I am not a girl who tackles the subject of love easily. Not because of some repeat bad experiences, but, because I proceed with caution when it comes to love. I’ve never been one to mutter those three words easily. If I love somebody, I really love them. If I don’t, I do not say those three words. This mindset is responsible for breaking a few hearts along the way…there were guys I dated who whispered those three little words to me, and I wouldn’t reciprocate. They would say, “You don’t feel that way too?” And me, being my sometimes too-honest self, would reply, “No, sorry I’m just not there yet.” In fact, sometimes I asked myself, would I ever be there yet? Was it such a bad thing if I wasn’t? Absolutely not.

This set myself apart from schoolmates in high school. Trotting to class everyday, this gave a good opportunity for people watching. I would observe some of the girls drooling over their jock boyfriends, hands intertwined, practically glued to the hip; walking to class in these big, oversized Letter jackets with names like, Nicholson, Taylor, Baker as some strange way of claiming property. I on the other hand, never really advertised whom I was dating. If the subject came up, would I answer? Yes, of course. But I wasn’t the type who needed to be in love, on some desperate search for togetherness and longing. I was never afraid to be alone, to be single. I wasn’t the type who constantly needed somebody on speed dial. I was fine on my own.

I remember some of the lunchtime conversations in high school, sometimes the subject of love would come up. Everyone would share their opinions about it; mine was always the most interesting. When I would tell them that I hadn’t fallen in love, my classmates gave me a baffled stare like,  How so? But I always maintained; never one to succumb to peer pressure. Just because some of my friends had jumped on the teeny-bopper love train, didn’t mean I had to rush to find some Joe to be arm candy for. If my friends were happy and in love, that was great, but I never felt like I had to follow.

Besides, for only being a Senior in high school, at times I felt like I was ahead of the pack, in terms of maturity. I would look at my classmates and wonder, do they really know what love is? Or is it just more lust, an I need you- I want you- I can’t live without you- You’re my soul mate type of romance? As with most high school relationships, many of them don’t last. I could see right through so many of my classmate’s relationships. Just observing from a far, I could point out the obvious issues within them, and shaking my head, said, Yea, good luck with that. My classmates fell in and out of love like they changed their underwear. Girls that were jealous; boys that were insecure; boys who were controlling; girls who were jealous, and vice-versa. It all was a big comical promenade to me, watching my peers grapple with the stresses of a relationship. Some of them tried to deal with it in a mature way, but many, didn’t know how, because we were all still maturing…

I found that many people, from high school, on into college, and beyond, were either people who were truly in love, or people who were in lust. What might this mean, you ask? A person who’s in lust, is someone who, by my definition, is so desperate for love and what embodies it, that they seek to find a person with whom, they mold into their one and only, their sweetheart, their forevermore…they build the person up to be what they envision as a soul mate, an ideal partner, possibly marriage material. And then, BOOM! reality hits, something went wrong, the feeling’s not there anymore, there’s tension, and all of your hopes and dreams for that relationship that lasted a mere month or two, have now shattered onto the ground.

I pride myself on not being a person who’s in lust. Since I’ve always been a person who treads the waters of love and romance with caution, I know in my heart, that when I  love someone, I really love them- because the feeling of love doesn’t wash over me easily. I’m a more picky/choosy one when it comes to letting my feelings out of the closet. Although not afraid to get in touch with those warm, fuzzy moments, I know when I’m really feeling someone, and when I’m really not.

Honesty is the best policy, to not sugarcoat. I’ve always been brutally honest, I probably get that from my strict Italian upbringing. My parents were a no-bullshit set. They would call it out when you were screwing up and praise you when you were doing right. This molded me into who I am current day, and I apply this to many dates and relationships, starting back in high school. I always looked at high school as a time of self-discovery. But does that self-discovery cease when you graduate high school? No. The journey to find oneself continues on into your twenties and on into adulthood. Life is nothing but a constant journey, that’s what makes it so rich, even in it’s ups and downs. If life were in an constant upswing, it would be boring. We would not be challenged enough. We would get tired of the easy win.

I found this to be true when it comes to love.

Love means many different things to many people, so with each person having their own definition of love and what it means to be loved, it’s hard not to come off as biased. However, when I meet women who say, “It’s been three months and I love my man. He’s my everything.” I have to laugh. How does someone become your everything in a three month timespan? Hello, lust and infatuation. I’m not suggesting that the possibility of falling into love quickly is nonexistent. It happens. But I believe many people get wrapped up in the idea of being in love. Although not in love themselves, the idea, what it means to be in love, all of which encompasses the ideal, consumes them…and they, even after a mere three months, believe they’re in love too… à la lust.

