Dating Diary 23. Overcoming The Emotional Baggage Of Divorce: Can There Be A Happy-Ever-After?

Louise Whitehead-Payne, High50's dating columnist, left readers with a cliffhanger last week. She ran out on her new boyfriend, Delightful Dick, the day after Christmas, came to her senses, called him to see if she could come back and got voicemail. That's it? Nooooo! Here's what happened.

Voicemail. Leaving a message required me to put myself on the line and a Heimlich-maneuver-inducing swallowing of pride. "Hello. It's me. I'd like to come back ... if you'll have me."

'Sorry' Is The Hardest Word

What more was there to add? Sorry was for later, I felt, but it would need to be said. Sensible bloke not to answer the phone but giving himself time to see what I had to say for myself and respond accordingly.

I returned to the hot cup of tea my aunt had made and we both waited. A painfully slow 10 minutes later, my Samsung ringtone made my heart leap. It was him! I stepped outside to take the call.

There was not much enthusiasm or joy in his manner. It was slow and serious in delivery and rather severe in tone. My heart went into to my mouth. I could come back if that was what I wanted, he said, but if I ever did this again, it would be well and truly over.

He didn't give any indication of whether he was keen to have be back, but I suppose he wouldn't have phoned me if he wasn't. I guess that was fair enough, really. I was the one that had caused all this upset. So I left my steaming tea right where it was and jumped in the car.

I would like to tell you that we leapt into each other's arms and reconciled with hot tears and declarations of love. But we had a much more sobering discussion.

Love Post-Divorce

Dick told me he had spoken to a very lovely, wise friend of his that morning to let her know that I might not be coming to a party that she was throwing that evening. And that he might not feel up to it either. She had counseled him that I was only two years out of my marriage and might still have a lot of grieving to do.

That perspective had forced him to reflect on how he felt at this stage after his divorce, especially at Christmas. He had struggled with his first Christmases, so he now empathized strongly with my feelings. I was genuinely grateful to be cut some slack.

I explained that my out-of-control emotions and behavior were totally unprecedented. I couldn't even understand it myself, was actually rather alarmed and might even get some counseling. Clearly it was difficult to commit that I most definitely wouldn't go a bit bonkers again, but I did promise that I would not walk out unless I really meant it to be forever.

I said I was so very sorry for the upset and hurt and I really did mean it. That having been said, he did have to understand and accept that I was damaged.

He opened up a bit about how devastated he had been by his marriage break-up and that he now deployed a very great deal of self-protection. He acknowledged that he is not as demonstrative on the loving front as I might like or even need.

He is aware that I met and married my husband within six months, so his emotional expressiveness and pace of openness to commit and mine are very, very different, which I would have to accept. OK. I'll try.

Baggage After Marriage

The idea that you might come out of a long marriage without emotional baggage is delusional. You simply have to accept and empathize with whatever coping strategy results. Primal fear of being hurt is a powerful drive. But so is the need to love and be loved. I wonder what will win that war in our case.

We agreed we both had sufficient hope in our relationship for us to keep going for now. He phoned his pal to say we would be at the party after all. He sounded genuinely relieved and she sounded happy on the phone, which reassured me somewhat.

After all the emotional turbulence and soul-bearing, we decided we were exhausted and needed a disco-nap before going to a party. But our strong sexual attraction kicked in like a magnificent mule.

All that oxytocin -- it is just my favorite hormone. It is famous for making women believe they love their sexual partners. Whatever. On that day, in that bed, it kickstarted the very delicate process of repairing two very fragile souls.

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