SelkEmerging

SelkEmerging
Location
Seattle, Washington,
Birthday
August 11
Bio
Woman, Mom, Writer, Teacher, Administrator. Previously from St. Paul, now I'm just a Seattle gal just trying to keep my nose above the water line.

MY RECENT POSTS

SelkEmerging's Links

Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 22, 2008 1:35PM

Married, Yes, But There It Is.

Rate: 79 Flag

First post.  I won't do this very often, but somehow I wanted to put this out there.  Forgive the length.

S.M.

 

HoldingHands  

 

Committed relationship is not really my strength.  I’m terrible at being a girlfriend.  I’m worse at being a wife. (I have two ex-husbands who will back me up on this.) I don’t cut a guy a lot of slack, I don’t settle for some mediocre imitation of a marriage, and I really like sleeping alone.  I don’t fall in love easily, and I’m not the type to let her guard down.  Ever.

 

Even so, I broke into a clammy sweat one day when I looked across the table during a business meeting and realized I was in love with the married man sitting across from me.  I blanched, and immediately tucked that piece of information into a tiny crevice of the “deal with this next year” area of the brain. I looked down at my legal pad and took notes, I tried to listen. I took a long, slow breath. He continued, unaware that my emotional tectonic plates had shifted.

 

There were so many problems with the situation I hardly knew where to start.  There was the fact that if you followed the organizational chart just the right way, he was my boss.  There was the fact that I was in a fifteen-year relationship that was – in almost every way – exactly what I (thought I) wanted.  There were children, ethics, and emotional angst to be considered. There was the small matter of his wife, and the fact that he was notoriously upstanding and by even Gandhian  standards persistently beyond reproach.  It was a hopeless cause. 

 

I was head over heels.  Totally gone.

 

Sometimes, when he passed my office on the way to  meeting with my supervisor, he stopped to say hello.  My heart would pound in my ears as he stood in my doorway, and I would make some friendly comment about how snowy it was or how the Minnesota Twins were doing. 

 

One day he summoned me to his office for an unknown reason.  Mimi, his secretary, called and asked if I could come up there immediately.  I wondered if my face or manner had betrayed me.  I wondered if he was angry.  I whispered to Mimi  as I walked by her desk, “Am I in trouble?”

 

“I don’t think so,” she shrugged, and motioned to his door.

 

He made a gracious gesture toward a chair, and closed the door behind me.  We spent an hour on a staffing issue that he wanted me to handle.  (Whew! No feelings in sight.)  We discussed possible solutions, various possibilities and I thought about what it would be like to unbutton his shirt.  As he earnestly suggested some staff changes, or policy adjustments to address the problem, I wondered what it would be like to sit reading by a fire, snuggled on the couch together. I thought about turning the covers down and climbing in with him.  (Did I mention that I like to sleep alone?)  I thought about hot sex, and I thought about holding hands. I smiled a lot.  I nodded.  I kept calling my head back to the conversation so I could respond like a smart person.

 

We ended the meeting with a plan for making some changes to the hiring process that would probably fix the problem.  He opened the door and shook my hand, thanking me for coming on so little notice.  I did not ask him whether we might elope, and he did not indicate that anything of the sort was on his to-do list.  I went back to my own office and tried to work on the plan we had agreed to.  I practiced writing my first name with his last name.  I was in junior high again.  I was so in love I could hardly eat, and sometimes I would forget to breathe.  Two months later he took a job across the country. 

 

I wept for weeks.  I walked miles, holding my grief a complete secret from friends and especially from my partner.  I went listlessly into work every day, widowed in some inarticulable way, never having shared my feelings with him or anyone.  Life crept in and filled the cracks, the sadness receded and I marched through the months and years, only occasionally wondering whether I made a mistake in not telling him how much I cared.  I moved to Seattle, and there was nothing there to remind me of him.

 

Fast forward eight years.  On a rainy morning getting ready for work, I was vacantly brushing my teeth with CNN on in the bedroom.  I heard them say something about the very staffing issue he and I had discussed so many years ago, and then his voice.  His voice.  I shuffled into the bedroom, pink terry slippers shh-shh-shhing as fast as I could make them.  There he was, on that tiny screen.  My friend/boss/could-have-been lover.  (They were questioning him as an expert on the subtleties of human resources.)  His voice filled my ears.  It bounced around my head, washed over me and, like that widow suddenly coming across a long forgotten videotape of her husband, I cried.  His voice. I reached out and touched his face, leaving toothpaste on the T.V. glass.   Then just as quickly as he had appeared, he was replaced on the screen by Donald Rumsfeld who was saying, “… we also know that in conflicts things that shouldn’t happen, do happen.”  I sat down hard on the bed.   Tears followed my chin and dropped off onto my bathrobe. Some old, forgotten ache seeped into my muscles. I  rode the bus staring at my reflection in the dark, rain spattered window.  I felt like I had the flu.

