Backstory to this post: This is definitely NOT one of the popular posts on the blog though it’s been requested many times since it originally appeared. I first wrote it in February 2008. For those new to the program, Michael took sick in September 2008 and passed in August 2009. The blog I kept at the time, Rope Burns, is on the Resources page. So he was alive and well when I wrote this and I told him I that I wrote this and he was SO embarrassed. But I am nothing if not truthful about both of us – warts and all.
People have had BIG issues with this post. I know this isn’t what many of you want to hear….Sorry, but it’s true and that’s all I have to say about that. I also did a lot of interviews when I was writing Getting Back Out There and I met a woman who had very similar story to my own. So, it’s not that uncommon.
Sometimes It’s Just Not It – Susan J. Elliott 2/3/2008
Not every post or every reader is about bad relationships. This blog and the book are about relationships that run the gamut. Many times the relationships are okay or even good and one person just says, “You know what? I’m outta here.” Sometimes there is absolutely no reason for it. It’s a nice relationship, you’re a nice person, but it’s not compelling enough for me to stay. That happens. Can be mind-boggling to the person being left, but it happens.
I’ve blogged on here a lot about how sometimes the simple answer to “Why didn’t it work out?” is that it wasn’t it for both people. It might have felt like it for you, but it wasn’t it for your partner and unless it was it for him or her, it wasn’t it for you. It has to be IT for both people for it to be IT. If it’s not, then it’s not.
And I can tell you that people also leave “it” every day. Many say “This is it! I’m in love, let’s get married!” They promise to love, honor and cherish for the rest of their lives. Then they look around and say, “You know what? This isn’t it. I want out.” Sometimes those people are complete bananaheads. They fail their partners in so many ways. They took a step they should not have taken. They promised things they could not deliver. And now everyone is miserable and life is in shambles.
This post is not about those people (most of the other posts are). This post is about people who decide, for whatever reason, that their very nice relationship with a very nice person, isn’t “it.” And they want out. And get out. And the other person is stunned.
I have told people OVER AND OVER again – the number one requirement is WANTS TO BE WITH ME. That MUST be there – but not just “wants to be with me,” but doesn’t want to be with anyone else…not even PART of the time.
My “Sometimes It’s Not It” On The Losing End
After I left my first marriage I became involved in a rebound relationship and it was pretty stupid and I got out quickly (but not before going to Chicago and paying way too much for a weekend, I’ve blogged about that on here. (Update 2019: and done a podcast – first podcast of Season 2 talks about the MAGNIFICENT failure of the Chicago weekend).
I think my Chicago escapade ended, formally, in August but he kept writing me or would occasionally send me some picture of himself which, I imagine, was designed for me to write back (and say what – I’m not exactly sure).
Around the beginning of September I met a guy who was a friend of friends. I had developed, by that time, a fairly big group of friends and someone pulled him into the group. From our first conversation we hit it off famously. I was enjoying my new found freedom and had a nice group of friends at work and a nice group of friends at home and I didn’t really need one more friend.
But we could not stop joking around with each other. From the first conversation we finished each other’s comments and would make each other laugh until we cried.
During our first conversation alone I learned that he had broken up with his girlfriend of a few years and that he was torn up over it but from what he told me, she sounded like a wacko. I told him about my recent breakups and my kids (he didn’t have any).
We decided one weekend in October to go leaf peeping and we took off early in the morning and hit every New England state. That day he told me, “This is the happiest I’ve been in a long time.” We got back in the car and headed for Vermont. In Vermont we had dinner at a beautiful rustic inn and toasted (with apple cider) our friendship. We drove down into Connecticut so that we could say we drove into every New England state. We got back to Rhode Island around midnight. He gave me a hug when I dropped him off and we had plans for the next weekend which was his birthday. I really liked him. More than most people I had ever met. There was a special connection there and I couldn’t deny that it was very nice.
He was cuter than cute and we both worked out so we talked about that and went hiking. We both rode motorcycles and went biking.
It was nice to be with this cute, funny, soulmate type friend. The many long hours we spent together were always easy and fun.
