This is for the woman who gets to be with him after me. For the woman who finds him as handsome as I did the first time I saw him at a crowded coffee-place on a sunny Monday afternoon. For the woman he chooses to be with after he heals from our destructive, intense love and its ravages on his heart and his thoughts. For the woman he laughs with, charming you using his stupid puns and jokes he’s very proud of. For the woman who has everything he is looking for in a partner. For the woman who is safe enough and warm enough that he decides to take a chance on you and opens up his damaged and exhausted and broken heart. For the woman he will seduce with his witty lines, his sarcastic comments that are bordering on cynical, his cinematic knowledge, his acute English, his beautiful and intricate tattoos, his dashing smile, and the mysterious attitude he uses to cover all the times he’s been in pain and has known heartbreak and disappointment. For the woman who will become enamored after hearing him play his guitar and hearing him sing the most beautiful and sad songs with a coy smile and a distant look in his eyes. For the woman who has all the luck in the world and gets his heart in all its broken and small pieces, and even luckier, has his last name.
This is what I have learned and this is how to love him properly, the way he deserves and the way he needs.
Listen to him. There will be many days when he will feel like everything just keeps piling up on him; he will tell you that he is exhausted, that it is too much. He will tell you about the breakthroughs he is having with his patients, about the water and electricity bills, which were surprisingly low this month. He will ramble on about his favorite show and its twists and turns. He will tell you how he met each one of his friends and their funny circumstances. He will hold a cigarette in his mouth and tell you about the problems he is having with his sister and his mother. He will call you when he is in the car, on his way to his second job or to meet a friend, and share with you how he spent too much money on a night out with his colleagues or the new patient he had that day and how much he loves his job. On the days when he sits back and puts his arm above his head or sits in the kitchen, smoking and telling you how hard times have been lately and what he is struggling with, no matter how hard he works, listen to him. Sit next to him and listen as he shares the most intimate details about his life with you. He will thank you for not chiming in with a story of your own or telling him it could be worse. He spends all day listening to others; he will need you to be the person who listens to him.
Laugh with him. His soul is filled with many romantic failures, family disappointments, inner personal conflicts, and monotonous daily routines that have worn it out. His professional responsibilities and financial pressures weigh on his thoughts constantly, so he doesn’t laugh as much, he doesn’t smile as much and has a hard time finding joy in the life that he leads. So, when you catch him smiling at you or when he remembers an amusing detail, smile with him. When he makes a pun, which tends to not be as funny as he thinks it is, humor him and laugh. When you find yourself laughing at a joke or a funny video or situation and you feel like your laugh is ridiculous, do it anyway. You may not find it attractive, but he will love you even more after hearing the weird noise you make. When you find something funny but he doesn’t, laugh anyway and enjoy your sense of humor, because he may not tell you in that instant, but he will remember what you like to laugh at and will bring it up when you need cheering up. Laugh with him every chance you get, because in his world that tends to be grey, the sound of his unfiltered, sweet laughter sound mixed with yours will be magical and he will cherish it deeply, even if he doesn’t tell you so. You will feel it in his warmth.
Take care of him. He is so used to everyone around him disappointing him or abandoning him that he has taken it upon himself to succeed without any help. He has gotten so used to doing everything by himself that he doesn’t like asking for help, even if it’s slowly killing him. He is so independent and gets easily offended at the thought of seeming weak, because on those rare occasions when he has been vulnerable enough to ask for any kind of assistance, it got thrown back in his face. So, it will take him a very long time to ask you for help, but do it before he asks you. When you have a spare moment and he hasn’t eaten yet, pick up some food for you to enjoy together or go to his apartment and make him a home cooked meal; he loves it. When you’re scrolling online and you find a helpful tip or a job offer he might be interested in, send it to him. When it’s late at night and you find him drifting off on the couch, cover him with a blanket and turn off the television. When you’re going over to his apartment for some quality time and remember he doesn’t have any snacks, make a pit stop at the nearest supermarket and pick up chocolate and candy; he loves snacking on sweets. He doesn’t ask for help even when he needs it; do it anyway. When you have the opportunity to help and take care of him, take it. Because he will be reassured; he will know that he has a partner, a real partner, and then, my god, he’s going to take such good care of you.
