There are many blueprints to dating that one relationship or another finds itself following. There is one pattern in particular that hits the heart a little differently than most.

Take Leo for example. Leo and I met in the typical millennial way through a dating app, but we had the not-so-typical instant chemistry. It was like something clicked—lots of clicks actually. He replied to my texts within ten minutes, click one. He remembered small details I’d told him, click two. Gave me original compliments that weren’t distasteful or out-of-bounds, click three. But even by the ninth or tenth click, I still felt hesitant. It was like I was holding my breath while waiting for the other shoes to drop. Why?

Having gone off of what every past fling or relationship taught me, the shoe will eventually drop. But the longer the wait became, even when I don’t mean to, I started to get used to him and let my guard down.


Sitting on his bed, my legs were draped across Leo’s lap as a rerun of Friends played in the background. He had me laughing at something—I can’t remember what. But all I can remember was that I felt happy. His hand began to play with my knee, then my ankle, and back to my knee again. “What are you thinking about?” he asked.

This needed heavy consideration before giving a cool and calculated answer, but of course, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. The desperate word, “I really like you,” spilled out before I could slurp them back up. #nofilter.

This was not something you admit after only four weeks. It was a tragic, unspoken rule to not admit your true feelings for someone. As I planned my obituary in my head, to my surprise, he grinned at me and moved to cup my face. “I really like you, too.”

There it was—the last breath. I exhaled and went for his lips. Id tried to delay sleeping with him for as long as possible, but I knew that was over now.


At that moment, I allowed myself to be comfortable instead of always holding back or questioning his motives. It began to feel like I didn’t have to worry about any complicated games or carefully calculate responses because he was a “nice guy”. It was at that moment I started to understand what people meant when they said, “when it’s the right person, you don’t worry. It just happens.”

Then I remembered that this saying formulated by couples in serious, happy relationships was complete and absolute cow shit. 

As soon as I let out that final breath and we slept together, by the next day his texts were coming in much less frequently.  I knew the middle school gab of talking every hour on the hour wasn’t going to last, so I let it go and shook it off as no big deal..I didn’t want let the fears and doubts from past relationships create turmoil in the current, so I let it go. We were adults with responsibilities, but the weight of distance refused to be ignored. 

Call it anxiety, call intuition—the fact that dating nowadays is painfully predictable—I knew exactly how this was about to play. After blowing me off when we supposed to see each other, I sent him an array of messages wondering what was wrong.

In true f*ckboy fashion, he messaged me back with the classic, “I’m so sorry, but I just don’t know what I want right now. It blows my mind how amazing you are, and I really like you but I’m just not ready for a relationship right now.”

And with that, he became one of the worst and most heartbreaking stereotypes. Leo made me feel the best kind of vulnerable. He knew exactly how to trigger my real feelings for him, get me to let my walls down, then leave me utterly suffocated with rejection. 

The worst part about is that this is the third time this has happened. Men have reeled ever so sweetly only to cut me loose when they feel they’ve had my time and attention for long enough.

To be completely honest, they like the attention as much as I do—the attention of having someone wanting you. But unlike me, they enjoy taking it away even more. The toxic pattern many of the men I’ve dated like goes as followed: finding the attention of a girl, then play and use her until they feel good enough about themselves to start a relationship with someone else.

The same thing happened to my good friend Sophia. She’d been hooking up with the bartender Ricky ever since I moved to Philadelphia before it turned into something more and he asked her to be his girlfriend.

It was about eighteen hours later when Sophia was getting used to the idea of having a boyfriend when she received the same message as I had: “I think you’re such an amazing girl and I don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t know if I am ready for a relationship right now. I know this makes me a jerk, but I think you’re too special to be in a relationship with me when I don’t know what I want.”

This kind of behavior isn’t exclusive to men—women are guilty of it as well. While Sophia and Ricky were early on in their on-and-off sequence, Ricky began to fall for a girl named Nina. She used Ricky to validate her own worth a give her the confidence she needed to find someone else she actually wanted.


After any future with Leo was thrown into the gutter and Sophia was trying to move on from Ricky, she came over to my apartment to make s’mores and drink too much wine.

Sophia held herself together much better than I did. But rejection still hurts—even if you call us “amazing” or “special”; even when they admit to being a jerk or saying sorry a million times.

Melted marshmallow flesh clung to my middle and index finger. Sophia wiped chocolate residue from the corner of her mouth and went to my gas stove to cook up more smores. “He just didn’t have to ask me out. There was no point in getting my hopes up like that.”

“Men are trash,” I sang between swigs of wine.

“The guy I end up with is going to be so great. He’s really going to appreciate what a great girlfriend I am.”

Leaning into my couch, I really began to think about, “when it’s right, you don’t worry.” This was hard to swallow. Entering a new relationship is so terrifying–not knowing if it will end as soon as I get comfortable and start to trust.

But Sophia had it right—she was brave enough to believe she was going to find someone who appreciated her. I truly believed that too, because I knew what an incredible woman she was. She was thoughtful, beautiful, fun, and had a good heart. I also knew she felt the same way about me, which made my chances of finding the right guy just as certain.

Coming from a hopeless romantic who’s been broken into countless times, I still have hope. From time to time it’s going to suck and I will have to put up with a whole new lineup of Leo’s—but one day I won’t. Until then, it’s best just to enjoy the ride and laugh along the way.