Mike Zacchio is a romantic.
When he was using dating apps, after he matched with a girl he started talking to her and they made plans for Friday night. He asked the girl for her address so he could pick the girl her up from her apartment. That offer did not go so well. It was later that he realized that the culture of online dating was very different from the one I was raised at. Later on, he realized that that kind of request might have made the girl uncomfortable.
Even though he has grown up and lived in New York he feels, “that I've been born in the wrong generation. I should have been born like in 1940, or something like that -- kind of growing up in like the Grease era. So, [when I was going through this]…I realized I’m not made for this culture.”
Zacchio is currently a sports journalist. He grew up always wanting to be a sports broadcaster. On the side, he has always been interested in what makes relationships work and has also written some pieces about relationships on Thought Catalog. I sat down with him to talk through how he met his current girlfriend and his history of relationships.
“I've always been someone that loved hard or that cared very hard. That’s just who I was by nature. I’m 30 now, but especially growing up, the level of interest that I would show to some girls in my early 20s, [from their perspective] it would seem like, ‘Whoa, this is this is a lot.’ I was just raised kind of old school – I was raised to pick a girl up like on the first date, to drive to her place on the first date, to walk to her to her door, to open doors for her; that's just how I was raised.”
“I always told myself, you know what, I'm just going to be myself on here and If I meet the right girl on dating app, it's going to be because I'm being genuine and sincere. I'm not trying to trick her into dating me. And that's why I think there's a misconception with everyone that you have to present this certain version of yourself. I'm like, ‘I don’t want to present a version of myself. I want to present myself.’ So if myself is a goofball, my profile is going to reflect that of a goofball. I'm not going to try to be some slick, suave , really cool guy because I'm not a slick, suave, really cool guy. I'm a geek, and I'm a goofball. That's just who I am.”
“Thankfully, I found someone who's just as much of a goofball as I am and who appreciates me being a goofball. I never had to trick her into liking me. I never had to put on a facade of some kind,” he added.
What I’m trying to figure out, and what I think a lot of guys struggle with is, how to be authentic and romantic without being needy? I asked him and he admits, “I struggled with it my entire life up until I met my girlfriend. I've always been someone who is willing to put in the work and put in the effort, and I feel like that comes off as "thirsty" to a lot of girls -- especially when you're in your late teens and 20s,” he said.
“That said, I think a lot of it has to do with analyzing the optics of the situation. What is the level of reciprocated interest? I fawned over a girl who did not want anything serious -- or at the very least did not want anything serious with me. If I had taken a step (or more than a few) back and given her space, maybe things would have turned out differently. I was beyond needy, and I was too infatuated to see it in the moment. I remember hating the way I was thinking and behaving, but struggling to correct it. It eventually took my best friend giving me a kick in the ass to wake me up. To this day I really want to apologize to her for the way I acted back then. She didn't deserve to be love-bombed like that, and she was actually more than kind in the way she handled it when she didn't have to be,” he said.
“After that experience, I tried to monitor my behavior more when it came to dating. I do think a lot of it has to do with how the other person feels and perceives you, though. While that girl from my past wanted nothing to do with the person I was, my girlfriend now probably would have loved him. If I had been a more laid back and chill kind of guy, that girl from my past probably would've been more interested, but my girlfriend now probably would not feel the same way she does about me. In the end, everything worked out for the best,” he said.
“I think being authentic comes from sticking to your core values and truths. Using the previous anecdote as an example, I've always been a naturally romantic person and that was never going to change; but I had to change my mindset and behavior when it came to dating.”
“I needed to listen more -- both to the person I was seeing and to my own intuition -- and it was something I worked on to improve as a potential partner. I needed to let things unfold naturally instead of feeling like I had to make things happen. I always believed in handwritten notes, grand gestures and trying to make my partner feel like she was dating a character out of a romantic-comedy; but I had to learn and accept that life isn't a movie and that things do not unfold the way they do on the big screen. It sounds silly now, but I think it shows a change that needed to be made.”
