We’d met through an online dating site at the end of December. It was easy to talk with him from the very first message. We shared a love of music, activities including dancing, family, faith– and surprisingly, words–me, primarily with writing and for him– public speaking. We laughed easily and had a similar energy. The first date for lunch ended up being like a ‘progressive dinner’– main course, ice cream, and coffee stretched across my hometown from 11:30 – 5:00.
He wasn’t like all the other guys I’d met online; he actually initiated calls and texts, planned future outings, and followed through– amazing! He had that emotional openness that I talked about in my Valentine’s 2021 post Emotional Openness: What They Had, that ability to speak honestly about what he felt–not the reserve that I’d seen with most of the men I knew. We enjoyed dinners and dancing and long conversations through the cold days of January. We weren’t exclusive as they call it now in online dating, which was equivalent to “going steady” back in my day; both of us remained on the dating site. Even so, I spent less time there and more time engaged in conversations with him, wondering where things could be headed.
Like all relationships, you bring along your baggage–whether it’s from a divorce, as is my case, or it’s dealing with the death of a spouse–as it was for him. With someone new, you have lots of unknowns, variables you’re not aware of. Several weeks into dating him, we had an ‘incident’ and I realized the woman he’d been dating before me–was still more in the picture than I knew. Yes, I’m being purposefully vague because of course I’m trying to tell you the story while also honoring boundaries.
Anyway, after that incident that felt hurtful toward me, we talked through the situation, he apologized, and we decided to continue dating. While I’ve always hated conflict, preferred to fall silent and walk away because my flight is stronger than my fight, we were able to talk and that was improvement for me.
We had some good times over the next few weeks but then a second, bigger incident happened.
How could he mess up so badly in such a short amount of time? Did he have any idea how his behavior impacted me or was it just about him?
He saw how he’d blundered and recognized he needed to take a break from dating. After a week of agreed upon no talking/texting, I received his “Dear John” aka “Dear Connie” text two days before Valentine’s; he’d gone back to the woman before me.
In the six weeks we were together, it had seemed almost like a whirlwind romance; in retrospect, it ended like a tornado.
Those weeks were intense, at times fun, and often tiring. Dating required a lot of energy in addition to daily life and all the requirements of being sixty-six, a baby boomer trying to navigate life as a single woman. Since the “Dear John” text, I’d done lots of thinking, praying, walking, dancing, and sleeping when I could, to get past that heartbreak.
During this online dating adventure, I’ve prayed that God would “Bless me and the men in my path” just like before my solo journeys I pray that God will “Bless me and the people in my path.” What was the purpose of him being in my path– and me in his, if that’s how things were to end? What did I learn from that relationship, I asked myself.
Last week, he called multiple times and I didn’t answer; what was there to say? Likewise, I didn’t respond to his text or his email on the dating site. All the messages said the same thing; he wanted to talk, he was sorry for his actions, that he didn’t deserve forgiveness but hoped I would forgive him so that we could at least be friends.
Last Thursday afternoon, a friend called and I told her about my 6-week relationship with him, how poorly things had ended, how tired I felt.
“It’s like I have this stored tiredness— from the divorce, the changes I’ve gone through, and this online dating that takes so much energy,” I said, and felt the weariness in my voice.
Later, when I was thinking about our conversation, I imagined crawling in my bed, pulling up the covers, and just sleeping–maybe until the end of winter. Since I couldn’t do that, I opted to binge-watch a Netflix show that is part Hallmark-cheesy, “Sweet Magnolias.” It’s a light drama and before that night had been a counter balance to “Ozark” which is dark and well-acted. Thursday night I wanted that Hallmark-cheesy, the warm comfort of a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold, rainy night.
In the episode, Maddie is faced with her ex-husband’s once lover, Noreen who is the mother of the daughter produced out of the affair. Maddie has been through a tumultuous divorce that shook apart her family of three children. She’s filled with anger, rage at what her ex’s foolish actions have done to them. Noreen asks Maddie to forgive her for what she did to their family. Noreen appears genuinely sorry and aware of the grave impact of her actions.
Maddie struggles with how she can forgive her. But then, Maddie’s hunk-of-a-boyfriend, Cal–the former major league baseball player, tells her that forgiveness is not just for the one you’re forgiving; it frees you to move on with your life.
As all good Hallmark stories go, Maddie steps onto the high road and forgives Noreen, even taking her baby gifts while she’s still in the hospital. Tears streamed down my face and I thought of how hard that would be to forgive.
Soon after that, he called me again. This time, I answered.
We talked at length. I fully expressed all the feelings I’d had, saying the things I’d practiced on those walks. I didn’t hold back; instead I embraced the conflict, not running from talking about an incident that had been so hurtful.
He acknowledged the impact of his actions. He didn’t minimize what he’d done.
“Will you forgive me, Connie?”
I was quiet for a bit. I knew that whatever I said, wouldn’t change the place we’d arrived. It wouldn’t take away the ending of the six weeks that had been magical at times; even with his statement of regret, he’d moved on to be with her.
“Yes, I forgive you,” I said. “Now, forgive yourself and don’t ever do that to anyone again.”
We ended our conversation remembering some of the good times.
And particularly that first date, on a sunny December afternoon, driving through my hometown in his convertible with the top down, listening to Joe Bonamassa’s “Drive”.