Reasons Why I’m Not Sorry to Celebrate The Road of Romance Not Taken

Woman Faces A Fork in the Road

Src: lawandborder.com

In the three years that the Warrior Poet and I have been together, there has only been one major pothole in the road of our romance that was disastrous enough to potentially split our bond forever. In hindsight, this heart-wrenching rift only lasted approximately a month. Yet there was tremendous risk that bullish stubbornness—after the shock and hurt of rash words and actions—would have kept us from ever finding our way back to each other. Another path, another person, had appeared on the horizon in the interim and could have been pursued further. If I had, we wouldn’t be entering this next, exciting chapter in our relationship—in my life—that we are now: A new leg of the journey that brings us to a whole new level of abundant lifestyle, focus and commitment to each other. Thus, there are so many reasons why I’m not sorry to celebrate the road of romance not taken.

I watched that other path, that other person, recently enter a riveting, new chapter in a relationship he eventually found after I called things off and chose to give WP an honest, second chance. If I were a decade younger with fewer relationships behind my belt, if there were no WP, perhaps I would have leaped into dating Path Not Taken. Maybe I would have been blind to the red flags of emotional immaturity and insecurity, instead focusing on the fun and playfulness of being two kids hanging around. However, time and experience have made me wiser.

I’d already dated the playmate, confusing an affectionate buddy for a long-term, loving companion. I’d endlessly tread the waters of dating a Peter Pan afraid of making real commitments and “growing up.” I learned the hard way that nothing I would say or do would change transform him from a boy into a man. I’d been the light and guide for the lost bull in a china shop, looking for someone to show him the way back to himself. I was left emotionally (and financially) depleted and feeling lost myself after all that giving with little in return.

Why would I deliberately choose to go through all that again with Path Not Taken when the door re-opened to the emotionally open man whose own life experiences led him along the same path I was on as well? This was the man who loved with both passion and tenderness that I returned in full-force, and who was playmate, best friend, cheerleader, dream-builder and lifelong companion all rolled up into one.

When I shared the recent news of Path Not Taken with my mother the other day, she said, “I’m so glad you made the right choice.”

A Dancing Couple

src: blog.findable.in

I too am overjoyed that I followed my heart to a path that left no room for what-ifs or regrets. I feel extremely grateful that I made the best decision for me (and WP), which in turn allowed Path Not Taken to also have the opportunity to find and fully grab hold of someone with whom he was eager to build a life.

The Path Not Taken and his lady share a passion for travel, fitness, style, cars, coffee and desserts. Like him, she is extremely playful and childlike; in photos, she constantly sticks her tongue out or crosses her eyes. She seems to be the perfectly playful partner to inspire him to take the big leaps in life. I find myself both extremely happy and excited for him and the adventures ahead as they move across the country to live in an area I know he’ll really love. Whatever lies on the path ahead for him and his lady, he too must be celebrating the road of romance he found instead.

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Rediscovering the Hidden Gems in My Closet of Love

It breaks my heart that my morning pages a.k.a my diary for years has been obliterated by an OS meltdown, but maybe I needed a complete emotional reboot as well. V-Man’s been telling me for years that I needed to clear out my garbage, and he was right. Of course, he meant my literal garbage, all those old clothes, old papers, mail that doesn’t need to be kept, literal junk I hold onto for nostalgia’s sake or because I just hate to throw away perfectly good stuff that is perfectly not right for me anymore. More and more, I realize how much that holds true for my emotional life as well.

I also am recognizing how there are some hidden gems in my closet that I complete forgot I had, or that I had become blinded to as gems, for whatever reasons, and so I allowed all the clutter to block my vision of their true worth. It’s ironic that the person who’s been trying to point this hoarding flaw of mine out to me again and again is also the one that I’ve overlooked the most as the greatest gem in my life, though his radiance keeps glimmering in my heart again and again.

After two years of dating, I buckled under pressure. My best friend was a newlywed. She and her husband, despite their marital and financial strife were pushing for having a baby very shortly. Her husband was nearly a decade younger than my boyfriend. She told me, in her blunt way, that after two years together, the V-Man needed to “shit or get off the pot.”

I knew I didn’t want to be like my boyfriend’s news anchor co-workers having their first babies at age 40. I was an arthritic 30-year-old with an autoimmune disease who worried that every passing year was stealing another year of active opportunity to be the hands-on, athletic mom I had always dreamed of being with my kids. I also was aware of the increased risks I would face over the age of 35, even as a healthy mother, so who knew what I was in store for already as a high-risk pregnancy?

I felt the pressure. I watched the vast majority of my friends starting families. I wondered when my adult life was going to move forward to that stage as well. In other words, I made it quite clear to my boyfriend that, after 2 years together, I wanted to know if V-Man was even thinking things like, “I might want to be with this woman for the unforeseeable future, possible marry her, and maybe even have kids together.”

We had some ambiguous talks. He said, “Oh you have five years, no rush then right?” in the cavalier way of a guy with no understanding of my concerns.

He didn’t understand that was only one of the reasons I broke things off. His obsession with house remodeling and yard work to the point of having no other life but that bothered me. I had no problem yanking down a tree or holding up sheetrock for a ceiling every now and then, but when we only did fun things together like go hiking or go the New York City for the day once every six months. The rest of the time I felt like he had me on for free labor.

The sex wasn’t even awesome half the time when we had the energy to do it. I was still ridiculously attracted to him, but the connection was disconnected from emotion so often. I felt we had reached a stale mate. He’d spent time with my family on numerous holidays. I’d never met his mom who lived less than 10 minutes from the house. I thought he was ashamed of his (violently at times) autistic brother. The majority of the kids I work with these days are autistic. I lived at his house 3-4 days out of the week, which meant I lived out of my car shuttling between his house and my place. He innocently said I could move in up to 4-5 if I wanted to.

