You have to tread carefully with a separated, newly widowed, or divorced man. I learned this the hard way. I don’t recommend engaging with a man in this state but sometimes the world and hormones conspire against you.
Sit back, relax (this is a long one), and have some ginger coconut fish soup while I share my story.
A few months ago, I signed up to attend a concert with one of my Meetup groups. The concert promised to be great but that was not my motivation. One of the attendees was a man I had gone out with…once…almost a year ago.
Flashback to May 2015: One evening I received a message from Mr. R, a man on OkCupid. Unlike the majority of emails I get from prospective dates, this one was witty, well written, and funny.
I quickly read Mr. R’s profile and was not disappointed. We had some of the same interests, a similar philosophy of life, and I found his pictures appealing. He wanted to talk. I thought he meant by phone…but he wanted to meet for coffee. And although I used to have a rule that I must talk to a man on the phone before meeting, that practice wasn’t always working for me. I could have a great phone conversation with a man but have zero in-person chemistry.
I told Mr. R I’d be open to meeting for coffee — even a cappuccino!
After some back and forth banter and fun messaging, we arranged to meet in a few days.
The day before our meeting, as prep for the date, I reread Mr. R’s profile. Only then did I notice that he was currently separated. He wrote, “but life goes on and I enjoy having a substantive woman in my life to share adventures and conversation.” As careful as I am about vetting my dates before I meet them, I had skipped right over this crucial piece of profile information.
I had two choices: write Mr. R to cancel our coffee date or go anyway for the experience of meeting a nice, attractive man with the remote possibility that one day it might turn into something.
I picked door #2. After all, I was on a mission to go out with lots of men to help me figure out what I was looking for. I needed to make up for lost dating years while in a relationship from age 19 to 58.
D (date) day arrived. It was a lovely sunny afternoon in May. As I walked up to Mr. R, who was standing outside at our meeting place, I registered that he looked like his pictures and that was good.
We walked to an outdoor café and began what turned into an unusually honest and intimate conversation for a first date. I didn’t expect that. During the first few minutes, I remember thinking, “Hmmm, I don’t know if this guy is for me.”
But something happened after 15 minutes. I can’t remember what turned it around for me. We clicked and started sharing personal details of our lives in an incredibly open way for total strangers. I told him I hadn’t realized he was separated when I agreed to meet. I had to guard my heart, I revealed, and said I had been burned previously when I dated a separated man and a second time when I dated a recent widower. Mr. R said he realized it isn’t right for him to be on a dating site given his status and that he planned to take his profile down. I don’t think he expected to feel such a strong connection with me. I suggested he join some Meetups to widen his social circle while he remained in marriage limbo.
We both knew “we” would not be a couple. And perhaps this fueled our connection and chemistry.
As further demonstration that the “fates” were conspiring against us, our time was limited. I had arranged to see a movie with a friend. With precious minutes ticking until I had to meet my friend, Mr. R and I went for a stroll through a nearby neighborhood and then I walked him to his car. We kissed along the way and at his car. No comment other than to say, I would rate him 100 as a kisser on a scale of 1 to 10. Damn.
I couldn’t tell you anything about the movie I saw a few minutes later.
The next day, Mr. R wrote a lovely and steamy email to reaffirm our connection but also to “fire himself” so my heart didn’t get engaged. We exchanged a few emails where he wavered briefly in his resolve to not pursue us; so then I fired him.
About a week later, after much thought, I tested the waters again and sought to clarify his marital future. We had another emotional and honest exchange of emails but it was clear that Mr. R had to remain fired.
In my farewell email, I noted that he had joined one of the Meetups I am in and he said we might run into each other at some point.
So I moved on, lived my life, and pursued the dating lifestyle. But I still thought about Mr. R. and couldn’t help but compare the guys I dated to him. Mr. R was definitely someone they had to measure up to – or not.
Over the next several months, I occasionally stalked Mr. R – keeping track of his attendance at Meetup events. There was a long stretch of time when I didn’t see his RSVP on any of the Meetups. I thought, “O.K., he’s back with his wife.”
But then he signed up for the concert I mentioned at the beginning of my story. I thought maybe something had shifted. Of course he could have emailed me if his marriage was really over. I ignored that possibility since there were so many unknowns. I decided to cast my fate to the wind (sometimes I like clichés). I sent in my yes RSVP for the same concert. Life is about taking chances (cliché strike two) and I wanted to see what would happen when we met.
It took me all day (if not physically then emotionally) to get ready for that evening’s concert. The group was meeting for a pre-concert dinner and Mr. R and I both signed up.
What was I thinking? This was hardly private and not the best venue for a second meeting.
I arrived at the restaurant a bit late but the very small group was still waiting for a table. And there he was – looking a bit older but very fit. I glanced at his left hand — wedding ring clearly visible. Sigh.
I greeted everyone and shook Mr. R’s hand too as if we had met at a previous group activity – not on a date. Dinner was in a very noisy part of the bar and it was hard to hear the conversation. Mr. R and I were seated at opposite ends of the small table but he managed to ask me a couple of questions as part of the general getting to know you vibe of the group. I observed him and his slightly different “social” personality versus the one I saw almost a year ago. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him.
As we left the restaurant and walked toward the concert venue, Mr. R and I lagged behind and had about 2 minutes of private conversation. “How are you?” he asked me. ‘I’m good,” I said.
When I inquired about him, he started to tell me about his current living situation and how he spent his days. “Are you still in limbo?” I asked.
“Well, Wendy and I reconciled though she still lives in San Diego.”
“So you have one of those,” I commented.
“What’s one of those?” he asked.
“Spouses living in different cities or even in different houses in the same city. Seems to be more common these days. It might even be considered trending,” I remarked.
Then the group caught up to us.
The concert was great but we didn’t have any more time to chat. In the rush of people after the event, we didn’t even say goodbye.
So that’s the end of the story. No great climax in this narrative. No surprise or happy ending. But when I type 30 at the end of this post, I think I can finally let Mr. R go.
Until next week, happy dating or not dating.