I wish I had looked my best. I wish the top underneath my coat wasn’t a last-minute choice – the first ironed top in reach. Realising my poor fashion, I kept the buttons of my winter navy coat fastened. I felt the stares of strangers wearing cardigans and light jackets. As I glanced the room, two eyes made every other pair turn blurry. The familiar dark-brown irises fixated on me. I shyly blushed and turned my eyes away, pretending my table guest uttered something fascinating. When I turned back to him, he had his phone out. Seemingly as a comfort soother. That was the last time I saw him. We liked each other but never dated.
I assumed we’d meet again, one day when we’re less awkward and more able to handle our emotions. I’d joke about my old acne and bad haircut; he’d laugh at his overuse of hair gel. And within our reminiscing, we’d finally kiss and hold hands. If I’m thinking about this when horny, we rush to take our clothes off. But when day-dreaming on a train or before sleeping, we pour our hearts and toast our rekindling.
What do you do with these almost relationships? At times he appears in my mind and I ponder his ghost-like figure. A haunting old memory. I know I’ve changed since our last encounter. I’ve spent many years since, in-and-out of love with a charming yet difficult guy, dating various men and posting each story for people to read, laugh and relate to. So he must have grown and adapted, possibly in ways I don’t admire. Yet when I picture us and our near young love, I want to run back to my past self and stick us together.
When you miss your chance with someone
This unfortunate, heart-breaking reality plays out in many scenarios. From an unhappily married person too fearful to leave their partner for someone else. The single-lover who turns down a relationship, not knowing they won’t ever meet a person as good. A friend who doesn’t know how to confess their romantic thoughts. The classic right person at the wrong time: Long-distance, immaturity, fear – conflicting thoughts stealing your chances. On occasion, you feel no attraction for someone next to you; but miss them when they’re gone.
What these moments of regret demonstrate: Our flimsy appreciation of time. As a Bolde article says, it’s easy to rely on excuses and not do anything. I assumed, because of our affection, things would fall into place. I couldn’t foresee myself typing: we liked each other but never dated. He told me what I meant to him – there was no question our instant chemistry connected us more than appearance and interests. My insecure-self pushed him away and used silly reasons to justify my dumbfounded actions. I didn’t consider back then, how we’d both move away and just keep going.
Most of us live day-to-day. We let our daily feelings affect our overall desires. And then when our daily feelings have adapted, we search for our deepest wants. Wondering why we didn’t capture them when they dangled before us.
Dealing with the what ifs
When relationships end, we can take comfort in knowing they ended for a reason. Unaligned values, different goals, infidelity… Perhaps a person turns out to be an idiot. At least we can say we tried. When an ex moved abroad and decided not to do long-distance, I initially felt devastated. I viewed our situation as cruel fate and felt clueless on how to move on. Now I smile at my naivety – we had to break up when we did. We weren’t more than a passing fling, and I’ve grown to accept that.
What ifs don’t give us the same awareness. They’re like half-read books – we’re left to fantasise and daydream. We miss the opportunity to screw up or succeed, to fall in love and possibly fall out. No closure from our brains memorising their great qualities. When you’ve liked each other but never dated, you’ve built up plans and expectations that have nowhere to go.
This makes ‘the one that got away’ so alluring. Most of us spend our lives worrying about our decisions. Did we pick the right career, are we with the right person? The older we become, the more we understand the consequences of our choices. Even the best decisions usually come with a price tag. In our thoughts, we can hold on to a ‘what if’ and let an almost relationship unfold without annoying living habits, family drama, relationship price tags.
New wisdom gained from experiences can be one of the biggest stings. With age, I’ve learnt and developed my ability to choose better. And certainly, since my eyes locked with my ‘not quite love’, I’ve become more forward in going after what I want. Recent years have taught me to not let outside opinion overrule. It therefore hurts that I wasted a potential relationship I wouldn’t throw away today.
Moving on from someone you never dated
While impossible in my eyes to completely forget what could have been, there is analysis that might help how you reflect.
Unrequited feelings: When your feelings are unrequited, as a piece on How to Get the Guy shares, try to “work on yourself”. What is it about a particular person that makes you feel attached? When you picture them, do you focus on mistakes you made that could have altered how they saw you? Is it more about them not wanting you as oppose to your liking them as a person? I was once hung up on a guy who abruptly changed his mind on us dating. It took me a while to figure; I didn’t miss him – I missed how beautiful and wonderful he made me feel.
Related piece: Addicted to Male Attention
Insecurity: If you have low self-esteem, you can hold on to people that encourage your bad thoughts to continue. It’s like sitting in hole and deciding to keep digging, because it’s easier than trying to get out.
Rose-tined fantasy: Consider whether your ‘what if’ forms your escapism. Was this person in your life at a more carefree, happier time? Do they represent something not present in your current relationship, such as passion and excitement?
Lack of know-how: Ask yourself, with the awareness you had at the time, could you have realistically done anything different? And if so, what experiences would alter if that relationship had happened? If your ‘the one that could have been’ is a friend, how important was or is your friendship? Do you place unrealistic notions on them – assuming their honesty and trust as a friend would stem to long-lasting love?
We liked each other but never dated – when time doesn’t heal
Among the regret and sadness of not knowing, there is a beauty to having a person sit purely in your mind untainted. The infatuation both addictive and interesting.
It’s easy to use the cliches: Everything happens for a reason; some things aren’t meant to be… This sounds nicer than admitting you’re partly to blame. Regrets in love are always hard. Some hold on to a possible reunion, others accept their unfortunate reality.
When I’m on the way home from a bad date, I’ll often look through my dark train carriage widow, and wonder about the cute guy who smiled at me in a coffee shop, or the guy who darted across his train platform to mine, to hand me my dropped cosmetic bag. I want to laugh at how frustrated I get with online dating, when I’ve had my eyes closed to numerous near romances. My ego has told me to fear rejection. Maybe my lost loves came around to remind me to not let fear control. Or maybe there is no such lesson. It’s simply luck, timing and nature.
I like to think if our paths crossed again, we’d have luck on our side. My outfit would be nice enough to not cover. In the meantime, there’s always my imagination.
Do you have a ‘we liked each other but never dated’ story? When did you start to regret a missed romance?