As said before, I’m not someone who falls in love quickly. I can count the number of times I’ve said I love you on one hand. I am one who, at first, enjoys the freshness of a new relationship, the unknown, the mystery of trying to get to know someone. But, I don’t dive headfirst and get all wrapped up in a needy, desperate conglomeration. I’m one who appreciates space in a relationship. I’ve never understood these types who need to be together 24/7…why? While togetherness is a necessary ingredient to any relationship, time apart is just as important. When you’re apart, you embrace yourself, learn about yourself, take time to indulge in things you like to do. For me, that’s walking on the beach alone, taking a spontaneous drive alone, eating alone, photography, crafts, painting. Also, time apart is necessary to appreciate the person in your life even more. When we feel that certain emptiness, that void, that our better half is gone, it forces us to reflect on that person, and remember what we love about them in the first place. People who don’t value space often have trouble in the relationship. Why? Because with no room for personal space leaves no room for self-expression. People become stifled, suffocated. They rebel more against the person reaching out to them, like some caged, feral animal. I realized this early on, back in high school; like I said before, I felt like I was ahead of the pack maturity-wise.

I’m one who falls in love gradually with time. For me, a connection become deeper, stronger, and more meaningful with each month and year that flips by on the calendar. The photo collection with each other grows, picture frames become abundant on the shelf. You learn more about each other, sometimes good things, sometimes not so good things. Any relationship takes time. Getting to know someone takes time. Getting to love someone takes time.

Love develops a lot better when it is not rushed, when it unfolds naturally, under the layers, revealing its true self. I’ve never understood people who hurry everything, hurry their emotions, hurry the togetherness, hurry the feeling to be loved. Why not just let it happen as it will? Take it as it comes? These people often come off as too eager, too desperate to be loved and to give love, and as a result, often push away potentially good mates. I pride myself as one who, from youth, always enjoyed my solitude, so, as a result, even if I really liked a boy, never rushed things, I just took things as they came. Of course, I was excited for the next date and the future of the unknown but, I never built giant grandiose expectations in my head…like one friend of mine, we will call him M.

M. is a divorced father of two who’s trying to get back into the dating game. Although hard, walking from a marriage of four years, he’s managed to attract quite a slew of attractive women in their late twenties to mid-thirties, with the help of such internet dating sites as eHarmony and Match.com. As a friend, I’ve always lent my ear for advice to M. when it comes to dating, listening to his experiences about women who either, lit up his life for a short while, or fizzled out before he knew it. Over the last year, reflecting on our conversations of romantic guidance, I’ve come to realize: M. is too eager. All the women he’s attracted have seemingly all, fled. Much in the same fashion might I add. I remember the most recent romantic interest, M. muttered I love you to after only knowing her roughly four weeks. Later, things fell apart, she stopped returning his calls and texts, and she disappeared into the internet dating loop again. When he told me this, my first question to him was…

“Well, did she reciprocate?”

His answer, “Well, yea, but I could tell she was a bit uneasy…”

“Well, no wonder M.! You’ve only known her four weeks? You probably scared her off! There’s nothing wrong with showing raw emotion, but sometimes, some things, are better left unsaid, especially until you’re sure how the person on the other hand will handle it.”

M. went on about how he thought they had this magnetic chemistry, how she had laughed at his jokes, how they could talk for hours on the phone, how they had texted sweet nothings throughout the day, how he never experienced something so powerful in such a short amount of time. He thought, he thought, he thought…Me, being a trustworthy, honest friend told him straight up…”You’re too eager M. And I say this, not trying to hurt your feelings, but because, I feel if you don’t hear it, it will hinder you from finding someone really great and worthwhile.”

M. was one of those aforementioned types discussed above, one who falls in lust. He’s in love with the idea of being in love. He wants love so bad and to be loved so bad, the poor lad comes off overeager, too willing to please, too available…and he ends up getting snuffed out like a cigarette. M. and I talk every now and again, and each time, I make sure I’ve got ample time on the telephone to listen to his latest dating adventure and offer up my advice. But, really, that’s all I can do. Advise. I can’t make M. change, he’s gotta change. You have to be the change you want to see, right?

So, love. Ah, the one thing most sought after in this life. It’s one of the basic human needs. Without it, most stumble aimlessly through life chasing it, some believe they’ve got it, but are unsure, and a few lucky ones, actually have got it, grow deeper and deeper in love and continue to learn about each other as the years pass. There’s a favorite quote of mine, I was attracted to it because of the message it holds. It captures the essence of what I define love to be…

The most wonderful of all things in life, I believe, is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a glowing depth, beauty, and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing, it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of Divine accident.

-Hugh Walpole Sr.