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L.A. Affairs: Keeping my boyfriend a secret was the secret all along

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I saw a quote on Instagram that summed it up: “Things to keep private: your income, your love life and your next move.”
(Roderick Mills / For The Times)

Dating was one of my weakest strengths. You name it, I would try it. Match.com. OKCupid. Grindr. Jack’d.

I also met plenty of men organically, starting with Nick. We saw each other from across the room at the Rockwell in Los Feliz. No doubt there was an immediate connection — we were having major eye sex. Finally, he introduced himself. We talked all night and exchanged phone numbers, and I drove him back to his car. And I had my first ever kiss, with him. I was over the moon. I met a man that I liked.

The next day, I called my closest friends and told them the news. I even called my aunt, whom I’m close to. After four dates with Nick, we added each other on Facebook. (It’s official when you’re Facebook friends, right? Not yet “In a Relationship” close, but close enough to get to that next level.)

Then Nick took a trip to Canada and when he returned I noticed a change immediately. He wasn’t texting me as much. Right before Christmas, he called and said he wanted to see me, and talk. I knew this was not good.

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He came over and told me he was having second thoughts about us. And then he left, just like that. I cried. I was embarrassed and devastated. (I had ordered him a custom photo album, engraved with his name, as a holiday gift. He was obsessed with photos of his car collection, so I thought this would be the perfect gift.)

I had never experienced what a real breakup felt like before. I called my closest friends and aunt, in tears.

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After Nick came Michael. I was at a holiday party with one of my friends, who invited me as a way to cheer me up after the breakup. During some down time at the party, I turned to the Grindr app to browse for a few minutes and up came a message from a handsome man close to my age.

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Michael and I exchanged several text messages and photos — not X-rated! I thought to myself, “Nick who?” Later, we had our first date. He picked me up at my home in Pasadena and we dined at Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana restaurant near Old Town. I felt very timid, sitting in front of a man who I thought was too good-looking to be with someone like me.

Michael acted like a true gentleman, though. Immediately responded to my text messages. Every time we went out, he always made me feel like I was the only person in the room. He always had flowers for me.

But then came another noticeable change in communication. Actually, he just disappeared. No response to calls or texts, no nothing. He wasn’t on social media, either, so I had no way to stalk him there to find out what happened. (I later found out he was in a relationship. Yep, I was the guy on the side.)

Once again, I was stuck explaining to my close friends and aunt that I was played. Embarrassing.

Next, I met Brandon, on OKCupid. He was an avid hiker and meditator and lived near wine country. He was recently divorced from a woman and had two daughters. In our first phone conversation, we chatted for hours. I immediately felt a connection. And yes, I gave my friends and aunt the “OMG I met a guy” speech. Again.

For our first date, Brandon — who had his own plane — flew down to see me. We walked around Echo Park Lake, paddle boated. Brandon was newly out and had never been with a guy before, so it was all new territory for him. The following morning, I drove him back to the airport for his flight home. (Yes, he spent the night at my house!)

The following week? Brandon called to say he wanted to “explore” being gay and see what’s out there before settling down.

Great. Another failed romance. I’d even posted a photo of us on Echo Park Lake. So I had to take that down and explain to everyone once again that it was all over.

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I did have to thank Brandon, though, for introducing me to meditating. Which I now do almost every day. After Brandon, I decided I needed to go on a spiritual journey of sorts.

I was insecure and feeling unworthy after all of these failed relationships that marked my 20s. I went on a summer trip to Greece, where I did a lot of meditating and reflecting. Somewhere between Santorini and Mykonos, I came to the realization that I should pause the dating for a bit. And that I should stop telling everyone my personal business, and keep it all to myself.

The more I shared, the more follow-up questions I got, and the more pressure I felt to make a relationship “work.” I despised these follow-ups more than the actual breakups in some cases. And let’s face it, most relationships fail.

I saw a quote on Instagram that summed it up: “Things to keep private: your income, your love life and your next move.”

I intuitively understood this on some level. I kept my income private. And certainly my next move in my professional life. But I’d never learned to keep my love life private.

It was time to self-reflect and self-correct.

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A few months later, I was keeping my focus on my design projects, and some upcoming travel to Mexico and Asia. And I definitely wasn’t dating. But I still had the OKCupid app installed on my smartphone. And up popped a message from a guy named Lucas. I waited a few days before responding. Lucas was handsome, but I was so over dating at that point that I just kept it to some light conversation.

After I returned from Mexico, Lucas asked me for my cell number. We started texting. As we got to know each other better, we made plans to meet in person at L.A. Live for dinner and drinks. But I forced myself to Slow. It. Down. and not get too attached.

So, I played it casual and dropped all the expectations that I had carried into previous relationships.

And, this time, I said not a word to anyone.

Soon, I was heading back out of town again, this time for a month traveling all over Asia. I figured Lucas would be long gone before I returned.

But while I was in Asia, Lucas regularly messaged me to see how I was doing, and how my trip was going. He wanted to see photos from my sightseeing.

And when I returned, he asked when he could see me again. He knew I enjoyed hiking, so he suggested we go on a hike on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I still hadn’t told anyone about Lucas, not even my best friend. Not even my aunt.

In fact, I waited until after our 10th date before telling anyone about him. By keeping it under wraps, I was able to just date Lucas and focus on getting to know him. No outside distractions. Just him and me.

It’s been over a year and a half that we’ve been together. I’m so grateful for the moments I’ve had with him and his wonderful 11-year-old daughter. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s something I just never imagined would happen for me.

He was a secret worth keeping.

The author is an interior designer and is on Instagram @ruben_marquez

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published, and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find subscription guidelines here.


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