 

 

I did what any reasonable person with the flu would do – I emailed him.  I used my old, “How ‘bout those Twins?” tone and said I saw him on the CNN interview and what a great job he did of summarizing the issue.  I asked him how he liked his job; was it what he hoped it would be?  I refrained from asking whether he missed chatting with me in the hall, or had he ever considered putting his hands under my skirt.  Once again I failed to suggest that perhaps we might elope.  I hit ‘send.’  Eight years is a long time.  I wondered if he would remember who I was.

 

He emailed back and said he was delighted to hear from me.  He thanked me for my note and asked how things were going for me.  He said things were going well for him and he liked his new position very much.  He asked whether he could have my office phone number so he could call if he were ever in the area, and we could have coffee.

 

Coffee!! Wherever I had finally packed away those feelings was no longer holding them.  I was suddenly in freefall again as if it were this morning that he had stood in my office doorway.  Dammit.  Where did that come from?  The man mentions coffee and I’m ready to have his children. 

 

He did call, about a week later.  He was attending a conference in Vancouver, would I like to have lunch? 

 

I could see him again. Oh. My. God. “Yes,” I said, “I’d love that.” We discussed the details and I put it in my calendar.  It was three weeks away.  Three weeks of writing my first name with his last name.  Three weeks of thinking about what it would be like to have his hands on my face, my neck, my… well, three very long weeks.  I was still in the same relationship.  He was still married.  Lunch.  What harm?

 

I drove to Vancouver shaking.  I could hardly answer the questions at the border.

 

“What are you doing in Canada today?”

Retrieving my heart?  “Visiting a friend.”

“How long will you be staying?”

As long as he will tolerate talking about the weather or until I’ve exhausted the dessert menu?  “Just for the afternoon.”

 

For some reason they let me in and I drove on, telling myself I was ridiculous.  He hardly knew me even back then.  Why would it be different now?  We would have lunch and I would leave feeling like an idiot.  He is a married man and I am as good as married after all these years with my partner.  I am torturing myself in this masochistic fashion for what?  To stare at him across the table and discuss baseball?  Or maybe the likely weather forecast? What was I doing? Who took my brain?

 

I pulled up at the restaurant and checked myself out in the rear view mirror.  Eight years older.  I jabbed at my hair.  I put on some lipstick.  I closed my eyes and took a breath.  What if he didn’t recognize me?  What if this were just awkward and we really had nothing to talk about?  We had only ever had meetings, all business.  He was a man who had never so much as taken a paper clip home from the office, where did I think this could actually lead?

 

 This, I realized, was a very bad idea. It was up there with driving drunk or unprotected sex.  I just hadn’t thought about the consequences.  Maybe he remembered me as a bright colleague, and now he would see me for the dolt I am.  Or maybe he just wanted to talk about hiring patterns, and wanted to use me as a sounding board.  It was too late to cancel. Well, there was always the chance that seeing him would actually squelch my crush forever.  Yes, perhaps that.

 

I thought about the time I looked up a college boyfriend and we had lunch after not seeing each other for a decade.  I realized by the end of nacho appetizers that he was mean-spirited and really not all that attractive.  Then he asked if I was on an expense account and would I be paying the check?  I never thought of him again. Maybe this would work that way.  Have a little grilled chicken, talk about the Twins sucky season, decide he was supremely undesirable, end of story. Okay, I could do this.

 

I dropped my keys into my purse and looked up and he was coming toward me.  Not the movie star, man-of-your-dreams type that most women go mad for, but a pudgy Italian man with an open, guileless face that was smiling at me as he extended his hand.  Oh, dear. Was the car vibrating or was that my heart again.  Shit.

 

“So wonderful to see you!” he was shaking my hand hard, like he was priming a pump. “Did you have trouble finding the place?”

 

“No,” I said, noticing how warm his hand was in mine.  I wondered if my own was clammy again. “Your directions were very good.”

 

He made the same gallant gesture toward the restaurant that he had made offering me a chair in his office that day years ago. I stepped ahead of him and up the stairs. It was a sports bar/restaurant and the host was a youngster about my daughter’s age.  He was wearing an Oilers jersey, and asked us if he could get us started with drinks.  I declined, as did My Colleague, and we were left alone at the table with the hockey game playing across the room. I watched a skater with a large red maple leaf on his jersey slap the puck into the net. Score.

 

Now if this were a movie My Colleague would reach across the table and take my hand.  He would say something like, ‘I’ve waited all these years to tell you something.  I have loved you from the first moment that I saw you.  I am hoping you are free.  I want to elope.”