I thought he was ashamed of me. I thought I wasn’t high maintenance enough for a man who worked in the TV news industry. He claimed to hate that type of woman, but he was attracted superficially to those looks of course. I never got my nails done. I yes, sometimes dressed like I was 40, when appropriate., though I tried to look sexy and hot for him when appropriate (but I wasn’t wearing mini skirt and heels when we were digging dirt in the backyard, thanks). I thought maybe I wasn’t ambitious enough for him. My book wasn’t published (or completed) yet.  The company for which I was COO flopped miserably (though to no fault on mine). I had three different master’s degrees I  genuinely planned to pursue. I thought, to him I surely was a basket case.

So I broke up with him. He didn’t want what I wanted. The idea of a future with me, while he sometimes thought about it, scared him, “because it was so grown up,”—yes, coming from a then 36-year-old. I wanted to know more about him and where he came from, but he didn’t see why meeting his mom mattered. So it went.

The next year and a half without him was a mess. I had an immediate head-over-heels fling with Harlequin Hero. He stomped my heart. I quickly tried to date someone else as rebound—he was completely wrong for me, though a nice guy, an odd fellow. Dated another way too intense for me guy for several months. Finally had the guts to end it. Had a friends with benefits period. V-Man surprisingly came to this show we went to and immediately ignored him and flirted with me like FWB didn’t exist. In that moment, the only one who cared, who mattered, who made me grin, made my heart thump-thump was V-Man.

The next guy who I really did try to make matter was in love with his ex for the first few months as well. But then he fell deeply for me—in his selfish way.  Still fairly early on, when the infatuation and lust was still high and I was heady with his musical talent, he and I went to an open mic to perform individually. Guess who showed up? V-Man. Even seeing the affection I showed Music Man, V-Man said hey, then turned his body and talked to me the entire night. This time he said, the only reason we weren’t together was because of me. That I and my parents had misconceptions about him because of half-truths or straight out lies I had told them about him. I was so confused and wanted to explore this theory, but not there, not then.

Music Man saw the obvious chemistry and was incredibly jealous to see that someone else could make me come alive like that, flirtatious, laughing, and it wasn’t him. I should have followed my heart and ended things then, Music Man wondered if we should as well, but we both stubbornly decided to give it another go.  It was the second New Year’s V-Man wanted to spend with me, and it was the second one I severely let him down. I should have been there at least one of those years, if I had only trusted myself!

Despite our non-couple status, last year, he saw Coldplay with me, Living Colour for the second year in a row with me, saw the Riverfest fireworks for the third time with me, continued to build memories that are part of my tradition with him that I never wanted to just give up. So when I got so sick this January, the first person I sought comfort from besides my parents and my best friend M was V-Man. He hates hospitals, doctors, blood, you name it. But when he heard what I was going through, he got his butt to my hospital room  and stayed for hours. He held my hand, learned what to do during my seizure-like episodes, and talked to my parents to find out what was going on and get angry on my behalf about.

When I got out of the hospital, my musically gigging “boyfriend” was too ashamed to take me to his first solo big gigs. V-Man was proud to take me out to see some interesting shows that I wanted to see. He came to the house and sat with me, holding me even when the whole family was right by my side. He held conversations and played with the little nephew. He didn’t treat me like an invalid. He joked as always. He even found me sexy still. After I broke up with the boyfriend who wasn’t, V-Man started taking me out for little day trips to his house for a change of pace, to keep him company and to keep me company. We realized the chemistry was still very much alive. He reminded me that he still found me irresistible even doing the most mundane things in not even the sexiest get-ups.

I basically asked him, “What’s going on between us?”

He deflected, as usual. “Let’s wait to have this discussion until you’re better. I’m not going anywhere.”

Surprisingly, he wasn’t. He hasn’t. He’s made more efforts to bring me over. One weekend here. A day visit there to help him pick out appliances and paint color. One dinner out there. This weekend I owed him a repair of the curtains my cat messed up the last time V-Man cat-sit for him, plus he wanted my help pulling down a tree and tying up some tree branch bundles. I initially asked him if I could bribe him to take me to the shore this past Friday. He said, yes, if he’ll get some help in return, then asking which bikini I might be wearing. Wanting to have time for both fun (beach state park) and the work, he thought an early start would be best so invited me to spend the night prior as well. I thought about for a half second before knowing that’s what I deep-down wanted to do.

We went to Rocky Neck State Park. It was incredibly hot and sunny. We found cool in the shade of the forest trails surrounding the area. There was an incredibly impressive stone arboretum with tree furniture inside. We walked along the stone cliffs down to the four-mile-river leading out to the Long Island Shore. Finally, when we couldn’t resist anymore, we dipped our legs in the warm water. It was peaceful and enjoyable and I loved how he’d always reach down or up for me on the steep inclines to  make sure I was steady.

When we came back to the house, we decided it was far too hot to do yard-work. So we made dinner together. We watched some Friday night TV. Saturday we set to work. Later we went clothes shopping (wound up with shoes for both), and then grabbed dinner. On my way home Sunday morning, we finally talked, meaning I asked the questions I was afraid to ask and encouraged him not to weasel out of them with humor or deflection.

Did my illness scare him? He hated seeing me sick. He wanted doctors to find a way to get me better. But me being sick was not a deal-breaker or a problem at all even. I asked if my idea of a future scared him. Again he said, if that’s what he wanted too, no it didn’t scare him. What scares him more is his individual future: the security of his job, the threat of losing his stability that he’s had for 10 years.

He sounded more like he had been worrying he wasn’t good enough for me. That he thought he was too boring for me. How could I think he thought I was boring, he wondered. I always had a million different things going on, half of which he didn’t even understand. I said do you ever think about getting together again. He said, yeah, sometimes. I said, do you really like being a bachelor? Your freedom? He told me hasn’t dated. He goes to work, he comes home and works on the house. He goes out with his friends one a month or two. He sometimes likes having free time to himself but he’s usually just messing around on the computer. I said, doesn’t that ever get lonely? He said, yes, of course it does. But he just snuggles with his cat, haha.

