It happened when I was bored one night….
I joined Tinder.
It’s not something I’m proud of, but given the fact that I was starved for conversation, a glass away from being wine drunk and filled with lots of uncertainty thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, I figured to myself, why the hell not?
I was on the phone with my sister as I navigated through the app. With each flick of my thumb left or right, I would fill her in on my prospects. “Oh, he’s cute,” I’d say as I swiped left and “oh, hell no,” to the ones that got the ole heave-ho to the right.
And then, I found Kyle*. Thirty-three, warm brown eyes and a proud country boy, a fact made known by the tilley hat and caught fish in his hands. His honesty, though, is what intrigued me right away: he wrote that he was recently separated and just trying to see what the world was like now.
As someone who had just gotten out of an eight-year relationship, I couldn’t help but relate. And so, even when I saw that he also had two kids and was a hunter, I swiped left.
It didn’t take long for him to message me. “Look, we’re matching!” He wrote, giving me a sense of his humor right away.
Since this was something I looked for in a man (my bio said that ‘laughter is the key to my heart.’), I replied in kind.
“You’re wearing a polka dot dress, too??” I typed, laughing into the phone to my sister as I did.
From there, the conversation delved deeper. We talked about the coronavirus and how it had affected the other (we were both still working) and I found out more about his passion for hunting, while he learned about some of mine (dancing, writing, animals).
The conversation was easy, nice. I liked that he asked a lot of questions and even responded to every single thing I wrote. But just as wine got me into the night, it also took me out. Soon, I had exited out of the app without saying goodbye and headed off to sleep.
The next day, I didn’t think about him much. I was busy having a virtual Tiger King watching party, after all. But later that night, we got to talking again; I even ended up giving him my phone number since the app wouldn’t let me send pictures.
We talked some more, but by the time Monday had rolled around, I pulled a bit of a Casper. I was just too busy with work and truthfully, a lot of my distance stemmed from attachment issues.
As an anxious attachment, I’m very good at being either super-duper-love-me-forever –never-leave-me or super cold and aloof when I haven’t allowed myself to invest emotionally.
Thanks to years of therapy, I’ve learned not to attach to someone until I know they’re someone healthy I can attach to. But when it came to Kyle, there was just a feeling that was telling me to give this guy a chance.
And so, that Friday night, I finally did. My suspicions were right — there was definitely something there, as we ended up texting back and forth until three in the morning. The same thing happened the next night.
Pretty soon, we were texting each other day and night about anything and everything. It was just so easy to talk to him and it didn’t hurt that our conversations were helping pass the time.
A few days after talking like this, we did something that, looking back now, feels way too soon.
We decided to go off the app.
It was a first step of many towards something—what that was, I didn’t know, but I was happily along for the ride.
We even decided to go from texting to a FaceTime call.
“Is this a date?” I asked him before the big call. After all, our conversations were certainly romantic. He had even told me one day that he couldn’t stop thinking about me and that he was keeping a list of all my favourite things in his Notes app.
In the end, though, we agreed that we wouldn’t label things. But of course, that didn’t stop me from being incredibly nervous about this non-date date.
When we did finally talk on the phone, all the fears I had going into it soon washed away. It felt nice, natural and we even stayed up talking until 3 a.m. like we often did on text.
As time went on, things progressed as much as they could without actually meeting the other. A lot of the time, this caused me to feel like a contestant on Netflix’s Love Is Blind. I didn’t dare tell him that, though, since I didn’t want him to think that I was falling in love. Although, with the amount of communication we had and the closeness that came from this, there were times that I questioned whether I was on that path.
When I first watched that show, I used to think that they were crazy for saying “I love you” and getting engaged so fast, but there I was, swapping secrets and difficult stories from my past with somebody I had never met.
And yet, it felt like we had known each other forever.
But alas, things soon changed.
See, before I started talking to Kyle, I had been in a single girls group on FB where we discussed each other’s dating lives and offered support.
With the pandemic raging on and dating going virtual, this meant that a lot of the girls were in a similar position as I was. But soon, a pattern with a lot of these girls’ relationships started to emerge: I kept hearing about these girls getting ghosted. And these weren’t just any guys; these were guys that, like me, they were talking to everyday.
So I guess I should have been more on guard when something similar happened to me. I wasn’t ghosted by any means, but things did certainly change. This happened after two months of non-stop talking.
It’s like us women have a sixth sense or something when it comes to a man pulling back. I could feel the shift immediately.
He went from giving me everything to just the bare minimum. I even went through our old texts to compare the way things had become. The proof was all right there: a guy who was fully present until he was suddenly going, going, gone.
Looking back now, I guess I should have seen the signs that he was similar to my ex, AKA, avoidant.
This was understandable, though—the guy was going through a divorce for crying out loud, but since I’m a big believer in not wasting anyone’s time, I did make it clear pretty early on that I wanted something serious eventually.
This meant that whenever the subject of marriage or kids naturally came up, I held out hope for his answers. Instead, though, he was very honest about not being sure whether he wanted those things ever again. After all, he already had them with someone else.
But each time I tried to bow out from investing my time in someone who clearly didn’t want the same things as I did, he was always able to reel me back in. He did so by making it clear that he could change his mind down the road.
So when he pulled away in the end, it was the final straw I needed to finally walk away. He didn’t put up a fight for my wishes to stop talking. Although, of course, you always wish he would. He simply let me know that he wished the best for me.
At first, it felt like I was suddenly left recovering from two breakups instead of one. But then, something surprising happened: I felt relief.
I realized that I used Kyle to fill a void that my ex left and I know I did the same for him. We also helped each other through a pandemic that neither of us knew how to navigate.
It’s been weeks now since we stopped talking and since then, I’ve gone back to focusing on myself: the relationship that truly matters.
This means doing a lot of real healing this time. I’ve been reading self-help books, including one that teaches you how to be single and happy, and I’ve recommitted myself to all the goals I set for myself when I first decided to be on my own.
As for my love life, I’ll hold out for someone who makes me feel valued and loved. Plus, someone who can put up with dating in this unforeseen time.
I saw a post the other day on my single girls Facebook group from someone who was nervous for her first FaceTime with the guy she had been talking to.
Seeing this made me think back to the early days of the pandemic and how I was in the same position as her not too long ago: hopeful, full of butterflies.
But instead of feeling bitter, I smiled. Because at the end of the day, what we’ve all been through during COVID-19 has been a very important reminder that we all need someone sometimes.