When Love Comes In Threes

“Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time.”

― Abdu’l-Baha

I once read somewhere that studies have shown we fall in love with three people in our lifetime, each for a unique reason.

Our first love often happens at a young age, and you eventually grow apart or call it quits over silly things.

When you get older, you may look back at this person and think what you had with them wasn’t really love. But the truth is it was–it was love for what you knew love to be at the time.

There are different depths of love.

The second love is the hard one. You get hurt in this one. It teaches you lessons and pain that make you stronger. This love involves heartbreak, drama and damage.

But this is the one where the growth happens. We realize what we love about love and what we don’t. The difference between red flags and green ones.

We learn the difference between healthy and toxic. People who are with us for the long haul and people who are with us temporarily. This love and this heartbreak turn us inward.

We become careful and more considerate. We learn exactly what we want and don’t want.

The third love comes blindly. And maybe it isn’t “in love,” right off the bat…but it’s, “I care.”

You stumble into it without even thinking twice. I care shows up without warning.

There are no butterflies with this person. Instead, they make you feel at ease, understood and comfortable in your own skin.

You don’t go looking for this love, you attract it. This love comes to you.

You can put up any wall you want but somehow this person breaks it down. You find yourself caring about this person without trying.

They may not look anything like your previous ‘types’. But when you look into their eyes, you see a new hope.

The type of hope that feels like home.

You find beauty in the most simple parts of them.

You do not feel pressured to hide certain parts of yourself.

You can envision marriage, a family and building a life with them. You thank the universe for them and for the first time, you start to believe in a love that isn’t so difficult.

I thought this rule of thirds was interesting and oddly accurate as far as my dating/relationship/situationship history went.

I concluded that according to these definitions, I’d been in love thrice. In an attempt to preserve some degree of anonymity and some degree of my own dignity, I won’t name names.

Anyway, I met my first love on a mission trip in Jamaica the summer before senior year. He happened to be a close family friend of my godmother. She was bringing her confirmation class to Jamaica to do the Lord’s work, and by some odd stroke of luck I got to tag along at the last minute.

When I met J***** we clicked almost instantly. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I had never been on anything that even resembled a date, and I had definitely never had anything close to a boyfriend.

This kind of thing was completely uncharted territory.

Maybe it was because we were in this new and far away place with no cellular access to the outside world.

Maybe it was because spending time with him provided a nice escape from what was going on back home.

My parents were about to send me to inpatient treatment for an eating disorder. The secret that I’d developed an unhealthy relationship with food was no longer an easy thing to keep hidden. I’d become a downward spiraling skin and bones version of myself.

It was obvious to everyone who loved me and still, I remained in denial. Hellbent on suffering.

Or maybe it was the universe sending me this boy to teach me about love, so I could finally understand that good love does not come with terms and conditions.

The complicating factor here was that he had a new girlfriend back home and so we both did our best to maintain a platonic friendship. Even so, we found it hard not to stay in touch after the trip was over and we returned home.

To have someone understand your mind is a different kind of intimacy.


Since we were separated by five hours and state lines, we were able to stay in touch all thanks to Facebook Messenger and Skype. Almost, if not every night, we’d call each other to say goodnight, only to end up talking for hours.

I fell hard and fast.

He told me he was too.

Still to this day, I remember everything about the moment when I knew I loved him.

We were on the phone one night before either one of us had really spoken our not-so-platonic feelings into existence. We exchanged plans for the upcoming weekend and I mentioned a party one of the guys in my class was having. Although this guy friend and I had no history together, J***** was protective and maybe even a little bit jealous.

His curiosity became defensive and I asked: “Yes I’m going over to N***’s house this weekend, but what’s the big deal, who cares!?”

It took him all of two seconds to reply, “I DO.”


Wait what? Is that even allowed?

And he did. I could feel it. He cared about me in a different way and I was someone who was important to him.

Hearing him say that made me feel a different kind of special. I chalked it up to love and 10 seconds later told him so.

But we were young and naive. There was no fairy tale ending and young love never lasts as far as I know. Ultimately we grew apart and he chose to stay with his all-too-patient sweetheart back home.

My second love was, in fact, the hard one.

Finally, after moving out of my mom’s house and entering some version of young adulthood, I downloaded the dating apps, dated around for two years or so, and then I met my number two.

I first noticed him at the gym, the spot at which I typically cherry-pick the guys I could look for later on the apps.

