I don’t believe that we only get only one love in our lives. In fact, I believe that if we are lucky, or unlucky depending on how you view it, we can end up having many loves throughout our life. I think that as we grow, and as our lives go in different directions, our ability to love and the kind of people we are able to fall in love with change along with us. I know this from experience, as I have already fallen in love several times. The fact that I can love often and easily, with total abandonment has not always served me well, especially when I haven’t allowed myself to recover from the loss of one love before moving on to another. At times the colors of our different relationships can run together, creating a murky mess. That’s precisely what ended up happening to me.
About 6 months after my ex-husband and I separated, as the holiday season was approaching, I took a long hard look at my situation and decided that it was time that I began to put myself out there again and start to pick up the pieces. It also helped that via the “divorce diet” I had lost all of my post-marriage comfort weight and was feeling pretty damn good about myself, physically at least (emotionally, I was a hot mess). It had been about 7 years since my last date and needless to say, dating had since changed drastically. I was faced with the reality that in order to meet someone, I was going to have to go online and join a dating website. I grudgingly created a couple of profiles. As Christmas vacation neared, I knew that spending a week alone in my house with nothing to do was probably going to result in me packing back on those pounds. I was determined to stay busy, come hell or high water.
I was reasonably skeptical going into the unknown charters of online dating. Who the hell were on these sites anyway? To my disbelief, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to meet seemingly normal men. Within a few days, I had lined up 4 dates for the week of my vacation. This was great! If nothing else, my mind would be preoccupied and I would get my feet wet. Well, maybe just dip my toe in. Either way, it was a good start.
My first 3 dates were interesting and helped me ease back into the dating game, if nothing else. But by the time my forth date rolled around, I was pretty over the whole thing. The novelty had worn off and the whole process of having to get ready to meet someone and make small talk was becoming annoyung. I was ready to just get this last date over with and go back to eating ice cream in front of the T.V. for the rest of my life. I realized that I pretty much knew nothing about this guy except for his name. I had been so consumed with my earlier dates that I hadn’t really thought much about him. However, he easily had the most attractive pictures.
The night I met Art, he texted me to let me know he was running a little late. I was slightly annoyed, and slightly nervous, but everything stopped the minute he walked through the door. It was literally like a scene out of a movie. Our eyes met, he smiled, my heart skipped a beat, and the chemistry in the air was palpable. I can’t tell you much about my first date with Art because dinner was a blur of easy conversation and not so subtle flirting. When dinner ended, Art walked me to my car. There wasn’t enough time for me to contemplate how to say my goodbye because before I could even look up he was grabbing me and kissing me. It was one of those perfect kisses where you silently thank god for creating a man who kisses perfectly, just like you. Kissing outside the car turned into kissing inside the car, which turned into him saying that he didn’t want the date to end…which turned into bar hopping until finally we had closed down the entire town. We finally said our goodbyes but not before he asked me out for the following night. I loved his complete disregard for game playing – he wanted me and he wasn’t afraid to make that very clear. I got home around 3 am with a smile on my face. As I went to sleep that night in my marital bed, I had hope for the first time in many years.
I’m not sure I had realized until that night how long it had been since I had felt truly desired by a man; how badly I needed attention and appreciation, all of which Art was able to provide in droves. The next few weeks consisted of date after date with this amazing man. It might have been our third or fourth date, when we were standing at a bar waiting for our drinks, that he leaned in next to me and whispered, “You’re going to be the love of my life.”
I don’t think at 32 years old, while in the middle of a divorce that left me broken (and childless), I was prepared to ever hear those words from anyone again. At that moment I could not believe how lucky I had gotten; how quickly I had found this ridiculously handsome and emotionally mature man who was ready and willing to be with me and who was not afraid of his feelings or of moving too fast. We “made it official” within three weeks.
I don’t know that any man has ever made me feel as loved as Art did. He was passionate and vocal about his feelings. He looked at me with a combination of love, lust, pride, and respect. There was no limit to how many times a day he would tell me how beautiful I was or how much he loved me. A less mature me would have been completely been turned off by his eagerness and his lack of “game” but the post-separation me needed to hear all of those things, like I needed air to breathe. We talked about the future, where I would move after I sold my house (I couldn’t move in with him because he lived too far away for my commute). We talked about marriage and children. Things got serious quickly.
That summer, while waiting to close on my new house, I packed up all of my things and moved in with Art. It had been a blissful and perfect 6 months, and I could not wait to wake up next to this man every day and go to sleep next to him every night. Unfortunately, that summer would be the beginning of the end.
