Sunday, July 8, 2012

Anatomy of a Breakup

Players only love you when they're playin'.
~ Stevie Nicks

I met Jack* Mother's Day weekend. He had discovered my profile on Plenty of Fish; we exchanged emails and talked on the phone a few times before he asked to meet me. We enjoyed a three-hour lunch on Saturday, spent four hours together on Sunday, and he called me every day the following week. He cooked dinner for me the very next weekend: appetizers and a beautiful salad and spicy Moroccan chicken and rice and tiramisu. The wine flowed freely, the conversation was animated; I felt beautiful, sexy, wanted. There was glitter in the air.

Indeed, it was a magical time. Raised in South Africa, Jack has a swoon-worthy accent; he is handsome and fit, has traveled the world, is kind, worldly, well-traveled and sophisticated. He has a successful career and an exquisitely decorated home, gets along well with his ex-wife and adores his two grown daughters and three young grandsons, loves books and music, even dabbles with fiction writing. In short, he is everything I have ever dreamed of in a romantic partner.

He was so perfect, in fact, that I was afraid to share him with others; there seemed to be such chemistry between us that I didn't want to "jinx" anything. I began to relax, though, when he said he wanted to get to know my friends and suggested that we meet for drinks or dinner. It was the night a couple of them came to his place for burgers on the grill that the trouble began.

Waiting for Diana and Jamie to arrive, as we sat on the deck overlooking his cheerful garden sipping red wine, he shared some of the details his California business trip that week. He mentioned having a conversation with friend of his there, in which he said, "I met a little piano teacher. Things are going well but I sure hope she doesn't fall in love with me."

Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of my friends. It was an otherwise perfect evening, filled with delicious food and stimulating conversation. I met his next-door neighbor and her adorable children; Jack got along well with my friends, and they found him as charming as I did. But I was troubled, wondering what he meant by his comment to his comrade in California. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get an answer for a week and a half as he was traveling over the next several days. Finally, over lunch the day before I left for French Polynesia, he said that he simply wasn't in a position to make any kind of emotional commitment to anyone. He described himself as an introvert, an observer, generally preferring his own company to the company of others, often finding intimate conversation exhausting. He explained that he had recently ended a long-term relationship with a woman his oldest daughter introduced him to. They had actually lived together for three years and parted ways because she wanted to get married and he adamantly refused; after thirty years of marriage, he is over it. Still, his take on the situation was that this woman had "broken his heart "and, although he was certain he was no longer in love with her, he wasn't about to put himself in a situation like that again. I wasn't ready to let go; I suggested that we didn't have to make any decisions about the outcome of our relationship at that point in time, that we just take it day by day, moment by moment, and he cheerfully agreed. Back at his house, we said sweet goodbyes.

The next morning, I boarded a plane and was gone for nearly two weeks.

By that time, though, the daily phone calls had stopped, and he didn't so much as send me an email while I was out of the country. Still, he seemed happy to see me when I returned. I went to his house again; we shared cold chicken and cheese and crackers and dark chocolate with chili and red wine. I gave him a bottle of vanilla I bought in Taha'a; he wanted to know all the details of my trip. That night, he said he wanted to hear me play the piano sometime, although he expressed no interest in coming to my piano recital where he knew I would be playing that very Saturday. And when I mentioned some special order jewelry I was creating for Jamie, he said he would like to have a link to my online store, but he never followed up on that. As far as I know, he never looked at my blog.

I saw him just one more time. He called me two weeks ago Friday; I was on my way for a pedicure and he asked if I would like to join him for drinks later that evening. Of course I said yes. We had another magical, intimate night and talked about things we might do and places we might go in the future. And he wanted to see Diana and Jamie again; he asked me to invite them to come for dinner again the following Thursday.

Unfortunately, they were not available that night and when I told him so on the phone the next morning he did not ask if I would come alone. As a matter of fact, he told me that he was going to "disappear" for a while. He said there was a lot going on in his life and he felt "a little lost and not sure about many things." I begged him to talk to me about those things but he refused, saying that it was all much too complicated, that it would be exhausting to discuss it, especially with someone he hardly knows. I argued with him; I had opened myself up to him like a book, sharing little-known stories of past heartbreaks and my innermost thoughts, hopes and fears. Still, he insisted that we were little more than strangers to each other. He called again the following Friday but he had plans all that weekend and did not have time to see me and explained he would be traveling to South Carolina to sort out some issues with his daughter and his ex-girlfriend the weekend after that.

You can probably guess the rest of the story. I spoke to him yesterday; he asked polite questions, then pulled the rug out from under me. He had spoken with his ex-girlfriend, Giselle, a beautiful yoga instructor from Vienna; he doesn't know whether or not he is still in love with her, but they have known each other a long time, have many things in common, and are looking forward to spending next weekend together. It was all I could do to hold it together long enough to wish him well. I choked on the word "goodbye" as I hung up the phone. 

During our conversation, he expressed genuine surprise that I could have such deep feelings for him after such a short while. "After all, we saw each other only three times," he pointed out. That was the real stab in the heart. "We were together more than three times," I hoarsely contradicted him. I remember every detail of every encounter we shared. They are like favorite movies I have played over and over in my head. I even mentioned that to him once. But obviously he meant much more to me than I did to him.

* * *

I am left feeling confused. When we were together, he was animated and present; when we were not, he was unavailable, physically and otherwise. I did my best to respect his need for time and space; honestly, I thought I could be satisfied with the level of intimacy we shared, at least for now. But the heart wants what the heart wants. He was a breath of fresh air in my world; the first time I met him, I told him I was looking for magic and when we were together it certainly felt that way to me. How can he fault me for falling for him the way I did? The cynical part of me believes that, for him, the relationship was about conquest; the reasonable part of me thinks he has intimacy issues and was afraid of getting too close to me. Or maybe he simply never got over Giselle. Regardless, I am grateful that he warned me when he did, the night Diana and Jamie came over. Otherwise, yesterday would have been even harder to bear than it was.

