I Fell In Love Too Hard, Too Soon

I am a stoic. In a new relationship, I tend to stay reserved and guarded. I hold back my feelings, and I definitely don’t let myself fall for someone very easily. At least not until I know for sure that the relationship means something.

Some people, on the other hand, are effusive. In a new relationship, they plunge head-first off the figurative deep end. They bask in the intensity of their feelings, and they are able to fall in love quickly and deeply.

And that’s wonderful. To me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with embracing new relationships with all your passion.

At the same time, I’ve realized that someone who is capable of falling quickly and deeply in love can be just as capable of falling quickly and deeply out of love. Since we’re invoking clichés, I might as well bring up another:

The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

And this is where passion becomes a problem for the stoic….

We met on a Sunday night. And we were together the next five nights. We just seemed to connect in every way possible, and we couldn’t get enough of each other. On Wednesday, as we stood in the darkness at the beach, watching a group of smelly, slumbering seals, she told me that she was falling for me.

At that moment, I had two epiphanies: 1) Instead of getting freaked out by what she had just said, I realized that these same feelings were welling up within me, too. And 2) even the stench of seal poop can be incredibly romantic in the right setting (and if you’ve ever experienced it, you know that “stench” is an understatement).

Something about the way she looked into my eyes told me that this could be for real. And so, my instincts told me to let my stoicism go.

I did, and I felt myself starting to fall—something that I hadn’t allowed myself to do in years. I even confided in a few close friends the next day that I believed I might have met the woman I was going to marry.

I immersed myself in these new feelings, soaking up the butterflies and the sparks and what-have-you. Over the next few weeks, we spoke the most syrupy things imaginable to each other: “I love you’s” wrapped in gushing layers of “forever’s” and “always’s,” topped off with sticky-sweet references to “soulmates” and “the One.”

I had never felt so strongly, so quickly for someone. In one of the many weaker moments that I had around her, I revealed how much it meant to me that we were starting off so intensely. That’s not how any of my past relationships have been, so I took this as a “sign.”

Maybe it should’ve been a red flag when she replied that her relationships always start with this kind of intensity.

I ignored that first pang of doubt, though. The intensity meant something to me.

Then, chinks soon started to show in this impenetrable fortress of love that we’d built. She admitted that there was still an ex in her life—an ex who was fighting to win her back. She assured me that she was ready to move on, that she would handle the situation with her ex, and that I just needed to trust her.

I did my best to trust her, but given the depth of my feelings for her at this point, I started to feel insecure about our relationship. That was our first fleck of imperfection.

Yet, I believed her when she continued to tell me how much she loved me, and how she thought she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me.

Differences of opinions and disagreements started to spring up. Some were over minor issues. Some were over not-so-minor issues. We even had a few fights. I figured these were normal for any relationship. But apparently, she did not. As I found out later, when our relationship turned out to be not-so-perfect, she started reminiscing about her ex and reconsidering how right she and I were for each other.

Just as quickly as she fell in love with me, her feelings started to fade. And exactly nine weeks after we’d met, the relationship was over, by her choice. Her explanation was simple: “I don’t think this is working out.”

Within days, she was back together with her ex. Over the next week, she revealed that she was confused and still had feelings for me. But, these professions of continuing love soon faded, as well.

Looking back now, I realize that we never had much of a chance together. Regardless of our differences, or my insecurities about the relationship, the underlying issue was the ties that she still had to her ex. I believed her when she told me how she felt about me, and how these feelings were there regardless of her ex.

But here’s the kicker: I still believe her.

For a while, I was bitter, because if she had never told me that she was falling in love with me, I never would’ve let myself fall, too. I blamed her for the pain I felt, and I was angry.

But then, I realized that she really did mean everything she said. She really did fall in love with me. It’s just that… well, that damned cliché about that freaking flame.

