Thursday, September 6, 2018

The 7 Year Itch Revisited

The therapist I saw after my divorce told me that I should forgo being in a relationship for every 3 years that I was married.

I was married for 21 years. 

That meant 7 years.


I had given 22 years to my first husband.  I was not about to give him another 7.  Hell naw to the naw, naw, naw!

I politely shared that I agreed that I should not rush into another relationship, but I did not agree with a mechanical determination of when I should find love again.  It was less elegantly stated than that, but much more elegant that what I was thinking.

Love is a matter of the heart.  How can it be dictated by a formula?

I don’t believe in boxes.  I don’t believe in self-imposed limitations.  Instead of subscribing to some formula for when I could love again, I committed to healing myself and allowing love to happen as it should.

Immediately after my separation, I became obsessed with finding a boyfriend.  Ob-sessed.  I needed to fill the void of my lost love.  I signed up for  I pored endlessly over “great” matches that were anything but.  The algorithms rarely yielded anyone who was even remotely a good match, but I kept on looking. 

I connected with a guy who lived out-of-town.  He seemed really cool and had great potential.  We talked on the phone every once in awhile.  Although I was acting out of desperation and looking for love in the wrong place, I was not completely stupid.  I’ve seen enough catfish episodes to know better.  I began to ask questions.  Things did not add up.  He was supposedly a successful real estate agent in a Southern metropolis.  I called up an agent I knew in the area under the guise of scouting out a potential client, and she confirmed that he was not as successful as he said he was.  I investigated further and found his facebook page.  He still had pics of him and a woman, presumably his girlfriend or wife, as his profile.  He put a nail in his own coffin when he called me while I was out one night.  I told him I was having a cigar and a drink at my favorite spot and he angrily asked if there was anyone there with me.  First of all, if I were with someone I would not have answered the phone.  Second of all, blown self-esteem or not, I was not the one to be checked like that.  So that was the end of that “relationship.”

I should have gotten off of after that but I didn’t.  I eventually met someone else.  He was actually truthful in his bio and otherwise normal.  He was still out of town.  We talked on the phone regularly and had otherwise normal interactions.  He had a good spirit.  He made me laugh.  He had great conversation.  We had similar entrepreneurial aspirations, so we talked about business stuff too.  It was otherwise progressing to be something more than talking on the phone.  I was on my way to a business trip and arranged to meet him at a Starbucks.  We had facetimed a couple of times so I knew that he should be an actual real person.  We met up for coffee and it was a great little coffee date. 

Our relationship continued to blossom long-distance and probably would have continued if my first husband and I had not gotten back together.  Like Erykah Badu, I’m not enough woman to divide the pie, so I broke up with my boyfriend to go back to my husband. 

We eventually reconnected after the marriage was over for good, but it never really rekindled.  I am grateful for our connection.  He helped me to reawaken.  He helped me to find my muse again.  I wrote poetry for the first time in years.  He brought me laughter and joy.  I have no regrets. He was a great match.  I did get off of after that tho.  I ended up being matched up with my son’s lacrosse coach and that was a little too freaky for me so I closed my account and decided to find dates the old-fashioned way.

I also decided to not engage in any more “serious” relationships because I was not ready.  While I still did not think I needed to wait 7 years, I knew that it was not really healthy for me to be in a serious relationship.  I sought out “love” on purely out of a need to fill a void.  I needed someone to want me.  I needed someone to find me attractive.  I needed someone to make me feel good about myself. I needed someone to do for me what I needed to do for myself.

The truth is no match could ever fill that void.  Only I could.  And that was the wisdom of the seven years advice.

It is wise to wait after a breakup before beginning a new relationship.  Healing heart break takes the time it takes.  It could be 30 days.  I could be 6 months.  I could be a year.  But it should not take seven years. 

The most important thing to do after a breakup is to discover and rediscover you.  How can you give of yourself to someone in love if you don’t know who she is?  I truly believe that the more you know who you are, the better you’ll be for someone else. 

I made a decision 30 days after my marriage ended (the first time) that I deserved to love again.  I knew that it would not be overnight.  I knew that I would have some hiccups.  But I knew that it would happen.