He promised me early on that, no matter what happened, we would be friends forever. I reminded him of that and he said he hoped I would keep in touch. I told him I wouldn't - I simply cannot - but instead will wait to hear from him. But I doubt he will give me another thought.

Once again, my heart has been shattered into a thousand pieces, and while I know it will heal, I don't know how much more scarring it can suffer. How many more times can I put myself out there, invest energy and effort into getting to know someone, make myself vulnerable, and deal with the rejection that ultimately follows?

"As many times as it takes," my friends answer. Perhaps. And if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't do anything differently. But like Laura Linney, I now understand that "charisma is not character." And like Jane Fonda, I don't believe that I need to be with a man to feel whole; being in a relationship is a preference, but not a necessity. So for the time being, I have deleted my profiles on the dating sites. I am going to enjoy spending time with my family and my girlfriends and really focus on my fiction writing. And I'm not going to tell myself stories about how I'm not good enough. Because this wasn't a competition between me and a younger, tall, ostensibly more flexible European woman. As my friends say, "Right guy, body won't matter. Right guy, house won't matter. Right guy, money won't matter. Right guy, you can wear your heart on your sleeve and he will respond in kind."

So, Mr. Right, I've officially stopped looking for you. Universe, it's up to you to figure out how he and I are going to meet.

*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

10 comments:

Claire said...

I wish I had a magical formula to heal your heart and assure you that true love does happen. For me, I found it when I wasn't looking. It kind of slipped up and grabbed me. The most important thing is to be happy with yourself, your familya and your friends. The rest will fall into place eventually.

Julee J. Adams said...

Wow, I was watching a TV show and Jane Fonda popped up just as I read your quote from her. One of the signs of the coming end of the world, huh?
Good that you deleted the e-dating account. Good that you're taking a break to enjoy yourself and your life.
Same thing here--I thought I'd never find someone when I met Chris. Take a deep breath.

Pam Asberry said...

Others have suggested that the problem is that I need to stop looking, Claire. So that's precisely what I'm going to do. :-)

Pam Asberry said...

I love that stuff, Julee. Breathe in, breathe out...

S.M. Carrière said...

I'm so sorry that happened to you. I'm so impressed with you as well, and wishing I could be there for you. Not having met someone special, I'm not in a position to tell you magic will happen, but I'm hopeful it will for you. I can't think of anyone more deserving.

Pam Asberry said...

Thank you, S.M. But you *ARE* there for me. All the way from Canada. And *THAT* is magical, too. :-)

Anonymous said...

Your blog made me cry. I am sad that you were hurt. I pray that you find what I have. I've been married to my best friend and the man of my dreams for over 40 years. You deserve to be happy and I will continue to hold you close in my prayers. There is a Mr. Right (not Mr. Right Now) out there for you. You are too amazing for there not to be. The only person you have to impress is you. :)

Pam Asberry said...

I'm sorry I made you cry, Anonymous. But I appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than you can imagine. Love and hugs to you. :-)

Anonymous said...

Your blog takes me back to a time when I was newly separated from my ex-husband. On a night out, I ran in to someone that had meant much to me before my marriage. We started seeing one another but agreed that we "would not get carried away." We began spending much time together and he made changes that would make it easier to include me and my son in his life. Then he was in a motorcyle accident and spent many months in a hospital. I drove from Decatur to Gainesville 3 times a week and again on the weekends- A looong way back then- to sit with him, hold his hand, watch him sleep, listen to his pain, and other nights I spent hours long distance trying to comfort him.
I knew then I deeply loved him. Now I look back and I've no doubt he loved me too. I think because of our mutual agreement, we were both afraid to say the words to the other.
I tried to help with his recovery- he became addicted to pain meds. I had a young son to raise and a career to build. I was afraid of the drugs, his state of mind, and a long-term relationship after a bad marriage and I ran away from the relationship that time.
Over 10 years we were on again off again and never spoke of our feelings. We lost touch after a silly disagreement.
25 years went by. I thought of him often and my one desire was to tell him how I actually felt all those years ago. I wanted to say, " You know...I loved you."
It was complicated though, I was married, raising children and probably afraid of what could happen if I did contact him.
Five years ago, I got the call from a friend that the continued pain resulting from the accident and life had become too much to bear and my dear one had killed himself.
After the call, it took me about 30 seconds to find his address and phone # on google.
I will always regret that we didn't stay in touch, that I was afraid,and I never said, "I love you". Maybe I could have helped in some way. I will never know.
I am so impressed that you are honest and open in your relationships and willing to discuss your feelings. Even if my dear one had not felt the same way when I spoke those words to him at least I would have know and I wouldn't be living with regrets all these years later.
Hang in there, the right one will come along when you when you least expect him.

Pam Asberry said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for sharing your story with me. Try not to be so hard on yourself. I have no doubt that you did the best you can with what you had to work with at the time; obviously, your loved one had self-destructive tendencies, even if they were born out of circumstances beyond your control, and as a single mom, your responsibility was to your children first. And after so much time went by and you married again, I completely understand your reluctance to go back there again. I feel that I have no choice but to be honest and open in my relationships; I kept my true self hidden for so many years in my troubled marriage that I am determined to be my authentic self as much as possible now. If that makes me too intense for certain men, well, so be it. Hopefully you are right, and eventually someone will come along who will cherish me just as I am. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.