I'd been married and divorced twice when our paths crossed. He was one of the few single young men at the church I attended, a newcomer. When I first noticed him there was nothing particularly interesting about his appearance, nothing about his personae which created a desire to make his acquaintance. The fact is, he came across as boring. Boring and incredibly rigid.
But I was alone with five little ones, and struggling mightily every single day to not drown in the ocean of confusion and sorrow that had become my world. I missed having a man's companionship. Probably I never admitted even to myself how overwhelming it could be trying to be everything my sons needed.
When M. began speaking to me infrequently, my heart quickened. In an instant I forgot all about his uptight ways and that his hair was too short, his clothes too perfectly ironed. A man was befriending me, and I was too lonely to pick and choose. I hate the realization that he could have been anyone, but let's face it, that's the truth.
M. and I began dating in a rather restrained fashion. I guess you could call it dating. Much of the time we took the kids with us, out for pizza or some other treat usually unknown to me and the kids. When I left them with Sissyface for the evening, and it was just M. and I, awkwardness made my mind go blank. It didn't help that he was so serious about everything. If I asked a question he'd screw up his face in concentration and stare past me at the wall while he collected his thoughts.
The main thing I want never to forget--not that I'm likely to ever date again, but still--is that I thought by going out with this man and accepting his marriage proposal when it came half a year later, I'd score major points with God. I did think that, I really did. I thought because we were both believers, members of the same denomination, God would smile down at me, relieved that after all the nonsense of my past relationships I'd finally found the one He'd created me to be with forever.
My heart aches for who I was back then. Did I really think God wanted me to align myself with someone whose company nearly bored me to tears? To someone who shamed me and the kids, usually without having to say a word, for watching TV and eating meat?
Did I really think God didn't care about how all of that affected me?
Evidently that's exactly what I thought. I was doing my duty, you see, and I had been taught well to do what I was told without murmuring or question. When M. seemed to drop into my life out of nowhere, well didn't that mean that God wanted us together? And if M. was so disapproving of me and my clan didn't it mean God was too? Two against one. Two males against one female. Well, I knew complaint wasn't the way to go. Submission is what would turn a duty compelled relationship into a source of joy.
Except that it didn't.
Instead, I fumbled along growing increasingly miserable as we inched our way closer to the day of our wedding.
Nothing about him attracted me, inside or out. Though he was very clean his scalp always smelled sour. He was too thin, his eyes too small. He was not the kind of person I could imagine sharing passion with, any kind of passion. He was much too calm, logical and no-nonsense for that. I was willing though to sacrifice the rest of my life to him if it meant that by doing so I'd arrive at a place of security with God.
Ugh, this brings up too much ugly stuff. My mom stayed with my stepdad for financial security. What difference does it make what form of security I was seeking? The fact is I was denying the both of us any kind of future happiness because of it. And I wasn't being honest with him. I know I never said to him, "Look, I'll marry you, but only because I think I'll score big points with God if I do."
As it turned out, I couldn't bring myself to marry him. I think he began realizing that a few months after I did. I don't remember any huge dramatic scene, just a gradual awareness between us that it wasn't going to happen.
Oh, and isn't it true that the whole time we were "courting" I felt as if I and the kids didn't deserve him? That he was looking down on us for our inability to do things right, or for the kids' rowdiness or my wicked, wicked worldly ways such as watching TV and going to the movies?
Wasn't it, when you get right down to it, not unlike my early years when my mother kept herself aloof from the rest of the family, looking down on us as if Dad and we kids were from another planet? She didn't really voice her protestations, she simply kept stepping farther and farther away from us until she wasn't there anymore.
Kind of like M. He didn't approve of us, it was obvious in his expressions and in the careful tone of voice he used always, even when someone else would have exploded. What a trial my sons and I must have been, messing up his neat, orderly life with all our dysfunctions! The more he pulled back the more I did the same with the end result that we had little to say to one another by the time we knew we'd reached the end of the road. If we couldn't speak openly about what we were both struggling with, it followed that we couldn't even speak about life's mundane concerns.
I know my value now much more than I did back then. I know the God I love better, and it appalls me to think that I blamed Him for my getting stuck with someone so unsuitable.
Back then I wouldn't have believed it if someone had told me the time would come when I'd be without a man in my life for nearly 20 years. Yet here I am, and oh isn't it wonderful no longer feeling the compulsion to be in a relationship I don't, deep down, even desire?