This post is part of a series about my own personal dating experiences before I met and married Marc. I may be a newlywed now, but just a few years ago I never thought I would be anything but single, and I hated it. When I was struggling I didn’t feel like there was anyone who could truly understand. I was single, I didn’t want to be single, but I also wanted to be happy in my present life. My goal with this series is to give people who feel the way I felt hope, no matter where their lives might take them.
There are many reasons I was so single for so long. I hadn’t met the right person, I wasn’t going to settle, I had a demanding career and moved around a lot, and I had a hard time meeting quality men. But why stop there? I also loved romantic comedies. I mean, I LOVED them.
But those romantic comedies did not love me back. Sure, they made me laugh and gave me something to do on a Friday night instead of sitting alone and crying into a glass of wine. They were also a lot fun! The strong and beautiful leading lady, her quirky and funny best friend, and of course the incredibly handsome love interest.
And yet those rom coms roped me in to a very warped sense of what love looks like. It’s never easy. There’s always conflict. It seems like one person is no longer interested in the other (even though he or she clearly is). And no one really communicates how they feel. That is until the seminal moment of the movie.
The Grand Gesture.
It almost always involves the man racing through an obstacle like traffic or a crowded room or pouring rain to find the woman, proclaim his love as loudly as possible, then wait for her to fall into his arms. Which she always does. And then we cheer. Somehow, despite it all, they found love after all!
It gives us hope. It makes us feel like love is out there. And it gets us thinking, if I only I could find a man like insert handsome love interest here.
Then we continue on with our regularly scheduled lives, which I think we can all agree are NOTHING like the movies. But the effects of that romantic comedy stick with us.
I can’t tell you how many guys I went out on a date or two with whom I thought for sure would turn into a relationship. Even though I would inevitably end up being the one to do a lot of the heavy lifting. I would call or text him. I would sit around and wait for his response. I would think about all the fun things we could do together. But we could only do them if he actually got around to making plans.
It was not easy. There always seemed to be some sort of conflict. He didn’t appear to be interested in me anymore. And we weren’t communicating about anything, especially our feelings.
It was the plot of a romantic comedy.
So, somewhere in the back of my mind I kind of thought we were exactly where we were supposed to be. As my friends and I would discuss the situation ad nauseum we would come to the conclusion that he was super busy. Or maybe had just gotten out of a serious relationship and needed space. Or just maybe he was overwhelmed by his feelings for me and got scared.
Spoiler alert: It is NEVER any of those things. It’s just not. End of story. Moving on.
So, armed with those excuses I would then wait around for The Grand Gesture. Which, of course, never happened. He just wasn’t interested in me. He had moved on and after weeks of fretting over the situation I eventually would, too.
Only to repeat the pattern with the next interesting yet not interested guy I met.
There is another problem with the concept of The Grand Gesture. Sometimes men actually do some version of it, but only to cover up for a lack of any sort of other gesture leading up to that point.
Maybe it’s happened to you or maybe you’ve seen it with a friend’s relationship. There is always going to be the guy who doesn’t treat you all that well. Maybe he cancels your dates regularly and at the last minute, maybe he doesn’t want you to meet his friends, maybe he refuses to talk about your relationship and what he wants, or maybe he flat out lies to you about where he’s been and who he’s been with.
But then one day, seemingly out of the blue, he sends a huge bouquet of flowers to your office. Or he takes you to a romantic and expensive dinner where he tells you how much you mean to him. Or you come home one night to a surprise home cooked dinner with wine and flowers waiting for you. It’s a Grand Gesture and it all feels so romantic. You think, this is the guy for me!
And then the very next day he goes right back to his former behavior.
And yet, if those romantic comedies have taught us anything, it’s that true and lasting love includes a Grand Gesture. To hell with the fact that your everyday relationship is a struggle or unhealthy and unfulfilling! If he did something truly wonderful for you then clearly this is the real deal!
Another spoiler alert: It most certainly is not. You deserve better than this. End of story. Moving on.
I’m not saying that nice gestures are never real. Or that a man who does nice things for you is not a good guy. Of course there are many men out there who are wonderful and reliable partners and who also enjoy making romantic gestures.
What I am saying is that if you are building your relationship or your hope of a relationship around a Grand Gesture, you aren’t where you need to be.
Valentine’s Day was this past week and it got me thinking about how much I strongly dislike the holiday, even though I’m now happily married. When I was single it was always a miserable day. One that reminded me of everything I didn’t have yet desperately wanted. I’d watch women around me getting cards, presents, and flowers and wish that one day I’d receive the same type of romantic gestures.
But what I eventually realized is that I didn’t want what Valentine’s Day represented. I didn’t want one day out of the year when I was showered with love out of a sense of obligation to a made-up holiday. What I wanted was a partner who showed me how much he loved me every single day with little gestures or simply by being in my life and truly showing up for us.
I wanted a relationship not a Grand Gesture.
So, for me, it was actually worth it to go through that one day of emotional stress and pain each year instead of having 364 days of an unfulfilling relationship. Valentine’s Day was actually a reminder of what I didn’t want and helped me refocus on what I did.
Sure, I could be in the best relationship ever where he shows up every day and then also showers me with love on Valentine’s Day. But the ultimate goal was the “every day” part of that scenario.
If I was going to be in a relationship it wouldn’t be because of The Grand Gesture. It would be because I met someone who made things easy. Someone who helped make sure any of our conflicts would be resolved. Someone who never made me question whether or not he was still interested in me anymore. And someone who was open to communicating his feelings.
It was the anti-romantic comedy. And it would fit perfectly into my real non-Hollywood created life.