One weekend we visited his sister’s house and then drove up to New Hampshire to walk on the beach. It was October. It was his birthday. By about 4:00 it started to get very windy and cold and the waves were starting to get higher and higher…it looked like a storm was coming in but he didn’t want to leave the beach. He saw I was cold and he said, “Come here you.” and he wrapped me in his coat and we both looked out at the wild ocean. It was, up until that point and until I met Michael, the single most tender moment of my life. We just stood there wrapped together in his coat, watching the wild waves of the ocean. I had no idea, at that moment, what was going on but I wasn’t worried. I just LIKED him. It seemed very pure and very comfortable. He made me smile and this was my first year out of an abusive marriage and I just liked it a lot. I liked the way I felt.
We had dinner, we laughed and joked and we stayed out very late. I was exhausted. He invited me in and we watched TV for a long time. We sat close to each other but not touching. And then we were. And then we REALLY were.
I would regret that as the single dumbest thing I did in my first single year. And it had a lot of competition. I felt horrible about it. It was not at all the way it should be. Neither of us were comfortable and yet we went through with it. Talk about dumping a friendship right in the toilet.
I went over the next Saturday as I always did. We hadn’t had lunch all week. We went out for a while, both of us were quiet and then we decided to talk about it. To say it was a mistake. To say we don’t want to do that again. But also to say, “I have feelings for you and I’m so confused.” We tried to hang out a few more weekends but it didn’t work. I started to see someone else and his ex girlfriend heard from his sister that he was seeing someone and she arrived back on the scene. We went our own ways for about a month. I missed him but had no idea what to do about all this.
He was alone on Thanksgiving and my kids were going to their father’s. It was going to be my first alone Thanksgiving and it was killing me.
So I jumped when he called me Thanksgiving Eve and we hung out Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It was old times. Old friends. I remember on Friday I was waiting for him at a restaurant and he came in, bounced into the booth across from me, gave me a big smile and said, “Everyone says we’re perfect together, you know why? Because we are.” And I just smiled…we were just friends and I wasn’t going to be taken in by this. Saturday night we had dinner out and we were laughing so hard we were crying. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “God, I love you.” And I adored him. I had no idea if it was in a friendship way or a romantic way and I had a feeling his “I love you” was equally ambiguous. It was what it was. I never felt so comfortable with anyone in my life.
On Sunday we met early and went out for breakfast. We were now on our fourth day together. We had had so much fun the whole weekend. The friendship was back. We were back. And I was so happy. I drove him to his house that night fully intending just to drop him off and go home but it was raining and my windshield wiper was coming apart. He said to go in the house while he fixed it. I went in and waited and when it was fixed I went to give him a hug and leave. As I did that, he grabbed me and kissed me in a passionate way that was not there the first time. And then it happened the way it should happen when two people are completely into each other and wild and passionate and fully committed to “Yes, we should be doing this.” And it was great and later we laughed and we joked and we said this is more like it…and we were convinced that this was it.
And then the phone rang. It was late and he thought it might be an emergency.
It was his ex and she was on her way over. No, he said, he was “with” someone. She completely freaked. There was drama and he kept trying to keep her from coming over all the while waving me to get dressed…he looked like someone set him on fire. I left and said when you figure it out, let me know. He ran after me and grabbed me at the car. “Please…” I pulled away. I was not going through this. No not again. Last time I took responsibility for doing something we weren’t sure of. But this time we were both sure of it. This time we had a wonderful weekend and all of it was right. All of it. Now it’s gone with ONE PHONECALL. It’s not fair. I wanted to shake him and say, “Don’t you see what we are together? What we HAVE together? What is WRONG with you?”
We tried a friendship again about a month later. (do you guys get the drift that when I say “I’ve been there” that I really HAVE BEEN?)
We had been at a huge gathering but every time someone said something we would lock eyes, knowing what we would thinking. We would roll our eyes and make comments. We were making each other laugh from across the room. It was there AGAIN. He said to me, “I don’t know what to say to you. The ex and I didn’t work out and I lost the most special person to me. I was too embarrassed to call you but I miss you so much.”