So I joked, if I got rid of the rest of my granny clothes and my new specialist in a couple weeks gave me promise, would you consider a trial run of us again? He gave the loudest, most genuine laugh in the longest time. Like, you’re so silly, you don’t need to do anything.  He said he enjoyed spending time with me. We talked about how nice it is to have a balance between fun things like we did at the beach and also being able to get things done like he feels pressed to do. And still find time for ‘me time’. It’s all about balance.

I can accept that. I need to earn his trust back and be more reliable and dependable for him to want to be with me again full-time.

And yes, I know some of you may want to know, the sex we had over those three nights and three days was absolutely amazing. He was attentive, inventive and thoughtful. Not just in the bedroom either. But yes there too. I would say in one day, we had more sex than we’d typically have in the average month in the latter section of our relationship. And it’s not like this is the first time we’d touched since we broke up. I think some walls were just let down and we could let more of each other in.

I’m afraid of this. What if it doesn’t really mean anything? What if this is just how it’s going to continue to be ad infinitum until I say I can’t do any of this anymore, you can’t ask me for favors, I can’t help you pick out things for your house, and we can’t have sex; I need to truly move forward to a relationship if you don’t want to give it to me. I felt real hope this time. He actually revealed his heart to me, which was the toughest thing for him to do especially after the first few months of our relationship. I know I will just go slow, not hope for anything more, and like he said “we’ll play it by ear.”

He may spook tomorrow, and come back in two weeks. Heck, I probably will be the first to go that route.

When The Tables Are Turned

In a perfect twist to my soap opera saga with Mr. Etiquette, this morning, he just found out he’s been the “other man” to his Miss Wonderful over the last 15 months. She broke things off again with him this past Sunday–in truth, there wasn’t really anything to break off besides words. In the last two weeks, she’d seen him one day for three hours and canceled every other “date” that they’d planned after that. Still, Mr. E. was crushed. He, of course, came to me for comfort, advice, etc. I was blunt with him, basically encouraging not to shed too many tears over a woman who has continually kicked him in the teeth for over the year. He seemed like he was trying to listen, even showing signs that he wanted to move on, be happy and at peace again.

Until this morning, when he decided to give things another try with Miss Wonderful, hunt down her father since he’d deleted all her numbers from his phone the day before, and put the father in the middle. He asked if he could bring some things to her father, explaining to him who Mr. Etiquette was. Dad was very confused and broke the news that Miss Wonderful was getting married…¿Cómo say what?

Obviously Mr. Etiquette is crushed, but he can’t say he couldn’t see this coming. Several times, he mentioned the gut feeling that his Former Dream Girl was seeing someone else. We talked about this on Friday night when we went to see a band, and I observed, “It is interesting that she never wants to get together on Fridays and Saturdays, and she’s totally fine with you hanging out with me on Friday nights.” She had time for everyone else throughout the weekend, but Mr. Etiquette was only deemed worthy of a couple hours late Sunday afternoons.

When FDG wouldn’t show, she would get hostile and defensive if Mr. E showed disappointment. Several of us in the know have been telling him her “anxiety” wouldn’t suddenly change her personality from sweet to bitch the way that it had over the course of the year if she really, truly loved him and wanted to be with him. Even with her anxiety she could handle the responsibilities of her job, being the maid of honor in a wedding with all the duties that entails, doing things for her family, spending time with all of her friends, so why was it only with him that she “couldn’t deal”?

My question remains why would he keep going back to this woman when he claims all he wants is to be loved by someone willing and capable of being loved, someone who respects, admires, desires him, and wants to build a life with him? Before I knew about FDG, I was capable of becoming that girl, and he knew it. He risked all that just to make sure FDG wouldn’t return to the love he thought she once was for not even 6 months over a year ago (when she got back together with her ex-boyfriend/now fiancé).

He kept saying he didn’t want to lose me as a friend, because he guessed things wouldn’t work out with FDG, and look–he was right. He got extremely jealous as I moved forward in dating, urging me not to move too quickly. He was going to come for me if things didn’t work out with FDG. Yet why would I want him? I would always know I was second-best. I know I deserve more than that.

Even more now, after she told him on Sunday after her last no-show, “please move on, please find love and get married, don’t call, text, email, or try to visit me again, I don’t love you,” he still tried to give it another chance today. He is more desperate than i thought. He is the one who needs extensive counseling, maybe just as much if not more than FDG. She is just a mean-spirited, cowardly bitch.  Mr. Etiquette is off his rocker. I feel sorry for him, but I don’t want to, to quote good ol’ Dr. Phil, “be his soft place to fall,” if it only drags me down to hell on earth as well.

When A Phoenix Rises From the Ashes

Anger was getting me nowhere. That was always the case. When I was a little girl, my brothers knew that if I got mad at them, it was only a matter of minutes, after cajoling, funny faces, and tickling, before I burst out laughing against my will, letting them back into my good graces again. I was always the first to cave in an argument.

As I got older, the sulking period grew a bit longer, especially depending on how long resentment had been building up, but that negative time was still a flash in the grand scheme of things. After a defensive eruption of harsh words, I would always wind up feeling worse after the initial high of finally getting the pent-up emotions off my chest. The disconnect always left me feeling empty. So much of my life derives meaning from connection.

Some people can hold grudges until the day they die. I have friends who haven’t spoken to their parents in years. Or who, after some harsh words said in the heat of the moment, lost their best friends forever and pride forbade them from ever making up. I never could understand it. No matter how angry I got, no matter how hurt I was over something, I always sought peace, forgiveness, or some other form of closure.

