Bae Challenge: Herb's Thirty, Beautiful Days of Summer

I want to get this out of the way — Thirty Day Bae worked, but Christine and I still broke up.

That probably sounds contradictory. Isn’t the point of TDB to find someone to spend the rest of your life with? Isn’t it the hot, new way to meet someone? Isn’t true success measured by hearing the wedding bells toll?

Well, no.

Don’t get me wrong. When this whole thing started — and, yes, it really was a THING — I had these preconceived notions of what TDB needed to be swirling in my head. I thought that, like most reality TV shows, this would be a way for one to meet the love of your life, or at least someone you could date consistently afterward. I thought that this was the setup for something the larger. If it worked out with your TDB partner, then you’d be together forever.

What I learned, though, was that success for TDB didn’t mean finding your life partner. It didn’t mean finding someone to spend an eternity with. True success in TDB can be measured by something simple — did you learn anything? All of life is about learning. And true learning comes from experiences and happenstance. You can sit and pound your head into your books for hours and hours, but your trivia facts won’t amount to anything close to what you’ll learn by experiencing something and being there to interpret what it means.

TDB is about learning more about yourself, your interests, your wants, your displeasure — you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. You learn how to communicate with someone you might not normally talk to. You learn how to express yourself in an uncomfortable scenario with a dating coach. You learn how to put yourself in frustrating and complicated scenarios and then realize, oh, that’s not so bad.

TDB taught me all of those things. I learned how to communicate better. I learned how to talk about feelings, which has always been an issue because of Scorpio vibes. And I learned what it feels like when you’ve met the right one.

So I’m about to breakdown all of this information for you. I’ve broken down me and Christine’s relationship into four distinct periods — the beginning, the turn, the full embrace, the final stage. Hopefully, I’ll do a good enough job sharing what happened between us and why, though we succeeded, we chose not to be together.

The beginning — taking a chance

There was a lot about me and Christine that, on paper, didn’t work. Our political beliefs didn’t really match. Our religious beliefs were different. We have had different upbringings. We were both unfamiliar with the attitudes and cultures that we had both lived in. Our friend groups were wildly different. Just everything read wrong on paper. Any matchmaker might roll their eyes at what they say.

But we agreed to take a chance anyway. We went on a simple dinner date to get to know each other. We hit those hard topics fast. We jumped right into politics, religion and those uncomfortable subjects. If those were going to be the things that broke us, we would hit them head-on.

And it was fine. We didn’t mind it. We actually got along because we had those differences. We’d poke fun at each other over the different political beliefs. It helped us grasp this better understanding of each other from the get-go.

Knowing we were going to hit off, we jumped into the TDB experience. So, yeah, this was a little different than the traditional TDB since, ya know, we got to meet each other first. But given the vast differences between us, and the fact that we have unique public profiles we wanted to maintain, we decided to meet each other first so we would be sure it was something we wanted to do.

So we began TDB. It was a slow start. It felt like work. I don’t mean that like it felt laborious or taxing to meet up with her. But it was just another daily task on the checklist. OK. Let’s meet after work. Grab some Jamba Juice, talk, flirt, see what’s there, and then go home for the night.

The first week or two of TDB really tested my physical limits. We would hang out until about 10:30 to 11 p.m., on weeknights and weekends alike, and then I’d end up driving an hour or so back to my apartment, which meant I only mustered 4 to 5 hours a sleep a night during the week. During the first coaching session, we talked about the pitfalls, and I had mentioned to Christine that I was a little worried about the lack of sleep and having to keep driving. And I could sense — and this was later confirmed — there was a little emotional distance between us because of the literal distance between us. She agreed she’d come to visit me in my neck of the woods.

And that’s where things took “the turn.” Our relationship shifted — for both of us — around the same point. And it was the first sign to me that communication can be the key to any relationship. You just have to kiss fear goodbye and dive right in.

The turn

Christine drove out to my neck of the woods, South Jordan, for a hangout. We got some Swig, some Little Caesar’s pizza, and parked outside the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, where we played some fun get-to-know-you type games in the car. And then the next night, Christine hung out with a friend in West Jordan — surprising herself that I lived so close to one of her best friends. And after that, everything took a turn.

I don’t want to make it seem like, “Oh, she came to visit me so I felt better.” If you know me and my past relationships though, you wouldn’t be surprised if that WERE the case. Many of my previous relationships were sort of adamant that I meet them closer to where they lived in downtown Salt Lake City. No one wanted to venture out my way. It was too far. So I would make those 40-minute drives (1.5 hours both way) and take the risk on sketchy parking areas. 

Meeting someone who didn’t mind coming out my way changed everything for me. And it made me realize that Christine was willing to make a sacrifice to chill with me in my town. So that made me see we were both willing to sacrifice for each other — a worthwhile measure for a budding relationship.

And for Christine, (again, this is what I heard from her) it allowed her to put me closer to someone she knew, which, I believe, allowed us to connect better emotionally. We weren’t afraid to open up with each other anymore.

So began the full embrace of our relationship. It was during that weekend that we realized this wasn’t just going to be Thirty Day Friend. We had both made a change in our mindset. And we had both decided, subconsciously, that this was going to be a full-blown relationship, at least for the thirty days, and maybe even more.

The full embrace

Christine and I began to really hit our stride about halfway through TDB. Based on what I’ve read about the TDB experience, the midway point is where things either built or break. For us, we began to climb even higher than where we had been before. I used to compare it to being in a soccer tournament. You want to build and build and build, using your momentum to push through the tournament stages. We were following the same method. We continued to climb instead of regression backward.

