Lying about Love

I walked Tyrie to the door, and turned to give him a kiss.

“I don’t want to leave,” he whispered into my face. I smiled bravely, gave him one last hug, and closed the door behind him. As soon as I walked back to my room, a hoarse shriek escaped my lips. Water rushed to my eyes, pushing violently against my tear ducts. I buried my head in my pillow and sobbed, “I’m sorry, Tyrie. I am so sorry.”

I was sorry because I did not love him. I was sorry because he was my boyfriend.

I have always felt an obligation, a strange compulsion, to make myself love "good guys”. Probably because I was raised by a mother who did the same thing.

Thirty years ago in Detroit, my father was a recent Haitian immigrant who had come to America on the goodwill of missionaries. Meanwhile my mother, raised in a fatherless inner city home, had become a top accountant at Arthur Andersen. She had also recently become a Christian, and lived a loud, zealous life to drown out the demons of her painful childhood.

They were an odd couple, and by his own admission, my father got the better end of the deal. Try as she might, my mother could not turn the general benevolence she showed toward my dad–invitations to Thanksgiving, help with schoolwork, home-cooked meals–into love and affection.

By the time my Dad proposed to her, she still couldn’t. As she stood at the back of the church, flowers in hand and tears streaked on face, she still couldn’t. I often asked my mother why she married someone that she did not love romantically. “I fasted for three days, and God told me to,” was her answer.

It was easy to detect the sense of duty with which my mother carried out her marriage. She was supermom, a faithful wife. But, deep down, me and my siblings knew she was not happy.

As a little girl I was confused. I thought God was good. I thought He was kind. Why would He force my mother to marry someone she did not love? But then, if He hadn’t forced her, I would not exist.

The thoughts were too difficult and confusing, so I kept them tucked away. But in the recesses of my mind, they began to boil, and inform my own views on relationships and marriage. And, at age 22, here they were again. Reincarnated and alive.

Tyrie had heard about me through a friend. He sent a friend request over Facebook. I accepted it. We made a few tentative exchanges. But I could tell, right off the bat, he was not for me. He had a head full of dreadlocks, was a youth mentor, and maintained a pretty comfortable roost at his mother’s house in Chicago.

I, on the other hand, was a young journalist with stars in her eyes. I wanted so much from life and felt I hadn’t been exposed to everything available to me. I dreamt of becoming the first CNN reporter to rock an afro-puff, of opening my own dance studio, of marrying a movie star.

In between completing news assignments at work, I mused over Tyrie’s Facebook profile. I should like this guy, I thought to myself. He’s a smart, nice, Christian guy. Wasn’t that all that was necessary? That is what was given to my mother. Dare I expect or ask for anything more?

I decided that Tyrie deserved to be loved and I would be selfish for not doing it. I introduced him to friends and family. We went out for dinner a few times.

After five months of Tyrie patiently waiting, I agreed to date him. And I wondered if the sinking feeling I felt afterwards was normal. When I was busy, at work, at my dance classes, or even talking to Tyrie, everything was fine.

But when all was still, when I brushed my teeth in the morning, or lay in my bed at night, the sinking feeling wrapped itself around my intestines, refusing to release its grip until I acknowledged it. And now this shriek, this foreign sound coming from my own body, was a sign that something was terribly wrong.

I was lying, and I knew it. But there were people, my mother chief among them, gazing at us with approving eyes. We were a cute, intelligent, college educated, black Christian couple. He treated me like a princess, and I was always by his side.

But I knew that it was not enough.

I don’t understand the will of God. I don’t understand why my mother felt God tell her to marry someone that she did not love. Was it really God’s voice that she heard, or was it excessive Christian zeal?

Do I serve a God who allows people to form loveless bonds? I do not know. But what I did know is that I had to dissipate the cloud hovering over my life.

I told Tyrie that I had to stop. I told him that I was lying to him, and to myself. I apologized. And it’s been painful ever since. I understand that I am putting Tyrie through a lot, and my heart bleeds for him. But beneath the pain is a flood of relief. And a tiny sense of the joy that should accompany long term relationships.