Dating culture in the 21st century effectively eliminated the possibility of any sort of organic, face-to-face, old-fashioned introduction. There was no such thing as a “hey, hi, I see you here often, I’m X” approach.

No, in 2018 you had to match on the apps and play dumb first. Only then were you safe to awkwardly acknowledge that you go to the same gym as them and recognized them instantly. Only then did you have the protection of your cellphone screen and a clever opening line.

My friends and coworkers rolled their eyes every time I had news thanks to that see, swipe, match strategy. But hey, it worked more than once, so don’t knock it til ya try it!

Anyway, I’d seen this man a handful of times. He was older, in verrry good shape and had tattoos. He was a tall dark and handsome type with a stoic and serious face. I was intrigued.

He didn’t exactly look like the type I’d pictured myself growing old with since being young, but still, I wanted to know who he was when he wasn’t pumping iron.

I didn’t think I ever stared long enough to get caught, but I later learned that he’d noticed me too. He thought it was cute that I braided my hair while on the stair-stepper, but kept his distance under the assumption that I wasn’t available.

I, on the other hand, just thought my hair and stair routine was efficient. A nice way to stone two birds at once and save some time. Almost like paying one fee for access to a gym as well as a pool of fit, local, single men.

What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good bargain.

After a few dates, he shared that he was recently divorced from the woman who he’d spent the last six years of his life with. They had a house, two dogs, she had a kid, they built a white picket fence–the whole nine yards and after two years of marriage, it just didn’t pan out.

I, quite oppositely, had never even been in a functional romantic relationship before. I was as far as you can possibly get from yard nine. Still, we wasted no time, booked a spontaneous trip to Puerto Rico only one month after our first date, and the rest was history.

But it was shortly after that when things slowly started to get hard. We fought regularly, our relationship was a turbulent roller coaster, and despite the fact that we loved each other more than I’d ever thought possible, the undercurrents of codependency and hurt became too much for either one of us to bear.

When we finally called it quits for good, we both walked away with heavy, broken hearts.

It was devastating and reminded me of that scene from Sex and the City when Carrie asks:

The Most Ridiculous Sex And The City Quotes | Betches

I had a hard time making peace with the way things ended and it took awhile to rebuild the parts of myself I’d lost to the highs, lows and surprises.

Nonetheless, I learned more about love, loss, family, marriage, divorce, forgiveness, adulthood, resilience, functional and dysfunctional relationships all thanks to my time with that man. And over the course of our time together, he afforded me a great deal of patience that oftentimes I did not earn or deserve. For these reasons alone, I am unconditionally grateful, not spiteful.

When I was just about ready to take a break from men and dating for a while, my number three showed up.

Before you ask, yes, he did go to the gym too.

In hindsight, I do remember noticing him for the first time. It was as I was on my way out the door once. Of course, I thought nothing of that until long after the fact.

Fate, is that YOU?

Lol (facepalm).

I say I’ve fallen in love thrice because this one only half counts. It was an “almost” something that was short-lived and never defined due to bad timing.

Or at least that’s what he told me.

After what I went through with my ex, meeting him felt like a breath of fresh air and a sigh of relief.

Whatever was going on between us felt like an idyllic type of love that I only knew to exist in romantic comedies and country songs.

A type where he shows up at your workplace out of the blue just to say hi, because he knows it’ll probably make your shift a little brighter.

A type where he says sweet things like, “I don’t care if you smell like smoked meats and seafood because you’re coming from work, I just want to see you.”

A type where instead of running for the hills when you accidentally let your freak flag fly and mention the alleged ghosts living among you in your apartment, he arrives at your door with Amazon’s best sage candle.

Everything just felt good. It felt easy. It was like he effortlessly checked all the boxes I had and then checked a few more just by being himself.

I still don’t know how to define what we were, but I do know that it was the closest I’ve come to an honest and easy romantic experience. I started feeling joy again and like I could be my true, authentic, weird and embarrassing self without being judged.

I felt accepted. I felt safe. And well, I felt stuuuupid giddy.

In true good-guy form, he let me down easy and told me that he was not over his ex. It took me a little while after that to realize, I wasn’t over mine either.

They say timing is everything and perhaps it is. So until the universe sends me timing, I guess I’m just an outlying data point and a girl who’s been in love thrice.

Nice to meet ya.

“Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good ever gets away.”

John Steinbeck, A Life in Letters

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