After the end of my last unsatisfying long-term relationship, I decided that I needed to make a change. All of my life, the message I received was that I needed to find a man that liked me and then stay with him until he proposed marriage. As a single, 41 year old woman without children, that just sounds ridiculous to me now. Men feel zero obligation to marry a woman simply because she has put in the work and the time. They feel zero obligation to fulfill her dreams of motherhood or to even care very much about whether they are making her happy.
At 18 years old I married my high school sweetheart, and I realized it was a mistake the first week of the marriage when he became angry because I forgot to empty the trunk (really??) and backed me up against a wall and screamed and pointed in my face. Stuff like that happened with him frequently and by the end of the relationship I had no idea who I was because I spent all of my time trying not to make him angry.
When my husband finally left me for another woman that he’d gotten pregnant, I was a mixture of angry and relieved. I was free. No longer would I have to walk around on eggshells to avoid something terrible. When I realized that I actually could make it on my own, which he had convinced me was impossible, I was angry that I didn’t leave sooner, and for the next year I had the time of my life with some other newly single women in their twenties going dancing at night clubs, singing karaoke, and generally being girlfriends.
At the time, I was working at GEICO as a corporate trainer, and one day a man came to my training class that would change my life forever. There was an instant connection between us, and we started going to Denny’s after work and spending hours talking and making out in the booth. Then he told me that he was in love with me and we started spending most of our free time together. At first I didn’t believe that he would be kind to me, but one day as I was getting dressed at his house, I fumbled my makeup bottle and makeup went everywhere, including the carpet. My ex-husband would have lost his mind. Instead, he just chuckled and said “whoops,” and helped me clean up. I was hooked.
Apparently, my being hooked is a bad thing, because every time that happens, the man leaves. This one was no exception. At the year mark, I thought he was going to propose. Instead, he said “I’ve decided that I never want to get re-married or have any more kids” (he had two children from a previous marriage). Devastated, I broke up with him, knowing that I would never be satisfied with being a forever girlfriend.
That wasn’t the end, though. For ten years, he kept changing his mind. Yes, he could get remarried and have more children, no he couldn’t. We would get back together and then break up based on his whims. The together time kept getting shorter, and the apart time kept getting longer. On year 7, we broke up yet again and he moved to Maryland. Over time, and with a lot of therapy, I started to heal, and I started to date again. It was awful. The men were rude, boorish, unavailable, insensitive, unattractive. I felt nothing for them.
Three years after moving to Maryland, he called me saying that he was in town on business and wanted to talk to me. I stalled, terrified of getting back into the same rut all over again, but in the end my curiosity got the better of me, and I agreed to meet him. We met for coffee, and when I walked in he hugged me and wouldn’t let me go. He buried his face in my hair and inhaled saying “I forgot about your smell.” I was hooked again.
We sat and caught up on the last 3 years of our lives, and then he said “If you’ll still have me, I’ll marry you and have children with you.” How was it even possible that I could finally have the man I’d wanted for the past 10 years, but thought I could never have. At first, I didn’t trust it. I wanted him to prove to me that he was serious and wouldn’t leave me again, but eventually I decided I had to give it a go. He proposed with the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen, and we started planning a wedding. I bought a dress and we put deposits down on all of the things. It started to look real, and I began to believe that it would truly happen, but inevitably, he left.
He told me that he had decided he needed to move to Texas, a place that I never wanted to live. I was in the middle of getting licensed to be a Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California, and there was no way that I could go to Texas at that point. More than that, though, I didn’t want to be in a marriage where my husband could make unilateral decisions that affected us both without feeling that he needed to consult with me. I told him no. He packed up his car and moved to Texas without even having a place to live. I was so angry with myself for believing that he could follow through that I forgot to mourn.
Then I got sick. Not just the flu. I mean really long term sick. For a year and a half I could barely function at all, couldn’t keep food down, and didn’t leave the house except for doctor’s appointments and dragging myself to and from work. I nearly died.
When I finally came out of the illness, it was like I’d been reborn. On a sunny, summer day, I went down to the beach to meet some friends, and while I was at a stop light, waiting to cross the street, a handsome Asian man began to talk to me. He gave me his phone number and we started to see each other. At first, I just wanted to be alive again, and I had no intention of getting into a relationship. We had sex early, and I figured I would probably never hear from him again after that, but he kept calling and showing up. I even tried to break up with him a few times, but he kept coming back. I began to believe that he might be for real, and he wouldn’t leave me. We moved in together on year three, and we had a lot of fun times together, but at year five, I was turning 40, and there was no sign of a ring. My younger sister got married, and I felt old and weird and extremely single.
When I pushed him to propose, he refused, and I moved out.
It made me angry that these three men had eaten up so much of my time, and felt no remorse or responsibility about it. I decided that wasn’t going to happen anymore, and that I was going to go on dates with lots of men, but I wasn’t going to commit to anyone anymore until that man puts a ring on my finger.
This blog is to chronicle the rest of the journey.