For years, my mother reminded me, “Just hang in there. I didn't meet Denny until I was 47 years old. You have plenty of time to meet The One. Just relax.”
My mother married five times. Her first two marriages lasted more than 10 years. Her marriage to Denny, despite its ups and downs, has lasted more than 35.
My carefully chosen, perfect marriage ended in a divorce that left me broken-hearted in all the ways a person could be broken-hearted. Because of my mother's history, I'd planned on one marriage. Then at the age of 33, I found myself divorced with four children under the age of five. There were many moments in those first years when I didn't think I could survive the loss. It was in all ways overwhelming.
I allowed three years to pass, giving myself and my young children some time to adjust to our new set of circumstances. And then there was a moment when I realized my heart was healed and I could love again. Both realizations were complete surprises, gifting me with an immense gratitude for the gentle blessings of time and space.
(MORE: When to Start Dating After Divorce)
I didn't focus on relationships at first. I simply wanted to enjoy life and enjoy the company of well-adjusted men. After all, I had a family to raise and that remained my first priority. There were several relationships, but they didn't fully inspire me. They didn't fit like Cinderella's shoe. And that's what I was holding out for.
A Journey That Changed Me
My children grew, developed personal lives and eventually moved out. My mother continued to remind me that I had plenty of time left to find a partner. But years had passed since my divorce and I was getting older in every way. I wanted to be in partnership and felt some staggering moments of loneliness in the interim. It seemed the more I yearned for a true partner, the further away it felt.
(MORE: Back on the Market: Difficulties of Midlife Dating)
In my darker moments, I wondered if The Last One even existed. (I thought of this future mate not as The One, realizing that for many of us, there are many possible Ones.) Or what if divorce, single parenthood, the triumphs and tragedies of self-employment and various other challenges had rendered me an unappealing match?
At the age of 46, I sold everything I owned and backpacked on a traveling journey that would last more than two years. I didn't think about The Last One. Instead, I fully explored who I was and did what I wanted to do.
I traveled through 20 countries, joined at times by my children, but primarily journeying alone. I slept in tents, on couches, in yachts, in hammocks, in hostels, in hotels and in private homes. I experienced people from many different countries and cultures. I climbed volcanoes, surfed oceans, swam in seas, drank too much wine, ate exotic foods — and learned to know and love myself.
Along the way I realized The Last One might not look anything like what I'd been anticipating because I no longer resembled a divorced, middle-aged, single parent. I had become a woman with a lot of life experience to share.
When I returned home to Texas, I found The Last One. He was right where he'd been all along when I'd met him five years earlier. This time, he'd just left a long marriage and I'd just returned from a life-changing journey. Our connection was a complete surprise and left me marveling that I could have so easily missed it.
Four Things I Had To Learn
I had to learn these four things before this partnership could have worked:
1. I gave up the idea of "love at first sight." Our relationship could not have worked when we met five years earlier. The timing hadn't been right, so we'd developed a friendship and kept loosely in touch over the years. That friendship gave us a solid base upon which to later build.
2. I stopped concentrating on my desire for a partner and instead focused on living life the way I wanted to live it. I learned that the greatest level of success is only possible when one stops perseverating or focusing on the thing they desire most. This allows us to then step into relaxation. It is in that state of relaxation that magic can occur.
(MORE: The Big Reveal: Secrets of a Happy Relationship)
3. I learned to love and accept myself — wholeheartedly. Without that step, I would not have been able to love another — wholeheartedly. My partner says:“The best thing about our relationship is that I can be completely myself with you. This gives us a platform of incredible intimacy, passion, fun, trust and love.” I couldn't say it better.
4. I let go of the idea of perfection and instead opened space for connection. With seven children, two divorces, two entrepreneurial mindsets and two sets of ailing parents between us, we could have chosen to focus on all that is potentially worrisome or troublesome. Instead, we focus on the fact that our relationship has the seeds and sprouts of all that is good. It has long-standing capabilities that allow each of us to further open our hearts to deeper levels of love and companionship.
We feel fortunate to be able to have a tight friendship first and foremost, and to be able to mutually grow in a safe and loving setting. At our ages, we recognize that we choose to be with each other, choose to love each other and choose intimacy with each other, knowing our levels of connection will continually grow deeper.
My mother was right, after all. I did have plenty of time to find The Last One. The secret in finding him was learning to live my life well in the process. In fact, it's probably the only reason I found him at all.
Next Avenue Editors Also Recommend:
- Why Can’t Love Keep Us Together?
- Conscious Uncoupling: Stop Rolling Your Eyes
- 4 Reasons Women Get Married After 50
- Deeper Dating: A New Approach to Finding Love
Next Avenue is bringing you stories that are not only motivating and inspiring but are also changing lives. We know that because we hear it from our readers every single day. One reader says,
"Every time I read a post, I feel like I'm able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it's so great."
Your generous donation will help us continue to bring you the information you care about. What story will you help make possible?