It wasn’t that I felt sucked in by what he was saying. It was that I really felt we flowed together. It was right and it was good when we were together. I didn’t know how to battle his confusion over that. I didn’t know why that was even a question no matter who popped up. He had unresolved issues with the ex. Maybe he liked her drama because I wasn’t bringing any to the table. I had no idea. He seemed to really like what we had but then he would just go sideways. I didn’t get it. AT ALL. And my brain hurt thinking about it.
We went out a few times that week as friends. We laughed and we joked and then one day he said this dancing around each other was stupid. He said he was crazy about me and we had to figure this out. Commit to a relationship or a friendship sand be done with it. He invited me over to his place for “the talk.” The talk was supposed to be, what are we? Boyfriend/girlfriend? Friends? He said to me, “I think you know which one I want.” and I just shrugged. He said, “I mean it. I really mean it. I just had to figure out some things with her and it’s over. I KNOW that. I want you.”
And I went over and I was there about 20 minutes and the phone rang. Guess who?
Okay something very weird was going on. Either someone in his family or friends was a mole or he was using me to make her jealous. We argued, we cried, and we had a heavy make out session that both of said we shouldn’t have been doing. We were never about the drama but that night was quite spectacularly dramatic.
And then I called it quits. He never did go back to her. He really was done with her. But I was done with him. As much as I loved him, his confusion astounded me. I had had enough. (2019: he is the guy in Discount It All that I just posted)
My head reeled for months. How could he say A and do B? Who else did he have what we had? (no one to be sure). I said WTF over and over again. I called him once after 4 months of NC and asked him to explain himself. I was truly sorry I had done that. It got a little heated and I was no closer to knowing WTF had happened than before. I just had new wounds on top of the old ones. BRILLIANT. (Again, when I say I’ve been there and done ALL the wrong things, trust me! I have!)
About a year and half later I saw him at an event. We did what we always did. We made funny faces across the room, joked about everyone else there, finished each other’s sentences, patted each other a lot and hugged a lot…and at the end of the night he said, “I will always love you.” He walked me home and gave me a short sweet kiss and walked away. He called me a few times that week but I never picked up and he never left a message. My head was exploding but I really just couldn’t handle again. I just couldn’t. It was SO hard to not respond but I didn’t think he was any clearer on anything that he had been the year before.
About a year after that we were again at a mutual friend’s event. As we were walking across the parking lot to go in, I met up with him. He was with the woman he would marry who seemed perfectly nice and sweet (maybe he did learn!) and a guy I was in a very serious relationship with. I think each of us knew who we were…oh yeah that was the person that I…that I almost…that could have…I don’t freaking know. It was cordial and superficial and the laughter was pretty forced. The whole meetup was polite and horribly uncomfortable.
I rationalized to myself that the reason we didn’t work out was because he still needed drama from his crazy ex. But that was not it at all. The woman he ultimately chose was stable and funny and kind. And she was, as hard as it was for me to admit, perfect for him. No matter how great our relationship was, and it was great, I was not IT for him. I was not perfect for him. Pretty damn close, I think, but not perfect. And he wanted, and deserved–as we all do–“perfect for me.”
I am clear on the fact that had we gotten into a relationship when I wasn’t ready it would have been a disaster. I do believe that water seeks its own level and I think he was “doing” confusion for both of us. I truly believe that as much as I wanted it to work, I had NONE of the tools at the time to get through a lot of things couples go through. I regret that we didn’t stay friends but the attraction was strong so that was impossible as well.
I loved him and I will be forever grateful that he was one of my first crushes after my crazy marriage. He was and probably still is a good guy. And I raised my standards. I just wasn’t ready and neither was he. We’ll never really know but I suspect I had lots of work to do that I could not do in a relationship with him. Just a guess. I’m just glad he made me smile during a very tumultuous period of my life and leave it at that.
There are many things about succeeding loves, including Michael, that reminded me of this guy. There were things about him and about us that were good and right and that worked well. But it wasn’t IT for him and if it wasn’t IT for him, it couldn’t have been IT for me. But it was a prototype of what I wanted in my life. Someone I could laugh with and be with and have it be nice. And after him, that is what it was in most of my relationships. He showed me what I wanted to have. I just wasn’t ready for it when I was with him and neither was he.