Around the middle of this week, after I got great feedback and commendation at work, very promising leads for the next step in my career, and an awesome writing project for the summer, I was riding high. I had two fabulous dates with The Brit. I was feeling inspired again. I was re-connecting with friends I’d somehow gotten out of touch with.

During one of my daily chats with Tina, the mutual German friend of Mr. Etiquette’s and mine, I spoke of how I just wanted this cloud of negativity between me and him to be behind us. It was the only thing holding me back from really being at peace with the moment. I told her I felt this urge to reach out and lay down the olive branch between us. She encouraged me, smiling, as I sent the following message:

I’m sorry if u felt I was too harsh on u. I want to let go of this negativity. Life is looking so good for me right now & I want to enjoy it fully w/o the shadow of this ugliness between us. I sincerely wish you well.

There was an agonizing five or more minutes where he didn’t respond, and then the phone rang. Mr. Etiquette popped up on the screen. I anxiously picked up. He talked, and I mostly listened for a long time. I heard his perspective. I let him say what he needed to say. I let him talk about Sara without feeling like it was competition. I listened with forgiveness and understanding in my heart.  I felt it when he said he was sorry and that he never meant to hurt me. I said I knew that, but he did. I felt it when he said he missed me and when he told me how much i meant to him and still do. He still confused me with certain words he repeated that I thought still gave hope. I told him why saying those things weren’t fair right now. He understood why it confused me, but he said he didn’t say this things to confuse me. It was just how he felt. He said he really wanted me to still be in his life in some friendly capacity. He didn’t know how we could do it but he asked me if we could try.

After our phone call ended, Tina and I continued our Skype talk. She sounded very happy that we had reconciled to the point of at least making the effort of truly being friends solely this time. Mr. Etiquette started messaging her. He said how happy he was to talk with me and glad we were making amends. He told her he was heading out to see a show. Nosy me asked where he was going. I knew he wasn’t going with Sara, since she only gives him a couple hours on Sunday afternoons right now. They are not boyfriend and girlfriend. They are just moving slowly to start “dating” again.

He told Tina where and asked if I wanted to come. He hated going to the bars by himself. I hemmed and hawed. Thought it was probably a bad idea. But I had just told Tina that the only way I could see us being successfully friends was if we had activities outside the home that kept us positively and constructively doing stuff, not over-analyzing and going into the danger zone of emotions. Tina gave her Swiss opinion. Mr. E and I both deliberated, my dad objected, but finally I decided let’s go for it.

I showed up looking killer. I didn’t intend to. I wanted to just be totally casual in regular jeans and a cute top. Until I realized I had a couple hours earlier put all my clothes in the wash. So I was left with a top I originally had bought for work (but it looked downright scandalous when I put it on tonight), and white tight jean capris. Only thing that went with those were tall wedge-type heels. I decided it didn’t hurt for him to see me looking fabulous, not broken and grieving.

He certainly approved. Unfortunately even in his casual wear, I still found my heart turning over a bit, but I tried to be as blase as possible. Of course, he wouldn’t allow it. We talked of many things. At first he sounded hopeful about Sara, her possibility for recovery. How there were things she was doing now that reminded him of the old Sara he loved, which gave him encouragement. But he admitted he was also scared. He found himself waiting by the phone. Wondering why she didn’t text sometimes. Wondering if he didn’t initiate contact, would she? Wondering if he can trust her to show the next time. I reminded him it’s still so early, she’s not yet getting the treatment she needs, and he’s got to be very patient.

He kept telling me how amazing I looked. How wonderful it was to see me. How much he missed me, my smile, my laugh, how easily we can communicate. “Things are so easy with us. I hope things can be this easy again with Sara again,” he said. Seeing me again reinforced how strong his feelings for me had been and still are. He worried if things didn’t work out with Sara, and I had moved on, he wouldn’t know what he’d do if he lost us both. He questioned whether he was doing the wrong thing, making a mistake to choose Sara now.

I told him there was no wrong choice. Even after he’s proven to himself that there is another amazing woman he was starting to fall in love with, he still can’t fully let Sara go. The only way he will ever know for sure if Sara still is or is not the woman for him is to see a) if she can and will get mentally healthy again to be the happy and wonderful girl he was blissfully in love with for 6 months b) if by then, too much time hasn’t passed that he has given up hope, and c) if they get that far, can he trust that she will stay consistently healthy enough that she won’t completely shut him out again for a year like she did and break his heart all over again. So many ifs I said.

“I have always been a dreamer,” he told me. “What if I’m just deluding myself into thinking she can ever really get healthy?” We talked for a while about the real possibilities that even with the proper medication and therapy, she might not be able to fully conquer this generalized anxiety disorder that she seems to have inherited from her mother. But I reminded him she’s starting to being proactive now and including him in her struggles. That’s a big change in the right direction.

When all the psychoanalyzing got too depressing, talking in circles, we spoke of other things, of the great things going on in my life. He sounded so pleased for me, and I was so proud to be able to share how amazing life was growing for me again even without him by my side. I showed I was strong enough to stand alone from him. I said I was dating again. That made him jealous, he admitted, wanted to know about The Brit. Tough shit. He cautioned me not to move too fast. “Like I did with you?” I asked. And then the music finally started and we got caught up in the joy of just grooving at a show together.

After the show, we talked as he drove me home: “I am a man torn between my love for two different women.” He wondered if the woman he once loved even still existed or could still exist again. Will things ever be as easy with her as they once were, as they were and still are with me? Will intimacy, whenever she allows it again, be awkward and just feel plain wrong? I told him he won’t know until he experiences it.

“There is still more than the wonderful friendship we have between us here,” he said, while we sat in my driveway, unable to leave just yet, very loosely holding hands, possibly for the last time. “You feel it too, right?” I silently nodded. “There was always so much more between us than just the chemical,” he said.

