It has only now occurred to me, at the age of 38, on the heels of divorcing my husband of ten years, that I’m not very good at love.
Now, as Serge and I attempt to revive our relationship after a year of separation, I don’t think, as I once did, that our problems were because he was the wrong person.
I think it’s because I’m emotionally stunted. I’m terrible at relationships. Or maybe I’m lazy and selfish. Or all of the above.
I’m not good at love because I’m uncomfortable with love, I realize.
And I think maybe it’s why I’m attracted to unavailable men. Not necessarily men who are already in relationships (although I have a history of that as well), but men who, perhaps, aren’t interested in me. Those interactions are safe for me. I can float along for months, years even, on the possibility of love; that heady flirtation infused with potential, the idea of coupledom. I can ascribe those men with all manner of positive traits they may or may not actually have. But take that up a notch — transform the chase into a full blown relationship wherein I am required to deal with another human being’s issues — where I have to mesh my world with theirs in very real and uncomfortable ways, and I’m a mess. I like the idea of love, but when someone is standing before me professing their love, I become scratchy and weird.
I see this happening as Serge and I tiptoe back down the relationship path. I have announced to him on more than one occasion that the notion of marriage terrifies me. Not only because I just don’t like the entire concept of legally fusing your life to someone else’s — I find being a free agent far more appealing — but because, why would I jump off the cliff into the water if I can’t swim all that well?
I think that’s where a lot of relationships go wrong, maybe. We’re all jumping off the cliff before we can swim and then we’re surprised when we sink. When I look ahead at the possibility of being with Serge forever, I am very nearly overwhelmed by the amount of work that will go into maintaining our love story. I’m no longer ignorant to what it really takes to keep a relationship afloat in this world. It’s requires constant vigilance. And even then, there are no guarantees. Time passes, people inevitably change. After witnessing my marriage slowly morph into something that, in the end, terrified me — I know this first-hand. Not only that, but watching how quickly he changed into someone else during our separation demonstrated how quickly someone you intimately know can become a stranger. It just happens. It’s inevitable. It’s freaky. We’ve all experienced it; you’re in a relationship with someone, for years, maybe, and you break up, run into them several months down the road at the movies or a restaurant. You know them but don’t know them. It’s just like that with divorce when you have kids. You still see them but you have separate lives. They’re moving on, changing, you know them but you don’t know them.
Maybe because I’ve walked to the edge, jumped, and sank to the bottom, I can never really give myself over to another human being? Or maybe I never could even before I jumped? I don’t know. Can someone who has experienced divorce, the slow rotting of what they thought was true love, ever really, truly give themselves over to someone else or will the what- ifs, the ghostly potential of ruination, always haunt them? Have they seen too much?
I’m not opposed to anything. I’m open to everything and am no longer imposing any kind of rules on my love life. I’m just allowing whatever feels good and right to take place while pushing myself in directions that previously felt uncomfortable; professing my love, proclaiming my affection, trying to let him know I dig him as opposed to pretending like I don’t care. But underneath it all, I’m hyper-aware that there are no guarantees in love. Ever.
Sound unromantic? Maybe. But it’s realistic.More On