sending it to my editor. And that felt really weird. I didn’t send it because she broke up with me the day before – albeit with good reason.

But I didn’t want to see that yet.

I was annoyed, and shook up, cranky.

Let’s see if any of that comes across…).

When I was little my family moved from Georgia to California.

On the day the movers came Mom had arranged for Dad to take me and my brother Brian to the zoo. The three people she did not need underfoot as she coordinated the packing of all our worldly belongings would now be busy elsewhere.

At that age I didn’t understand I was being misdirected away from the action, all I knew was I would get to see snakes and cheetahs and ostriches and – the zoo’s star attraction – a big silver back gorilla.

I remember asking Dad at every cage we stopped by “When do we see the gorilla?” He must have tired of the badgering because at one point he answered “Now! We’re going to go see the gorilla now!”

When we entered the monkey house Brian and I made a beeline for the gorilla cage.

It wasn’t really a cage so much as a big play pen walled off with thick Plexiglass. There was no buffer area around the enclosure – we could go right up and lean on the Plexiglass and press our faces against it.

Which, of course, we did.

Once there we proceeded to make as much of a spectacle as we could to get the gorilla’s attention – but he couldn’t be bothered. Try as we might, we just couldn’t get him to look in our direction.

So Brian and I started banging on the glass and yelling and making faces in an effort to get that big ape to make eye contact with us.

That turned out to be a bad idea.

After ignoring us for a while, he finally could no longer stand the spectacle we were making of ourselves. In retrospect I think what happened was he took our direct gaze as aggressive behavior, insult, or both, and decided he would no longer suffer our insolence.

What happened next will be forever burned in my memory: the 800-pound gorilla launched himself from the center of the cage, about 30 feet from where we were taunting him, directly toward us.

He covered that distance in the blink of an eye. He came charging, arms waving, fangs bared, right at us – and he did so at top speed.

Brian and I, with all the life-preserving instinct we possessed, began backpedaling in fear of our lives. As pedaling gave way to a full backwards sprint we watched in terror as the charging gorilla threw the full force of his weight and power into the Plexiglas wall.

Ladies, I hate to say it, but in the world of dating and relationships Valentine’s Day is the 800-pound gorilla.

It’s that powerful custom that tells us to put up or shut up. It makes us buy flowers that have been marked up above their every-other-day-of-the-year price. It makes us wait in long lines for restaurants that are near empty most nights. And, it has us buy chocolates that you don’t really want because, well, we’re supposed to buy chocolates.

This is the exact opposite of how a man’s nature guides him toward showing his affection for you.

When I was married there were years in which I didn’t even mark the occasion of V-Day.

My reasoning was I wanted to show my love for my wife because I felt it, not because of an edict from the flower/restaurant/chocolate syndicate. I may not have bought her flowers on that day, but I don’t know another man who brought his wife flowers as often as I brought them to mine.

You’ve heard of shotgun weddings – well Valentine’s Day is shotgun dating.

And that gun is to our heads to make us prove our love for you. For guys the real trouble with Valentine’s Day is it may have started out as a well-intentioned day for couples, but it has come to represent exactly the opposite of how guys go about dating.

Another thing you should know is that, to us, V-day is only two or three steps removed from walking you down the aisle. And, honestly, that scares the stuffing out of us.

You’ve heard the stories of a ring being presented over Valentine’s dinner. Those are not coincidences – the two arrangements are tied closely together. When we hear V-day, we go visual with the image of ourselves in a rented tux at the town chapel headed for an arrangement that boasts a 50% failure rate.

Here’s probably the most important point I can share about how guys view Valentine’s Day:

If we have to change how we show our affection for you on one day who’s to say we will not be asked to change further? Before you protest that you don’t want us to change just understand that it happens all the time.

We don’t want you to change us – we are who we are. What’s more a lot of us understand, and have learned the hard way, that though a woman falls in love with us for who we are she can lose sight of that and start trying to steer us into who she wants us to be, or who she thinks society wants us to be.

If we love you, and you keep after us to make changes, we will do it for you. But then, by definition, after changing for you we are no longer the guy you fell in love with.

I never saw the 800-pound gorilla again – truth is I didn’t stop running from him until I was well clear of the monkey house. One could argue that I’ve been running ever since – but you know what occurs to me? Gorillas don’t even grow to 800 pounds – they get nowhere near that size.

The “800-pound gorilla” is just one of those things you hear said that we’ve all come to think of as normal or customary.

And sometimes you have to leave behind what is considered customary.

By John P. Gavin

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