32 Comments

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Anonymous commented…

It sounds like what your describing goes a little beyond not having feelings for him, but what a lot of people are saying are true. You can't trust feelings. I met someone who I instantly became head over heals crazy about. Intense emotions, butterfly, dizziness, you name it. After just two weeks of getting to know each other, we decided that we wanted to be committed to a relationship. Just about all of those fuzzy, crazy intense emotions have disappeared but there's a part of my deep down, the part that connects with a loving God and asks for directions, that's telling me to keep moving this relationship forward. What I believe to be going on is that deep down in my heart, there is a lot of pain, disappointments, regrets, mistakes and insecurities and the only thing that is going to help bring these things to the surface where I can process them is being in a committed relationship with someone who is so stinking good for me, that my character defects scare the living crap out of me. For now, these feelings are in the foreground, but I talk to my girlfriend about them, and we're committed to working through them together, that way there is nothing competing for all the intense "love" feelings that I know I have for her.

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LauraRS commented…

Leila,
I'm so glad that you chose to let go of Tyrie. If Song of Solomon is any indication at all, Tyrie should be with someone who is crazy about him and you should be with someone who you're crazy about. I don't have all the answers, by any means, but maybe if I tell you something about my own love life, you will be encouraged. My boyfriend and I, before we met each other, really surrendered our love lives to the Lord and prayed about the person that we would end up with. Before him, I didn't truly date pretty much because the guys who were interested in me, mostly nice Christian guys, were guys I knew well enough to know that I had no romantic interest in them. When I met my boyfriend, an incredibly strong and kind Christian man, right away there was a connection and interest stronger than I'd ever felt for a guy. It was as if I'd known him forever. He felt (and feels) so natural to me, the way my own limbs are natural to me. I am able to be totally myself with him. I am deeply attracted to him. We just fit so perfectly together in every way, it blows me away. I didn't know that all this was possible. I tend to believe that God can lead you to a guy that will fit you like this if you surrender to Him. One person here said that you have to choose to love someone, that it is an act of the will. I agree with them because I believe that loving someone unconditionally does require a choice...and another choice and another choice. However, this is a kind of love that can exist in any relationship, friendship, family, marriage. There should be an element to romantic love that is feeling. The feelings will come and go and that's where the choice comes in, to hold on and act out the choice to love when feelings are absent. Nonetheless, at some point, probably early on, those feelings need to be there. You need to be "in love" with the man you're with. (Looking into a study on the different words for love in the Bible might help you or others clarify this).
Stay brave, Leila, and don't settle. "Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." - Psalm 62:8

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Meesh commented…

To those who are saying that this woman doesn't understand love---yes, biblical love is a commitment. It's a choice. It's primarily action rather than "warm fuzzies." It is true that you can biblically love just about anyone, regardless of whether or not you have feelings for them. But by that standard, we could all reasonably take the first god-fearing person who comes our way.Loving our brothers and sisters well is not just choosing to love them because they make sense.All of the men who have approached me in my past have been wonderful, godly men who have a passion for the Lord, and YES, I could love them according to the biblical model.
However, I found that there was something so incredibly hurtful to these men when they figured out that I did not feel about them the way that they felt about me. It was devastating. And all of my biblical love amounted to nothing because they saw the lack of desire behind it.
Our culture does feed us a lot of lies about being "in love," but love genuinely is a gift from the Lord. We won't necessarily feel it every single day, but it is a blessing (see Song Of Songs). We live in a culture where we have a choice about whom we marry, and if God has given us the opportunity to marry wonderful, faithful servants of Him that we also love, I'm taking Him up on that.

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Jess Payne16 commented…

Aww, this story makes me sad to read of history repeating, but glad that the author is facing herself and not letting someone fall more in love with her if she feels she can not return it. For me, I love the quote from Captain Corelli's Mandolin that describes true love as the feelings that are left behind when being in love has burnt away. I think it says that initially, you do feel those all consuming emotions, but as time passes these change, as you grow in your relationship. Love does not die, a lot of people think that when they no longer feel that burn of being in love that it has died, but I disagree. Love changes to meet you where you are.

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JM commented…

Thank you, Leila. I think I was recently someone else's "Tyrie." Reading your experience helps me understand a little better.

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