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Once upon a time I was in love. Deeply, madly in love. The object of my affections was everything I wanted a man to be except he had one of those jobs where he traveled a lot so there was always distance between us. Sometimes it was a few weeks, sometimes I wouldn’t see him for nearly a year. I didn’t mind it so much because I had enough going on with my kids being younger, and when we did see each other we were so very happy together. But between his job and some health concerns, the stretches in time grew longer until my lover stopped communicating altogether – no emails or calls or texts – just disappeared. I worried about him for months – then months turned into years and life moved on and I put him behind me (not without crying and cursing, but I did it). The end.

A few years I dated another great guy, who was an addict that had been sober nearly 12 years. One day my ex came up in conversation and I was enlightened that while I may have fancied myself in love, in reality I had been used by an alcoholic. I was shocked. Sure my former flame had been a heavy drinker, but he didn’t blackout or get DUI’s or anything like that. Yeah – apparently I was too naïve to see the truth of that relationship. In hindsight, educated by someone who had been there/done that to others, it became very clear what kind of relationship I had been in and how I had been manipulated. Now, knowing this may have changed my perspective on the man, but not my feelings for him. I had known him on sober days (and nights) and there were qualities about him I still loved. I decided I would hold those memories for the comfort they brought me and not color them with regret. Besides it wasn’t like he was ever coming back. My sober friend disagreed, saying oh yeah, one day, he’ll be back – either because he’s drinking and fallen really low and needs help, or because he’s sober and making amends. I countered with possibility #3 – he’s dead – which I hoped was the case. At least then I had closure.

Well, after 6 years of radio silence from the man I fancied myself in love with, low and behold, out the blue, I got an email from him. I felt a burst of joy and giddiness! He was alive and apparently didn’t live too far away. We exchanged emails and he said he wanted to see me. YES! I was elated! He was back and coming to see me! Then logic returned with echoes of sober-friend’s warnings. I had to step back, let the joyful surprise subside, and ask more serious questions. I needed to know where he’d been and why he was reaching out now. I got a long explanation about all the drama and medical issues he’d been through, and how he hadn’t wanted to bring me down with his deep dark issues. But then I found out he had moved back and been living within 30 minutes of me for the past two years without saying a word. That hurt. And then I found out he was remarried. THAT pain has no descriptor.

Why the hell even email me when you’re married to another woman?!?! Again, sage advice from a man who’d been “this guy” came back to me. He hadn’t come back because he loved and missed me – he had come back because he needed something from me. Maybe he wanted a lover, maybe he wanted a shoulder to cry on, maybe he wanted a threesome. Whatever it is, I don’t know because I stopped asking questions. I sent him a response and with it a closure I had previously been denied. My first trip down the rabbit hole was wondrous because I didn’t know any better, but thanks, let’s not do that again.

I won’t lie and say the decision to end our reunion doesn’t hurt like hell. I deeply loved this man, some part of me probably always will. But we don’t get to be older and wiser without having learned a few lessons in the hardest, most painful, most soul-crushing ways imaginable, and at least this time I was the one who did the walking away.

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