My “Sometimes It’s Not It” On The Winning End
I tell this story about Michael and people sometimes do not get it. For me, he is the love of my life. He treats me like gold. He never once made me cry. He doesn’t just love me, he adores me. He’s the sweetest, kindest, gentlest soul I’ve ever known. So when I tell people this Michael story they sometimes get upset. But “It just wasn’t it” happens to good people too (not that the guy I described wasn’t a good guy, he was, but Michael is too).
When I met Michael he had been trying to extricate himself from a woman he had been seeing who couldn’t seem to let go.
Yes, she was nice. Yes, she was decent and sweet and pretty and all of that. But it wasn’t IT for him and he had tried to break up with her but she wasn’t going away. She couldn’t figure out what she had done/was doing wrong. It wore on her and she needed to know but he had no answers for her. Yes she was lovely but he wasn’t into it. He could not say why. He would say yes she’s nice, yes she’s pretty, but I just don’t feel anything more than a light romantic feeling. Many times he had plunged into relationships with that same feeling and it ended in disaster.
Like me, he had learned a thing or two about when to put on the brakes. He knew it wasn’t going anywhere with her. The thing is he didn’t know was why. She could have stood on her head and spit nickels and he still wasn’t feeling it as a long-term thing with her. She was completely over the moon about him.
They met in a supermarket when he was with his daughter who was 8 at the time. He and his daughter were joking and the woman was so taken by it that she turned and told him he was a good dad. He felt embarrassed and thanked her. His daughter had forgotten something and asked if she could go get it. Michael being Michael said, SURE! and the woman hung around talking to him while his daughter took a long time getting the thing she forgot. As they were parting, the woman handed him her number and said, “Call me….” He said she was pretty and seemed nice, so he did. But he said that if she hadn’t handed him her number, he wouldn’t have asked for it.
He called her a few days later and they went out several times. He said he told her that he wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. He didn’t think she was listening, but he insisted to me that he insisted it to her.
I have told him that words just tend to fall out of his mouth like gumdrops…he jokes that I told him he had a velvet tongue (sarcasm of course). He’s told me that he was trying to use his velvet tongue but she wasn’t listening.
They were seeing each other fairly regularly over the course of a few weeks, but he wasn’t feeling it and he had no idea why. He was determined to stay OUT of relationships having moved in too many women too soon and he had the tire tracks to prove it. They went out one night and she invited him in and they wound up spending the night.
He and I have had disagreements about this. I said that he was wrong for spending the night as he wasn’t interested in anything serious. He insists that he told her that many times. I said yes, but you knew she wasn’t listening. This is where he gets embarrassed. After I have pointed out the error of his ways, he NOW gets it. He said to me, “Well if you had come along when you were supposed to, this never would have happened.” Hardee har har.
So that night they were engaging in pillow talk, and he got that she took the night to mean that they were serious. He became very alarmed at how she was planning things for the two of them. He tried to pull back on the reigns, but she was having none of it. After they slept together, she became persistent about spending more time together, doing things as a couple and meeting each other’s families. And he was trying to avoid her. Anyone knows that if you start ignoring a woman after you’ve slept with her, that makes you a cad and she’s going to lose it. And that’s exactly what happened.
She showed up at his house uninvited and read him the riot act. I told him, I didn’t blame her. He insists that she knew that he was NOT interested in a serious relationship. So after she read him the riot act, he apologized profusely…said he knew he was a shithead, but honestly he didn’t see a future. with her.
She was hysterical. She asked if he was breaking up with her and though he didn’t think they were in a committed relationship, he said yes. She flipped out and left in a storm of tears and accusations as to how he used her.
But she didn’t go away.
She kept calling him and Michael being Michael would answer her calls and be polite. He told her he wasn’t ready for anything serious. He didn’t think about it much (Michael is not the type to go over and over something in his mind.) He thought, truly believed, that he was done with serious relationships for the rest of his life. And he was okay with that. She was pushing for one and he knew it was time to get out.
