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  • Jenny

Butterfly Travels: My San Diego Romance

Nine months ago, I had a wish-fulfilling romantic weekend in San Diego with someone I was building a relationship with—and I’m finally ready to share this chapter of my Butterfly Travels journey. True to my nature—and my book series—every destination held a lesson or special experience that helped me to grow. This one was no exception.

It was a beautiful weekend in October. My children were away for a very rare few days with their dad, who had come out to visit. Being in a new relationship that was whirlwind exciting and everything I had wanted for so long, we didn’t let this opportunity to spend some quality time together pass us by.

It was a weekend of fun, of romance, and of wishes come true.

We decided to book a getaway to San Diego, as we wanted to remain local-ish for our kids in case of an emergency, but still be in a whole different environment than we were used to. I didn’t know what to expect, as we had recently had a few communication breakdowns before the trip, and I was worried that something would go wrong—just like every time I planned something romantic with anyone. Something always went wrong.

And so, I was feeling anxious, waiting for the bomb to drop that he couldn’t go at the last minute, or something got screwed up with a booking, or a fight to happen that would make us miserable. I didn’t want any of these things to happen, but really bad experiences and past disappointments kept creeping into my brain and threatening my peace.

As it turns out, I had nothing to fear. Everything went flawlessly.

Well, almost flawlessly. My ex was delayed in getting to us, which made us leave later than expected and almost late for dinner. But, traffic and time was on our side and it all worked out. We got to our hotel just in time to freshen up and head out to dinner.

Those who know me, know that I am the planner. Those who know him, know that he is not. But he surprised me by having reservations all ready for us at Ruth Chris’ because he wanted to spoil me with a dinner that I’d never forget. And I won’t. Forget that the food was amazing, or that the delicious drinks were flowing. Just spending unrushed time with him, knowing we had nowhere else we had to be but with each other, created this light-hearted peace and pure joy of enjoying each other’s company.

It was actually the most romantic dinner and evening I can recall in my life.

The rest of the evening was equally amazing, but soon I my head would start to cause problems. I couldn’t sleep, and while he was unbelievably amazing and supportive as he tried to soothe me into a slumber, the wheels kept turning.

I had waited so incredibly long for a moment like this. It had been 14 years since my divorce, and overnights with a man have not been all that common in the years since. In fact, the last time I had that opportunity, it was heartbreakingly toxic and emotionally abusive, and that’s all I will say about it. So, you can imagine how badly I wished for one beautiful night to erase that very bad memory and give me the love I have craved for so long.

And I had that. Everything I wanted was right there. The kindness, the tenderness, the affection, even the concern over me not being able to sleep. But I was wide awake, not knowing how to deal with another human being beside me for an entire night. It made me question if this is what I really wanted. Was it him, or was it me? What was my problem?

I woke up, grabbed my journal, and cried. I didn’t understand why I was crying. And that made me cry even harder. In the dead of the night, I was trying to figure out my emotions. Was I really ready for this? The memory of that last person haunted me. But this man was the exact opposite, and someone I had come to care about deeply. He had been helping to heal me in so many ways, showing me how to trust and have faith in men and relationships again.

Yet here I was, being ungrateful and struggling with giving up my independence to let someone in.

I had finally come to terms with the fact that I was feeling unworthy, and that even though I had all this uncertainty, I returned to live in the moment and embrace the comfort and safety that I did feel. I didn’t have to have “forever” figured out—I was getting ahead of myself. All I needed was to enjoy this wish come true, and let it unfold.

And so I went back to sleep, and when we woke up, we were ready to enjoy a full day together. I pushed my concerns aside and ending up having a pretty good day, for the most part. We started with breakfast at this super cool café and then eased our way to the San Diego Zoo.

Here’s where I started to feel some disappointment start to kick in. I’m used to going to places like Disneyland with my kids and even other adults who have this playful zest and childlike demeanor. And from I’d experienced with this man so far, I expected him to be this goofy weirdo with me. But he wasn’t. He was chill and relaxed, but he wasn’t matching my energy.

I kinda felt weird for acting like a little kid without him (and this same issue repeated itself at two future places where I thought I’d be able to awaken his inner child). To me it was ironic that this jokester was so serious.

And then he made a comment that should have alerted me that there was something behind my cautious feelings overnight.

It was hurtful, and I called him out on it. But being brutally honest, I was still new to this healing from emotionally abusive situations and wasn’t quite ready to see the red flag. I thought my speaking up showed progress, and he apologized instead of calling me oversensitive (which was what I was used to), so I let it go.

I didn’t forget it, though. We finished out our day and were going to head back to my house to enjoy some quiet time watching a movie—something that was hard for either of us to do with kids always in our homes. So, we were looking forward to just having a “normal” night of take out on the couch. And that also ended up being a very nice evening—and I don’t know if it was the safety of my own home or just that we had spent so much uninterrupted time together, but I felt comfortable that night without any waterworks or doubts.

I thought to myself: I can do this. It has been a long time, but I feel like I can share my life with someone again.

As our weekend came to an end, I was left changed. I had worked through some of my fears and own head games and let down my walls. I had finally experienced a romantic evening with someone who reciprocated my feelings and did everything he could to make me feel special.

It really was everything I could have asked for, but it did set the stage for future earning signs, which took me a few months to catch on to. And while I took issue with some of the things he said and did, and no matter what led to the final dissolution of this relationship, he was a good man. None of us are perfect, and I’m not making excuses, but I also acknowledge that I played my own role in not being the ideal girlfriend he needed.

He helped to heal me this particular weekend simply by allowing me the opportunity to experience confusing emotions and work through them.

He helped me to heal in many other ways, and I will forever be grateful. We helped in other, not just then, but throughout the course of our time together, and I have no regrets. It wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough to give me the realization that I am truly ready…for the right person.

My trip to San Diego taught me so much about myself and about being in a relationship with someone different from me. It taught me an extra layer of what I needed from someone—that it’s important for “my person” to have a playful side with me. That if I don’t feel completely comfortable with him beside me, it’s not the right person. That if his words—even if not meant in malice—feel more than sarcastic teases, then I cannot engage any longer.

But I’ll say this: I asked for an experience to help me learn more about being in a relationship, and the universe delivered. I’m just glad I finally had it delivered along with some actual romance.

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