"Hello, I'm Nate." No pick-up line or elaborate introduction. Just a greeting followed by a name. I knew what was next and decided to say yes to whatever invitation exited his lips. That was many memories ago.
I had worked with Nate for a few months before he introduced himself to me and invited me to go out with him. When we went on our first date, I was 29 and a single mother of a 6-year-old. My first marriage was unsuccessful. Now, after 3 years of meaningless dating, I met "him." He was in his mid-20s, younger than me, no children. His maturity level concerned me and intrigued me at the same time. Had he sowed his wild oats and would he remain faithful? I tucked my concerns away because I also was curious about the fun that we could have together. There were no butterflies; no heart skipping a beat. There was only a person who was living a life I longed for. No responsibilities and financially secure. Hands on a clock did not dictate his activities. My reality was completely the opposite. I had multiple responsibilities with bills and a young child, and a social life based on the availability of a babysitter.
Our date was a weekend getaway, an escape from my real life. I tasted the excitement his life represented to me — no schedule, expensive restaurants, and shopping without looking at a price tag. I felt shame for such material desires, but was unable to turn back. This began a relationship built not on emotions of love or passion, but on dependency and insecurity fueled by my fear of being alone.
The next three months were a whirlwind of excitement; yet, I was losing myself more and more into an upper class lifestyle that was no longer foreign to me. On my 30th birthday, it happened — a bottle of wine, a crackling fire, a proposal of marriage. Time stopped. My head and my heart were at war. The 30 seconds it took for his words took forever. A battle waged. I knew I had to have an answer. I could not remain silent. My head said this would be a big mistake, and that I did not realize I was losing my soul because my heart desired the lifestyle I was now part of. "Yes!” The answer broke out. I heard the word before I realized I even said it.
This was not a start of a beautiful life together, as engagements should be. It began a slow deterioration, something I was not even aware of, which would take 13 years to complete.
The first year of marriage, and many times after, concerns about the maturity of a younger man came to fruition. Many times his flirting crossed the line of love and respect for our marriage. I pushed my concerns aside, deeper than at the beginning of our relationship. I mastered putting my feelings deep into a vault in my soul. I was becoming someone on the outside who didn't match the empty woman that was now "me" inside.
Seven years later, I was pregnant. I believed this would change everything. There would be no more rumors of infidelity. I struggled with being a good mom to my firstborn and being a wife to my carefree, sanctimonious husband. Now, it would all come together. Happiness would come and the shame I felt about my materialistic choices would leave; we were a “family”.
After 9 months, the dream of a new home in the suburbs, 2.1 children, as well as white-collar career neighbors seemed to be far away. I was too weak to end the relationship before life formed in my womb, and there was nowhere to draw strength from to leave now.After my son's birth, something wonderful happened. Being a loving, protective mother superseded the wants I had for the superficial lifestyle of status and money. The person I once was began slowly resurfacing. Although my head was unable to convince my heart for five additional years, deep down I knew my marriage would end in divorce. With my head and heart a team, becoming united in this decision, my hibernating soul came alive. "Yes!" The same word I used to begin my marriage was the same word I was using to end it.
This inner growth continued until I was weak no more. I wasn't that insecure, scared 30-year-old woman. I was now 12 years removed and knew a better life waited. I matured during those years, not basing self-love on the actions or approval of anyone else. I was proud of who I was again.