Let’s take a moment to summarize what I’ve just experienced: I was dating a man with whom I seemed so well matched that I thought the heavens had opened up, the angels had sung “alleluia” and my dreams were finally about to be realized. The people who knew me best loved him as a match for me. He had asked me to be in a relationship with him. Nine days later, he made a unilateral decision to exit. No fights. No problems. No warning.
Things weren’t perfect; no relationship can be that. But they’d been really, really good. Better than I’d ever imagined possible. We seemed aligned socially, politically, in terms of interests, values and perspectives on money, parenting and more… I thought I’d met a kindred spirit.
In my relationships since the divorce, I’ve always felt as though I was looking over my current date or boyfriend’s shoulder, seeking out the guy who was a better match, the one who was truly meant for me. (As you know if you’ve read here, I don’t really believe in the “one.”) I also know this says more about me than any of the men I’ve dated. But I never looked over Lee’s shoulder. I looked at him and accepted completely everything I saw.
Anything I would have wanted to be different was minor or superficial… like that he had a Thomas Kinkade painting and liked Coldplay, his wardrobe needed some urbanification, he brought me Modelo Especial when I’d asked for Negra Modelo, I wouldn’t have picked him out as my physical type, and his lovemaking skills were exactly as you’d expect for someone who’d been in a lukewarm marriage for more than two decades. (Don’t get me wrong — the sex was satisfying, just not mind-blowing…well, there was that one time!)
I am, if anything, too understanding in my relationships. I have lived divorce from every angle — from being the kid caught in the middle, to the selfish 20-something telling my father not to date anyone with younger children because I didn’t want step-siblings, to a woman who had to make the very difficult decision to leave my own marriage. So I would have understood if Lee had come to me and had a conversation about however he was feeling and whatever forces were in play that caused him to feel he needed to dial things back, take some time, renegotiate our relationship, whatever… But he didn’t. And, while I wanted to believe he’d come back after a few weeks, that he simply texted me with virtually no explanation left me feeling gutted… and fairly certain I’d just been dumped.
Imagine, if you will, that you’re lying in the sun. It’s actually coolish out, but the sun’s heat is so powerful that you feel an intense warmth. And then a giant cloud obscures it and suddenly you’re freezing! That was my life — I had felt as though the sun was always shining for the time Lee and I had been together; suddenly, the stark reality of midwestern winter hit me and life was cold and bleak. Don’t get me wrong — I am strong, empowered and smart enough to know that I am solely responsible for my happiness. I was neither needy nor desperate; not before, during or after our relationship. Still. I soon found myself tripling the dosage of my dopamine enhancer and contemplating therapy to cope with this abrupt, dizzying change in status.
Somehow I suspect he thought he was doing me a favor by ripping the band-aid off, but the cowardly approach is never one I appreciate.
Here is what I hoped would happen: I hoped he’d finalize his divorce, visit his children (who live out of state), then call me one night from the airport telling me everything was complete and that, more than anything else in the world, he wanted to come home to me. (I know; I am remarkably good at this romantic fantasy bullshit.) But weeks later, he hadn’t reached out so much as once to tell me he’d missed me…or anything. I was so confused, hurt, angry, grateful, resigned, and so much more…all at once.
Grateful because I’d experienced something magical, wonderful, practically otherworldly… this was entirely next-level relationship material. I’d been given at least a taste. I know some people never get that.
Angry for the way he’d behaved — for pulling the proverbial rug out from under me; for saying all the wonderful things he’d said and doing all the wonderful things he did and then abruptly leaving; for asking me to be in a relationship and then turning away from, rather than toward, me when he got overwhelmed.
And angry for what seemed like a cruel cosmic joke: I’d spent five years searching for love and had finally found something that seemed real and true and like it might have staying power; he’d spent three months, found someone awesome and, not realizing how rare and special it was, let it go. Just like that.
Don’t get me wrong: we’d known each other less than three months. By no means was I ready to leap to some conclusion that Lee would be in my life ’til death do us part. (And I sure as hell wasn’t going to commit to someone who hadn’t even managed to go down on me in our nearly two months of sleeping together!) But we were in a really amazing relationship that I believed had more potential than any other I’d been in before — and I thought we’d be in it until we discovered that we weren’t right for one another.
Who knows? Maybe he did…