Courtesy of Iman Hariri-Kia

I Asked To Define The Relationship & Got Turned Down

I used to call myself "Mrs. Not Right Now" because I truly felt that I was married to the repetitive and inescapable experience of falling for people who felt that the timing just wasn't right. Perhaps they had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, or they were struggling with moving on from an unrequited love. Regardless, many had no interest in dating me, but no problem being with me. This all came to a head my sophomore year of college, when I asked to define the relationship, and got turned down. And while I reassured myself for a short while that this role was one I was willing to play, being repeatedly looked over slowly began to eat away at my self-worth.

We had a meet-cute cringe-worthy of a classic rom-com. It was Valentine's Day, and I was single AF. A good friend of mine who had just gotten out of a relationship and was not coping well, invited me to accompany him to a V-Day party as his date. The catch? We were meant to be handcuffed together for the majority of the night. I agreed to go and support my friend through his breakup, and we ended up bonding with another handcuffed non-couple: A friend-of-a-friend, someone who had always been in my periphery, but never in my direct line of vision. We ended up hitting it off, and once the handcuffs came off, having a few drinks together. And as snow began to fall outside, marking the dawn of a new beginning like the cliché direction from a movie producer, we decided to go home together. Valentine's Day has a fascinating and paradoxical way of pairing together a resolute loneliness, and the desire to make a connection.

It kept snowing. In fact, it snowed throughout the week — so much so that our university had to shut school down for several days (when you live in a city and transportation stops running, all hell tends to break loose). It was so cold outside that the two of us spent the week confined to my bedroom, comforted by the warmth of my heated comforter and the sparks that flew between us. We had seven days to get to know each other — our family dynamics, our childhood dreams. It felt sort of surreal: watching the outside world turn to white, as we lay isolated, seemingly frozen in time. He slept over every night, and I'd fall asleep wondering if this time, it would be the last. I was always surprised to find his head next to mine the following morning.

After our week-long staycation, hidden away in my twin-sized dormitory bed, I left for President's Day Weekend to go visit my family. Still giddy from excitement but naturally a bit neurotic, I questioned what my three-day absence would mean. Would we text flirtatiously? Would he solely send me Snapchats? Above all, I was scared — I knew I was developing real feelings for someone I had just met, and that terrified me. I loathed being vulnerable, and knew that because he was a distant member of my friend group, whatever happened between us wouldn't remain a secret for much longer.

I was sitting in a quiet Amtrak train on my way back to school, texting my newfound crush, when I received a startling message from one of my roommates. Apparently, while I had been visiting family, my crush had attended a party where he was spotted kissing not one, but two of my roommate's sorority sisters. I felt nauseated, but I resented myself for caring — after all, we were in no way exclusive. We had only met a little over a week ago. I tried to brush off the rumor with a subtle nonchalance, but had a feeling that the knots developing in my abdomen would be difficult to untie.

After another week of school-night sleepovers and sweet conversations, I could no longer go on pretending. A precocious planner, I sketched out what I wanted to say in my head, optimistic that our time together had meant as much to him as it did to me. I confronted my crush about the feelings I knew I was developing for him, hoping my honesty would compel him to lay his cards on the table. Instead, he gave me the speech I had grown accustomed to hearing: He wasn't looking for anything serious, and I couldn't blame him for that. We agreed to end things mutually, but I wept as soon as he walked out the door. Once again, I had fallen in love with the idea of what could have been. I resumed my role of Mrs. Not Right Now.

I wish the story had ended there. Unfortunately, for the next sixth months, the two of us entered a tumultuous and toxic non-relationship. The cycle would repeat itself as follows: I would begin to move on, he would realize that I was losing interest in him, he would reinsert himself into my life, I would regain hope that we would DTR, and then he would ghost or say something hurtful. It took making a promise to a close friend to stop this self-destructive behavior to finally end this sequence once and for all. And I'm so happy that I did — I promised myself that I would never compromise my own expectations and wishes to please someone else ever again, and I've held myself to that promise.

A relationship does not need to be defined in order to be considered legitimate. However, if that is indeed the case, all parties engaging in such a relationship must be on the same page and absolutely clear about their own intentions. I wish I had been honest with myself about what I had truly wanted, and perhaps, saved myself from a bit of heartbreak. But the truth is, this experience and every other like it, has made me appreciate the love, trust, and respect that I have found with my current partner even more. He made DTR easy, because we had already found ourselves falling into a relationship faster than we could catch up with our own feelings. Above all, I now realize that I should never allow anyone, romantic or otherwise, to devalue my own self-worth. I have rebuilt myself from the ground up, established by a foundation of commitment to self-love. I am my own Mrs. Right Now, and I am ready for wherever the future takes me.