I healed myself from marriage in about 30 days.  We got back together for about 3 ½ months—and broke up.  Then we got back together for about 3 days—and broke up again.  The third time was not a charm, so it produced a great deal of anger that took me about 3 months to process.  But once I let that go, I let that go. 

I then spent another year working on me.  I had a lot of fun dating during that year and remained committed that I was NOT looking for a husband so I was NOT looking for anything serious.  That approach had its benefits and complications that is a conversation for another day. 

The point is I took the time I needed to work on me so that when love came looking for me, I would be ready to receive it.  It took some time.  It did not take seven years.  But love did find me.  I believe that it did because I decided that it would. 

I believe that love finds you when you look like love, feel like love, and love yourself.  That takes the time it takes.  There is no true formula or prescription or algorithm.  There is the moment when you look in the mirror and you love who you see and you know that you are worthy of love and deserve to experience it.

Be open to love and it will reveal itself to you.  Don’t look for it or you may miss it.  Just be open to experiencing it and you will.  And trust yourself when you see it. It is not too good to be true.  Just be open. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

My Marriage Was Not a Mistake

My Dad and I were talking the other day and he was trying to comfort me about a recent challenge.  In passing he called the end of my marriage a mistake.  He was trying to make me feel better for the mistake I made. And I stopped the conversation to dispel the mischaracterization and reframe the truth. I’ve made many mistakes in my life.  My marriage was not one of them.  I made choices.  I made sacrifices.  I made the best of it that I could.  But I did not make a mistake. 

And neither did he. 

I will not dishonor the life we had together by reducing it to a mistake.  We built a life together.  We created life together.  We experienced life together.  Through the ups and the downs, we did it together.  And I will not dishonor that by calling it a mistake. 

While the choices we made were not always the best, they were choices.  We “fell in love,” but the evolution of our marriage was not an accident.  We pieced it together day by day, month by month, year by year.  The fact that my marriage did not last does not castigate it as a mistake. 

It is not mere nomenclature.  It is a realization that sometimes life does not go as planned, but it always goes as it should.  I have no regrets that I did not end my marriage earlier than it died.  I have no regrets that I did not say to hell with it when it was obvious to me that there were fatal flaws in who we were that ultimately led to the demise of us.   

My marriage had a purpose.  It was intentional.  The best and highest purpose of my marriage was the birth of my sons.  I am grateful for them.  I am grateful that they are the best of us.  I will not let them believe or let anyone else make it seem that they were born from a mistake. 

I am accountable for the birth, life and death of my marriage.  I do not say that to mean that I bear 100% responsibility or I caused it or I am to blame for it or it is my fault.  I am accountable for my marriage because it was my choice.  It was my choice to enter it.  It was my choice to stay in it.  It was my choice to let it go when the choice was presented to me.   

I choose to see my marriage as a beautiful chapter in my life.  It had good parts and bad parts.  It had happy days and f**ked up days.  I can choose to focus on all that went wrong or I can choose to focus on what went right.   

I have learned much from my marriage that did not last.  It was not a failure.  It was not a mistake. It was not a tragedy.  It is a marriage that did not last.  It ran its course and when its purpose was fulfilled, it ended.  And I find beauty in that. 

We must be careful to control the narrative about the lives we live.  We cannot others define for us and shape how we feel.  We definitely cannot allow others’ characterizations define who we were, what we experienced, and who we are.  We make mistakes.  We are not mistakes.  We make mistakes in our marriages and in our relationships.  We do not become them. 

I believe in the power of words.  Words represent thoughts.  Thoughts are the predecessors of our reality.  Choose the words you use to characterize your marriage, your relationship, your love, and you—in every stage—its birth, its life, and its transformation.  There is something beautiful in each stage.  There is something beautiful in everything that ends.  Sometimes it is minuscule.  Embrace the molecular beauty.  Most times, it is quite plentiful.  Embrace the aggregate beauty. 

While I do not forget the painful moments, I do not allow the pain to paint the picture of my marriage.  I choose the paint what was in the promise that it tried to fulfilled.  We tried.  We were not successful. And yet we were. 

Instead of transcending and continuing as one, we transformed and became two. And there was no mistake in the path that led us to the new place that we are now.  And the new life that lies before us.  We are not our mistakes.  We were not a mistake.  We were the love story that ended and became something new.