Last night, as I lay on my sofa watching a movie, I got a match.com email that said simply: “Still gorgeous…”
His profile was hidden, and a couple of dreadful possibilities were playing with my brain, so I replied, “Who are you?”
The immediate response, “The one guy who keeps waiting for you to get back in touch…”
In the mini-drama that is my life, there are many recurring characters. “Coach” is one of them.
I call him Coach because that’s his job — he’s a professional coach at a local university. I met him on match.com two years ago. We dated briefly. He thought I wasn’t particularly interested in him, and I thought he wasn’t particularly interested in me. We stopped dating after about a month. But he has never fully disappeared.
In fact, he has always had an amazing sense of timing — usually reappearing in my life unsummoned within days of a break-up, despite the fact that we have no mutual friends and he lives 35 miles away. He’s never been exactly a “rebound guy,” because we’re better friends than that… he’s more like a soft place to land when I’m bruised and tentative. He arrives, pampers me, and validates me in every way possible.
My relationship with Coach is complicated. He’s a good man, tall, broad-shouldered, funny, smart, and successful. He adores me — he calls me “the total package.” He’s told me on multiple occasions that I’m his ideal woman and the yardstick by which he measures other women. We have great chemistry and can talk plainly about anything. Coach never had kids, but always wished he had. Me and my girls are like a perfectly packaged family in his mind. He likes everything about me.
But (and this is a BIG but), he has serious limitations. He was badly hurt many years ago and closed himself off emotionally after that. Since then, he’s been incapable of truly embracing an intimate relationship. He goes only so far, then he panics and runs. As a result, he spends most of his time in half-way, shallow relationships that don’t truly make him happy or feed his soul.
Yeah, I know.
But here’s the difference: Coach owns it. He sees it, knows it, and owns it. He doesn’t get defensive. He doesn’t blame me for his issues. He is able to look me in the eye and acknowledge that I deserve everything I want in a relationship, and if he were capable, he’d want to do that with me, but he just doesn’t think he’s capable. We can talk about it. Honestly. And because of that, I admire and respect him and allow him in my life. I know that maybe someday Coach will figure out how to work through his issues and have the kind of relationship he really wants, and if he does, I’m sure he’ll show up on my doorstep. But probably not. And that’s okay. His honesty enables us to have fun together and laugh, without me risking a shattered heart, and I was able to invest myself fully in my relationship with James, without ever wondering what might have been with Coach. I can enjoy our time together for only and exactly what it is, and — oddly enough — I feel completely safe and secure with Coach. That’s what his authenticity does for me.
So now Coach has reappeared, once again. To spoil me with words and affection and attention. To treat me tenderly. To appreciate me.
Exactly what I need.