A few months ago, I was in a relationship and we had it all. And it fell apart. Because that happens sometimes. This isn’t about fault.
Recently, an odd series of events unfolded, and they lead me to an unexpected flash of insight.
- Tired of the void in my life, I caved in and set up an online dating profile. During a pandemic. Ugh.
- The next morning, my therapist checked in via text. I hadn’t heard from her in about six weeks and 14 hours post-profile set up, there she is. “All good, thanks.” I replied.
- Later that same day, I heard from Kerry, for the first time in a while. He sent me an email, which led to a run of texts which brought about incredible clarity.
- I’m working on a project with Alpha. For work. Because I have at least one foot in reality.
- All of this, exactly a year to the day, since I met the Amazing Man, with whom I had it all. Until I didn’t.
While the context for this is fairly fascinating on some level, it’s not the point. Just FYI.
It was an offhand comment in one of Kerry’s texts, with the hope of coaxing me back, that left me floored. It was so obvious, and so nuanced at the same time. A flash of inside that brought everything into focus.
Nearly two years ago, I met Kerry. We dated for a few months before it unraveled.
We never reconciled it at the end. And a few months later, Kerry was absolutely eclipsed by the Amazing Man and he quickly fell into the shadows. No question. But when he would cross my mind, or when I deleted his occasional text, he felt like a loose end. As if something, somehow, was still unfinished.
So when he pinged in the other day, in the midst of a global pandemic, as I was feeling isolated and alone; as I was dreading the process of online dating and what it meant to swipe through profiles; as I was haunted by the anniversary the week, I was flooded with emotions and frustration. It was a swirl of madness. Kerry’s email was a light in the fog.
He had emailed and texted periodically over the last few months. I ignored him. I was happy. Life was full. He was my past.
Until the present.
This week when he emailed, I answered. He volleyed right back two seconds later…. And with full force, the exchange took on a life of its own, fueled by our past.
He reminisced in the texts about how we both loved our 3F’s. And how we both appreciated the ease with which we quickly fell into a rhythm. Our 3F’s were the focus of so much laughter, energy, creativity and happiness.
He missed me, our energy and our F’s. He was sure I did too.
The 3 F’s.
In a flash, that seemed to cut through everything, I suddenly had focus.
There were three things for which he and I shared passion and enthusiasm. Coincidentally they all start with F. We used to laugh about it all the time.
Food, flowers and
fu***, frolic. That’s a good G rated F word, frolic. Or perhaps a fascination with foreign films or Florida beaches, both fans of the same football team, fluent in French. A shared philosophy about finances. A fondness for fig Newtons, fondue, an evening by the fire, the fox trot…..
Regardless of what the 3 F’s were, specifically, we shared a love of those three things. There was a mutual level of interest, knowledge and curiosity about them. When it came to those few things, were were perfectly matched. Flawless.
It was fabulous.
In full disclosure while we were together, we certainly talked about more than fig Newtons or football or Florida or….. Not all conversations were about board sauces and hydrangeas. In fact, we had a lot in common. There was significant mortar holding those three fundamentals in place. There was also respect, shared values, similar careers, close in age and cultural traditions.
What the three F’s were, specifically, didn’t really matter.
But here’s what did matter, and where it fractured.
I wanted a full relationship. Kerry simply wanted a fraction of that. Neither of us were wrong, per se. But we were badly misaligned.
Kerry stayed firmly within the parameters of the 3F’s. He wasn’t refusing to do more. It just never dawned on him in our otherwise full lives. He saw us as fortunate to have such fabulous compatibility in three very fundamental areas. That’s where we were happy. That’s where we were free of complications. This fit, perfectly. That was his firm, well-founded view.
He never asked for more or promised more. We had a great gig. We were happy. Full stop.
However, I thought that because the 3 F’s worked, they were just the beginning. First steps, as it were.
I was working with the fictitious premise that they should be the foundation for further facets of a full relationship. Surely with this solid footing, other things would follow, if fostered properly. Meeting each other’s friends, meeting each other’s family, conversations about faith, fears, feelings, that man-of-the-house/father-like role in my adult kids’ lives, the financial realities of our world. A future.
A full, rich fabric, finely woven together.