It takes me a while to fall for someone, but when I do, I fall. And it takes me a long time to get over them. This one won’t be an exception. Still, I don’t fault her anymore for not being like me. I’m the one who chose to believe that her feelings would last as long as mine.

Sure, I can sit here and proclaim to the world that if you want to dive headfirst off that proverbial deep end, then you’d better not drag someone in with you, because that person may not be able to navigate the deep end.

But, that’s just silly idealism. I can’t demand that others alter the way they approach life. I can only promise myself to stay guarded just a tad longer if this happens again.

In the meantime, I should probably learn to swim, because I’ve still got a ways to go before I’m back in shallow water. And in love, you can’t just slip on some water wings and float happily back to safety.

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  • Dennis, Even if you would have held back on “saying’ what you felt, do you really think it would have hurt less in the end ? Is holding back from diving in head first simply a tactic to stall the emotions just long enough to see the possible red flags come out ?

    I’m a diver-inner, not a holder-backer ( now I hear Weezer in my head ) I am fully aware that I’ll get hurt, burned, crushed but in my opinion, the euphoria is well worth it.

    • Yes, I definitely think it would’ve hurt less in the end. I guess I’m kicking myself not because I let go, but because, looking back, I think I let go way too soon.

      As another online friend put it, I “might’ve gotten carried away a little” this time around…. :-p

  • “The only sure-fire way to know if something is worth you devotion is to spend some time devoted to it.” — Crystal Hohenthaner. Yeah, I said it…and you can quote me.


  • Beautiful, completely fitting metaphors, and wonderfully written… There’s a lot you need to get to know about a person for a wholesome relationship, and you can’t assess it all and learn it all at once. We sympathize, you progressed, all the best. <3

  • Just be careful about staying guarded too long — it could potentially cause you to miss out on a fantastic relationship (because she thinks you don’t feel the same about her as she does about you), and you miss out on that much more time having the good feelings. And the good feelings are like crack. Even in that ideal relationship you described in an article not too long ago, those intense, passionate feelings tend to fade over time in even the most stable of relationships. You don’t want to risk missing out on passion and excitement completely, just because you’re playing it too safe. 😉

  • Dennis, to continue with cliches: “The sweet is never as good or appreciated without the sour.” Remember Dr. Feelgood from my postings…intense!!! Annnnnnd, faded just as fast for him. I am sorry to hear you had to even go through this though. Hugs!

  • Sadly, i’ve done both: fall early, fall late. The simple truth is that if it ends and you are not the one feeling like crap because you are breaking someone’s heart..well your heart is likely the one being broken. Sorry, i won’t burden you with cliches, but you are far kinder to her than many would be.

    TBH, she sounds like she just loves the rush, and the intensity, but not the intimacy that takes time.

  • No regrets….enjoy the time you had, the feeling’s you felt and the love you shared….even though it was short lived. It may hurt…and I know it does but isn’t experiencing some love better than experiencing none?

  • Sigh. This reminds me of the time I was on a second date with a girl, and she leaned in for a kiss and then proclaimed, “I really like you!” Which prompted me to say it back, earlier than I normally would have. And then a few weeks later, the email arrived in which she said, “I should have never told you I liked you, because I think it gave the wrong impression.” Yes, I got the impression that she liked me. Because I take things literally.

    But … you still got to feel love, even if it was brief. And hopefully that’ll tide you over until something more permanent comes along.

  • I used to balance myself on the fence between ‘throwing caution to the wind’ and ‘guarding my feelings like an old time castle with draw-bridge, moat and perhaps even a dragon’.

    The relationships (if you can call them that) where I was guarded never really lead anywhere and never really felt…complete…?

    Where caution has been flung like confetti at a ticker-tape parade, those relationship(s) grew and actually became something that added to my life one way or another.

    • Oooh, nice metaphor there! I have a deep conviction that many people (maybe most of them, perhaps even all…) see themselves as “the princess”*, locked in a castle built both by themselves and the (big, bad) world, and dream for a soul mate as a “knight in shining armor”*, who will break down the walls around them and deliver them to salvation through love…
      * = Regardless of gender.

