You Too Can Find That Lovely Person of Your Dreams — With Luck.
I was talking to my friend Ella the other day. She was discouraged and feeling frustrated. Ella was with my husband and I to celebrate her 60th birthday. We gave her a card with the number emblazoned in gold, took her to dinner at a ‘pub of the year’ situated near an ancient, hand-built brick bridge that crossed a crystal clear chalk stream. We enjoyed the entertainment of a successful fly fisherman on the near island. He walked across the weir and brought the arm-long fish, so freshly caught it shown like irridescent jewels, straight to the chef for some lucky diner. We were entranced. But later at our home Ella sat down and just cried.
“I don’t know why I can’t find someone like your husband,” she moaned.
Ella has had particularly bad luck with men. It’s not her fault. Her picker is not broken. Her luck just needs an overhaul.
Ella is one of the loveliest women I know. She’s kind, fit, intelligent and pretty. But the men she’s been with since her divorce over twenty years ago have treated her badly, been shown to have substance problems previously hidden or proved to harbor attitudes that led them to abusive behaviors.
For countless years I also had exceedingly bad luck with men. The new scars they etched into my psyche and body were layered over the ones my family inflicted throughout my childhood, furoughs through which the pain flowed like lava. But as Ella observed some time ago things changed Over the years I found much inner strength and peace and I like to think that peace finally led to my Lovely Man. He and I have been exceedingly happy for nearly thirteen years. She wanted to know how she could do the same and find her person.
That evening we talked about all the things Ella remembered about her growing up and how it affected her. I found myself reflecting once again about how the memories and the pain lasts years longer than they should. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t harbor old memories that retain pain as if they were brand new when we dare to let them out of the box.
I am a firm believer in talking through all the things that hurt and harm us until we are absolutely bored with them. If we are lucky we find someone who is willing to let us talk over and over and over again about the same stuff despite their likely boredom, until that stuff has lost all its power. Whether that’s a very good friend or someone professional, that’s therapy at its best.
I tried to reassure Ella as we talked. She was focused on when she could find a partner but I don’t have a crystal ball nor some magic formula for finally finding the one who is and always will be your person. I think it is a matter of luck and perhaps positioning once we are ready. Then I began to reflect that with me it’s been a really long process and I thought about what that process looked like. I decided that I would share a little of what I have learned about my own quest to find my Lovely Man and what I thought worked.
The first thing was the list.
One night, many years ago and after a particularly difficult bit of soul searching I thought in a fit of pique, ‘I’m just going to give up and be alone for the rest of my life!’
It felt like that’s where Ella was. But instead of giving up that long ago I had decided to make things concrete, something I’d never done before. I told Ella about the “This is what I want” list that I wrote side by side with the “Run a mile” list. On those lists I wrote things like ‘tall’ on the what I want side coupled with ‘shorter than me’ on the run a mile side. I make no apologies for this blatantly discriminitory view about vertical features. I’m shorter than is average these days and wanted someone who could reach the top shelf. I also wrote ‘not in recovery’ on the what I want side by which I meant there had never been a need to address substance problems in this person’s life. My career at the time was as a treatment professional specializing in dual diagnosis. I didn’t want to take any more work home.
On the ‘run a mile’ list was ‘smoking’. Sorry, I can’t abide tobacco or smoke of any sort in my house unless it’s sage smudging. There were also the basics listed such as ‘has held a job for a good long time’ versus ‘unemployed’ and fun things such as ‘reads science fiction’ and ‘likes to experiment with food’.
I also wanted someone who was intelligent and could appreciate me and my intelligence and who liked and respected women. I wanted a man who was kind and not afraid of his emotions. I wanted to benefit from a sense of humor and education. I didn’ want someone who was mean or selfish or greedy. I didn’t want someone who expected me to think of everything and do everything to keep us both entertained. I wanted a man who felt sure of himself and his masculinity but wasn’t toxic or threatened by strength. All these things were made much more solid by the act of writing them down. It was the first time I’d looked at what worked for me and what really didn’t. It was also the first time I’d addressed what I felt I deserved and what I no longer had to settle for. Finally, I’d written that what I wanted was a man who took care of himself and was clean and stylish. This last one has come back to nibble on me a bit. Let me explain.
I once showed this list to my then ‘lovely man’. I never called him my ‘boyfriend’. He is not a boy, he’s a full-grown, beautiful man, inside and out. His comment? “Well, you seem to have written this list about me!” No brag. There wasn’t a single thing on either list that didn’t apply. Including the stylish part. He has his own sense of style and he’s a bit striking. Once he collected me after a hair appointment. The hairdresser was finishing up and turned to see him for the first time. She turned back to me and without thought he might hear her she said “Oh! Well done, Dawn!”
Both my lovely man and I beamed.
But I am skipping ahead quite a bit. After the list I decided I had to take some action. I couldn’t expect someone to just drop into my life out of the blue. That’s like expecting the perfect job will just call me up and offer me a million dollar salary, without any effort on my part. Simply doesn’t happen. So, I decided to try internet dating.
I filled in my profile with care. I didn’t hold back. I used the vocabulary I’d normally use. I said the things I wanted others to know about me. I was clear about what I wanted and didn’t want. I described myself honestly. I gave them my right age. Then I hit the wrong button.
This is where luck comes in. If I hadn’t hit that button my husband would never have seen my profile. Instead of staying within the parameters of the single dating site, my details went out to the whole of the hopefull dating world. I got over 2000 ‘hits’.
Of course, I winnowed all these interested parties down to about 200. Some were easy to eliminate. They clearly hadn’t read my profile or they were just gross in their suggestions or they couldn’t string three words together with any sense. It was about this time that I received an email to which I responded “I’m sorry, you’ll just have to wait your turn.”
My Lovely Man made it through the initial screen despite being 9 years younger than me. On the original site I’d set my boundaries at no more than 5 years either younger or older. As luck would have it he was on a wholly different site but my serendipitous mistake brought him through. His response to my rather dismissive email was “That’s alright. I have a feeling you’d be well worth waiting for.”
Needless to say, he scooted right to the top.
Out of that 200 I’d done some more culling until I’d found 15 likely people who predated my lovely man’s email. After meeting the first few I started getting a bit disappointed and worried. I dated 8 of these people when the ‘gun-runner’ floated out of his car on a cloud of dark smoke. We’d arranged to meet for lunch at a pub. My first words were “What was it about ‘no smoking’ that you didn’t get?”
“Well,” he replied. “I thought you’d meet me and it wouldn’t matter.”
He convinced me that since I was there already, somewhat out of my way, that I should let him buy me lunch and so I reluctantly agreed. He told me about his career as a ‘gun-runner’ (his words), selling guns and other munitions to ‘this side and then the other’ without thought to the issues, the people involved or the politics. I was wordlessly appalled. He thought I’d be impressed by him.
Then as we were getting ready to leave he tried to kiss me. “No! No!” I put up my arms in a shield position, “I’m allergic!”
He laughed and said he thought that probably meant we wouldn’t date again. He was right.
That night I emailed my Lovely Man and we made plans to meet the following weekend.
There were still obstacles to overcome. My email went down, we didn’t confirm plans in time and I sadly stood him up. But we perservered and once I met this man, this lovely, lovely man, there was no obstacle we couldn’t overcome.
Neither one of us believes in a personal meddling by a higher power but we find that disbelief sometimes hard to reconcile with the collection of coincidence that led us to each other. We couldn’t be happier that luck was so much on our side.
Ella is now in the process of making her own list. My Lovely Man and I wish her all the luck in the world.