 

Well, okay, the dialog would be better, but that would be the gist.  I smiled awkwardly and looked at the menu.

 

“Selke,” he cleared his throat.  “Thanks for having lunch with me.  I so enjoyed working with you back in St. Paul.  And I have to admit that there’s something I want to tell you.”

 

I looked up. Had I ever noticed before that his eyes were brown?  I don’t think so.  He was tracing the soccer ball pattern in the napkin. 

 

“I was your boss, and I was married.  You were always the picture of professionalism.” He sighed and looked down at his water glass. 

“This will seem foolish, I know.  But do you remember a day when I called you to my office to talk about, well, I forget what it was about now.”

 

“It was about how we should advertise and recruit. We disagreed about what to put in the ads, and how soon to let new people work alone.” I was staring now.  I couldn’t help myself.  What?  What?

 

“God, yes, exactly!  How do you remember that after all this time?” He looked quizzically at me.

 

Maybe because it was the only time I was ever alone with you in your office and because I wanted to elope.  Maybe?

 

He continued, “Anyway.  I was not in the habit of calling colleagues into my office.  My secretary was a bit surprised when I asked her to call and have you come down.” His hand was playing with his butter knife.  He was shaking and the knife was making little tappy noises against his glass. He looked down at it and set it back on the napkin. “Selke, I’m not sure why I am telling you this.  It’s just that when I got your email I jumped about six feet out of my chair.  I was…”

 

Uh oh.  He was staring at me now.  He looked anxious, as though he expected me to bolt. Truthfully I was thinking of it.

 

“Are we ready?” We both startled at the waiter, his pad poised in hand to take our order.

 

“Um, do you mind giving us a few more minutes?” I think I smiled.  It may have turned into something like a grimace, though, because the waiter squinted and looked at me out of the side of his eyes.

 

“Suuure...” He tucked the order pad into his black apron and walked toward the big screen TV.

 

I looked back at my companion.  “You were…”

 

“Oh.” He looked scared. Like a child about to get a shot. “Selke, please don’t hate me.”

 

“I could never hate you.  Were you going to fire me?” Where did that come from??  Shut up, Selke and let the man speak.

 

“Oh, dear. No. Not at all. No.” he could see I was waiting.  Then, in one breath, “It’s just that, well, I wanted to marry you.  I was in love with you. I wanted to tell you everything, but I lost my nerve. I mean, I’m a married man. Unhappy, yes, but married."

" I just fell so hard. So fast. What could I do?  I wanted to go home with you. I wanted to curl up on the couch with you. I wanted to take you to bed and I wanted to hold you in my arms and I wanted so desperately to …”

 

I was mesmerized.  I thought I might be dreaming.  He was actually saying everything I wanted him to say.  In the same bad dialog.  It was all there.

 

“Oh... well,” I reached toward him.

 

“No, let me finish.” He took my hand.  He held it tightly and kept time with it, pressing it rhythmically on the table as he spoke, “I loved you. I wanted you. And there was nothing to be done. Nothing.  I was a coward.  And I am still a coward.  But there it is.”

 

He was crying now.  He kept my hand and picked up his napkin with the other hand and wiped his eyes.  The creases around his eyes were deeper than years ago.  I wondered how old I looked to him. 

 

“I had no idea.” I wasn’t sure what to say. “I loved you too.  I still do. But I’m married too.  Or at least in a common law sort of way.”

 

He peered at my face as though it would answer his questions.

 

I whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me.”

 

“I was afraid.  I was afraid that I would leave my wife.  Or that I wouldn’t. Or that you would hate me or find me ridiculous.  I don’t know. I called you to my office to tell you, and then we talked about the hiring thing.  I wanted to spend every moment with you.  I wanted to put my head in your lap and talk for hours about whatever came into our heads.”

 

Holy Mother of God.  Where’s a good script writer when you need one?  Right about then I wanted to be Meg Ryan.  I wanted to tell him that I was free now, that we could be together.  I wanted to take him back to my hotel and undress him. I wanted to climb into his arms and never leave, not even to pee.  I suppose that would have gotten disgusting after awhile, but I wanted to cling to him like that famous rhesus monkey clung to the terrycloth monkey mannequin.  I probably looked just as forlorn.

 

I took his other hand.  He was sobbing now.  I nodded as though I understood, which I did, mostly.  I said, “Why are you telling me now?”

 

“I had to.  I don’t know. Your email unhinged me. I still think about you all the time.  And when you emailed me it all came back. It was too much.  I wanted you to know.”

 

“Do you want to be together?”

 

“We can’t.  Or rather I can’t. I know that’s not fair, but I just can’t.  I want you more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and I can’t.  I’ve been so unhappy.  For years it was okay. Sad, a little, but okay. And then I met you and it seemed as though maybe I could be happy.  I thought, ‘maybe I could have twenty years with this woman.’ But I was basing it on nothing.  We never so much as had coffee together in all those years of working together."

