PICTURE if you will, a scenario in which you have only been out on a few dates with somebody. There was the “let’s get drinks” meet-up after you met at a bar or a party or on a dating app (let’s not pretend that’s shameful anymore, yes?) and it went well. Then there was the second date with dinner, a lovely stroll, and drinks at a bar that ends with a lot of very pleasant snogging, fooling around, and highly suggestive conversation. It was perhaps the best date you’d ever been on. Then there was the third date where you continued to get along famously, joking about being “those people” who always seem to be making out in bars, and then you went back to their place and it was all very nice and sexy and you agree that you’ll make plans again once you get back from a family vacation on the other side of the country.
Say then that you flirt via text while you’re away and all seems giddy and like you’ve finally found someone to get over that pesky three-date hump (no pun intended). You have maybe developed a wicked, mad, crazy thing for this person that made you start imagining scenarios that you had no real right to be thinking of after only three dates. You flirt from the other side of the country.
Then imagine they turn around and tell you that while you were gallivanting across the country, experiencing life, they decided to experience life with somebody else. Somebody they had been seeing “on and off” for a while – yes, while you had gone on your dates, and while you were thinking up future adventures to do together – and that they think you’re great and they hope to “cross paths again.”
You’re disappointed, perhaps even a little bit shattered, but you figure it was only three dates and you’ve been there before. But maybe you’ve never been there this much. Maybe they live in an area in which you find yourself frequently and so not only do you risk running into them with this other person, but you have to deal with the melancholy of knowing your favorite bar is just a few blocks from their front door and that you will not be entering that again (the door, not the bar – nobody will keep you from your favorite bar). You check their Instagram occasionally to satiate the masochistic urges in you, while you hypothesize scenarios in which you run into them in the street or they text you saying they made a mistake and want you back. It helps, but you know it’s fruitless.
It’s a strange world, but this can happen. Three dates is nowhere near enough to have built a truly authentic relationship with this person. You know this. It’s not even long enough to have learned things like what they’re allergic to or their childhood pets’ names. Nor would you likely have met their friends. You like to think they told their friends about you like you had done excitedly, but then you figure they had someone else on the go and probably never even thought to mention you at social gatherings.
So why do you feel like this? I think I’ve figured it out: it’s because of the unfulfilled promise. The knowledge that you will never truly know where it could have gone. Oh sure, we’ve all been out a few times with somebody and known that it had no future. But here? Here it felt like there was a future together. Or the potential for a future. For all you know it could have petered out after another couple more dates and you’d merely find yourself lamenting another lost romantic cause. Or you could be back at the location of your first date in a couple of years asking a big question. Who can know? Nobody.
Despite how lame it sounds to mourn a connection so early in its existence, you can try and look on the bright side. At least it proves you’re not heartless, and haven’t grown completely cynical from years of attractive, nice, funny prospective partners that never went anywhere beyond dinner and maybe some awkward sex. Hopefully you’re bruised, not broken, and you can pick yourself up. It’s human nature.