“Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love?”–Pink Floyd
The tag line for this blog, “confessions of a self-reforming loser in love,” was inspired by a conversation with my brother about a year and a half ago. We were en route to my old house so he could pick up the plethora of psychology books left to him by our cousin, Rachelle, who passed away a few years earlier. The house was on the market, I was clearing it out, and Danny was in town for the weekend. He had met my new boyfriend, B, at a dinner the night before.
I asked him what he thought. “He seems like a great guy,” he said. Then silence. Deafening silence. “And?” I prompted. Pause. “Just don’t rush into anything,” he said. Umm . . . OK. “What do you mean? ” I probed. He continued, “You’re a devoted mother, a smart woman, and you’ve accomplished a lot in your career.” Pause . . . “But, well . . .” Pause. “You don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to relationships.”
DONG! Went the anvil. (It was a time of many anvils.) You can tell an understatement when you hear one. So being an unrelenting truth-seeker who never knows when to leave well enough alone, I continued my quest: “So what you’re really saying is, you think I’m a loser in love.” He replied, “Umm . . . yeah, I wouldn’t put it in those terms, but I guess that’s basically what I’m saying.”
You know in the cartoons where Wile E. Coyote gets pissed and he’s got the steam coming out of his ears? I became Wile E. I tried to defend myself, but it was no use. To the outer universe, his version of me was dead-on: For nearly 40 years, I never seemed to be able to get the love thing right. Picture my face, in the Love File, with big, red, capital letters stamped diagonally across: “LOSER!” No, I hadn’t gotten it right when I was supposed to, as my brother had, wedded at 26. Harrumph. Easy for you to judge, you up there on your high horse, I thought, steam spewing. How’s the view from your happily-married-the-first-time-to-the-right-person perch?
The “new me”–the evolved, therapized version, the one who ditched her bad marriage–was annoyed by the assumption that just because I hadn’t gotten it right didn’t mean I wouldn’t this time. Didn’t I get any credit for learning something, some points for personal development (my brother is, after all, a psychologist)? OK, maybe I was the girl who cried love so many times before, only to see or make it fall apart months, sometimes years later. But did that mean that it would never come together for me? Just because I was a loser in love, did that mean I was destined to remain so for the rest of my years?
As luck would have it, no. While I am no expert–in fact, quite the opposite–I do know this: Love shows up when it damned well feels like it. Love is not about shoulds or proper timing or what’s best for you at this very moment in your life. It doesn’t know its place. Sometimes it hides or runs for cover. But your heart knows when it’s there. And when it finds you, do yourself a favor and let it in.
I found B in the best of all possible places: online. It was Thanksgiving week 2008. The flirtation with the old friend having run its course, I felt ready to get out there and meet new people, despite the fact that one of my friends was adamant that I wait two years before dating. (Two years??? My therapist disagreed. He believed I had been sleepwalking through my marriage for over five years, so there was no harm in getting out there now. I figured he knew more. Besides, I liked his answer better.) The last time I was single in the mid-1990’s, online dating was in its infancy; it seemed to be the land of the lost. But since then, a number of people I’ve known have happily found their partners that way–and I would not describe any of them as desperate or even lonely hearted. I was willing to give it a try.
When I saw his profile, again, the anvil. But it wasn’t the photos that drew me in like quicksand–the one on the opening screen was black and white and, though I liked its artistry, it was hard to make out his features. No, what got me was his profile description. He wrote beautifully; in just a few sentences, my heart took in that he was sweet, funny, smart, humble, a devoted dad, and kind of shy. We had common interests–hiking, photography, reading, movies, animals. His son was a year older than my daughter, and he, too, was separated. He sounded so . . . sweet. Adorable. Someone I really wanted to meet. (After which I clicked through to the other pictures. Then I really wanted to meet him.)
So I sent him a “teaser” e-mail. But I didn’t hear back. At least, I thought I hadn’t heard back. I was disappointed, quite. A couple of weeks went by, and I decided to sign up for a six-month membership. It was then that I saw his reply, which came soon after I sent the teaser. I didn’t realize you had to sign up for the service to get the reply! Doh! I wrote back quickly, excited and nervous. Meanwhile, he had just about given up on online dating and was about to cancel his membership, but decided to check in one more time. And there was my reply to his reply in his inbox.
The rest, it seems, is history. We had a magical first date on Boxing Day and then didn’t see each other for nearly two weeks, because I was off to Florida the next day; upon my return I learned I had a double ear infection and was sidelined. But while I was away we spoke every night–he was my New Year’s Eve date via cellphone–and when I got back we spoke or e-mailed every night, and by the time our second date happened, I was pretty sure I was falling in love.
What makes this love different from the others? I’m older. I’m smarter. I’ve made enough mistakes by now, and yes, I’ve learned from them. And I decided that this time, I would look for someone who would love me for me, and who I would love for them. No molding, no putting anyone on pedestals.
As I write, it’s been nearly two years, and I have no doubt that B is the love of my life. The more time we spend together, the more certain I become. Our relationship was tested rigorously this past year with E’s health crisis, and time and again, he was my voice of reason, my rock. His support was unwavering. Lesser men would have said sayonara a few months in. Not him.
So can the Girl Who Cried Love actually find the real thing? Yes, she can! And she did. Even my brother now agrees.