Allowing myself to become so emotionally deprived made entering into a relationship with Dan a simple choice. Selfishly I permitted Dan to feed the dried up ground that was my emotion reserve. Dan is the quintessential giver. Always looking for things to do to make the people around him happy. He was put in my path when I was most in need and I was grateful for it, albeit a bit weary.
As time passed, and my emotional well was replenished I returned to myself. With that return came the realization that Dan was not the life partner that I was looking for. But the sting of putting my time into the infertile soil of Lee left me afraid to leave Dan. I felt it was better to be with someone who wanted to be in a relationship, even though my feelings were not as deep as theirs, than love someone who could not give me what I needed.
And so, when Lee finally came around asking to spend more time together I chose Dan. The time of my choice is still clear in my mind. Lee had asked me to join him at a park with his family. This is something that had never happened in our year of dating. I had met only one of his friends in all that time. I knew that his offer was very big for him and still writing this I am pained that I did not chose to go with him, but I had plans with Dan and did not want to break those.
I still do not know now whether it was the best choice (as the tears well while I type I think it was the wrong one), but my action was based on an idea I wanted. The idea of having an invested partner who was willing and able to give and receive in a relationship. The idea was and is still what I want, but not necessarily the person tied to it in that moment of choice. Never underestimate the power of fear to cloud your judgement.
It was the holiday season and Dan and I had just split. After a year together and more than six months of gathering strength and courage, I spoke my truth; that I did not see myself marrying the man who was everything I needed at the time we met. It was a swift separation. Perhaps it was because we had done so much work together, talking and trying to hear each other that I felt we had each done our best. I had closure and no worry that we had missed an opportunity to fix something that was fixable. Perhaps because of that the process of breaking up was relatively painless, though the hit would come in a different form and source.
For the holidays Lee came over to our house to say ‘hi’ to the family (yes, we still talked) when the question of whether he was dating anyone came up. He said yes and the news hit me as if I were a tree being cut down. I couldn’t believe he hadn’t said more, done more. More to tell me he was really ready to start dating, more to reach out and communicate. Didn’t he want to be happy with me? The person who was there for him? Didn’t he think of me at all?
All recollection of his attempts to hang out the summer before were discounted as trivial and not clear enough that he was actually ready for a relationship. I asked him about all of these things over drinks and Lee’s only answer was that we wanted different things. He did not want to get married or have kids. Turns out he really had been listening to me.
After a little more ranting on my part (he saw is new lady 3-4 times a week compared to my measly 1 on a good week) our conversation turned to other things. To his time in the Middle East and what had actually happened. I asked why he was so sad about events there and the look in his eyes told me he had loved someone there.
I asked him if my hunch was correct and he nodded. He told me of a girl who was helping refugees. They had loved each other and were trying to find a way to get her out of the country, to be with him in the U.S. She never made it that far. When Lee found out about her capture and death he was stateside recovering from surgery. He blamed himself for what happened and let grief consume him. Her name was Norah and I had her face.
So many things clicked for me that night. His reason for not wanting to commit himself to a relationship or have children. They would all be one more thing that could be taken away. I understood how he could treat me the way he did. With a ghost looking at him from his past asking him for a future he would not let himself imagine.