We’d have our nightly phone calls or our brief lunch meetups. We would have inside jokes that none of our friends knew about. We’d go on long hikes through the canyons and then go back to her place and drink Apple Cider vinegar. We’d grab Chilis at every opportunity. We’d hilariously talk about the importance of hunting the boar back in the old days. We spent a night with her friends at an arcade and bowling alley (where I raised the question: why do we embrace bumper cars, which are essentially simulated car accidents?). We hit this stride where it was no longer awkward for us to spend time together. We wanted to see each other. We missed each other. But it wasn’t in the lovey-dovey high school obsessed teenager way. There would be a day where we wouldn’t talk to each other but then we’d connect later for a FaceTime message because we knew the other would be there.

My heart began to open up. I genuinely began to connect with her. We still remained guarded about some things from our past — since, you know, we had only known each for less than a month. But when we were together, we were together. We embraced every moment together to the fullest. We talked about politics, the people we knew, the experiences we had. We talked about the TDB experience and how different it was. To be truthful, we talked about our relationship probably more than we talked about anything else.

Looking back now, days 15 to 25 or so feel like a blur because they were. It reminds me of meeting someone at summer camp. You’re awkward at first, you don’t know how to handle it, but then things take a turn and then you become a couple of summer camp. You care for each other, you embrace each other, and you fully accept that this is how your summer will be.

But like those summer camp relationships … nothing lasts forever.

The final stage

TDB gave us a deadline. We knew it was coming. We knew we only had to follow the program for thirty days. But we could always take it longer if we wanted to. You always have that option. But neither of us owed the other anything. We didn’t have to take it past day thirty if we really didn’t see it going anywhere.

When we reached day twenty-seven, we had The Talk. Sitting outside during lunch, the sun blazing on us, sweat trickling down our temples. And we openly chatted about what we wanted to do. We agreed that we enjoyed our Baeship, and that we were having such a good time embracing each other. We thought the relationship was working on multiple fronts — so good, in fact, we finished coaching a week early. All signs were pointing upward. We knew things would be different afterward, but we decided to jump right in and keep this relationship going.

I’ll go back to the summer camp example. You know the final day of camp is right around the corner. You agree with your partner that you’ll stay together once the camp’s over.

But time comes for us all.

Our final date was where TDB began. For you TDB fans, you’ll be aware that the first TDB ever happened at the Scheel’s in Sandy. So we had our date there. We walked around, we sat on the Ferris wheel — which, I swear, got stuck right when we were at the top on purpose — and we chatted about our relationship and how we planned to keep it going. We grabbed some Diet Cokes from McDonald’’s, chatted with Christine’s friends over Marco Polo, and just had one fun, chill night together.

For me, this night wasn’t goodbye. It was just another night, really.

Looking back, maybe I should have approached it with more finality. Any of us would. But we never knew when the night will be the last night. We never know when the end is the end.

We said goodbye to each other, hugging tightly as the sun faded in the western mountains. We drove off separately, not knowing that things would never be the same.

The decision 

On the first day after thirty-day bae, I made a choice. I would let Christine have a little space. It reminded me of when you spend a weekend with friends camping in the woods. When you get home, it’s not like you overwhelmingly want to spend time with that person. We had seen each other for thirty days straight. We deserved a break from each other.

We finished TDB on a Wednesday. So Thursday, we might have chatted here or there. We didn’t talk about hanging out over the weekend. We just wanted to let it be.

Thursday rolled into Friday, Friday rolled into Saturday, Saturday rolled into Sunday and then…

It wasn’t working. Our relationship wasn’t what we thought it would be. Or, at the moment when we decided to stay together, we considered our relationship to be one thing but it wasn’t like that at all.

We weren’t going to make it.

Christine wanted to talk, so we agreed to grab lunch. I quickly agreed because I knew where this was going, and I wanted to talk about this stuff as well. We just needed to meet up and talk about where we were. And so we did. As we had done throughout our entire Baeship, we talked about our feelings. We opened up about what we felt, where we were emotionally and where we were going to go next.

Our relationship hadn’t been working in the days after TDB. We didn’t feel the urge to talk after it ended. To me, that was a big sign that we shouldn’t be together. When you truly want to be with someone, you’ll be with them — regardless if you’ve seen them for the last thirty days.

I can’t say one thing that broke us apart. Maybe the TDB experience manifested these false emotions. Maybe we fell too deeply into the Baeship, and didn’t focus on if we were building a relationship. Maybe the deadlines hurt us. Or maybe, when we no longer needed to see each other, the differences between us became too strong to handle.

Regardless of what happened to us, we agreed we had completed TDB and had won. We had learned enough about ourselves, our dating habits and what we looked for in a partner that the relationship became a success.

It was such a good experience that I believe all couples should try it. All couples should experiment with the TDB. You learn about your partner, you learn a lot about yourself, and you learn a lot about what truly matters to you when you’re dating.

It’s not for everyone, of course. But you’ll grow. You’ll learn, you’ll grow and you’ll expand your horizons as you follow the TDB path.

I don’t look back at my relationship with Christine negatively. It was what it was, and it ended on our terms. We didn’t let the quietness last too long. We knew there was a problem, so we talked about it, and ended it there. Simple. Easy.

As for the future, it’s hard to say. But it’s hard for me to ever think about forgetting Christine and everything she taught me. Aside from her conservative values, she taught me a lot about communicating and letting a relationship unfold naturally. She taught me a lot about always being available for your partner, and how one sacrifice or one little moment can change everything for you.

I’ll never forget Christine. And I’ll never forget those thirty, beautiful days of summer.


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