By Lisa Barr
I ran into an old friend while getting coffee. He and his wife had recently split up. They have two sons.
“How are you?” I asked.
“I mean, really how are you?”
His dark eyes narrowed in. “Oh, I’m getting used to it. You know, I’ve never had a problem being alone. But now living alone, away from the kids, it’s lonely. I mean it’s better than it was, but –”
“Yeah, sad sometimes.”
He shook his head. “I’m not totally ready.”
I looked at him with deep understanding. “It’s hard to be intimate after being with one person so long.”
“No, intimate I can do.” He laughed. “I’m just not ready for a relationship. I just don’t want to be committed. I was married 20 years and —
“You want to be free.”
He shrugged. “Yeah.”
“Maybe for a little bit,” I said. “But you really don’t. You’ll see. You’re not the same dating machine you were in your 20s. That guy you left back in the ’90s. You’ve had a life, a wife, children … You’re now coming into the dating world from a totally different angle. It’s very surreal because you’re thrust back to where you were years ago, but you’ve changed. So the outlook is way different.”
“You’re right,” he said. “I’m not the same guy. But I do know what I’m looking for … I have a specific package in mind.”
I put down my coffee, and leaned forward. “Describe the package.”
He smiled slyly as if he had given this great thought. “This is not going to come out right, but, well, physically, she is the opposite of my ex wife.”
I rolled my eyes. “Please don’t go for 20 year olds — you will never feel lonelier. I promise.”
“No 20 year olds,” he said. “But it’s true. All these guys I know think that once you’re out of the marriage it’s a fuck fest — but why would I want a 20 year old, when the truth is so many 40 year olds look great.”
I nodded. “Yes, they do. You’re onto something you know. But it’s not about their looks, it’s about their state of mind. Forty-year-old women know what they want, and they know who they are. They have lived life.” I paused. “In my opinion, although it is more complicated, divorcees should look for other divorcees or widowers, because they get your lifestyle. Weekends, dinners, the schedule. A 20-something will never understand your time with your kids. They will be jealous. Although it is far from easy, a 40 year old truly understands you have a full package, because they do too.” I sipped my coffee, and reflected. “This time, think smart. Your list should not stop at looks but encompass personality traits. The real stuff that matters.”
I always say: You can always leave your lover but you can never leave your best friend.
“Look, I want some lightness in my life right now,” he said. “A few flings that are fun but mean nothing. The last few years especially have been so heavy. I’m just not willing to settle.”
“That’s the beauty of second marriages,” I said. “Settling does not even factor in. You’ve had your kids, there’s no clock, and you’ve grown up.”
But do we ever really grow up? I wondered. We all want the same things: love, passion, laughter, communication, attraction, friendship, and happiness. It just comes in so many different forms, and those we meet when we shop around may have a few of those matching qualities … but the really hard part is finding the whole package. First time around is usually about timing and attraction –“falling” in love. A real relationship you learn somewhere in your 30s is about “growing” in love.
His cell phone rings. It’s his ex-wife. “Hey, how are you?” he said. His tone was really nice as though he was speaking with a good friend. “I’m at Starbucks. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“How is she doing?” I asked.
“She is so much happier. We are better friends, we get along, and we’re really on board with getting the kids through all this. How’s your hubby doing? Love that guy.”
“He’s great. The kids are at camp. We’ve had a lot of time together. We needed it.” I smiled.
He eyed me closely. “You really dig him. I don’t see a lot of that around here. That’s what I want too.”
“You know what?” I said. “Nothing is perfect. We fight as hard as we love. But he is my best friend. That was top on my list, in my ‘package.’ And he always makes me laugh. I’ve had several loves in my life, but when I met David in my late 30s — it was truly the first time I understood love. I think the second time around is taking that ‘transition time’ to love yourself first and learn what you know you need, not what you think you need. It sucks, though, having had to go through a divorce to get there. But that’s life.”
My friend stood to go. “That’s exactly what I want too. But just no commitments for a while, you know what I mean. I need to breathe.”
I laughed and tapped my watch. “You’re going to be great. But, if you think YOU are going to stay uncommitted — you’re wrong. I give you six months of flings — and my friend, you are going to want a real relationship. That’s breathing. Just don’t make the mistake that happens in so many second marriages. Remarrying the same woman/man but in a different package. Remember, it’s not about finding someone who LOOKS the opposite of your first wife, it’s everything else.”
After he leaves, I think a lot about going at it a Second Time Around.
A ‘Second Chance’ is not about finding great sex and passion (Don’t get me wrong — chemistry is hugely important). It is about discovering what you really want, really need, and recognizing those qualities mirrored in someone else.
It is fun and friendship. It’s finding your partner in humor, because of all the crazy divorce scenarios that occur on a daily basis — your kids, his kids, kids together, the exes, etc. Life gets tough when the package is You, Him and Them. So be prepared. The second-time around guy or girl has to be someone who looks at you and sees inside you, not what they want you to be but what you really are. Among my many flaws, I’m a klutz — I think I’ve mentioned it before. I mean really a klutz. I spill more than my kids. I trip over everything, And I’m a huge hand talker — things go flying.
My husband is always moving cups out of my way as if I were Mr. Magoo, and we laugh about this, and he loves that about me — this particular imperfection — and I think to myself, Man, this guy gets me.
I know for sure one day in my 90s, I will be tripping over my walker. And the handsome old dude behind me will be laughing, and catching me when I fall.
A friend recently asked me to help her create her profile for an Internet dating site. My one piece of advice was: Don’t make stuff up just to sound good or different. You have wonderful points about you. But whoever the lucky guy is … you want him to want the real you. To love the real you. Not some figment of your imagination, and his.
I think of my friend again as I get up to leave the cafe and head to the grocery store. Divorce, starting over, fear, sadness, excitement was written across his face. A new beginning requires baby steps before walking. He will have one-nighters, he will have the emptiness. He will have to remember what it feels like to date (interview) a woman. He will find love again … it will take time to get it right and find his “besherit” (soul-mate) the second-time around, 20 years after being with a woman whom he once loved, once had children with, grew up with. Letting that part of his life go … and taking on another with her baggage, her history, her good stuff and bad stuff requires being ready.
It mandates rebuilding what has been long broken, until he is whole again, and no longer “sad” but ready to reclaim true happiness.
He will get there. We all do.