"Selke, I have never cheated on my wife. Never.  Never so much as a flirtation. But then, this. You. God, what could I do?  I would arrange meetings with your supervisor just so I could go by your office and say hello to you.  I started watching Twins games so we could talk about them.”

 

He stopped to get his breath.  I watched his fingers interlaced with mine.  I squeezed them.

 

I said, “So let me see if I get this.  You are telling me this after all these years so that I can know you loved me?  You don’t want to be with me, or see each other or something?”

 

I was trying to process his ‘confession.’

 

“I can’t.  I want to, but I can’t.  I know it’s unkind. I offer nothing in all this.  I can’t leave my wife.  I could never do that. I am a coward.  But I love you.”

 

I closed my eyes.  Oh, man, this was hard.  “I love you too.  I have since the first time I met you, and I will until I get Alzheimer’s.” I took his left hand in both of mine. “Would you like to get drunk and have one evening of, well, whatever?”

 

“No. I’m not a drinker.  And as for, um, I don’t want one evening of, well, whatever because I would not be able to leave.  I would not be able to go back to her and look her in the eye.  It’s hard enough to ache every day and not be able to talk to you.”

 

“Yeah. I get that.”

 

The waiter, seeing all the crying and hand holding and desperate whispering was wise enough to keep his distance.

 

Eventually, though, we ordered something.  We ate off each other’s plates, we held hands, we talked about all the ways we had tried to see each other at work without being obvious.

 

He told me about his job.  He told me about his marriage – all of it.  The good, the sad, the lonely; the children, and the longing.  I told him about my partner, my girls, my  medical writing  work, and what it was like to love someone who was barely a fantasy, and yet so much more.

 

He got that.

 

We talked for five hours straight.  Right through the dinner rush.  He never let my hand go.  Or maybe I never let his go.  I’m not sure.

 

In the end he walked me to the car.  He kissed me on the mouth.  A sweet, gentle prolonged kiss.  He cried again.  He thanked me for driving up.  I thanked him for inviting me.  And for telling me.  I said that I hadn’t been sure how much of the conversation I could have held up with baseball chat.  He laughed.  Or sobbed.  I’m not sure.

 

We emailed desperately for a couple of years. I still have about a thousand of them in a “Him” folder.   There were several eager, heartbroken phone calls.  He never changed his mind.  He apologized for telling me that he loved me.  He said he just needed to tell me, but he thought it was harder on me than he expected.  Harder on him too.

 

We have stopped emailing.  We do not call each other.  We both think about reading on the couch with each other.  We both think about making love and holding hands and waking up entangled in each other’s arms.  We never tell each other these things, but we know the fantasy belongs to both.

 

I suppose he is right.  I suppose this is the best way.  I feel like Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County when he watched Meryl Streep turn that corner in the red pickup, sitting next to her husband.  I know I won’t see him again.  And I know we belong together.

 

I cry in the shower usually.  And I walk for miles whenever I can.  I still like to sleep alone, and  I’m still not much of a girlfriend.  I still think we should have gotten drunk and had an evening of, well, whatever.  He and I disagree on that one for the same reason – we might never have been able to let go.

Author tags:

sigh, lost love, affair, relationship

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
Wasn't too long at all. Once you started reading, it flowed. Enjoyed it.

Hope you write more.
I'm inarticulate with admiration for the vividness and clarity of your story, your objective account of yourself. It reads like well-crafted fiction. Except in fiction he'd need a defensible reason for not leaving the wife.

Hate the photo, though. Pink and brown--eeewwww.
No script writer necessary. Perfect.
This transported me to a sports bar in Vancouver, where I am still sitting.....
Excellent writing...riveting and compelling. Welcome. There is nothing more miserable than unrequited love. Maybe someday for you two, but I understand about the not ever being able to let go.
Thanks, Mary. I wish it WERE unrequited. Somehow it seems worse knowing we share these feelings. Unrequited love is something I can deal with. (Isn't that what drugs are for??)

And lemuridae, I changed the picture. I think you were right. (Though it did look a bit like us.)

