I met Christine* during our first week of college. Like all the other freshmen, we were both nervous about meeting new people and experiencing all that college had to offer.
Things started off casually. We hung out in groups and often stole flirtatious glances at the pub. Neither one of us wanted to admit our feelings.
But before we knew it, we were inseparable. Everywhere we went, it was "Mike and Christine." We practically lived in each other's dorm rooms, and we ate every meal together.
Her friends were my friends and vice versa. It was perfect: She was a sweet, smart, small town girl. I was infatuated.
She kept me balanced and tried to make sure I didn't enjoy college too much. I kept her sane during her brutal first-year course load and tried to be the support system she needed. Like any young couple, we had our inevitable stupid arguments and temporary breakups. But for the most part, we were happy.
Unfortunately, there was one big problem: me.
I was a dork in high school, and not used to all the new distractions college had to offer. I liked all the new attention I was getting from the opposite sex.
As freshman year turned into sophomore year, I began to wonder if I was missing out on something. Had I experienced enough of college to settle into such a serious relationship?
I began to feel guilty. Who was I to question being with such a great girl? Over time, my guilt turned into passive-aggressive annoyance, and I started to push her away.
It started with really small things, like not inviting her to parties or not showing up when I said I would. It then escalated to flirting with other girls. Eventually, it led to cheating.
We all know this story: Guy meets fantastic girl. Guy and girl fall in love. Guy realizes he's not ready for the commitment and breaks girl's heart.
It's not something I'm proud of. Christine deserved better than that. After way too many months of putting up with my bullsh*t, she finally ended things.
I went out and partied. I did all the things I thought I was missing out on, but none of them filled the void. I wondered whether I had made a horrible mistake.
I desperately tried to convince her to take me back, but to no avail. I begged. I pleaded. I tried every grand gesture in the book.
But nothing worked.
I had to accept it was finally over. I beat myself up for a long time, wondering how I could have let such a great catch go. I didn't just lose my girlfriend: I lost my best friend.
After a little time and space, we were finally able to be friends. I apologized to her for all the pain I had caused her, and for breaking her trust. I told her I had been selfish and reckless with her feelings, and that I wished I had done things differently.
That's when she did the thing that will forever make her the perfect girl: She forgave me. She didn't just forgive me for her peace of mind, but for mine as well. She knew it was a burden I had been carrying for too long.
Christine and I never got back together. There was no Hollywood ending or Lifetime movie made about us. She got engaged to a great guy, and they're getting married soon.
I have a great girlfriend who pushes me to be a better person. I could tell you it didn't sting when I saw the engagement announcement, but that would be a lie. I was happy for her, though. She got the life she wanted, and the life she deserved. She found herself a great guy who appreciates her in ways I didn't.
We've managed to keep in touch and stay friends. We don't talk every day. Nor do we need to.
We have something that can never go away. We have a history and a past. I wasn't ready for that perfect girl, but now, maybe I'll be ready for this one.
Timing is everything in this world. I learned more from that relationship than I ever could have fathomed as a glassy-eyed college freshman.
I learned the power of forgiveness, the promise of new opportunities and the pathway to peace. Thank you, perfect girl: Knowing you has made me a little more perfect.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.