Yeah, most of us have been there. The unforgettable one night stands. The one(s) who got away. And if you’re really lucky, you’ve experienced what it is also like to be both.

But at some point, whether we want to admit it or not, we crave more–substance. As Joel explains, we all want to experience love–that real, unconditional love.

Recently, I met a man—let’s call him George. I used to wonder what on Earth he saw in me. But he validated me and called me hot. At the time, I’d been through some really rough short-term relationships that made me feel people weren’t to be trusted. So when I met this guy, I was a little affected by that. In his eyes, I was beautiful, but when it came to the inside, it didn’t match on my end.

I put him on a pedestal, which is what I do with most men. But when that ended, I realized I didn’t believe in the beautiful person inside of me. I wasn’t confident, didn’t believe in myself. And when that was done, I felt like that was it. In that moment I realized I’m 36 years old, and I’ve been doing the same thing for so many year,  but expecting a different result. I thought, “I have to find what I like in myself.”

I’d learned that you can’t be in a relationship with someone when you don’t even like yourself, so I worked on that. I stayed away from sex, other men, and anything that had to do with that kind of thing. I started to see a therapist, and I really did some soul-searching and rebuilding.

As hard as it was to hear that and see [that he was dating someone else], I made a choice: I wasn’t going to cover my hurt up by filling it with someone else—and I didn’t.

It took some time, but I began to realize that my life is amazing. I come from a small town in New Zealand, but I am respected by my peers around the world. I have a lot to offer. I used to compare myself to George–he’s successful, has the cars, clothes, etc. But I realized he was like me. He was more into the outside and not the inside.

A lot of the men that I have been attracted to have been like that. But he was a catalyst for helping me understand that I couldn’t keep going on like that. A couple of weeks after we broke up, I saw that he was seeing someone else. But as hard as it was to hear and see that, I made a choice: I wasn’t going to cover my hurt up by filling it with someone else—and I didn’t.

I feel like I’ve loved, but I don’t feel like I’ve ever been in love. It goes back to the whole vulnerable thing. I’ve never wanted to be vulnerable. I was talking to an old boyfriend who is from Croatia. When we met each other, we instantly liked one another. We were always around each other. But when I felt like he was getting too close, I just disappeared. I stopped texting, calling, etc. When we talked more about it, he pointed said that was what I always did when someone got too close. I’d run away. But now I want to change that.

I’ve never had it, but I really want love. Real unconditional love… I want to find that in someone that I’d like to share my life with, romantically.

I’m going on 37 and I want to actually connect with someone, so I’m weeding out the things that aren’t going to serve me. For example, on the day I saw my ex, there was this guy who had the perfect body like he was built for sex. He was Cuban and had a thick, muscular body. His junk was out for everyone to see.  When I  walked into the ocean, I remember thinking that there was no way in the world he would be interested in me. So, I was so happy to realize that he was.

But it didn’t take long for me to see that, despite that attraction, we lived different lives and wanted different things. He was a dancer, partied all the time, and was often high. I didn’t enjoy the nightlife and was looking for a committed relationship. So, I let that go in order for me to find the right person whose interests aligned with mine.

I’ve never had it, but I really want love. Real unconditional love. With my ex, we’ve become really good friends so I’ve experienced what that could feel like. For example,  there was this one time we drove from Miami to Key West. We rented a BMW convertible and we drove, listening to Sam Smith’s album.

Later, I got us tickets to Sam Smith’s concert when he came to Miami in July, and I told him that I’d love it if he came with me. He came and we really had a great time.  Despite our past, we’ve been connected ever since. Although our relationship is a friendship, it is unconditional. I want to experience the same thing with someone that I’d like to share my life with, romantically.