So, I began to weave in the other F’s, or at least I tried to. He didn’t. Meeting his kids, meeting his friends, conversations about how he felt about a future … all of that slid off him like Teflon.
Instead of embracing what we had and seeing it for what it was, I focused on what was next. I took what we had and saw it as a foundation on which to build. He took what we had and found joy. Uncomplicated joy.
So obviously, when I treated him like a full blown boyfriend, he missed by a mile. I could cite endless examples of when I wanted, hoped, asked him for something a boyfriend would do. And when I tried to be the full-blown girlfriend, he didn’t seem interested. He wasn’t being difficult or argumentative or an ass. He was very happy with the energy and happiness the 3 F’s brought us. He loved our 3F’s. They made him happy. That was all he wanted or needed or promised.
Instead of enjoying what was working and letting myself relax for a while, I felt like I had no option but to forge ahead and find ways to make it more. That was futile. And I felt like a failure.
We were finished as far as I was concerned.
I could have attempted a conversation. I could have told him what I was hoping for. I could have listened to what made him happy. We may have found common ground, or maybe not. But an end with closure is firmer ground on which to move forward. A loose end is unfinished business.
At its finale, I was frustrated and fed up with it all. The idea of dating and meeting someone new had me fatigued. I felt that I had failed, again.
Months later, by good fortune, I found someone with whom I had all of those much-sought-after facets of a full relationship. We had fun, loved food, a good
ff frolic, the pressure-fraught moment about becoming Facebook friends. We met each other’s families and friends. We watched football and loved the same films. We knew how we felt about life and each other. We talked openly about faith and finances and fears. We hinted at a future. The fabled, fairy tale finish line.
My heart was full. It was wonderful. He was a fine man.
And it failed.
Because things do. Because we are human.
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes and meet various needs. There’s no right mix of elements or emotions. And at 50+, by the way, we have histories, baggage, wounds and flaws. We also have careers, grown kids, friends, habits and full lives. Finding someone to fit in with all that is nearly folly.
Then it all came full circle this week.
At one time, Kerry and I really had something pretty fabulous, albeit focused in scope. It was truly fun. We loved and enjoyed the hell out of those 3 F’s. But instead of focusing on what worked, it seemed to fall short because of what didn’t work.
So this week, when Kerry reminded me of the ease and energy we brought to the 3 F’s. I realized that if 3 F’s make us happy, and it’s a shared framework for our relationship, then the 3 F’s are complete. Period. Full stop. For us.
The last time around, I was in one lane, he was in another. No one was right or wrong. Just very different places and expectations.
To go into round 2 with him, knowing it is founded on our 3 F’s means we are sharing a lane. It means I don’t expect him to ask me to meet his kids. I don’t offer to have him meet mine. I don’t ask him to drop me at the airport. We don’t have conversations about a future together.
I may, however bring him flowers. And he may cook fabulous meals.
It means we are focused. We know where we’re good together. We know where the energy is.
For this moment in time, 3 F’s are fabulous. And if 3 F’s lead to a fourth or fifth F… fine. If not, no foul.
It’s a matter of enjoying what I have, not wishing it was something different.
This is a facet of my life. Not the full picture.
Relationships are fluid and forever changing. What is important today is different than what may be important in a week, or a year.
I have lots of people in my life with whom I am friends. I am fortunate to have some really great friends. But each is different. Each fills a different need. No one person is everything, to anyone. To think otherwise is fiction. I never look at my friend Tom, or Bella or Grace and think, damn, s/he falls short here and doesn’t meet my every need. S/he mustn’t’ be fully in, so I’m out.
That would be…. foolish.
With the full clarity that came with Kerry’s text, I feel freed up to think about things this way. It’s like facing facts.
To focus on what works and enjoy it for what it is, is fabulous. If the 3 F’s don’t make me happy, that’s one thing. But if they bring joy to my life, that’s awesome. I can celebrate what they are. Not fume over what they aren’t.
In this moment, he and I can spend time enjoying, exploring and very focused on our 3F’s.
If I want more, I know that’s not him. If he wants more, I’d be floored.
This isn’t forever. It’s for now.
And that’s fine.
photo credit: Victoria Krug