You're all so kind. Really. It goes to a girl's head.
A lovely sad story. Kudos on your first post!
this is one of the best things I've read in a long time. so real. so raw. I'm sorry. but, you make us understand all those mixed up feelings.
Wow! Heart wrenching, real, present and so familiar. Familiar to most of us in dream form though. I think. I don't know. I have been here before. Somehow.
I have unfinished lyrics for an unwritten song about the desire just to know..."is it requited?" Mystery allows for all the posiblity, but a confession opens up the huge medicine cabinet full of bliss, and other altered states: despair, egospikes, dreamineights, the pain and the strength. He loved you all along! That is worth knowing. I say. I have always wanted to know.
Wow! Good Ride. Good for you. Come back anytime.
I don't know what to say except, you held my attention completely. Excellent story. Thanks.
That was a lovely post. Length doesn't matter when the writing is good (in fact, the good stuff always seems too short). What a strange, difficult, awful situation. It makes me wonder ... maybe the lesson is, pounce, if you feel so strongly. Trust your feelings. I mean ... it's easy to say in retrospect, but if you had kissed him at that meeting, ambushed him with your emotions (and his own) ... who knows what might have happened. The momentum might have destroyed his marriage, which is obviously flawed, if not broken anyway; he admits to being unhappy. And you two would be together now. It does seem like that was the pivotal moment, the one opportunity, if you could have recognized it, gambled on it, seized it. Oh well ... there's a line in some Carrie Fisher novel ... they're talking about how all the desirable men are married. What to do about it? "Wait for the divorces." They do happen: she might leave him. I hate to think of you giving up.
I think that's what I meant by unrequitted love--that you both feel this way. I don't know. I don't like it. Living your whole life like this. It's a complex issue when two people have two separate lives that involve so many others...and I'm sorry for your pain.
This was engrossing...and painful. Thank you.
This was your first post? You're quite the overachiever! It was very well written and enjoyable. Now that I'm done reading it, I'm so disappointed that it didn't have a different outcome. I think we all fantasize to a degree that The One will look us up and admit that we were the only one all along. That actually happened to you, but you were both trapped by current circumstances. Who knows if something will happen in later years? You hear stories of people who were "meant to be" connecting after many years. I hope that can happen for you.
Thanks all you fellow limerent types who wish that something could happen in the future. I doubt that's our fate. He is as incorruptible as I've painted him here (believe me, I've tried), and we are not youngsters. That's why we have our dreams, n'est-ce pas?
You wrote this beautifully. You took me to a similar love of my own from the past. Like others who've posted, I felt like I was in sure hands reading your story and so wanted it to go on and on. I think that's because you write the story from honesty and maturity. There is a striking lack of self-delusion.
This is excellent writing. I was riveted and felt all your conflicting emotions. I hope you will post again. I want to read more of this kind of writing.
Boy, I’m glad I peeked @the editor’s picks today. This was a doozy. Perfectly appealing; funny, sad, truthful, well-told. Such an entertaining read. Thank you.
Welcome to the crooked heart club. Your first assignment is to look in the mirror and give your reflection a kiss. Hugs.
Please find another love who is available and run away with him. Life is far too short to be so tortured and I think you are probably a woman with more than one great love in her heart.
Hey, I'm a soap opera fan from way back so I can get into stuff like this from time to time. I agree with other that it flowed very nicely throughout.

(I would have rearranged the last paragraph, only because I like the part about crying in the shower, and because I think the last sentence is, or perhaps the last two sentences are, redundant/unnecessary. But that's all minor. And I mention it mostly only to call out the goodness of the first three, especially the bookending nature of the girlfriend remark, which also appeared in the first paragraph and had less texture before the story than after. I very much like subtle detailing like that.)
The dilemma, of course, is that if you *did* follow your impulses, you would no longer be the people you each fell in love with.

And I'm guessing this made the first page of Salon because so many of us know this story. One way or another.
I had to think about this nearly all day today. This has been bedeviling my mind.

GREAT story telling. Long? No, it is more like terse, compact. There is meat and bread enough for a book length telling of. Writing style, word choice,,, not a single element ever brought itself forward. I forgot I was reading. the story expressed itself.


BUT,,,,,, I love that word. is this a true retelling? It certainly has that feel about it, so this is maybe another compliment. If it is it is certainly NOT intended to be.

You piss me off! I have been angry half of the day. Boy, are you a good writer! I am so very. very, unlikely to ever have, even fleetingly, what you throw away. If this were a dumpster commodity, I'd be climbing through yours right now searching for scraps. You bloody twits! What you describe is what we are built for. I'd move heaven AND earth for a meal of that.

Angry, disappointed, envious.

Dean
I really expected a happier ending, but I'm not sure why because life doesn't work like that! You had from the beginning to the end (and I'm easily distracted)- great post. Hope to see many more from you!
Wonderful telling of a sad situation. Simply wonderful.
The length is marvelous, as is the writing.
i loved the story...
It was with a certain amount of reluctance, even dread that I opened your post. I was drawn to it like a magnet, knowing it would speak to me and hoping it wouldn't be a trite story. Wow, talk about emotionally satisfying. When I read about your feeling like a widow and how you felt when you heard his voice again...I just have to thank you for articulating the feelings that I have felt. You absolutely nailed it. It was healing somehow to read what you wrote.