Like a lot of people in GPYB and their exes, Michael had a hard time being “mean” or not answering her calls. As I’ve said many times on here, sometimes your ex answers your calls because they don’t want to be horrible…but they’re not doing you any favors. I don’t think Michael was doing her any favors. But that was Michael. He wasn’t mean, he just listened and said something like, “take care” when the conversation ended. He had no idea what to do with her. She called and called and he talked to her. Apparently neither of them heard of NC. I was stunned when he told me how long this went on. He felt guilty but said they had the same conversation over and over again – why can’t we be in a relationship? Because I don’t want to? Why? I don’t know why….and on and on.
A couple of months later he started to see me. She found out because she called the house one morning and he had gone to work and I picked up the phone, thinking it was him. He went to work at 7 am and I left his house at 8:30 and he would call around 8 to say have a nice day. So when I picked up his phone, I thought it was him…it was her.
That night she called him and asked who I was and he told her. His GIRLFRIEND. Girlfriend? Did that mean he was in the relationship he said he didn’t want? Yes.
She didn’t go away. Instead, her phone calls increased. He just stopped answering her. She would leave long messages on his answering machine demanding answers.
Putting the two of us side by side you might wonder why he picked me. He might have wondered too. But she really wondered. She knew him much longer, she didn’t have any kids and wasn’t as temperamental as me and wasn’t going to make him move out his family’s home that had been in his family since his grandfather came over from Sicily in 1918.
To her, this new woman in his life was not as wonderful as she was. She truly did not get that he moved on, moved on quickly, and seemed to over the moon about someone when he said he didn’t want to be over the moon about someone.
It clearly irritated her. It did not make sense. She couldn’t let it go. So she called.
And she called.
After a few months she started to really sound like a crazy person on the answering machine (he didn’t answer when she called anymore).
She said, “You told me you didn’t WANT a serious relationship!” That’s what he told her and YES he meant it. It wasn’t just words. Michael was nothing if not honest. He didn’t want to be in a serious relationship.
He used to hang out in a diner in Boston. He was there all the time. She knew this and went looking for him one day. Everyone there knew him. They told her he was engaged and moving to central Mass. He had told her he’d never leave Boston. Then all hell broke loose.
When she found out she damn near went through the roof.
She became completely unglued. She was obsessed with thinking about how those things he did with me and for me were completely out of the question with her. She wanted it to make sense and it was never going to make sense.
She started sending letters. She sent letters to our house just weeks after we were married. I had no idea how she found his address. There was no Google and we hadn’t updated our address in the phone book. WEEKS after we moved in, a letter arrived addressed to him at our address. She was RANTING in it. She was hurt and angry and told him that she hoped that someone did to his daughter what he had done to her.
I honestly thought I was going to come home and find a bunny boiling on the stove.
She said, in one of her letters, that was a good and decent person who treated him well. What more did he want or need? She couldn’t let it go. She just couldn’t.
The woman was freaking out completely as you can imagine she would be. He told HER he wasn’t ready for a relationship, didn’t really want a serious relationship and then he meets me and was married within the year. He only had one answer: this was it and I had no idea I was going to find IT until met HER (me).
Michael told me that he “thought” he had been in love before he met me but after feeling what he felt when we met he said he doubted he had ever really been in love. So who knew? He had NO IDEA that I existed or that the love he felt for me existed. I can tell you that for the whole of our relationship he’s been astounded by it. When our 10th wedding anniversary came along he told me that our relationship lasted longer than most of his other relationships combined (and he had been married twice before.) He has sent me the mushiest of cards and they all reflect his complete astonishment that he feels all he feels for me. He never seems to believe how much he loves me – like it surprises him every day.
The woman freaked out when we were married and again, a year later. So did another woman he had lived with for a while. She actually was admitted to a psychiatric hospital the day we moved in together.
When we were married a year, both women seemed to have an anniversary reaction because we heard from each of them. From the first woman’s letter, it was obvious she had spent all of the previous year slamming her head against the “How could he DO that?” wall.