Though this night maybe should have been painful and just opening up old wounds again, it wasn’t. It confirmed to me that Mr. Etiquette wasn’t the completely asshole I’d demonized him into in my own grief over losing him. He didn’t handle things right, but who knows if I would’ve done it better in his shoes. It also confirmed to me that what we shared was real and mutual, and not something I made more of in my head. Somehow that was reassuring. So off we go to be sometimes friends. There’s too much between us now to do more than just touch base every now and then. Yet that’s okay with me now. I have found the peace and closure I needed.

When Tears Aren’t Enough

I realize that Mr. Etiquette isn’t worth my tears. It is pitiful how sick and manipulative he could be without even realizing how bad he was, how similar his mental illness is to Sara, the girl who caused him grief and anguish over the last 13 months, but he is not even worth my pity.

He claims he never was dishonest. He was dishonest by initially saying things with S were in the past, over and done with. He lied by omission, failing to tell me he was still in love with her and was just waiting for her to come around to wanting to be in a relationship again. He made me think he asked me to the baseball game because he sincerely wanted me to be with him and his German friends. I found out yesterday, from our mutual German friend, that he had in fact only asked me after S bailed on him. Two days later, he asked her to a picnic that she later also bailed on. He only became truthful when his “heart was crushed” when she told him she was no longer in love with him and asked him to stop bothering her.

He says he never meant to cause me pain. His friends and I told him repeatedly when he either hurt me or angered me by things he repeatedly did over the last almost two weeks now. He hurt his friends. He ruined our trip to Cape Cod by making it all about him and his confusion and anguish. She called and instead of not picking up the phone, he talked to her for a half hour. Then he came up to us and told us about their conversation for nearly a half hour. Then he went and called another friend to talk about her for another half hour. By then, the three rest of us were ready to go home.

One of the last nights of the German friends’ stay he called S for a “minute to schedule a talk to clear the air once and for all,” and that turned into a half hour argument. We didn’t bother to wait more than the 25 minutes he left us hanging so went to dinner without him. He acted all hurt when he came out to meet us and wondered why I was “shutting him out.” Dude, fine, bail on me, but don’t consistently bail on your friends who’ve traveled over three thousand miles to be with you.

I can’t pity even how weak of a man he is. The only reason he had the strength to finally confront Sara was because he felt buoyed by the promise of unconditional love that I had offered him. How twisted is that? (Oh, far worse.) I feel sorry for his kids to whom he cries his heartbreak over the phone. At ages 9 and 10, he tells them far too much than they should ever need to know. They know this woman has consistently hurt him for a year and a half. When here last summer, they commented on how they never knew if Sara was actually going to show up for some event, did they, since she was constantly breaking dates even then. What example is Mr. Etiquette showing his children by running back to her the moment she says “okay, now that you’re moving on, I want you.”

How can I have a soft spot in my heart for the king of manipulation? By the end of the charade of dating, he was asking even if we’ve become just friends at said point, would I still help him out in the last 5 weeks of summer when his kids come from Germany to visit? Today, I found out from our now mutual German friend that he was also hoping we could remain friends because I had all the music contacts that he needed to find a band(!). Earlier when they were still here, she yelled at him to wake up to the fact that he was hurting me,  and he replied, “I can’t think about that now. Right now, I need her here to comfort me.” Yes, comfort him through his heartbreak. He also needed me in the house so he wouldn’t be alone after they left. And I guess all that sex in the final days was trying to fuck the frustration over Sara out of him? What did I get out of all this?

A man who couldn’t stop comparing me to the other woman, even favorably. The “only area that you don’t win is that she has significantly bigger breasts than you,” he said, not thinking how this might feel like a slap. “But in all other areas, you’re perfect for me. Emotionally, spiritually, sexually, we are just perfect for one another. That’s the only area where she wins.” I know–what a dick!

By the end, the boob size had become such a obsession that he was gently trying to persuade me to consider getting a boob job. My body was perfect! But he got a huge rise sexually having bountiful breasts to play with and be a visual focal point (lazy lack of creativity?). I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never considered what it would be like to have fuller breasts, but that was when I was younger and more insecure. Frankly, I finally became happy with them; they are the perfect shape and pertness in my eyes. Harlequin Hero said they were perfection, that I didn’t need to change anything about them (he still fondly dreams of them, it turns out). The V-Man certainly appreciated the way they looked too even in clothing since I’ve regained the hospital-stay weight loss.

But I played along just because Mr. Etiquette seemed to get such a kick out of the idea. It was almost fun to envision me finally with the “perfect body” until he picked his top breasts. “Don’t hate me, but they look just like Sara’s, though maybe a little smaller.” Where’s that gun?

So it really is pointless to waste perfectly good tears on this man. What’s the point of feeling pain over an illusion? Why be hurt over a total ass who still thinks he’s “such a nice guy with everything in the world to offer, why doesn’t [Sara, ex-wife, any female] want me?”

I feel like a boiling tea kettle. I got enough satisfaction completely telling him off, in my polite pseudo-Southerner way, last night via text tirade, which allowed me to fall asleep peacefully. But I woke up raring to go for another round. I feel like kicking a punching bag. Hating that I was stupid for those first three weeks. I’ve been around the block for too long to be so duped. How could I have finally truly let me guard down again…for the absolutely wrong guy? One of my friends suggested breaking old worthless plates on the floor atop newspaper. That sounded appealing, but I don’t think that would be enough. Maybe I should hit the batting cages tomorrow. I feel most like messing around with bright paint colors and just spreading my emotions in angry swaths across a canvas.

What constructive things do YOU do to release the pent-up negative emotions when they start bubbling up inside of you?

