Image by pareerica via flickr

For me, they usually come quietly, stealthily sneaking upon me when my thoughts are elsewhere.

The close proximity, the smiles, the steady eye contact, the pressing of knees in the bar, or a careless hand resting just a moment on my feet snuggled under a blanket. Jokes, dimples, and shared confidences. Whatever the cause, butterflies flutter in my stomach, and I’m thinking about a guy in a way I never have before.

What are these butterflies? Attraction, a crush, love?

Zack, for instance, made my stomach twist, flip, and want to shout for joy the moment we met. Unfortunately, he left on a ship, for five months, a few weeks later. Think it’s grueling waiting a week for the person you like to call you? Waiting five months to see what those feelings really were was torture.

These insects of attraction flit about, blind to what is healthy and careless of the past or future with an individual.

When Zack came back, I was ready for happily ever after, and he didn’t really care. He’d be out of touch for two weeks at a time, and I would swear never to talk to him again. Then he would call, and those butterflies would start fluttering, and my heart would start beating like crazy again.

I was in love with him, and I hated it.

So, when Max came along and I didn’t feel anything, I figured it was nice and safe. We dated on and off for a bit, but it wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t have much to hang on to without the butterflies.

Butterflies can be fickle. They come and go at the most unexpected times.

When I met Ryan, he was just another guy. We dated. We were friends. We talked about hooking up. We didn’t talk. We were friends. We talked about hooking up. We didn’t talk. We were friends….

Ryan was another Navy guy. When we met, I promised not to fall in love with him, being still in love with Zack and dating Max.

So, I was less than thrilled when a few months before Ryan was to leave for Guam (after he’d already expressed his feelings that he didn’t want to have any attachments to anyone), we were talking as friends one day and… flip, flutter, jump. Stupid butterflies in the stomach.

The really annoying part? When I wanted to know if the feelings were mutual, he said, “a blind man galloping by on a horse can tell we’re attracted to each other.”

Whether that stomach flipping feeling comes at first sight, months into dating, months after dating, or ten years into a friendship, it becomes the difference between merely answering his calls and obsessively counting the ticks of the clock between correspondences. They are the distinction between curiosity about his friends and jealously analyzing his relationship with all the girls who comment on his Facebook page.

Before the feelings, I don’t really care whether he thinks I’m too forward, too flaky, or slightly crazy. After the feelings, I despise myself for being absolutely out of my mind. Realizing this, I often try to hide it by going to the opposite extreme and avoiding giving him any sign that I’ve been thinking about him.

With those feelings, I hang on long after there’s nothing left to hang onto. For four months after I told Zack to never call me again, I was still trying to meet up with him on a monthly basis. Not a proud time in my life.

Yet in the absence of this quick heartbeat and nervous excitement, the silence of the heart feels too much like settling. After Zack, I was dating a guy, Peter, who was awesome and fun to hang out with, but when we kissed, I didn’t feel any spark. I liked him a lot, but it was difficult to know whether to keep dating him without the feelings.

Hoping the attraction would grow, I kept at it. But every time he disappointed me, I was ready to run. It made for an uneasy relationship. Without the tumbling nervous excitement that feels like butterflies flitting in my stomach, I don’t have a guide to know I’m in the right place.

I don’t think a romantic relationship can succeed without those butterflies, without feelings of excitement and quick heart beats. Yet, having feelings for a person is no guarantee there’s a chance for a romantic relationship either, even when the feelings are mutual.

Even more confusing, you never know when you these feelings might just pop up. Just because someone doesn’t make your palms sweat now or your stomach do cartwheels doesn’t mean he never will. Then again, enjoying someone’s company doesn’t guarantee you’ll ever feel that way about him either.

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  • So, what I’m getting out of this is that… on a first date, I should take a girl out to a really cheap nasty restaurant. Because when the indigestion kicks in, she might think they’re butterflies and take that as a sign that she’s into me?

  • Oh no Dennis, I’m saying if you ever get gas while out on a date, you should marry the girl you’re with.

  • “It becomes the difference between merely answering his calls and obsessively counting the ticks of the clock between correspondences…After the feelings, I despise myself for being absolutely out of my mind.” It’s funny to go back and look at something you wrote months ago and realize, so I have been through this insanity before.

  • Pingback: Defensive Un-Kissing « Musings on Life and Love

  • I didn’t feel any butterflies around my first girlfriend in high school. She had a thing for me and I just thought she was an OK friend. She ended up asking me to the turnabout dance, and I went with her just to be nice. But that night, holding her hands on the dance floor I got those butterflies like crazy, and I ended up asking her out. In the end we dated for a year. So I believe that you can develop feelings for someone even if initially you feel nothing.

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