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This post is making me feel like a celebrity who comes out of the closet or writes a tell-all biography. This is big. I have a story to tell, and it’s a story I’ve probably told to small audiences in private a hundred times over, but I feel no more comfortable telling it each time, and it is taking a whole lot out of me to share with all of you. But I’m ready.
Love has barriers
I have faith in few things in this world as I tend to be a bit of a realist (at times, borderline pessimist), but I believe in true love. And I believe in finding that true love, you must overcome barriers, because rarely is it all just set up for you. So here’s my long, twisted story – overcoming barriers to love gave us the freedom to be spontaneous.
I left for college at 17 years old, 300+ miles from home. While I was a good student, fed myself well, paid my bills, etc. I was still very socially immature, and somehow found myself in a ‘relationship’ with a high school guy I had worked with back home the previous summer. This relationship was short-lived, but left me wanting something that felt real. I moved back home for Summer 1998, somewhat determined to start dating someone my age. I searched AOL profiles for UF, but got a profile for someone who went to UCF who had a very familiar name. He was someone I went to middle school with, so I decided to contact him. He was also home for the summer, so we met up a few times and started dating. I went back to Gainesville in the Fall, and he ended up living at home. We decided to try a long-distance relationship. In November 1998, while I was down for Thanksgiving, my then-boyfriend introduced me to his friend, who was kinda the opposite of him. While the boyfriend was quiet, shy, reserved, and had a bit of a dark side to him, his friend was out-going, goofy, flirtatious, and playful. When I came down for Winter Break, we went on a double-date with this guy and his then-girlfriend. I was told by his girlfriend we were ‘too flirtatious’.
The next school year, my then-boyfriend moved up to Gainesville so we could live together and he could go back to school. I had some horrible experiences with college roommates, so I was very grateful to live with someone I actually liked. But I was hitting a point when I was almost 20, started to make a lot of friends, and wanted to go out and have fun. The boyfriend was more of a homebody. He was content watching movies and eating pizza on a Saturday night, when I wanted to go out to dinner with friends.
Time passed, our relationship grew, and in early 2001, he proposed. And I said “yes”. I cannot fully understand what I was experiencing back then. I knew that while I cared for him very much, we were also different people. And different can be great, but it has to be the right kind of different. Well, in April 2001, my fiance and I got invited to celebrate his best friend’s birthday for a few nights at a house in Sanibel (beach on the West Coast of Florida). One of these friends was the now-single friend I flirted with too much years prior. We had hung out many times since as friends and spoke online often, but again… as friends. So when we got invited to this Sanibel birthday celebration, my fiance was unable to go due to work/school, but I really wanted to go… so I did. It was me and three college-age guys I had known for years. As someone who spent most of my life afraid to talk to boys my age, this was weird, but awesome. We spent our first late night there drinking cheap beer and hard lemonade, playing trivia games, and acting like a bunch of idiots. The other two guys ended up falling asleep, but the single friend and I kept talking for hours. We simply did not want to fall asleep because we so genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. And then something happened… he kissed me (and it was incredible). This is the first picture of just the two of us together.
I returned home so confused about what to do. I know I eventually told my fiance about it, and although I know he was bothered, he wasn’t too clear about his emotions. He actually kinda brushed it off, which left me feeling more confused. But the feelings I had for his friend were growing. And while I knew they were wrong, they felt so right. He was a great guy – smart, fun, ready for anything! In June 2001, my sister was graduating high school in South Florida. Again, my fiance couldn’t get off work, so I traveled alone. I stopped en route and stayed at this guy friend’s place for a night. And while we knew it was wrong to have all these emotions for each other because I was engaged to one of his oldest friends (scratching head to find the right words), we um… consummated our friendship. And it was awful! It was the most boring activity of that nature you could possibly imagine.