The Evolution of Fatherhood
When he was 21, Zacchio dated a single mother. We talked about how that shaped his view of fatherhood.
“I was 21 to 22, somewhere around there. And I saw more growth in myself just in those two years than I did in the previous 20 years combined. I've always felt mentally mature, but this experience made me realize that in other ways I was also very immature in life,” he said.
That (experience) definitely wakes you up to things. Because I was in college, and I'm working three or four jobs, and I have a girlfriend, and I essentially have a child and now you're waking up early with the baby. You're learning how to change diapers, you're learning all these different things that you never really thought that you'd have to deal with at 21 years old,” he said.
It also taught me a lot. I always thought I never wanted a daughter. I don't know why, I just had that feeling that I wanted to have a boy. And then having gone through that experience, now it's the complete opposite. Now if I have a kid, I want to have a girl first. It's one thing to have a girl and a boy-- I think that's ideal -- but I definitely want a girl.”
“What made you come around,” I asked him: “I think she was she was a very good baby. And maybe it's like the cliche, you know, like the daddy's girl thing.”
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“Before I met my current girlfriend, I was dating someone that I thought was really, really promising and it just kind of ended out of nowhere. And before her I was dating someone that was also very promising and it just kind of ended out of nowhere too.”
I asked if there were no signs beforehand. Zacchio said he felt some distance growing in both relationships before they ended. In one, it was little things like their feet not touching in bed anymore.
“ Going into the situation with my current girlfriend, when we first met I just wasn't in the headspace to date anybodyand I was very upfront and honest about that. I told her, “Look, I just got out of back-to-back relationships.”
What helped you process the breakups?
“I wrote a lot. I was writing poetry -- some of that I posted, some I just wrote on my phone -- and at one point I was writing posts weekly. I would never use names, but I would just write about my experiences. Sometimes I would write about what actually happened to me, and sometimes it would be an exaggerated version just to relate to more people.”
The general themes were, “I’m just hurting right now,” and Zacchio said he always believed that people don't necessarily want to read heartbreak.”They don't want to read sad stuff,” he said. “They want to read the mushy love poems and the stories about finding love. They don't necessarily want to read about how my life sucks right now or about how I think I'm going to die alone.”
How did you know it was different this time?
“I don't want this to sound narcissistic, but we're very much alike and I see a lot of myself in her,” he said. “For some people, they need opposites to attract. If I'm a high-energy goofball, I might be into someone who is very serious and focused so we can balance each other out. Whereas me, I'm a goofballand I need a goofball. I need someone who I can have fun with, and who I can joke around with. And I think our communication is exceptional -- there is literally nothing we can't talk about. She knows all about my dating history.”
“Ironically, she actually read a bunch of my Thought Catalog articles before she even knew who I was. So a couple pieces I wrote went viraland she stumbled upon them. And then, reading through them again when we start talking, she said, ‘I've definitely read this before. I just never knew that that was you.’”
“It's easy with her,and there's nothing that's complicated. We never fight because there's nothing that we can't talk about. We never even really had a disagreement on anything. All my friends tell me, ’You're in the honeymoon phase.’ Well, you know, we're getting close to a year now. But I also I analyze a lot of relationships, and I don't ever think that length is a significant factor in a relationship or it defines the substance of relationship. I’ve known people who were together five years and they had horrible communication skills and they're always fighting. And On social media, they'll post all lovey dovey photos, but when I see them, they’re always arguing in public. Whereas I think that what you see with us is what you get,” he said.
“This is reaffirmed when people see us and say to me ‘I wish we had what you had because it's so obvious how much you two love each other,’” he said. “My family sees it, our friends see it, her family sees it,and it just kind of confirms that this isn't all just in my head. I don't have to fear that this is going to explode and crash and burn in my face. It's everything that I thought love should be, and it's everything that I've ever wanted in a relationship,and that's what we have. I always say, ‘Strive for a relationship that would make you envious,’ and if I saw us out, I'd think to myself, ‘I really want what they have.’ That's what tells me that this is a real deal.”