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This is the third in a series of posts (one & two) recounting the men that I’ve romantically loved in my life, the differences between them, and what lessons each experience has left with me. In every relationship there are two experiences and each of these posts only intends to capture my personal experience both in and out of each relationship. Please read knowing that each of these men likely also has a story that could very well differ from my own, either in whole or in part, and that their stories are either not known or not expressed on this personal blog.

I met Three in the fall of 2011. So much had happened between my final ending with Two in early 2007 and the fall of 2011. Many of the events that had transpired, including one in particular, left me pretty determined not to be in any kind of relationship for quite sometime. So for four years, I wasn’t. I didn’t even try. I would date of course, but every time there was a whisper of anyone “catching feelings” as the kids say, I found the exit rather abruptly.

During that time I also graduated college during the aftermath of the 2008 recession, decided I actually wanted to be a lawyer, moved to a different state, took the LSAT, got into law school, moved back to Arkansas for law school, made new friends (and a few enemies), and finished my first year of classes with good marks. It seemed for the first time in a long time, I was truly comfortable in my own skin. I knew who I was, where I fit in, what I wanted out of life and I finally knew what I wanted in a partner.

Like most 25 year old women raised south of the Mason Dixon, I was constantly reminded by friends and family that I wasn’t getting any younger. There were attempts to set me up on dates but they never went well. I had a variety of male friends at the law school that girlfriends said I should date (some of whom expressed an interest) but I knew none of them were for me and quite frankly, after years of intentionally avoiding it, I ready for an actual relationship. In fact, I was ready for the relationship. So I did what any reasonable woman with the sound of her internal deadline ticking away in her ears would do — I took matters into my own hands and joined Match.com.

It was quite an experience. I met some terrible guys. A handful of okay guys. And even one really great guy who just wasn’t for me. But then I found Three. We messaged each other for a few days on the website before I inquired whether or not he wanted my phone number. He did. After about a week of texting, I inquired whether or not he wanted to meet up. He did. I felt an immediate attraction to Three when I saw him. I found his voice in particular to be very soothing. I tried my best to impress him on that first date in hopes that he’d invite me to a second one. He did. I had the best time on that second date and found myself having a difficult time focusing on conversation with him because I couldn’t stop thinking about him kissing me goodnight. When the moment finally arrived, I sent up every flair signal they teach a girl in charm school but, he didn’t. I went home that evening and decided that he just wasn’t that into me. I was prepared to not hear from him again. But much to my surprised, he texted me one rainy Wednesday evening and asked if I would meet him for fro-yo. And it was there, standing in a frozen yogurt parking lot under an umbrella that he did at last. Right then and there I decided that I was marrying this man.

It didn’t take long for Three and I to make it official. Then to move into together. And a year into our relationship, he proposed. In retrospect, I’m really not sure that Three personally desired (or at least needed) any of these things. I do think he wanted to be with me and knew that those things were important to me. But with hindsight (and a shit ton of therapy) I see that he could probably have been happy without any of them.

But we had them. And then we had a wedding. And then we bought a house. And then we had a baby. And somehow, in the span of just a few short years, we had gone from complete strangers to people with lives so utterly entwined that it was hard to see where one of us ended and the other began. Maybe that was the issue; maybe it wasn’t.

As I’ve mentioned before, I do not wish to share much in this space about the inner workings of my marriage or the specific things that led to its end. Our daughter will one day be old enough to navigate the World Wide Web and I feel it is most respectful to her and her father to only share certain things over wine with friends rather than over blogs with strangers. But suffice it to say: I did not want my marriage to end. Had it been up to me and me alone, I would have willed it to continue indefinitely in spite of its faults. Of that, I am certain.

I of course, both loved Three and was in love with him. Until the end. Even after the end if I’m honest. I don’t think I have it in me to leave someone that I’m in love with and quite frankly, it is hard for me to see how anyone walks away from someone they are in love with. That said, I do believe that Three loved me and that at one time, he was in love with me too. But at some indeterminable point along the way, Three fell out of love with me. I have my suspicions about what contributed to that fact, but none of those matter now despite the amount of time I’ve spent letting it keep me awake at night.

Even though it ultimately ended in divorce, our nearly eight years together taught me quite a bit about love. Three taught me that love isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes love feels like the hardest thing that you’ll ever have to do. Three taught me that no matter how well you know someone, you can’t know everything about them. Ever. Three taught me that nothing, not even vows, are unbreakable. But Three also taught me that perfect things can come from imperfect things and that imperfect things can still be exceptional when they work. And perhaps, most importantly of all, Three taught me that you cannot change things (or people) by simply loving them harder.

I am not (and I think I will never be) happy that Three and I live mostly separate lives. We of course, share a child but also so much history that it is impossible to regret my time with him. Regretting it would by extension mean regretting my little girl — the light of my life — and that’s unfathomable. I know we are divorced but I will always love Three and not just as the father of our child. But for him. For what we had. And for what, despite it all, I still believe we could have had if the cards had fallen just a little differently. And also because, in the end, Three reminded me that my voice should matter more than I sometimes give it credit for and that I am resilient enough to do impossible things when I must.

“Closure happens right after you accept that letting go and moving on is more important than projecting a fantasy of how the relationship could have been.”

– Sylvester McNutt

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