Over the years I have collected little bits and pieces of prose or scenes from movies to help me somehow understand my own situation or cope with the feelings. Reading about your journey I know will help me tremendously with mine. Knowing I'm not alone after 11 years gives me an almost painful sense of relief if that makes sense.

One quote from a short-lived series called Raines a while back comes to mind and I'd like to share it because somehow hearing these words helped me like your story did:

"I know you are looking for some sort of closure to ease the pain but closure, it doesn't exist. You are going to feel this way is some form or another because that's what it feels like to lose the love of your life. And even if you could wake up tomorrow and not feel the pain, you wouldn't want that either because that hurt is the most sure reminder you have of what he meant to you. And that you would never want to forget"

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know I will re-read it several times. And I know that I will fight back tears each time but somehow they will be cathartic.

Please keep writing, please keep sharing your gift.
Lovely and a first post! Long--I didn't notice...

rated for excellent writing, very emotive...
Beautifully written. Brought tears to my eyes. I've been there and I know your pain.
Wow! This could've been me about 10 yrs ago. I too was madly in unrequited love, also w/a married man who was sweet enough to be my friend, at least.

He occupied my thoughts and my very life all the way up to my doomed wedding--and I thought about him while standing at the altar.

That marriage ended (for very valid reasons), but time ultimately eroded that one-sided involvement, though I do still think about him from time to time.

Unrequited (or even this, requited) love reads well and looks great on-screen. But a genuine love affair w/a person worthy of you and where the adoration is mutual--now that's true joy.

I've never found it and never expect to. I too prefer sleeping alone. Since men generally don't like strong women, I'm just not up to the power struggle that my relationships devolve into. But I'd rather live the rest of my life alone instead of finding it but realizing that I'm stuck w/someone else that I had settled for and so loyalty prevents me from leaving...
For more than 20 years my frined and I have lived this story.
Both of us already married when we met and both sincere in holding those vows sacred. We realized not long after we met that we were kindered spirits and we were in love we have shared many precious moments in conversation. To this day we trade e-mails and keep each other up to date on the goings on in our seperate lives...
Your story is eloquent and poignant and many others of us find portions of it all too familiar. As others have posted above, we thank you for putting this out there...Love is far to rare and precious to not acknowledge it, even if, as in my case, it is still kept private and shares nothing more physical than a breif hug or kiss on the cheek on those rare occasions when we are together. We cherish it and hold it in a special place
Thnak You
Oh, Selke.

I have lived your story, too. For twenty years now I've loved a man who I went to grad school with--through my own marriage and his, children, the whole bit. We reconnected in much the same way--I emailed him after twelve years of silence. But we didn't have the physical reunion (no matter how chaste) you did, so for that...I envy you.

I try to think of this as some kind of karmic lesson--do I need to learn how to relinquish? How to let go? Sometimes it's incredibly painful, and sometimes I'm so grateful that I can love someone so deeply.

Thanks so much for your words.
I read this and very much like the writing.
But having watched similar entanglements play out to the point in which they actually found themselves together my observation is the fantasy is always better than the reality.

Many years ago I was listening on the radio to an Alan Watts lecture in which he spoke of marriage. What he said struck me as so much truth that I have never forgotten it. I will quote very loosely as it was quite some time ago. “When you are on the alter and you swear that you will love, cherish and obey this woman or man for the rest of your life, you have no right to make that statement as at that time all you have is hot pants”

Wow, he was right. One only has to look at the failure rate of marriages to see just how right he was. That old sex drive can blind you to everything. But when you have to pick up after each other when the glow wears off is when you learn if you really made the right choice.

One never loves the entire person. Tolerance is the foundation for a successful relationship. It is that part of the person that you love and that complements you that makes the sharing of a life worthwhile.

Take it from someone who is headstrong, independent, outspoken and at times driven it is not easy to live with me. But for some reason my wife loves me and she complements who I am.

I admit after my divorce and nearly 8 years of single life I was not interested in having someone share my home, I was not interested in partnering as I liked that independence that came with being single. I happened to slowly come around to looking at Cindy, my best friend at the time, and saying “ look buddy, what are you waiting for, she loves you and you can use someone in your life even though you don’t think so, why are you waiting?”.

Now over Ten years later we have had an interesting loving life together that complements each other. As I told her then, I cannot love you now as much now as I will as our lives grow together. Though at the time she was offended by my bluntness, today I think she will tell you it is true.

True love develops slowly in its richness. It is like fine wine, it may taste good when it is freshly bottled but as it ages it will grow in body and richness and become that great vintage that you had always hope for.
If I call you with my details, will you weave it in a wonderful story? This is great. I didn't want to stop reading.
No-one knows what the future has in store for us. You met once, connected, met again, connected.

