When I was a young girl growing up in a rural town, if you had told me the story of my future life, I would have laughed hysterically and immediately called it out as crazy fiction. Of course, I now know the story and to me, it’s crazier even than fiction.
After what seemed like a lifetime of great adventure, romance and passion, I finally settled into marriage in my mid-thirties, with a divorced guy around the same age, who was a single parent. I was his third wife. The story was that his second wife whom he married overseas while in the military, had suffered postpartum depression and had to be sent for inpatient psychiatric treatment and they divorced, so he ended up bringing the baby back to the US where he raised her himself. When we married, I adopted her and became the only mother she has ever known.
After marriage, his career took off and at its peak, he began to experience what appeared to be depression, a midlife crisis or something I couldn’t understand or define. Our daughter, who’d always been a complete joy, entered into a bit of teenage rebellion and this seemed to spur a lot anxiety for him. He began to mention that he was unhappy with life, he wanted to strike out on his own and begin his own business, he was having negative thoughts about himself and a host of other issues, but none seemed to center on our marriage. One evening, about a year and half after he’d first mentioned feeling depressed, he came home to announce that he was exiting the marriage and our home and moving into a hotel.
Initially, I was too numb to quite understand what was happening. A man I had known for over 12 years, with whom I had never exchanged even one word in anger, was walking out on us forever. In 24 hours he went from being someone I would give my life for, to become a complete stranger and eventually and sadly, an enemy. I was unprepared to witness the emergence of this new personality. His previous passive aggression suddenly became extreme aggression behind the filter of email, texts or his lawyer. It was shocking.
The legal separation and divorce process was long, painful and tedious and marked by strange events such as him breaking and entering into my home, stealing my possessions, stalking, etc. He eventually moved from his rental into the home of a woman he had apparently been seeing while we were still together. The woman is exceedingly masculine in all aspects of her appearance, lifestyle, hobbies and vocation. While we were still together, I questioned him about their friendship. His response was that they were only friends, since she is/was a lesbian. Again, to say I was shocked is an understatement, the only relief coming from the fact that his friends and family were equally shocked by the turn of events. Five years later, they are still living together, although they have not married.
After taking the first year to repair my mental and emotional health, I began to date, meeting men online and at social events. I was not prepared for what I discovered in midlife dating: fake profiles, married men pretending to be single, and horror story after horror story: abandoned spouses, outlandish lying, cheating, financial ruin, tales of mental illness, the list goes on. I gave up. I started to spend more time with friends, my daughter and just enjoying alone time. I sold the marital home, moved into a cute condo and enjoyed new hobbies. One evening last summer, I was reading the newspaper and enjoying a latte at a local coffee shop when I noticed a very handsome man around my age glancing at me. I smiled and continued reading. Eventually he came over to introduce himself and I invited him to sit down. We then spent the next five hours deep in conversation, the kind of conversation that only ends when they are pushing you out the door so they can lock up.
We have been dating since last summer, spending virtually every holiday and weekend together. We enjoy each others company tremendously. He is truly the first man I have feelings for since meeting my ex-husband almost 20 years ago. We have discussed moving in together, building a life, but I have to admit to being scared, scared that it won’t work out somehow and I’ll end up alone again and hurting – as irrational as this sounds. I understand you can never win the lottery if you never buy a ticket.
I find excuses to rationalize why it will never work out for the long term: he was raised in South America, our cultural differences are too great. After my divorce, I landed financially on my feet. After his divorce, he was left starting over financially, nearly from scratch. I have never been the breadwinner in any relationship, it feels alien to me and I wonder if this is sexism on my part? It is routine for us to read of men remarrying women (particularly younger women) without resources and yet for me, as a woman, that seems like an alien idea. As much as I have learned not to care what others think, I wonder if they will assume he is with me for financial reasons. The thought of that is upsetting to me. He never asks for money and is generous with what he has and we enjoy simple activities.
In spite of all this, I feel stuck and stonewalled, afraid to move ahead. Too permanently damaged by my divorce, I feel alone as I witness others who move ahead and take risks.