  • First thing first: Dennis, I’m sorry you had to learn your lesson the hard way, hope you’ll have better luck next time.
    Now, onto my comments: in my personal experience (with other people, that is), many, many people, both men and women, far too often mistake infatuation for love. I know that the impulse to say “I love you” comes VERY easily in such a situation, but people should really wait a while to see *what* kind of love it is, before they actually say the words – personally, I prefer the variant, “you’re very dear to me”, until I feel that “I love you” is appropriate…
    I was actually a little amused by your telling of how the relationship evolved – things were just so obvious! I suspect you were a little (or maybe more than a little) blindsided by your apparent lack of experience with falling hard and fast for someone (y’know, being a stoic and all), besides the infatuation you were experiencing (I say apparent because I don’t know you, perhaps you have more experience with that then I suspected…). Then again, people should be careful against falling into the other extreme and overdoing the guarded thing, not just because that might make them miss some wonderful experiences, like Katie said, but also because if you’re too… let’s say uptight, a situation like this might sneak up on you and again catch you unprepared (ironically, being TOO guarded might help you to get caught with your guard down, heh…).
    Me, I’m not the kind of guy who gets too attached to a relationship; life has left me a little skeptical towards long time relationships, so I don’t stress myself over such, I just take them as I go, enjoying it while it lasts (like they say, it’s the journey that matters). Caring and affection are so precious that it’s not worth fretting over the potential hurt a relationship might bring. Of course, most of the relationship ends hurt, more if I am the dumped one, less if I am the dumper(?), least if it’s mutual. The hurt that ending a relationship brings doesn’t scare me, it’s an acceptable price for all the wonderful moments I’ve had while that relationship lasted; what really scares me is loosing the affection of the women I’ve been with – meeting with one of my ex-lovers after, say, ten years, and her not hugging me with joy and affection and being genuinely happy of seeing me again – that is what I’m truly afraid of. It’s in my nature to need to give and receive affection in an erotic relationship, whether we’re talking about long time runs or casual flings, but then again, that’s just me… That doesn’t mean I jump headfirst, without looking, into every romatical opportunity I come across – I try to be rational and considerate towards both my needs and feelings and those of my potential girlfriend, yet all relationships I’ve ever been in have had moments of hurt, both during and at the end; nonetheless, I don’t regret any of them…

  • A person can be dangerous to have in our life because the honey that they offer could be lead. We have to be skeptical and also accept the fact that we will be hurt whether it’s now or down the line. The faster you accept it, the easier it will be to love, live, enjoy, cry, and find fulfillment in this short life.

  • Dennis, I am confused. Not by the beautiful piece but by the timing of the piece i.e. September 2011 and reaching my inbox just this week. You see, I could have sworn I read your piece some time ago, you know the “teaser” bit which makes you “click here” to read some more…and just when I thought there was a great story to follow, you had pulled out the piece. In fact I recall asking why you pulled the plug on what potentially looked like a really good piece and you responded that it was kind of too personal to share. And then this week I get the story with people having commented on the piece since September. Technology confuses the heck out of me unless I am missing another “plugged the plug” Dennis Hong pieces! Loved reading your piece as usual. Take care.

    • The person that this is about wanted it to be taken down. At this point, though, I figured it’s been long enough that it can go back up.

    • But how do you explain the comments from people dating all the way back in September and the fact that I just received the post this week?

    • I had this up for about a day. She got mad. We haggled and negotiated. I took it down, but not before a bunch of people had already read it.

      When I put it back up, I thought it was just going to appear. I didn’t realize it was going to send out a notification email. That’s what you got.

      That make sense now? 😉

  • Since when has Dennis Hong written anything that didn’t make sense! It totally makes sense. Keep those great articles coming!

  • Thanks Dennis!

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