At some point after losing A, when I had begun to consider the possibility of dating again, I started to listen to the stories of others who had traveled that path before me.
Some called their next loves their “chapter 2”, but that phrase never sat well with me. To me, a Chapter 2 would indicate that I had moved on, and I knew if I were to ever love again, I wouldn’t be moving on, but moving forward.
Others seemed to struggle with finding love again (or even wanting to). They suffered from complicated grief and were stuck in the mourning phase for multiple reasons such as losing their partners to suicide, discovering their spouses had been cheating on them. while still alive, or feeling guilty because they were relieved at their loved one’s passing.
Then there were still others who had been able to open their hearts and love again. The most enlightening thing I heard from those people I hoped to be most like, was that much like giving birth to a second child didn’t make you love your first any less, finding someone new after loss expanded their battered hearts to allow even more love in, not push out its previous resident. It didn’t take away what they had before, but rather added to it, changed it, made it somehow “more”.
It took me awhile to find someone I felt worth hanging onto when I did finally venture out into the dating world. Most of my dates ranged from mediocre to downright dreadful. (I have laughed with some of you over my horror stories, so you know what I mean.) I wasn’t merely dating to not be alone. I wanted to find that someone who helped me to not be lonely. The two are not the same. And I made a promise to myself that I would rather be alone than be with the wrong person simply so I wouldn’t be. (Because to me, being lonely with someone is much worse than simply being alone.)
When I first met S, he struck me as sweet and genuine, and even somewhat awkward. Our first date was merely drinks and conversation as I had an early start planned the next day. Strangely, he was the one that kept an eye on the clock and, when the time came that I had said I needed to leave, he gently pushed me out the door toward home.
He contacted me later on to arrange another date and I accepted, telling him at the time that he had the dubious distinction of being the only person that had gotten past the first date. Two dates turned into three, which turned into more dates and then spending whole afternoons together, and before I knew it, I had somehow gone from dating to being in a relationship. I learned the awkwardness I had witnessed was actually him treading lightly because he knew I needed to take things slow. And although it took me awhile to admit it to myself, I eventually realized that I was in love.
With this realization came guilt that I wasn’t expecting. I had falsely believed that by waiting so long and being so selective about who I gave my shattered heart to, I wouldn’t have anything to feel guilty about. The funny thing about guilt – and grief – is that we don’t exactly get to pick and choose when the feeling hits us. Or how.
You see, part of the guilt was rooted in the fact that on some level, I still feel married, which means that being with someone new feels like infidelity. As A was my only real relationship, just being with someone who isn’t him has been strange. This to me is only normal.
But the other guilt I have been feeling has more to do with the fact that I sometimes feel it’s unfair to S that I still love A. Which perhaps isn’t so normal. Popular opinion will tell you that you can’t love two men at the same time, yet that is exactly what I’m doing. I’m fortunate that S seems to understand the reality of this even more than I do.
I’m even more fortunate that he still wants me in his life knowing that I will always love A. If the situation were reversed, I’m ashamed to say that I’m not sure I could handle it. I mean, heck, while watching The Incredibles and hearing S comment on Elastigirl’s figure, I got jealous. No joke. I was jealous of a cartoon character.
So I can’t even imagine what my feelings would be if he still loved another woman. Which makes me even more grateful that it looks like I chose wisely. Because if I’m going to love two men, I suppose it’s best that the second one harbors no hard feelings towards the first. Because that would really be awkward.
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