The Other Woman

In just one hour, Mr. Etiquette will be meeting with his ex-girlfriend to hopefully, finally, get closure on the ending of their relationship. After thirteen months of her stringing him along with empty promises that filled him with hope that one day she would re-kindle the magic they’d shared for six months, she finally told him last Wednesday that she was not in love with him. This, completely surprising to me, broke his heart. Realizing that the man I was starting to fall hard for was in fact also still in love with the memory of another woman has been breaking my heart too.

For three weeks, I thought Mr. Etiquette and I were happily dancing along in the wonderful promise of a new relationship. We got along so easily and effortlessly, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He spoke of how I scared him because of how strong his feelings for me were becoming. More frequently, he spoke of a fantasy future for us, “If we continue along this path, and we get married then…” I found the words comforting and exciting, not stifling and scary.

Because of his painful divorce, he had mentioned an old promise he made to himself about dating eight women before he could be sure about finding the right partner for him. I was girl number four, so I was aware he might need to do a little more dating. I told him I could be patient if he pursued this sooner rather than later.

Then last Wednesday came along. I found out not only that he still has love for this woman, Sara, who was the first relationship after his divorce, but that he still was actively trying to date her and had in fact asked her to the Memorial Day picnic he was going to, the day after spending a full weekend with me. She bailed on him, like she has done regularly over the last 13 months.

First, I was hurt. Then, I was angry. He’d been lying to me for three weeks! He had actually used the words, “there’s no one else I want to be dating right now,” to my face, while in his heart he was just waiting for the next time Sara would call. He defended himself by saying, “I told you I would be dating other people.” I yelled back, “Dating some unknown strangers in the future is completely different than still trying to woo this woman you are still in love with.” He refused to accept accountability for that deceit or for the hurt it caused me.

For six months, things were pretty darn great with Mr. Etiquette and Sara, until her lifelong anxiety began to get the better of her. Meeting Mr. Etiquette’s children scared her. Talking about the future scared her. His neediness scared her. Hearing about his ex-wife all the time felt like a burden (hey, Sara and I have more in common than not, don’t we?) All this on top of increased responsibilities at work caused her to pull back and tell him she needed distance. Yet she kept saying, “I can’t have you now, but later…”

I told Mr. Etiquette, if I had known all this, I would never have gotten so involved with him. I would not have closed off my other options when I did. His selfish response was that he was glad he didn’t tell me because we wouldn’t have gotten as close as we have. He told me his burgeoning feelings for me is what gives him strength to finally accept things are over with Sara. He sees that someone can give him the love he so desperately seeks and deserves, someone can love him unconditionally too. He said, in the last month, we’ve done more meaningful and special things together than he did with her for those six months. I said, so what’s the big problem then?

Denial. He never could accept that she stopped wanting him. I can’t help feeling extremely uneasy that one, he thinks mental illness is the only reason why Sara isn’t with him anymore. Two, the thirteen months of her kicking him in the head was still met with unwarranted, unconditional love from him. And three, he lied to me, by omission and by doing what he claims Sara did to him, give empty promises.

So when he talks about the future with me now or reaches out to hold me, I put my hand up to stop him. Not now. You have got to straighten this stuff out with Sara. He kept hemming and hawing, saying he’d do it when he was strong enough. I asked, when was that? Another thirteen months from now?

His beloved friend from Germany who’d been visiting the last two and half weeks and with whom I’d spent a lot of time bonding said, “I love him, but you need to protect yourself here. This isn’t the [Mr. Etiquette] I know.” This was a weak and desperate man who didn’t know how to let go of something unhealthy and move forward with something that would only bring happiness and peace.

So at least, he resigned himself to the fact that if he didn’t want to lose me, the thought of which, he said, scared him tremendously, he was going to have to figure out some way to find closure with Sara. He began writing his thoughts down and scheduled a time. She canceled the first time, yesterday, and she’s already angrily threatened to bail on today, but I hope she allows him this opportunity for closure.

Honestly, I don’t even know if this man is who I want in my life anymore. He is not who I thought he was. His own friends are afraid of the changes they see in him. I was looking to get out of drama not drown in the biggest drama of all. And yet, I find myself empathetic and at least wanting to be a friend to him. Is that part of my own sickness, or is there something more really here?

And then I can’t help but wonder, as the V-Man calls for yet another day together, if I need my own moments of closure with an ex as well. I need us to discuss if we are in fact completely over and why before I can fully and completely move forward myself. I hate all these flaws of being human, but so it is. Why does everything gotta be so complicated?

A Tragic Return of An Old Flame

Readers of this blog are now familiar with my theory that old flames tend to dance back into my life in triplicate. When I get a phone call or email from one old flame, I am sure to hear from at least two more in the next couple of weeks. This time, the wait for flame number three took a little bit longer, but it came in a tremendously unexpected and tragic way.

But first, a little back story: A little over a year and a half ago, my friend Sarah and I were reunited after losing touch post-high school, growing as close if not more so than we were as teenagers. After I broke things off with V-Man for the final time, she was there constantly to reassure me that I had done the right thing, and that I was an amazing person who deserved and would soon find better. Of course, being newly married, she saw things from a broader perspective than I could in my feeling-sorry-for-myself-state, but deep down I knew she was right.

A week after the breakup, it was Thanksgiving Day. The night after the holidays, people in our hometown usually gather at the local “tavern” for mini-reunions. Sarah and I decided this year, it might actually be fun to go and see which of our classmates were back in town. When we arrived at the pub, we saw a couple people we recognized, but for the most part, the crowd was much younger than us. Like, class of 2008 with fake IDs young.

We sidled up to the bar for some drinks when this guy whipped around and said, “You’re SoloAt30, right?” He was ridiculously tall, lean, with long, flowing hair. He looked like he should be on the cover of a Harlequin romance novel (on a later date, some stupid hicks would ask, “Hey, are you the ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ dude?”), not sitting in the local dive bar, with his bedroom brown eyes and dimpled chin. He was no one I recognized in the slightest, yet he knew me upon sight.

