As many magazine articles, advice columnists, and situation comedies will tell you, it’s tricky being the first person in a relationship to say, “I love you.” Remember George Costanza? George was left holding what Jerry Seinfeld called a “pretty big matzo ball” because he failed to receive the much coveted “I love you” in return. But what’s funny on television is actually quite terrifying in real life. It takes a huge leap of faith and nerves of titanium to say the “L” word first.
Take that terror to the tenth power if you’re divorced.
I know whereof I speak. After 26 years, my first husband and I divorced. When I finally did jump back into the dating pool, I went out with several nice gentlemen—dated one of them for a year, in fact—but nothing quite worked out. Then, six years after my divorce, I met him. You know. The One.
“The One” and I had a lot in common: we made each other laugh, we sang lyrics from the Great American Songbook while cleaning up the kitchen after cooking together, and the attraction we felt toward one another left us in awe. And then, two-and-a-half months into the relationship, it happened. I did it. I said, “I love you.” After a hesitant sigh, he replied, as gently as he could, “I’m sorry. I’m just not there yet.”
Talk about your matzo balls. I could have opened a deli.
“Forget it,” I countered hastily. “I shouldn’t have said it.” I wanted to believe that his reaction stemmed from emotional baggage. Our arms were filled with it. His divorce was more recent than mine. And where I had reached the point where my baggage, as Dr. Terri Orbuch (The Love Doctor) says, could fit in the overhead compartment – him, not so much. He needed a skycap. Or maybe it was something else. Maybe (Heaven forefend!) it was a case of “he’s just not that into you.”
How could I have misread the signals? Everything pointed to love. All of the signs were there: the caring, the fondness, the intimacy, the long, meaningful conversations, the seeming trust, and the genuine enjoyment in just being together. If that’s not love, what is?
I decided I wasn’t going to let this get to me. I was happy, he was happy. (He was, wasn’t he?) We had a date for the following evening; in fact, we had several events lined up into the next month. I wasn’t about to bring it up again.
Until I did.“ I blank you,” I said. “What does that mean,” he replied. “It can mean whatever you’d like it to mean,” I responded.
He laughed, and that was that. We were back on an even keel. “I blank you” became a running joke between us. He even started saying it to me.
Before I knew it, it was Sweetest Day. I remember the scene as though it were yesterday. I had cooked dinner, and bought him a maroon hooded Oberlin sweatshirt, not because he went to Oberlin, but because I did. I wrapped the gift and bought a card. I presented both to him with a flourish.
After he finished laughing, he became quiet. He looked at me across the table and said, “I don’t “blank” you anymore. That’s silly. I love you.” There it was. Four months after meeting him on Match.com, he told me he loved me. The matzo ball dissolved.
Four years later, we’re still celebrating. We’ve been married for two years, and although we’ve had a few bumps along the way, I’m awfully glad we took that leap. After all, he is “The One.”
Have you been divorced? What was your experience like finding love again?