Rules of dating and divorce

He’d mentioned earlier that he was afraid he might be coming down with something.

A goodnight kiss so quick I hardly knew it occurred ended things and that was that. It had gone well; I had experienced my first post-marriage date and had walked through it with impunity. He posted a smiley face on my Facebook page an hour after the date; I went to sleep content. Every insecurity I’d ever even slightly known began to holler like a banshee.

I’d started dating at 16 and had experienced nothing but messed-up, far-too-dependent-on-each-other pairings from that first time out the gate until the day I married at 24.

I had been that girl—you know, the one who thought she needed a man.

I wasn’t interested in a dating website, nor a friends-with-benefits setup. Or so I thought until I went on the one and only date I’ve had (outside that marriage) in the last quarter century.It was only recently, since I’d been living on my own and encountering my friends and colleagues as a single person, that I had begun to see how deeply loved and appreciated I was by the people in my life, love given to me as a grace, without merit. As long as I had chicken soup on the brain (and, I reasoned, the healing properties of this soup might keep me from getting the flu I had marginally been exposed to), I went to the store and bought the ingredients for the best chicken soup ever, along with a baguette of crusty sourdough. My kitchen filled with the aroma of love: love for myself.I have cooked hundreds of pots of chicken soup in my life and yet this was the first time I made chicken soup expressly for me. I enjoyed the soup and then had to email my sick acquaintance and offer to bring some over.I just didn’t want to be on the receiving end of a rejection. My impulse, during my dating years and all the married ones, was to care for other people, including our three kids.I started making a shopping list of ingredients needed, figuring out how I’d juggle the rest of the day’s activities to allow time for shopping, cooking, driving, and nursing—when I stopped myself. On some level, I had grown to believe that I was loveable only to the degree that I had earned the love. What would happen, I began to wonder, if I put that same nurturing energy I wanted to share with this man into myself?

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