I fell in love last year when I least expected it. He was extroverted, funny, cute and had game -- everything your typical 20-something single girl looks for in a guy.
It would have turned out to be the perfect freakin' fairytale romance, if it weren't for one small detail: He was emotionally unavailable.
I first noticed he was broken when he confided in me something that happened to him recently: His father was sick and had passed away. After his confession, I slowly began to realize he was deeply affected by his father's loss and still grieving.
He was more guarded than any man I had ever met, and through his actions, I could tell he didn't have the ability to fully let me in. He was the class clown in front of friends, but when we came home to silence, he would completely shut down and become angry or mean.
When I initially came upon this discovery, my naivete tricked me into thinking I could "fix" him. But, my efforts were both unwarranted and unwanted, for they only drove him further away. It didn't take me long to realize you can't change a man. (Duh.)
I then moved onto phase two of "Operation: Get The Guy." I wanted him so badly; I figured if I couldn't change him, I'd change my own needs to mold to his. This didn't mean changing my character or personality, but instead, altering what I thought I needed out of a relationship to fit what he was capable of giving me.
But, once again, I found this option fell short because it just wasn't enough; I was there to support him, but when I needed a shoulder to cry on, he wasn't always there for me.
Finally, after learning a cold truth the hard way, I realized the bottom line: He wasn't going to change.
Hoping he'd change was like hoping a wooden chair would magically transform into a comfy sofa. If I had any chance of ever truly having him, I needed to give up on the possibility of having him; I needed to let him go. I needed to learn to work on myself and let him work on himself, too.
Here's the thing: Anytime you break something, you, and only you, are responsible for cleaning up your own mess. No one else can do it. The same philosophy applies to letting a broken man "fix" himself.
Many of us are broken, some more than others. But, how can we help save a guy, when he hardly knows how to save himself?
In the end, I decided just because I couldn't have him romantically didn't mean I couldn't have him as a friend. But, I realized I can't measure time in the number of days, weeks or months it will take for him to make himself available to me.
Time needs to be a measurement of my improvements.
Some women are like dogs with bones: Once we sink our teeth into something, we refuse to let go. If you truly believe in a man, you won't wait around for him to love himself. You'll learn to love yourself and, in the process, simply watch him ride along through your rear-view mirrors.
He will inevitably learn to love himself, and he'll do so by feeling validated with advancements in his career or new friends. Or, maybe, he just needs time. But, you don't know how long that will take, and you're better than sitting home alone on a Friday night, waiting by the phone, wishfully thinking he'll say, "I love you."
So, in the meantime, date other people. Open up. Give yourself the chance to fall in love again, as if he will never come around. And, if it's right -- if you are truly what his heart wants -- he'll come back when he's ready to love and be loved.