So here’s where I make the weirdest possible move in the history of weird moves. I had this single sister leaving for college, and I had this great single guy friend, so why not hook them up with each other? This makes perfect sense, right? (hangs head low) But this meant one thing – everyone had to know about our adult activities because, prior to those activities, this great guy friend had never engaged in said activities (and everyone knew this), so we couldn’t let my sister think she was the first to engage him in said activities. So we confessed everything. And again, although my fiance was upset, it wasn’t to the extent that you would think.
In August 2001 my sister and this guy start dating. And I went on with my wedding planning shenanigans. And in December 2001, I married my fiance, after cheating on him. Part of me felt so incredibly guilty about this, but you have to remember, I was only 22 years old and had very little experience with men. I was naive, uncertain, and had little self-confidence.
At this time, I was finishing my master’s degree and my husband was finishing his associate’s. He decided that he wanted to apply to UCF to continue his studies, and Summer 2002, we moved to Orlando. In Summer 2002, my sister and her boyfriend moved in together. All four of us. Living in the same city. I tried to deny all attraction to her boyfriend. After all, I did it for several years prior to any physical engagement, so I was used to it. Knowing he was my sister’s boyfriend made that easy at first because I wanted what was best for her, but then their relationship took a swift decline. And my marriage was not good. And here we were, two ‘friends’ who had shared some very intimate moments. Whenever we were all together, he and I would always end up talking. We would always end up sitting by each other. We would always want to do the same stupid activities together. But it was wrong, right?
Remember… Love has barriers.
In February 2003, my sister and her boyfriend broke up. He was free. And now it was my turn. I would like to say that I waited until I was separated to engage in any physical activity with him, but that simply wasn’t true. I had an affair. And this time, it wasn’t boring and awful like it was two years prior. It was intense, amazing, incredible. If you notice, I say very little about my first husband in all of this, and that’s because as time passed, we connected less and less. I had a real job, a real income, and I wanted to go out and have fun. He wanted to stay home and play video games and didn’t have a job. Beyond anything else, we had simply grown apart. And it was happening over the course of many years, but I guess we were both too afraid to be alone. But it was time. In Spring 2003, I asked my husband to move out. He got his own place with another friend late that Summer.
It took a little convincing to get my guy friend (now my sister’s ex-boyfriend and my husband’s ex-old friend) to actually commit to me. But on October 20, 2003, after months of asking him out, he finally said yes to me. We were finally free to be who we were, in the relationship we wanted, wherever we went. And my life has been truly magical ever since.
Love has barriers… That you can overcome.
You can plan for every aspect of your life. You can pick who you perceive to be your ideal partner, you can plan a wedding, get married… and learn that love has other plans for you. I have no doubt in my mind that Richard is my true love. We hurt people, we tore apart friendships, and we caused all kinds of family conflicts. Most regretful of all is that my sister was hurt. It’s been over 11 years since all of that happened, but it’s still a sore spot. But my sister is my best friend, she always will be, and although we’ve hit our rough patches, I love her endlessly… and I believe she knows that. She said to me a few years back, the fact that Richard and I made a real life together, that all of that happened for a reason, sorta makes it worth it.
Anyone who has ever experienced true love sees us and gets it. He is the best dad ever, still gives me butterflies in my stomach, pisses me off like nobody else, and surprises me with endless love daily. What seemed like silly college kids wreaking havoc in the lives of those around them, became a family. Richard and I were married in April 2005. We have owned two homes together, have the most amazing daughter and son I ever could have dreamed of, and have a beautiful love life 13 years after our first kiss.
Love is not meant to be easy. If it were, everyone would marry their high school sweethearts and live happily ever after. Love is a powerful force, and it sometimes emerges from places you never would have thought, and continues in a manner you cannot control. But if you truly believe in love, you may need to overcome barriers to get there. Our barriers then were emotional, situational, and related to the other relationships in our lives. Now our barriers are finding time for one another with children and hectic work schedules.
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Featured photo credit: Michele Anne Photography