Once upon a time, I was the most thoughtful and romantic guy you can imagine. I swore by grand romantic gestures—and by grand I mean GRAND. It was almost as if I couldn’t function without sprinkling spectacle and romantic fairy dust on every little thing I did for every girl I was ever interested in. I don’t know where or how I picked it up.
Maybe it was my extensive exposure to 90s rom-coms as a kid? Or it might also have something to do with me being in the Disney Generation. Who knows? But whatever the cause, very early on in my life, a hopeless romantic was born in me that was as hopeless as they could possibly come.
I was good at it, too! Always the wordsmith, always teeming with new ideas and regardless of the approach or medium, I always wrapped my intent in the nicest rhetoric. I’ve written letters, songs and monologues. I’ve made scrapbooks, storybooks and poster boards. I’ve put myself in very embarrassing, very public situations on numerous occasions—you know that scene in Love Actually? “To me you are perfect”? Imagine that scene, but in the middle of Times Square, in front of a crowd of tourists—just to get my point across.
Grand romantic gestures. That was my language.
Now, of all the different female figures these romantic endeavors have been directed towards, there is one who stands a head above the rest: my girlfriend, Iya.
She and I have been together for almost seven years now so numbers alone will naturally dictate that I’ve done more for her than for any other girl. But numbers aren’t the reason I say that—you don’t measure love with numbers. She wins against every person in my past—even all of them put together— in this category because she is and has always been, the great love of my life. We met when we were thirteen and went from crushing on each other, to puppy feelings and of course inevitably, puppy heartache.
But after she gave me my very first broken heart—something she is incredibly proud of—she turned into something much more important.
All the way through high school, she was my rock, the voice inside my head, the last line of defense against the outpouring of teenage angst and indecision I might have unleashed many, many times. She became my best friend and out of that friendship came the love story we’ve been in for almost seven years now.
As we made that transition from friendship to romance, I promised very early on that she would never go without the complete and utter assurance of my devotion and love for her. That I would remind her, constantly, and as wonderfully as I am able, that she is everything to me. I wasn’t too worried given how I was innately affectionate. Nevertheless, I was determined to live up to my promise.
For a long time, I can say she never went wanting in this department. But not too long ago, that all changed.
“I just want you to be like you were before,” she said. “It doesn’t even have to be big, just leave me a note every once in a while.”
Suddenly I wasn’t telling her I loved her enough. I wasn’t as thoughtful anymore and I was no longer constantly reassuring her of my affection. Of course, the change wasn’t sudden, but it did take me a while to notice. She, on the other hand, noticed much sooner.
The way I feel about her hadn’t changed but whether by age or experience, the sense of importance I once had in me to tell her constantly, did.
While I never thought it would be my problem, in that moment, she made me realize just how much I had let my affectionate side go quiet. I couldn’t grasp the thought of what I had let myself become. Where did that sweet guy go? Did I really make my way into the coldhearted-male archetype? How can I fix it? What should I do?
I failed her by not telling her enough; by not making sure she was a hundred percent sure of my love for her. I realize that now. It forced me to look back on why I promised myself that I’d never let this happen to begin with. It made me remember something I had somehow forgotten.
To be loving is my duty to her—more importantly, it’s my duty as a man.
Yes, to be affectionate and kind, thoughtful and sweet to women is a man’s job. It’s my job to make sure my mom knows I love her—all the time. It was my duty to love and protect my sister so she won’t ever settle for anything less from other guys. It will be my duty to do the same for my daughters–to love them so much they set a standard as high as possible for the men that will eventually inherit their hearts from me.
It’s my duty to tell my girlfriend that I love her every single day–that she is and has always been worth every little thing.
Communication is key in any human interaction, including and especially romantic relationships. Love needs saying. It requires demonstration. People forget that–men especially are prone to this forgetfulness–and the longer you’re in a relationship the easier it is to forget. The easier it becomes to say “It goes without saying,” but relationships are made from the stuff of the earth—they have a beginning and they have an end. It won’t always be warm and fuzzy and conditions won’t always make it easy for the expression and communication of love to be grand and romantic but the importance of it will never go away.
Love should never “go without saying.” Not for any reason whatsoever.
After that my resolve was renewed, to be everything she needs again. I may not be able to achieve the things I did as a younger guy, but I will try. I’ll tell her that even though I may have lost touch with my more romantic side, my feelings for her have never changed. That even though so many things have changed around us and so many things have managed to cramp into our lives as we’ve grown together, I still need to hear from her in some way before I do anything else when I wake up in the morning. I’ll tell her that even though I don’t say it as much, I still have the biggest crush on her. That deep down, I’m still that boy who looked at her from across Joey Ermita’s living room thirteen years ago and felt little things fluttering around in his stomach. That those same little things flutter now as I write this. I’ll tell her that even though she may not catch me looking her way as much, I’ve fallen in love with every single version of her, from braces and sneakers to high heels and business suits. I’ll tell her that I love her–her and all her little things–and that loving her is worth everything to me. I’d let her know that she’s the only thing in life I would choose again.
Deep down, all that is still there, it might not come out as colorfully or as often as it used to but I have to try, regardless of any reasons I have for not doing it. I will try to be better because that’s what she deserves and it’s what she needs—for me to be loving, kind, thoughtful, and romantic.