I met her in a supermarket. By the eggs. She was eating corn chips. I caught her eye. She said: "These are the best corn chips. No sense getting a small bag. Have to get a big one."
I have always liked a woman with an appetite.
Eight months after my separation, my first new romantic relationship began this way. A surprise attack. It happened as I was still trying, and failing, to reconcile with my former partner. I wasn't prepared.
We stood and talked by the eggs for an hour. A voice came on the intercom system announcing that the supermarket would be closing. We parted. But I left that night with more than groceries. Along with my milk and bread, I walked out with a sense of possibility. For the first time in ages, I felt not only attracted to another woman, but attractive myself. I felt we had connected. Somehow she hadn't noticed the big "reject" sign on my forehead. I felt desirable, appreciated and accepted. It was great.
But it was also confusing. I wrote this in my diary:
August 31, 1996
It struck me that I might be falling in love.
Which is, of course, ridiculous.
And completely impractical.
But love has always been all of those things to me. I was tempted to tell her some fabrication which made me appear to be free and unencumbered. But it didn't feel right. And I told her that though I didn't think my former partner and I could make things work as a couple, if my former partner would commit to some kind of way of trying to revive our relationship, I would probably still go for it.
That should have been warning enough. The timing was terrible for me to start a new relationship. But it was very hard to resist. I tried to be considerate and honest with the new woman, but I ended up feeling torn.
Two and a half months later, after some very good and some very painful times, I ended my relationship with the wonderful woman I met in the supermarket. During that time, my relationship with my former partner deteriorated markedly. And yet, I came out of the confusion, knowing just one thing: that I still wanted my marriage to work.
So what did I learn?
I learned that I needed to be careful with new relationships. There is affirmation in meeting and finding a connection with someone new. But there can also be a great deal of hurt. I wasn't clear about what I felt and what I wanted. And it caused pain. For me. For the supermarket woman. For my former partner.
Still, the feeling of mutual affection and understanding, the moments of simple fun and laughter, the intoxicating feeling that desire is reciprocated -- these things are were precious gifts that came from the relationship.
So I guess I don't have a formula. Just general ideas:
- Take my time.
- Let friendship grow first.
- Sort loose ends from one relationship before I start another.
- Foster relationships with women that aren't sexual.
This is part of a Huffington Post series. I call it "For Men Who Have Everything, Including Separation -- Thoughts on Surviving Separation."
- Offer hope and humor to men who are disconsolate after a relationship has hit the rocks
- Offer a resource to women -- sisters, mothers, friends -- who care about such men
I wrote "For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart" because I would have liked a book like this when my first marriage nose-dived.
I offer it in a spirit of brotherhood and with a strong faith that once our broken hearts mend, we have the capacity to be more compassionate, wiser, more resilient and stronger than we were before.
For those interested in reading the earlier posts of this series, links are provided below:
#1 -- For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart, Thoughts on Surviving Separation #2 -- Grieving is Healing #3 -- Beware Precipitous Action #4 -- Love Thyself #5 -- Deal with the Real #6 -- Blame is a Trap #7 -- Create Multiple Explanations #8 -- Freedom, Courage & Splitting Up #9 -- Parenting Apart: Soccer and Wandering in Life's Changes #10 -- Cut the Conflict in Front of the Kids