But none of that mattered. We were in love. Fast-forward 18 years. Michael and I are no longer together, but our relationship lasted almost four years. We traveled together to France, he was at the birth of my daughter, and we created many beautiful works of art together over the years. We continue to be friends and work on the occasional project together which is a testimony to our indelible connection, but because of the disapproval of people close to us and various endeavors of those people to break us up, we did not last. We were affected by their words and opinions, and neither of us was strong enough or wise enough to handle the opposition.
However, I did learn so many empowering things from knowing him, loving him and being loved by him. I realize now that we have a deep connection that cannot be diluted by the opinions of others. I also realize we are always going to know each other, and that was a complex matter of transforming our status over time (with a long break) to that of friends. I have learned that no one can tell you who to love or not to love. I was recently in another relationship with a younger man, this time 11 years my junior. I did not pursue this man by any stretch of the imagination. He did all the chasing to get me to go on a date with him. He was relentless! He won me over with his playfulness, his humor, his artistic side, his undisguised admiration of me, his persistence, his energy, his lack of cynicism (as is the case with many men in my age group), and his blatant adoration of me as a 40-something mature woman. All that is great to start with, but how do you sustain a relationship with such an age difference? I have three children. I’ve been married and divorced twice. I have a career, a degree, I’ve lived more of my life than he has lived his. It was an agonizing process for both of us, deciding when and how to involve him in my children’s lives.
On the one hand, I knew he was a good person and trustworthy, but I didn’t want to have my kids become attached to him only to have things not work out with us. They did not need to have that kind of disappointment in their lives. I also knew that at my age it would be more difficult and complicated to get pregnant and give birth. He didn’t have any children of his own. What if he wanted to have biological offspring later? I argued against myself, before anyone else did: I’m not going to be in my 40s forever. When I’m 60, would he dump me for another babe in her forties? He laughed at me and said he will be in his 50s, and we will both be getting older together. It was the thing I wanted to hear, but somehow I didn't believe him. He was straining himself too hard to be with me. Neither of us could simply relax and enjoy ourselves together. There were a million looming questions and no answers. What about the kids? He tried hard to be kind and patient with my children, and he claimed to be content to think of them as the only children he will have. It still bothered me that we might never make a baby of our own. I left it up to nature, but I did not get pregnant with him in the five years we were together.
Eventually our differences became larger than everything else and we spent the last year of our relationship breaking up. These differences had origins in our upbringing, our cultures, our life view and approach to everyday situations. We were ultimately incompatible. As nervous as I was about how our breakup would affect my children, I realized that they were understood and were even relieved to see us part ways. The fighting created an uncomfortable environment that no one missed when it was gone.