That summer was stressful for many reasons. For one thing, there were many setbacks and glitches that kept pushing my house closing back. In addition, money was tight for me, as I had just spent my entire savings on a down payment, so aside from the necesseties, I had to watch my spending. To make matters worse, I wasn’t working that summer while Art was still working two jobs. Since I was staying at his house, I was in a pretty unfamiliar neighborhood with only one friend within a 20 mile radius. I spent most of my days either reading on the deck or watching TV in the bedroom, the only room in Art’s house where his cat (who I was highly allergic to) wasn’t allowed. Needless to say, this did not go over very well, as Art would get frustrated with the fact that I did nothing but lay around all day long. We would argue because I wasn’t really sure what he wanted me to do – I would go for walks, roam around Home Goods, meet him for lunch some days…but without extra money or friends available, activities were pretty limited for me. We ended up fighting a lot.
That summer is also when I began to realize that I was having doubts about our relationship. Looking back now, I can see that my relationship with Art probably never stood a chance, mostly because of its terrible timing. I wouldn’t admit it to myself then, but the entire time that I was with Art, I had one foot out the door. I was never “all in” the way he, and even I, thought I was. In retrospect, I was really not over the end of my marriage yet.
It probably didn’t help that I still was in constant communication with my ex. We had ended very amicably and he knew about Art, yet we still continued to speak and check in on one another on a pretty regular basis. This would continue for the next year, even after Art and I broke up. When my marriage ended, it was very emotional for my ex and me. We spent a lot of nights crying together and he would often say to me, “Never say never.” That was his famous line, as if to say that neither of us knew what the future could potentially hold for us. I would tell him that it was a ridiculous thing to say, I would never re-marry my ex-husband! His response – “Never say never.”
I didn’t realize it then, but those words were a constant source of wistfulness and hope, dangling just out of my reach during my entire relationship with Art. I remember always being happy when I saw his name pop up on my phone and finding reasons myself to reach out to him. I always held my breath waiting for him to tell me he was dating someone, and then would breathe a sigh of relief when he had nothing to tell me. During that summer our divorce papers came in the mail. I will never forget that day, opening the document with the judge’s stamp of approval that signified the end of my marriage. My ex called me that day and we cried on the phone together. To be fair, there was never any flirtation, or even mention of the “never say never” ideology, but in retrospect, I think I was still in disbelief about what my life had become.
At about the same time that I got my divorce papers, I signed the contract for my new house. I remember going to the house after getting the keys and walking around my strange new “home” and feeling overwhelmingly sad. I missed my old house and my old life.
I asked myself an important question that day: What would I do if my ex-husband called me and said he wanted to give things another try? The answer rang loud and clear:
I would run back to him and I wouldn’t think twice about it.
I pushed that answer as far out of my mind as possible and tried to pretend that it wasn’t there. To accept that would mean that I wasn’t fully invested in my new relationship, and that just wasn’t something that I was ready to face. I excused my knee-jerk response by telling myself that these were normal feelings to have because my marriage and my ex represented “safety,” “comfort,” and a feeling of “home.” I tried to ignore the fact that it’s probably unusual for people to think of their ex-husbands in those terms.
To be honest, I’m not sure I really would have run back to my ex. I think that would have been a really difficult decision to make if I had to make it. I know Art would have been a huge factor in my decision, and I cannot be 100% sure that I wouldn’t have chosen him. But it didn’t matter. The fact that I felt that way at all was a glaring sign that something was wrong.
Once I realized how I truly felt, there was no going back. I tried in vain to force my relationship to work. I had been through so much and I felt that I deserved this happiness. Except I wasn’t truly happy. It didn’t matter how amazing Art was in every way, and he was amazing, I was simply not in a place where I could truly appreciate the second chance I had been given. I hated myself for that.
In many ways I resent that I met Art when I did. I wondered if I had met the right guy at the completely wrong time. On one hand, he came into my life at a time when I really needed someone to give me faith in love again. But on the other hand, he came at a time when my wounds were still fresh and open, and no matter how much love and nurturing he had to offer me, I needed time to heal at my own pace. My relationship with Art was merely a bandaid, covering up the pain that I wasn’t ready to cope with.
I often wonder what could have been if I had met Art now. Have I painted a better picture in my mind of what our relationship actually was or could have been? If we met tomorrow, would we fall in love like we did back then, or was part of the reason why he loved me so much because I was so broken? Unfortunately that’s just one of a hundred questions that I will never have the answer to.