Because February is well known for it’s connection to lovers, I wanted to dedicate my writing efforts for the next few weeks to the subject of dating and finding love at any age.
Let’s be honest here, although I don’t want to appear too cynical, the fact is that Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark invented occasion to celebrate romantic love and to bring business to flower arrangers, candy stores, jewelers and stationary/greeting card shops.
Nevertheless, it is wonderful for humans to celebrate love. It is an indispensable catalyst for many families, for without it there would be no—borrowing the names from the Beatles’ song—Vera, Chuck and Dave.
I confess that I have enjoyed the ecstasy of that wonderful human condition and have commemorated Feb. 14th by lavishing gifts and pleasurable experiences on my beloved.
But, like many others this year, I will more than likely not be in the arms of a loving partner unless, of course, cupid does something spectacular before the bewitching hour.
Being alone when one approaches the third stage of life can be quite disheartening, especially if, like me, you are one of the Dearly Discarded. This is the name I have given to those of us who didn’t want to end our relationship but were forced to accept a new reality when our partner wanted to end the union. In many cases, ending a long-term relationship is not only an emotional trauma, it can also bring with it some difficult financial consequences. Perhaps it ended some long held dreams, like retiring together and affording travel and leisure like never before. Undoubtedly, when a relationship abruptly ends, one is left with plenty of self-doubt and fear of growing old alone. So, for many of us, this Valentine’s Day will be an occasion to go to bed early rather than celebrate.
Nevertheless, after living through sixty-five winters and in spite of my relationship failures, I find that love shared between two human beings is still something worth celebrating.
If there is anything I have learned about life it is that we are always evolving. From the day we were born, we have been on a path to discover our most authentic selves. Every occurrence, both painful and joyful, has been given to us for that benefit. Each person that has come into our lives—even our tormentors—have been our teachers along the road towards authenticity. Our failures have had a familiar connection between them, each encompassing a life lesson that needs to be learned.
This phenomenon has been effervescently true in all my committed relationships.
I believe that loving relationships are the highest order of spiritual evolution. When a relationship ends, whether you are the one who ended it or the one who was discarded, both partners are on the same path to embrace their authentic selves.
My now ex-wife was given the role as catalyst for our continued journey. Having traveled on her journey for months ahead of me, she concluded that it was time for us to decouple from our twenty-year marriage. In so doing she sent me off on my own expedition of self-discovery.
This was painful for me at first, for I felt forced to take a path I did not want. This was my second marriage and I was determined to make it last a lifetime, so it was quite disappointing to face failure once again. I also felt apprehensive about my ability to move forward without my old familiar support structures, friends and family. I was now travelling without an emotional map and feared that I would soon be lost. But I could also see now how we both had stopped growing, succumbing to the numbing anesthesia of security and routine.
With her decision to end the marriage she had set us both free. This event brought on a devastating hurricane of painful emotions that stripped me of everything that had allowed me to prop up my elaborately compiled disguise. Time and spiritual reflection have allowed me to see that I spent many years diluting my personality in a swirling miasma of people pleasing that had been ever present in my professional life. The truth was that, at the time of my divorce, I didn’t even recognize myself any more.
For the first time in my life I began to identify that the reality of the person I had become was much better than the false fronts I had so hastily created to hide behind. And now, if I could forgo my fears of the unknown, I was free to explore inexhaustible possibilities for I was not bound anymore by the old constraints and limitations of my old life.
So what does any of this have to do with celebrating Valentine’s Day? Well, I think it is related. This kind of relationship failure is a similar process for many of us and I wanted to share with you that I discovered that it is a gift, an opportunity to expand and discover the fullness of our lives.
Although twice divorced, I must proclaim that not every marital moment with my ex-wives had only entailed the gnashing of teeth. There was a time during our corresponding marriages that I had considered both of them my soul mates and some of my best memories involved the shared time we had spent together. With both of them I had experienced the joy of belonging to a family, the inspired hopefulness behind raising children, the solidarity of working with a partner to achieve common goals. Just because the walls of our marriage had crumbled over time, I could not deny the benefits that were also part of our conjugal bond. Perhaps it is these very real moments of happiness—even in relationships that don’t work out—that give so many of us the optimism to try a committed relationship again. Maybe we believe that what we learned from our failed relationships will help us create an even better one in the future.
So Happy Valentine’s Day! Yes, you may be alone on this day, but your life is more than just an inventory of one damned thing after another. Have faith that every event has and will continue to contribute to the purposeful progression of your spirit. Our lives have purpose and that should fill you with a new sense of magic and excitement. Joy and love are still possible to attain in your life. The best is yet to come!
Also published on Medium.