Today is the 11th anniversary of the day I took my first step into a new life. I had no idea at the time how much my life would change, but all I knew is that I wasn’t happy and I was searching.
Eleven years ago today I met my now husband for lunch. It was I who reached out to him a few days beforehand. And he was no stranger to me. In fact, he was my college sweetheart.
We had had a torrid love affair back in the late 70s. I say torrid because it was the kind that you read about in novels, the kind that comes around once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.
Unfortunately, things happened that were not repairable in the relationship at the time so I decided to move on. Looking back, I know that I forced my brain to move on and was quite successful at that, but my heart, which you have much less control over, never really did.
But I let my brain lead. And I found love again, married and had 2 daughters. I built a successful career, had a beautiful home, wonderful, happy kids, and from the outside looking in, everything you could possibly imagine to live a happy rest of my life.
But when I got into my late 40s, I wasn’t happy. I was no longer happy in my career and I wasn’t happy in my marriage. We struggled as a couple.
Part of that struggle may have been the after-effects of my husband’s emotional affair with a much younger woman that rocked our family to its core, but we managed to hold it together through counseling and a shared desire to keep the family together.
But I will take responsibility for that as well because affairs are the result of neglect in a relationship and I will own that. So I don’t blame my ex-husband. The neglect prior to the affair and the affair are just symptoms of a deeper-rooted problem in the relationship.
Our marriage survived another 10 years after that affair. I believe it lasted as long as it did due to the desire of both of us to not be victims to divorce. Both our parents were still together. Divorce was a huge failure in our eyes and we did not want to fall victim to it or be another statistic.
But should you stay together just because divorce is unfamiliar ground? Do you stay together because you are afraid of judgment? Do you stay together for the children, even after they are grown? Should you stay together just because it’s easier and it’s a known quantity, even if there could be something better on the other side?
We never fought. We got along great in fact. And that made it even more difficult. But the reality is that there was zero passion in the relationship and no intimacy and I needed that. I did not want to live the rest of my life with my heart flat lining.
It just so happened that my feelings and circumstances aligned one evening in late October 2006 which led me to take an action that changed the trajectory of my life. I did something a little nutso….
It just so happened I was attending a good friend’s rehearsal dinner out-of-town & had had a few glasses of wine. And you know how alcohol makes you do things you normally wouldn’t!. I got to my hotel room and my old boyfriend came to mind so I decided to Google his name. And up popped his phone number!
(Full disclosure because I want to be very transparent: I was still married, but we were mostly living apart, seeing each other only on weekends. And I had been very open to my husband about my unhappiness and desire for change.)
I left a voice mail not knowing if I’d ever hear back. In fact, I didn’t know if he was married. I had not spoken to him for 10 years and had not laid eyes on him for 20. But his name had come up at a recent reunion and it sounded like he was still single so I held out hope that he was…
Then came the call back… That voice. It made my tummy flip and my heart flutter. He still had that effect on me all these years later!
We decided to meet up for lunch… Just two old college friends getting together to reminisce. Sounds innocent, right? We set the time for 2:30p and picked a place neither of us were familiar with because we lived 2 hours apart and the restaurant was about halfway between us.
I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect! How would he look? Would he be the same as I remembered? What would he think of me? So many thoughts racing through my head as I drove to our meeting point.
Then I saw him and all I remember is thinking: “Thank goodness he’s no longer that cute 22 year old I remember!” Because I knew, if he was, that would spell trouble!!! LOL! So at that point, I thought I had landed in the safe “just friends” zone.
We hugged, said our hellos, and sat down to lunch. It took about 20 minutes for me to fall for him again. He was the same as I remembered. Our conversation just flowed so easy and effortless and there were many laughs. And the time flew by.
Around 6p, we realized our poor waitress was still standing by waiting for us to ask for the check. We decided to pay up and walk downstairs, where they had a bar, to continue our conversation. Before we knew it, it was 9pm!!! Almost 7 hours from the time we first sat down!
As the night ended and we said our goodbyes, it was clear we did not want to wait another 10 or 20 years to talk again. I was conflicted because I knew the lunch had morphed into a date, albeit very unintentional but I could not deny the sparks that were bouncing off the walls and ceiling.
He invited me to come to a football game the following weekend, which I declined. I told him I had to get home and figure things out. I needed time. I refused to see him again until I was officially separated. I felt guilty enough at that point for even agreeing to meet for lunch, and I knew I could not live with myself if I didn’t take the next right, but very hard, step: legal separation.
So I drove home, clearly with a heavy heart and a lot of thoughts racing around in my head: “Are you crazy?!” “What are you thinking?” “It didn’t work out before – why do you think it will work out now?” “He’s never married – RED FLAG!” “Your marriage isn’t THAT bad!” “Don’t take such a risk!” “Stay safe & secure!!!” “Don’t break up your family.” “What if you get hurt?”
Some people may have chosen the affair route, but that isn’t me. I would have been guilt-ridden and worried about what my children would think of me as a person if they ever found out… And people always find out.
Some people would have chosen the path of least risk and turmoil and stayed in an ok marriage, only to regret 10 years later that they never took a chance. I didn’t want that to be me.
What I’ve learned about myself is that I’m a risk taker and I refuse to accept just an ok existence. I’d rather go through the pain of ending a marriage and making a 2nd attempt at love than to wonder at a ripe old age, what would have been.
I also am a big believer in “if things were meant to be, then they will find a way to happen…” I felt deep inside that a legal separation was not an end all. I’m not saying I didn’t feel it was a big risk and that I wasn’t worried I was ruining my life at some points but I knew that there was the potential reward, once we navigated through the hurt and pain, to rediscover ourselves individually and we’d either come back together in a much healthier and passionate relationship or we’d find new partners that were a better fit for each of us.
The latter turned out to be true, and although it was a rocky road for a while, we have come out stronger and better for it all as I had imagined.
I write this today because I want to inspire anyone who is dealing with similar struggles to know it is OK to take risks. It is ok to want something better and deeper. It is NOT OK to sit in a passionless existence. It is NOT OK to settle for just ok.
Do not wait to take action. With action comes knowledge and a great potential for a much happier, fulfilling life.
I am where I am today - with the love of my life - feeling more loved and passion-filled than ever. I am proud of myself for taking that risk, even though it was so difficult, living my own truth, and being honest and open about it.
There is so much good that came out of the risk I took that day 11 years ago:
So much good to celebrate! And to think, when I was so hesitant to change my life and I was in the midst of questioning what I should do, I focused on the bad, the losses, and the fear of making a mistake. Now that I’m here on the other side, there is no doubt I made the right choice.
I share this because I want you to know that if you are in a place where I was but are too afraid to risk it, take in what I’ve said. You owe it to yourself to live your truth. You and everyone around you will ultimately be better for it, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. Take a chance. It’s worth it. I promise, you will come out the other side whole and happier!