Sarah stared at me, silently demanding an explanation. I shrugged, but I allowed him to flirt and buy us drinks. He told me how he knew my brother. He’d come over our house numerous times to hear the brother’s band and had gotten a couple bass guitar lessons from my dad. “You really don’t remember me?” he asked, feigning hurt. I shrugged my apology. I really wished I did.

Sarah quickly grew bored of our banter and glanced around for familiar faces. “Ah, there’s S,” she said. Harlequin Hero looked over and said, “Oh hey, you know my sister?”

“Yeah, she’s from our class,” I said slowly. Then I put two and two together. “Wait, you’re Harlequin Hero, as in S’s older brother??”  I didn’t remember the face, but I definitely remember the name and the association from growing up. S and I were never close through school, but she had been a long-time best friend of the girl who later also became my best friend, and we got to know each other better as bridesmaids for our mutual friend’s wedding years later. Here I was flirting ridiculously with her brother, who didn’t want to let a familiar (cute and older than 21-year-old) face leave his sight, but feeling a bit freaked, I made my polite goodbyes, and went with Sarah to say hello to S and a couple other classmates.

But the thing is, I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After assessing his dashing looks with Sarah and asking best friend Winnie her opinion of Harlequin Hero, having grown up with him,  I’m embarrassed to say I decided to cyber-stalk him. He raced motocross, so this wasn’t very hard to do. I found him on some extreme sports site. The shameful thing is that I signed up for a profile on this extreme sports site when I hadn’t touched an extreme sport in oh, 8 or 9 years. I sent him a very brief email saying it was really nice meeting him the other night, brazenly gave him my cell number, and said if he ever wanted to do something while he was still in town (for the next month), feel free to call me. I immediately deleted my profile and assumed I would never hear from him again.

A few days later, I get this random text message from a guy saying he’d be up for going out this weekend.  I mulled over the realistic possibilities and realized who this *must* be. So that weekend, Harlequin Hero and I had our first “date” at this bar a couple towns over to hear a band–I think it was a jam band, which is hilarious since all HH listens to are ’80s rock bands like Van Halen.

We spent the whole night talking, and we had our photograph taken by some city scene website. My friend T-dog sent me the link to our photo a couple days later and asked who the hunk was. She said I looked extremely happy. The next day HH asked me what I was doing a day or two later. He had tickets to a college basketball game.

The next couple weeks were filled with basketball dates (included a double date with his sister, who thanked me for making her brother happy after a really rough year), guitar hero dates, karaoke nights, lazy cuddling, stuffing our faces with amazing food cooked by his stepdad, and watching football with the entire family dates, and amazing romps. We laughed over how slightly pervy it was that he had crushed on me when I was just a kid, but now we both could brag.  He completely stunned me by getting me a thoughtful birthday present. And then immediately after, he got terrified, and everything went downhill.

From being the couple in a bar that people watched with envy because of the vibrant magnetism and fun between us to being a moody and distant pair who couldn’t go through two days without a fight, I was at a loss for what I had done wrong. His ex-fiancé had been in touch. He didn’t want to be back together with her. She had been terrible to him and completely broken his heart. But he was still broken, and he wasn’t ready to go all in. I was exactly the kind of thoughtful, passionate, smart, beautiful, funny girl he wanted to be with, he said. Someday. He just wasn’t in the right headspace for me now.

I tried very hard to respect this, but it stung like hell. Especially when he still kept reaching out. When he’d call and invite me over before he left because he needed to say goodbye. When he’d call me to talk about a motocross event we both were watching. When he’d invite me down to visit him in Florida anyway.  But he needed to be selfish, and I needed to move on to someone who was ready for me. So he did what he needed to do to get his career momentum back, and I did what I needed to do to get my groove back. To say falling in love again with someone new was never the same is an understatement. At least, it definitely felt that way until a couple months ago. But that’s a different story for a different time.

To circle back to the theory of threes, Friday night I was flipping through the newspaper and my eye fell across the obituaries. It’s an old habit from being a writer–you find fascinating people and stories that way sometimes–and also just from growing up in a small town–you’re bound to come across a relative of someone you know in there. My heart sank as I read the name of HH’s baby sister. Twenty-one years of age, killed in a car accident early that morning. I immediately jumped to my cell phone to text HH. I sent emails to S and later another FB message to HH. He responded to the FB message with gratitude, saying he didn’t have my cell number anymore. He said he could really use my support and hugs this week, so I’m glad I reached out.

Tomorrow, my brother and I will go to HH’s baby sister’s wake. Winnie and I will go to the funeral together on Tuesday. Less than a year and a half ago, I was giving this baby sister advice about her future. She and her best friend were talking about going to Colorado. She was excited about the idea but afraid to leave home, and I encouraged her to go for it now while she was young and the opportunity was presenting itself. She could always come back home later, and the experiences she’d live through would teach her so much about herself.  Now she’ll never get that chance. She was so fun and full of life. If I had a baby sister, I imagined one like her.

My heart breaks for HH and his family. I will not be there for him in the role of his lover this time. I will be his friend, his shoulder to lean on, a harbor in which he can safely cry. That’s the thing about the kind of love he invoked in me long ago. Whenever, if ever, he needs me, I will be there for him.

Does He Always Come in Threes? Part II

Where we last left off, I was describing the trend in my life of old flames coming back in triplicate. One of those times brought me back in touch with an ex for whom and with whom closure was severely needed. Unfortunately, true closure has never occurred with the long-term relationship that followed with V-Man. Ironically, of all my exes, we probably have remained in touch the most and been the closest post-break up.

