My husband and I celebrated 30 years of marriage this year. Thirty-six years together if you count the years of dating prior to the formal “I Do” in front of witnesses. But I knew that we would be together forever well-before that date in June 1990. I knew it in my gut on a cold winter day in March 1984 at the corner of Cavendish and Fielding, as I was walking home from my aerobics class. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was already cold, but the shivers that went through my body were enough to stop me in my tracks. “I’m going to marry that guy. He’s my person.”
I wasn’t even twenty-one years old. My one serious relationship before him had not been a resounding success. But, somehow, I knew that this guy, this person, this human being who I had had only known for a few short weeks was it. Not my soulmate. Not my best friend. Not my man. Not my lover. He would be my husband. He would be the person who would be with me through thick and thin (if you read my first article, you know what I mean), from apartment to duplex to house; from childless to one to two kids; through the death of grandparents and parents; through surgeries and illnesses; from camping to cruising; from Kraft Dinner and hot dogs to vegan chilli and black bean burgers; from blonde to grey to white.
Those transitions and milestones didn’t happen overnight. We had the luxury of time. We grew together. We learned together and we leaned on each other. We invested in each other.
Over the course of our six years of dating, we eventually moved in with each other but still knew that the ultimate goal would be marriage. We talked. We planned. We had the serious conversations that people do before that big commitment. Kids? Yep. Baptism? Nope. Savings? Important. Debt? To be avoided (mortgage excluded). How to handle major holidays with the in-laws and outlaws? We settled that as the kids came along. We nurtured common friendships, we traveled, we bought a second-hand car (no debt!). We listened to each other, to the fears based on experiences lived, to hopes for the future, and worked to build our life together.
Each day that I wake up next to him, I marvel that we made it against the odds. According to Stats Can, the divorce rate of those married in 1990 is 13.21%. Just ten years later, that rate rose to 25.83%. Perhaps couples rushed into choosing the “millennium year” to tie the knot and then realized that they hadn’t found their person. They hadn’t taken the time needed after they had been hit by the ton of bricks.
In my current circle of friends, I am an anomaly. Several of my friends are divorced, some have never married, and a few have decided that they are perfectly happy on their own and have no plans to find the perfect partner.
Experiencing today’s world of dating vicariously has been eye-opening for me. From Tinder to Bumble to Match, there is no end to the resources available to women who are ready to take the plunge. A few of my friends have had some interesting dates from these sites. Our post-date get-togethers have left me in tears of laughter as they describe the ones that don’t work out. But, sometimes, one coffee date turns into a lunch date, and that turns into a movie, which then results in a dinner date and so on. Sometimes, the guy is a good guy.
The text read, “He broke up with me last night. I’m fine.”
How the hell could she be fine? I wanted to run right over, but I wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity and knowing my friend, she also needed her space. We met today for coffee. Good strong coffee, and maybe a cookie or two, or three. And, you know what, she is fine. She is also beautiful, admirable, wonderful, outstanding, and splendiferous. Synonyms that I plan to remind her of when she may be feeling less than fine in the days ahead.
He came over last night. Seems that for a few months now his “heart wasn’t in it” but just didn’t know how to tell me. So, I said, “Ok. You don’t love me. Please leave.” He wanted to talk more. He wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a frustrating situation. He wanted to explain more. I said to him, “What is there to talk about? So, please leave.” I went to get his books that were in my house and I returned to the room. He still wouldn’t go. I said to him, “Look, there is really nothing to talk about. It’s not like we are going to be friends, right?” He said that he hadn’t even thought about that but that he still wanted to talk, to explain. I told him that he had said enough and that, again, he should leave. Then he moved in for a hug! I told him not to come near me and I opened the door so he could leave.
He was a good guy. They had been dating for nine months. He had been to our house for dinner. They had travelled together. He bought her beautiful gifts; he sent her flowers. They enjoyed the same sports, they loved to go on long walks, they held hands, they laughed, it all seemed fine. But… he had never divorced his wife. They were only legally separated.
It didn’t seem like a big deal. They had separate homes. They shared custody of the kids. But, why was he still legally connected to “his person”?
“I told him I had three pieces of advice: get a divorce, learn how to love, and learn how to be loved.”
Along with being fine, my friend is immensely wise and strong. Although I know that she is hurting today, I wanted to write about how she inspired me and how I hope she inspires others who may one day go through something like this. She didn’t let the guy off the hook in this break-up. She didn’t let him continue to talk, so that he could feel that he had “let her down easy”. She didn’t let him have the power. He said, “I don’t know what I will tell people when they ask about what happened.” Her reply was, “Well, you will have to figure that out.”
She could spend the days ahead ruminating over why he broke it off. Why he didn’t do it months ago when he started to “not feel it”. But, what good would this do? There would never be a concrete answer. Love is subjective; based on an individual’s perception for its existence. My friend is fine, not delicate. There will be time to grieve, but then she will accept the learnings and move on.
Love is never easy. It’s complicated, messy and sometimes painful.
When the right person does come along, I truly believe that we know it. Deep in our core. We can’t deny the obvious. We have to have the hard conversations with each other and be honest with ourselves. Sometimes this might mean saying goodbye but finding that we love and respect ourselves even more.