Ryan and I had been together six months when we broke up for a week.
Saying it like that makes it sound so trivial, when really it was one of the hardest emotional journeys I've gone through to date. It wasn't just the breakup or the fights or the fact that I wasn't over S. I was finally forced to face myself and figure out what I wanted.
And despite everything I'd convinced myself of, I didn't want S. I wanted Ryan.
Our second first date was so awkward and painful and sweet. It remains in my heart as one of the happiest days of my life. And not just because of the dog.
You see, for the last seven years, Bear's been the main man in my life. I grew up in a rocky home situation, had a lot of crappy boyfriends, but Bear was always there for me.
Needless to say, he's a pretty spoiled dog. And for a long time, I think Ryan kind of resented him.
So when we went out on our second first date and brought Bear along, I knew this was some kind of turning point. We took Bear to our favorite walking path. It's a nice walk through the woods, and dead-ends at the reservoir. I don't have to keep Bear on his leash and he's always rewarded with a swim. But as usual, I'm getting all caught up in my dog when I'm supposed to be talking about Ryan.
After seeing S and how things were so broken between us, I was afraid it would be like that with Ryan and I. And I'll admit, there were a couple cracks. Ryan tread so softly around me, like he was afraid I would break. I kept my guard up, because I wasn't ready to trust him yet. We were so familiar to each other, yet everything also seemed so new. It was a strange feeling.
Ryan asked me if he could hold my hand. I said yes. He couldn't stop staring at me and smiling at me. If it weren't for the fact I was so nervous, I probably would have thought he was a little creepy. ;)
We just walked and walked and walked. We didn't talk about heavy stuff. We didn't talk about our old problems. We agreed to start over. He wanted the chance to show me the person he could be. I didn't want our old issues and misconceptions to taint the chance we had at a fresh start.
After our walk, we had ice cream. I think I joked that I felt like I was back in high school, going on walks and eating ice cream. It was so nice.
At the end of the night, Ryan didn't try to kiss me. He just held me really tight. I've never felt so safe and accepted as I do when he wraps his arms around me. It's the best place in the world. He told me he understood that I wasn't ready to just jump back in to the way things were with us physically. He never pressured me. There were times, over the next several weeks, when I was outright mean to him. I had given up fighting back with him and instead just bottled up a lot of my hurt and anger and now I was letting it out. And Ryan just stood there and took it. He knew I was testing him, even if I myself didn't know.
I felt a little shell-shocked after the emotional rollercoaster I had put myself through. But after that second first date, I was absolutely sure of something: that Ryan was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Whenever we fight or get on each other's nerves or I start freaking about about the future, I just think about his shy, sweet smile that day in the woods. And suddenly there's nothing to be mad at or afraid of. And I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.