It was one week before my husband’s 40th birthday when I should have been out shopping for him. Instead, I received a terrible gift. Now, looking back, there were signs.
I was working as a successful consultant when he let me buy a car at full retail price. That was strange. He always had an opinion about where I spent money. When we travelled to New York for a wedding, he didn’t make any moves on me in the hotel and cared little when his family gushed over me and my southern accent. Strange again.
This was my second marriage. At 23, I had married my childhood sweetheart. He possessed great intellect and was from a crazy family, which made him gentle and unrefined. Our love was foolish and limitless. We had so much fun we didn’t even have to talk. For seven years, we lived in a messy one bedroom rental house with two cats who were as free spirited as we were. It was all good until I turned 30 and domesticity kicked in. I wanted to move back to our hometown, buy a house and have kids. He said no and we began to silently fall apart. Coming from an unstable family, he wanted no risk, and no argument, no tantrum could convince him. The moment I knew we were over I was walking into our high school reunion and it suddenly crossed my mind that at our next reunion, I would no longer be his wife.
Fast forward 14 years to a house in the suburbs and a new life with kids and stable jobs. I thought I had things handled this time around. But I guess I did not.
One afternoon in June, my husband fell down in front of the dryer and said he was having a breakdown. He got so mad he pushed the door frame through the garage door. In July, we had tickets to a Broadway musical and he demanded to go home in the middle of it. After, he dumped me off at the front door to our house and left. When I woke up at 3 am and he wasn’t home, I realized he was cheating and I had to move on. I had no choice. I had to let myself live again.
And yes, the unthinkable happened. My husband divorced me and married the woman he was having an affair with. Talk about cliche.
In the divorce, I fought for what was mine. Outside, I walked for miles in the greenbelt with my dogs and lost 30 stubborn pounds that melted off like butter. I began to notice that when I walked into a restaurant or the gas station, heads turned again. I fell in love with Sam Cooke and Amy Winehouse. In spite of the pain, I got on with my life in fairly fast order.
The terrible gift my husband gave me was the shock of infidelity but he also gave me the gift of my freedom, and a complete do-over at 47, which from my new perspective, doesn’t seem so terrible after all. At the time, it hurt so much that sometimes I wondered how I would get through the day. It took mountains of time and patience with myself to adjust but here I am.
After my divorce, I dated online. I could write a book about all of the different men I met, such as the guy who probably had autism who had seen the Louvre in a day and showed me pictures of him running from one famous piece of art to another to make his time limit. Another one I was having dinner with looked like a big football player from the midwest and just as I was imagining what it might be like to kiss him, he described using his breathing machine at night for his sleep apnea.
I will say that dating in your forties is like this: when we are young, we are all like new china plates in a store. It’s pretty much mix and match and you can go with anyone. When you are older, it’s like an old china plate that they don’t carry anymore. It’s all off colour and chipped and find a matching set, well, that’s tough.
Then, after three years of thinking I would never meet anyone, there he was. He was cheated on, too, which is a real commitment killer, but it’s working for now. I have someone to walk my dogs in the greenbelt with and someone to share responsibilities with, and we have fun, which is what life it all about. Sometimes I wonder if this is as good as it’s going to get.
Not terrible, not by a long shot. Pretty wonderful, in fact.