It may very well be that you are destined to be together at some time in the future. Nature always tries to restore the pattern that was meant to be.

As long as the sun rises each day, and the stars dance in the heavens, there is hope. But until then, there is the now and you have to live in the now.

Thumbed. If for no other reason than I am a romantic fool.
You know, it's better you didn't have a night of "whatever". In my case, we did confess our feelings. And then we had the "whatever". And if you thought you were in love already you have no idea how much more in love you'd be after whatever. I don't have a partner of my own. And even with all the whatever (and no whatever going on at home), he still won't leave her. You haven't healed and he's miles away. My 'friend" didn't move away - he's 30 feet away from me most of the day. Each morning the wound is freshly opened. I sent him your story and he cried. But he won't change his mind. It's excruciating. . .
O.C. that sounds like its own little version of purgatory. Don't we all have one...
You have my sympathy. I don't think many people realize that limerence is an obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Wow. Just wow. This was such a lovely and heartbreaking first post. Props to you and welcome.
Selke, congratulations on sharing a wonderful yet obviously painful story. Your writing is expressive and inviting and downright funny. Like so many others who responded, I was drawn into the nuances of your emotions and the enduring conflict that still burns inside both of you.

Thank you. You brought many smiles and a few choked up moments to my rather mundane day.
Your essay did what all good writing does to me – it touched me deeply. It also taught me a new word – limerance. Finally, I have a name for what I have been experiencing for the past six years.

I’ve been a regular reader of Salon.com for some time, but had not read anything on Open Salon – yours was the first, and I’m glad I read it.

I’ve been on the lookout for good writing to help me understand limerance – the maddening and intoxicating and all-encompassing feeling of love without love.

Let me share with you a brief passage from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Children of Hurin.” It is the tragic story of Turin, a man whose family has been cursed by the dark lord, Morgoth. During his travels, Turin meets Finduilas, an elf princess, who loves Gwindor. After a time, Gwindor confronts Finduilas about her feelings for Turin.

“Then Finduilas rose, and queenly indeed she looked. ‘Your eyes are dimmed, Gwindor,’ she said. ‘You do not see or understand what has here come to pass. Must I now be put to double shame to reveal the truth to you? For I love you, Gwindor, and I am ashamed that I love you not more, but have taken a love even greater, from which I cannot escape. I did not seek it, and long I put it aside. But if I have pity for your hurts, have pity on mind. Turin loves me not, nor will.’” (The Children of Hurin, pg. 168)

This passage spoke to me and the pain from my affection for my limerant object. It only helps a little, but I find some solace in it.

Now, I add your insightful essay to the writings that give me solace.

Thank you.
Damn me. I read this thinking, " I've read this somewhere before." Then I get to the end and see that I had read it a few days ago.

Oh, well. I enjoyed it again.
Congratulations on an excellently written and well-received first post.
I apparently came to this story too late to put down any truly original responses but I read through every single one of the comments and find a lot of what I wanted to say in there. I have always believed in two things when it comes to love: I think we are too emotionally complex to only love one person at a time & ; Completely open honesty is the most important thing a relationship can have. I think that our relationships with the other people in our lives are the glue that holds us to our chosen partners. I agree that not everyone (perhaps very few) can experience a love like yours and keep their shit together though. And that is where the pain and heartache comes in. I hope that you are grateful for the love you have and it keeps you afloat in the times you most need it. I have one of those. We are both married, we both love our spouses very much, and we will both always love each other in that omnipresent way from 2000 miles apart. My spouse knows about him and knows it makes me a better partner.

It's so difficult to articulate love and you did a fantastic job of it!
Got to this very late but had to add my kudos for a compelling, wonderfully written post. You're a writer alright.
I've had variations on this theme. Sometimes I think the longing for an unattainable is deeper than the relationship would have been. This might have been one of those time to hold in memory forever with unstoppable delicious pain.
This is so extraordinary and hear wrenching. Beautiful articulate and expressive prose.

I have a friend and theater design colleague who emigrated here from Russia. Her family is Jewish, but coming from Russia , that is just an ethnic label -there is very little practice there. a few years after she and her husband came, she brought her elderly parents. Sadly, her father was very ill with cancer and died a year or so after he came.

It turns out that my friend's mother had a situation similar to yours. There was a man back in Russia who loved her and she loved him - for most of their married years, but she had remained faithful to her husband. After waiting a suitable period of mourning they began to make arrangements to be together. Now , finally, after a lifetime of waiting and a world apart, they are together.