After two years of a relationship, and one year of time apart, V-Man and I are buddies. We have spurts where he calls several times a week, or we text back and forth throughout a day. He’s watched my cat when I went on vacation in the early days. We’ve hung out as friends-only last year when we were officially no longer a couple, going to concerts, meeting for meals, seeing fireworks.
During the times when we both knew better, there were times when we gave into the attraction that was still electric between us and enjoyed extra benefits. I’ve gotten confused, overreacted, rehashing the issues that caused me to break up with him in the first place and never were resolved back then and still fester from time to time, and he’s wisely withdrawn. Then two weeks later, he texts: “How doin?” as if nothing ever happened. And things go back to normal again.
This year, when I was in the hospital for a week, he came to see me though he hates doctors and “medical stuff.” He held my hand during the horrible seizure-like episodes, and he came to visit when I got to come home. He was the first person to take me out to do something fun, see a concert. My boyfriend at the time didn’t do that. The V-Man held me protectively and tenderly, treating me like a fragile china doll only when necessary, but also let me feel free to be normal when I could.
So why the confusion? Well, late last year, when I was obviously dating someone else, the V-Man turned alpha male, for the third time that year. He talked into my ear with urgency how the only reason he and I aren’t still together is because of me. He talked about how my parents have misconceptions about him because of lies or half-truths I told them about him, because I have this misconceptions about him, that I don’t know everything about how he really feels. He was overtly flirtatious, which is normal, but this other side of him that was basically saying, it’s still your move made me think, is he really saying this doesn’t have to be the end of our story? Do I want it to be?
It took me getting sick and seeing the way he tended to me so lovingly to really take the question seriously again. So, after breaking up with said boyfriend, I brought it up. In a text, blech. He said, “Why do you always do this over emails and texts. Let’s do this face-to-face, so you can hear my side of things and know how I really feel. I want you to get better first. [my emphasis hereI’m not going anywhere.” So, days and weeks pass. He constantly asks my status. Are you eating well? Are you gaining weight? How many episodes did you have today? How are you walking? No mention at all of the topic.
Today was the first time we’ve seen each other since then. We’ve talked plenty. When he was covering the NCAA Women’s Tournament in Dayton, he called me first after he arrived before he called his mom. He’d call to ask me where he should go to eat. He called the next night when he was waiting to get food. He’s called several times this week about various stuff just to share random or crazy work or life stuff.
Then today, he said he wanted to have the cat play date before I left for vacation. Since we broke up, he finally moved his cat into the no-longer new house, so my cat has never met him. We worried there’d be some strife. There was. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was the “SexySweets”, the touching, the “what do you want to do?” bit. Bent over to rescue my cat from under the sofa, the V-Man was envisioning an entirely different bending over. Figures. I know he still lusts, he still loves, but he doesn’t seem to want the relationship. I really don’t think I want it anymore either, but what gives?

Last night, the most recent ex who claims to be un-datable but still wants to go on dates that aren’t dates, hold hands, hug, and kiss, asks me to sleep over. I don’t. Today, the other ex wants to give me a “complimentary special.” There are only two and half more days until Vegas. Do you think I can make it through without any more temptations? Because I haven’t even told you what’s awaiting me there…

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Does He Always Come in Threes? Part I

For reasons that will become apparent later in this [way too long] post, tonight I started thinking about things that come in threes. According to Google: bad luck comes in threes. Bad news comes in threes. Trouble. Death. Good luck. Apparently even comedy comes in threes?
Thinking about my dating life, it always seems like romantic opportunity usually comes in threes. In most cases, this usually comes in the form of old flames. For me, when one old flame flickers back into the picture, I always have an eye out for at least two others to shortly follow. They usually do within a week or two. I always feel like God is pulling a sick joke on me when this happens.
At one point in my life, a guy I had dated for a month emailed over a year later to re-kindle our friendship (read: ring for a booty call while his nearly live-in girlfriend was away on a business trip, ass). At the same time, an old lover, always kindred spirit and good friend, from maybe six years earlier announced he was coming to town and was finally completely single at a time when I actually was too. Meanwhile, my ex-boyfriend, with whom I had lived for over two years and dated off and on for three, was making contact finally after close to two years.
The last time we had talked, he had admitted impregnating his (formerly our) neighbor shortly after we had last seen each other, which was a nightmarish scenario when I walked into a bar with my new boyfriend only to see him, the man who was still in love with me after four or so months.
This particular old-flame reunion was the most cherished one for me, as it was the first time R had picked up the phone to reach out to me and ask to meet. Some mutual friends were throwing a concert at our old stomping ground. He and the mother of his daughter had finally broken up, presumably for the last time, so he felt it was okay reaching out to me.
He talked to me about everything. He seemed a changed man; one, he was completely pot-free; two, he was a father of a beautiful little girl who he absolutely adored; three, he as changing his career back to teaching and coaching; and four, he was the fittest I’d ever seen him. I told him how proud I was of him, and I meant it. He took me back to the house, let me see my cats that he forced me to leave behind when I moved out. A lot of old memories swirled together with the new changes, and we stayed up until maybe 4 a.m.
Our relationship had never had resolution or closure before. When he had called me those years before to tell me his girlfriend was pregnant, he had been in tears, saying he still had love for me and hadn’t even been sure our story was over yet. As painful as it was to hear, I told him, this was his story now, and if he wanted to be a good father to his daughter, he had to be a good partner to the mother now. I told him I knew he loved the mother, especially if she was bearing his child. I knew his heart. He had to let go of the past and look to the future.
Sadly, this mean he cut everything off completely. I sent emails of congratulations when news passed via our mutual friends, I remembered his birthdays, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t reciprocate anything back. I understood why it had to be that way, but it still stung to have been so close so many years and now be nothing at all.
Today, we do not remain in touch. We finally had our one chance to say everything that needed to be said. Sometimes we are never given an opportunity to have full closure with someone we once loved. I feel especially blessed that I did with R because I never have had the opportunity to with V-Man, the one who came afterward.