When Love Comes In Threes

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

Abdul Baha

I once read somewhere that studies have shown we fall in love with three people in our lifetime, each for a very specific 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 us lessons and pain that makes us 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 that are for us and people that are for themselves. This love and this heartbreak turns us inward.

We become closed off, 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. It makes you feel at ease, safe and enough in your own skin.

You don’t go looking for this love, it comes to you. You can put up any wall you want but somehow this person breaks it down. You’ll find yourself caring about that person without trying.

They may look nothing like your previous ‘types’. But when you look in their eyes, you see 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. Your flight mode is disengaged.

You can envision marriage and family and building a life with them. You thank the universe for them.

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 eerily accurate as far as my dating/relationship/situationship history went.

I concluded that up to that point, I’d been in love thrice. Out of respect, to preserve some degree of anonymity and some degree of my own dignity, I will name no names.

Anyway, the first was when I was going into my senior year of high school. I met the first boy I fell in love with on a mission trip in Jamaica. He was family friends with my godmother who was bringing her confirmation class on this trip, and by some odd stroke of luck, I got to tag along.

When I met this him, we clicked almost instantly. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I had never been on dates or in a relationship. This was completely new territory.

Maybe it was because we were in this foreign exotic place with no cellular access to the outside world. Maybe it was because I was in a vulnerable place at home. My parents were about to send me to inpatient treatment for an eating disorder. The secret that I’d developed an obscene relationship with food and my body beginning sometime around my sophomore year, was finally out. I’d become a downward-spiraling depressed, skin-and-bones version of myself.

It was obvious and still, I was in denial.

Or maybe it was the universe sending me this boy to teach me about love so that I’d finally understand that good love is not conditional.

The complicating factor here was that he had a girlfriend back home. I was aware of this. And so we were careful to remain in a just friends-zone even after we returned home from our week-long sabbatical.

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


Since we lived in different states, we kept in touch with the occasional Skype chat and by calling each other to say goodnight. I fell hard and fast.

He told me he was too.

I can pinpoint the exact moment that I knew there was love in my heart for him.

We were on the phone one night before either one of us had spoken our feelings towards each other into existence. I was telling him about my weekend plans and mentioned that one of my guy friends was having people over. Although this guy friend and I had no history together, he was protective and maybe even a little bit jealous.

His curiosity became defensive and I asked: “Yeah I might be going over to Nick Fischer’s house this weekend but what’s the big deal, who cares!?”

He was still with his girlfriend at the time, but there was not an inkling of hesitation in his reply, “I DO!”


Wait what? Is that even allowed?

And he did. I could feel it. He cared about me in an unconditional way. I was important to him.

Hearing him say that made me feel special. I chalked it up to love, and for the first time after a brief pause, muttered the words “I love you,” but there was no fairy tale ending. And young love never lasts as far as I know. We ultimately grew apart and he ultimately chose to stay with his sweetheart.

My second love was, in fact, the hard one. I didn’t allow anyone to get close again until after college. Finally, after moving back home and out of my mom’s house, I downloaded the apps, dated around for two years or so, and then I met my second love.

I first noticed him at the gym, the spot at which I typically noticed the guys I would later match with on the apps and strike up a conversation with.

Dating culture in the 21st century effectively eliminated the acceptability of any sort of face-to-face “hey, hi, I see you here often, I’m X” approach. You had to match first, and then you were safe to awkwardly acknowledge that you’ve been going to the same gym as this person and see them regularly, behind the protection of your cellphone screen and a clever opening line.

My friends and coworkers rolled their eyes at my see, swipe, match routine, but hey, it worked more than once. Don’t knock it til ya try it!

Anyway, I’d noticed this man handful of times. He was older, in verrry good shape, had tattoos, seemed like a tall dark and handsome type with a stoic and serious face. I was intrigued by him, he didn’t look like the “type” I’d pictured myself growing old with since being a young girl, but still, I wanted to know who he was when he wasn’t pumping iron.

To my knowledge, we’d never actually made eye contact. But later I learned that he’d taken notice of me too. He thought it was cute that I braided my hair while I was on the stair-stepper.

I, on the other hand just thought my hair-ing while stair-ing routine was efficient, stoning two birds at once with and saving some time. It’s 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.

He shared that he was recently divorced, from a woman who he’d spent the last six years of his life with. They had a house, and two dogs, she had a kid, they built a white picket fence. The whole nine yards, and it didn’t work out.

I, quite oppositely, had never even been in a real adult relationship before. I was as far as you can possibly get from yard nine. Still, we took a gamble, booked a spontaneous trip to Puerto Rico together only one month after our first date, and the rest was history.

But that was when it slowly started to get hard. We fought regularly, our relationship was chaotic 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 handle.

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 difficult time trying to make peace with the way things ended and rebuild the parts of myself I’d lost to the ups and downs…and surprises.

Nonetheless, I learned more about love, relationships, my body, myself, and the meaning of life all thanks to my time with him. For those reasons, I am unconditionally grateful, not spiteful.

When I was just about ready to take a hiatus from men and dating for a while, my third love showed up.

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

In hindsight, I do remember noticing him for the first time. I caught his gaze when I was on my way out the door once. But I thought nothing of it until after the fact..

FATE, is that YOU?

I say I’ve fallen in love thrice because technically, he only half counted. This was more like one of those situationships. An “almost” something that we never defined and was short-lived due to bad timing, or at least that’s what he told me.

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

It was something that looked like a love I only understood to exist in romantic movies and country songs.

One where he shows up at your workplace to surprise you. Shows up out of the blue just to say hi, because he knows it just might 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 miss you. 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. He left very few, if any, of my boxes unchecked.

It was the closest I’d been to an honest, uninhibited, healthy romantic experience. I was 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.

Unfortunately, he was an “almost” in-love. A so close, but not quite. We were both in it in halves.

In true good-guy form, he let me down easy and told me 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 that I guess I’m just an outlying data point and a girl who’s been in love thrice.

Nice to meet ya.


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