There are always chances.
Beautiful. I laughed out loud while I read it, and it broke my heart too. Very beautiful story, and very well told.
Selke,
I had a similar experience. And I left my marriage to be with the man that enthralled me because our feelings for each other were so intense that it seemed obvious to me that we were meant for each other. I was caught in an irresistible current. It had to be right! This man told me how unhappy he was in his marriage. I just knew she didn't love him the way that I did.

So I left my first husband and the father of my children. And being with my new love was blissful. For a while. But soon I discovered that his warm and charming personality masked deep emotional wounds. He raged. He terrorized me. He kicked me down and spit on me. I stayed with him for years, because I kept hanging on to that idea that he was the "one". And that our love was so strong that we could find a way to be happy together.

I left him 10 years ago. I live alone (well, not alone - with two loving dog angels and a pet pigeon who loves to snuggle.) My life is peaceful. My first husband is my best friend and he and his wife and our children are all going to my mothers for Christmas this year.

Now when I think about the years I let my feelings for Husband #2 make my decisions, I'd call it temporary insanity.

How does that quote go?...The best thing in life is to achieve your dreams. The worst thing in life is to achieve your dreams.

Best to you Selke. Hope your life is full of happiness and peace.
I'm still catching my breath, in between tears. Thank you for bringing me there and allowing us to visit that place of longing which holds us in a trance,never quite delivering what we need, but offers just enough to keep us afloat. I've been there(truthfully I still visit that place). Beautiful writing.
this is so sad. well written, but sad. to have that feeling, sounds amazing. sounds real. i just wish that never happens to me. as a woman, living with that void--just heartbreaking. as a wife, if the lady really cared for her husband, i would not want to be her. loving someone who is desperately in love with someone else--harsh. it makes me wonder about my fiancés coworkers.
This is riveting. As someone who used to have, um, behavioral problems with other people's husbands, I am touched by the restraint you've expressed here, both yours and that of your colleague. This story reminds me of what I felt watching In the Mood for Love - awe at the quiet, muted, simmering tragedy of it all. Thank you for telling this sad story so beautifully.
From the first paragraph I thought someone had stolen my identity. Then I began to think, I know this woman and I recognize this story. It is my own from a different place and time. Interesting that we both referenced that scene in "Bridges of Madison County". I have walked and cried for hours as have you.
Beautifully written. Rated.
Great story. Identified with just about everything in it.
lovely. real. sad. substantial. rich, powerful, touching.

no apologies needed about length. what we don't say matters. how we say what we do say matters too. their lives are richer for and with each other. thank you.
I loved this. Got caught up in it and couldn't put it down. You maintained the momentum beautifully. I agree with rijaxn, it flowed. And your heart, so fragile and so delicately on your sleeve!
This was a great read. Thank you.

Another perspective on this scenario --

There was a terrific short story I read once - sadly I can't remember who wrote it but it was about this situation exactly: an unrequited love between two married people. Finally...they jumped, they did it, they faced all the pain and the guilt and regret and they left their spouses and started a new life together. And what they ended up with, years later, was more or less exactly the same as what they'd had with their previous spouses - that is, something regular, with it's boring moments and fun moments and lovelless moments and joyful moments and the rest of the usual stuff that comes with marriages/ relationships. So really it was a devastatingly sad story: here these two people tore up thier lives and ruined someone else's life (and damaged their chilrens' lives) only to end up with the exact same thing. Slowly, at the end, they realize this, but of course there's no going back.

Just makes you think - maybe what you're chasing, what you think you could have had with this guy would, after the initial in-love/lustful period, be exactly the same as what you had with your husband...
Lovely. Funny and heartbreaking at the same time.
More, please.
thank you for your wonderful piece. Please keep posting!
Selke... oh, how I know that the pain doesn't go away. But I do respect him for not lying to you. It was surreal reading this, because it was enough like my story to be immediately recognizable... but we DID have our night, and many nights after. And he said he would leave, and then didn't. And then we decided to move in together, and then... he said he couldn't do it. He loves me... he says he wants to be with me, but he can't leave his wife.

He destroyed my heart and soul in more ways than you can possibly imagine... because he was weak, and so was I. Because I wanted it so much that I let it happen... that drunken night that started me down the most painful path I've ever been on.
Your life won't ever be the same, but I hope you can believe me when I tell you that IT'S BETTER THIS WAY. Please, take it from me. You would never be able to let go and it would have ruined your life, far more than it already has.
I wish you well. And I'm glad that I found your post, it's the perfect companion piece to mine. For anyone who wants to know how it ends, read my post.
SC
s.m., omygod, how i love your writing...thank you for sharing...rated...makes me sigh, deeply...in a way i can resonate, having a b-friend that hasn't been around, yet i can strongly feel our connections on an unseen level...makes me tear up, reading your last paragraph...like romeo and juliet, i'm such a sukah for love stories...
p.s. i promise to forgive you if you promise to give us more...