Understand him. Trust him. You should know that he trusts two people in his life. That’s it. He has been hurt so many times by people he considered family, people he would have done anything for. He has fallen with many bad crowds because he was confused about his path growing up. He has battled many addictions, which have led him close to the edge of death and left him with demons to fight every day. He is a man haunted by cruel words, empty promises, cold betrayals, and unmet emotional needs. He is decorated with colorful, deep scars and a mind that works against him with all sorts of intrusive thoughts. He leads his life with a silent but present confidence; he is the kind of man whose presence is felt as he enters a room, with all heads turning and women swooning. But remember this: it’s all an act. A great cinematic production.
The truth is, he doesn’t think he is good enough. He feels like he was dealt bad cards during his youth, which have kept him from loving who he is and what he can offer the world. He has made a lot of bad decisions, which have led him to adapt his life to the consequences. He constantly wonders if the choices he makes now are the right ones, because he doesn’t trust himself. His mind is filled with questions about what his life would have turned out to be like had he not made those decisions. He moves through his days with one step of confidence and three steps of uncertainty and anxiety. He questions everything and nothing. He is so guarded you can touch the barbed wire with your delicate fingers. He second guesses everything in his life—his outfits, how much money he spends, his friends, his chosen career, his accomplishments, the shampoo brand he uses, the road he takes to go to work. Everything except love. It will take him a very long time to trust you, to trust that you have good intentions, that you won’t break whatever is left of his heart. But when he takes a chance on you and slowly starts to let you in, trust him. Live and breathe with the belief that he will care about you more than anyone in the entire world. He will put your happiness and well-being above his. You won’t ever have to worry about him talking or flirting with other women because he knows what betrayal and suffering feels like. Trust him, because when he finds the opportunity to make you happy, he will take it. When you need him, no matter what the time is, he will be there. He will drop everything, no matter how tired he is, and come for you. Trust him. You can tell him anything, from random daily anecdotes to your deepest, most shameful secrets, he will never judge you or make you feel bad about them. He will do everything in his power to protect you and shield you from the ugliness of the real world. He will share with you all the times he almost died; remember to hold his hand, because he will be holding back tears as he tells you that he couldn’t even send a goodbye message to his mother during those times. He will be incredibly vulnerable with you. Trust that with every step he is going to take in life, he will take you and your well-being into consideration. His arms will be the safest place in the entire world. Take my word for it.
Take him to the moon. As smart and open-minded as he is, he has never been outside of his home country. He dreams of all the places he’s going to see once he can afford it. It was my dream to travel with him and watch as his face lit up with wonder and bliss to see the world. My heart filled up with happiness as I imagined what boarding the plane with him would be like, taking our seats and putting my head on his shoulder as the plane took off while feeling his hand buzz because he was so excited. I even had the tickets bought and saved for his birthday.
So, please, savor every moment you can with him. Take him to Italy first—he has always wanted to go to Rome. Take him to see the Colosseum; eat delicious pizza and pasta. He will tell you that he doesn’t like cheesy tourist pictures, but insist on taking them—trust me, he wants them too. Buy tickets for one of those big buses and enjoy seeing all aspects of the breathtaking sights Rome has to offer from your seats. Take him to Venice, ride the gondolas, and I hope you smile when you see him awkwardly sitting in that tiny seat. Get chocolate gelato, stroll around the city at night, and talk about life and how far you’ve come. Make sure to catch the look on his face—you will want to remember it forever. Seeing him so happy will be priceless. You will become so fond of that smile, that gleeful smile he will have during the entire trip as his head swings left and right, taking in all of the buildings, the people, the chatter, the music, and the lights. He will kiss you on your temple and thank you for experiencing everything with him.
Take him to Milan. He will love all the retail stores; he loves Italian brands, so let him buy all the three-piece suits his heart desires. He doesn’t splurge on himself much. He will ask you what you think of the colors and the outfits and how they look on him. Tell him he looks gorgeous and professional in each one of them.
He has always wanted to see Greece. Go to Athens first; he loves history and monuments. Take a ferry to Mykonos and Santorini, where you will ride donkeys, have lunches and dinners by the stunning hillside restaurants, stay at one of the fabulous island hotels where you will be blinded by the bright blue water and the towering view. He will want to take a million pictures; indulge him. He will look at them later when he’s on a break from work and wants to remember these magical times. You two will be sitting in the balcony, drinking some unknown Greek wine, and he will tell you that he is so excited to see the entire world with you. Plan as many trips as you can and let your hearts run as wild as possible. Show him the most beautiful places you can think of and make memories there.
To the woman who gets to love him and be loved by him: listen to him, laugh with him, take care of him, understand him, trust him. Most importantly, please, take him to the moon for me, okay?