A few months ago I had a short telephone conversation with a man who was interested in meeting me. Nothing came of this, as I was in the midst of an extremely busy period and couldn't free up the time to meet him. Towards the end of the conversation, he said, "Just remember, I'm not the one who hurt you."
I felt a bit irritated. Of course I knew he hadn't hurt me. I've healed, haven't I? Aside from my slight annoyance(this was our first conversation, after all) I tried to brush his comment aside, but I couldn't. And I haven't.
First, if I hadn't been "damaged" by my divorce in some way, I wouldn't be so wary of meeting new men. In my pre-divorce days, nothing, not even my busy schedule (and it was crammed full, believe me) would have stopped me from embarking on a new adventure.
But I have grown cautious, and protective of myself.
So how does a reckless, adventure loving person like me become so timid of getting hurt again that she thinks twice about meeting new men? Here is how.
During my marriage I was simply me. I loved my husband and he loved me, and with that knowledge I felt free to let myself simply - BE. I loved, laughed, cried, hurt, got angry, pouted, and said and did incredibly stupid, careless, and thoughtless things, because I knew that no matter what, Bob loved me. I shared my innermost feelings, my hopes, my fears, my foibles, and my truly hideous traits, because I knew that no matter what, Bob loved me.
In turn, Bob acted and behaved fearlessly because he knew that no matter what, I loved him. And I did. And I managed to do it with very little judgment and disloyalty. Whatever Bob did I supported. If I had reservations, I discussed it with him only. To the world, we were a united front. And if I had a disquieted feeling or two about his errant memory or temper towards someone else, I kept it to myself until we were alone to discuss the situation.
Twenty-five years into my marriage I learned that I had been judged for years. Not only had I been judged rather harshly, I had been found wanting. And so my husband left. The betrayal I felt was devastating. I cringed when I recalled some of the things I had told Bob, including my fantasies, and I felt rejected to my inner core. Since I had hidden nothing from my husband, there was no place to hide.
It took years for me to realize that the reasons for Bob leaving the marriage weren't because of anything I said, was, or could have done, but it sure felt that way. So I have built a nice, thick protective layer, one that insulates me from hurt but also prevents me from getting too close to a man.
At the tender age of 58, can I ever trust to be entirely myself with a man again? To laugh a little too loudly? Purchase him presents for no reason at all? To drink one drink too many? To make a huge mistake and forget to pay the water bill two months in a row? To disagree with him because I have the right to disagree, or to hug him at unexpected moments and tell him wildly how much I love him?
Frankly, I don't know.