So there I was looking to buy some cheese curds at the Minnesota Twins baseball game when I saw a lady I knew from a past life. As we were catching up, she asks me, “How’s married life?” Lots of answers went through my head in that second or two I had to respond, but I decided to keep it simple, “I’m not married!”
That’s when it always gets awkward. I do my best to try to lighten the mood, in addition to do what I can to fill in the rest of the blanks she’s surely wondering about: “Well, I was engaged once upon a time, but it didn’t work out.” Then it’s only a matter of time before somebody says, “Well, better you figure that out before! Ha ha…” Then we seem to try to move to the next conversation as soon as possible (in this case, why my cheese curds seem to be overdone. She then assured me that the darker they are, the better they taste. She was wrong. But anyway…).
It’s interesting to me the responses I get when people find out I was engaged to be married and then didn’t actually ever marry. The most interesting response is one I’ve gotten more than a few times, which is sort of a semi-profound silence along with a look and a comment which makes it seem like they think differently about me all of a sudden–in a good way.
What I think brings responses like that is the fact that heartbreak seems to be a pretty commonly shared experience. It seems like everybody has had a love that they’ve lost, even if that’s not necessarily even a romantic love. But I’d probably argue that most have lost a romantic love. And it sucks! But I think knowing that you’re not the only one makes it easier to take, even just a little bit.
In fact, I have more than a couple buddies of mine who have also been engaged only to part ways before marrying. We joke that we’re members of a “club” nobody wants to join. Heck, my mom still talks every once in awhile about the guy that she almost married before she got together with my dad.
And that helps. It also helps to talk with one of my fellow “club” members about his ex-fiancée, knowing that he has since married and has two little rugrats of his own running around. It helps knowing that just because it didn’t work out with someone you love, that doesn’t mean it won’t work out with anyone you love.
And while my first engagement (see what I did there?) didn’t work out, and I haven’t yet met my Mrs. Right, I haven’t given up hope that she might be just around the next corner. In fact, I’m convinced that not only was it a good decision to call off our engagement, I am better off for being with her and better prepared for when the time comes with someone new. It might even be a little like eating overdone cheese curds, so that next time you know even better exactly how you like them…
So what about you? What have you gained from past relationships, even ones that ended in real heartbreak? What gives you hope for the future?