How could she ever understand that he just fell in love and it was good and right and IT. It was just IT. And even though she wanted him and her to be IT and it was IT for her, it wasn’t it for him. Therefore, it really wasn’t it for her either. Because for it to to IT, both people have to think it really is IT.
And all he could say (though he didn’t say it to her) was, “This was it. That’s all I know.”
Because it was IT and he knew IT because he hadn’t seen IT or experienced IT before. He just knew IT when he saw IT. He just didn’t know IT existed when he was with her.
I could spend hours talking about all the many things Michael has done for me that have gone above and beyond. Acts that are not just love, but pure adoration. He’s turned himself inside out for me and would move heaven and earth for me. He said he’d been nice and loving to other women, but not completely devoted. I even know that the love he has for me scares him somewhat. Sometimes I assure him I’m not going anywhere even though he doesn’t express fear that I am It’s just something I feel sometimes.
Many times there is NO other explanation as to why a relationship is not going to continue except, it’s not IT.
No matter how perfect, no matter how good, sometimes it’s simply not it.
And there’s no rhyme and no reason.
It just doesn’t happen.
For whatever reason.
I’ve been on both sides of this equation.
When I think of my friend as described above – when I was on the losing end of “not it,” I thought we were perfect together. I thought we had the makings of a great couple. I loved being with him, we were so good in every way. But it wasn’t “it.” And I didn’t get IT. I talked to his best friend AD NAUSEUM (the poor guy was so kind to me – but I ranted at him in much the same way that woman ranted at Michael).
I’m sure that Michael’s ex thought the same thing. But had either my friend or Michael tried to make it work with someone who wasn’t it, Michael and I would have never happened. And Michael and I have a fantastic love story and we love in a way that neither of us could have done with anyone else. And we both deserve that.
As hard as it might have been for his exes to see, we both deserve what we created together. And no amount of “But I’m a nice person who was good to you!” can change a person’s mind if it’s not IT.
Sometimes it’s not a bad relationship. Sometimes it’s even a good relationship, but the “it” isn’t there. And sometimes, like with Michael, you don’t even know the “it” exists and you’re not even looking for it when it arrives. But there it is and all of your “I’m not looking for a serious relationship” claims go out the window.
I was ABSOLUTELY serious when i said I was done with relationships and was never marrying again and so was Michael. We both meant it when we said it. NEITHER of us could imagine what we had together.
It happens. People change. Some people become the person they are capable of being when the relationship gives them the foundation support they need. They can’t describe it, and they can’t pretend that other relationships would have done just as well.
I know that for both Michael and I, we found something in our relationship that neither of us had found anywhere else and neither of us knew existed. I am still blown away with how content I am with him. I have always been a restless, angst-ridden person with major insecurities and abandonment issues. Yet, his love and care quiets me in a way I did not know was possible.
I had never had someone in my corner and with him, there was someone…a true champion.
(Update 2014: I’ve told the story on Rope Burns about firing his first caregiver and he could barely speak at the time but after I got done screaming at her, he took my hand and croaked out, in a raspy voice, “We have each other’s backs.” And we did and neither of us had ever had that before. It was it. It was absolutely, positively it. I think, honestly, that one of the things that drew Michael to me was the strength I showed him – which he said no other woman he’s ever been with had. When we were first going out, I got angry at something else (not him) and when I started yelling, he said, “I love it!” I could see his eyes light up when I started going off like a bottle rocket. He always loved my flashes of anger when they weren’t directed at him. He loved a strong woman and told me that was something no other woman he had been with possessed…so maybe that was it.)
But if you’ve been in “not it,” that doesn’t mean you both can’t go on and find perfectly wonderful people who are ready when you are and who will love you when you are ready to be loved.
WANTS TO BE WITH ME.
You deserve to be with someone who adores you. And you CAN be. Let go the people who don’t think it’s IT for them. Hold out for the people who do think that it’s IT for them.
WANTS TO BE WITH ME Stop driving yourself crazy with questions that have no answers.
Stop asking why him/her and not me? It does not matter – it’s just not IT and you want it to be IT for both of you. Find YOUR it person and let your “not it” person GO.