He and I met 25 years ago. We were young therapists brought on to start up a new child and adolescent mental health program. I met him the day I was being given the tour of the facility, having just signed my employment papers. We met in the stairwell of this lovely old building, and we talked for 15 minutes. As we walked away, I noticed the ring and thought, "oh rats, he's married". I truly felt an instant connection to him, in a way that I had never experienced before. As it turned out, we had both been aware of a certain chemistry back then. We became very good friends, a relationship that lasted years and eventually included our spouses and families. We have photos of me and his wife together, holding our baby boys (born 4 months apart), and our kids flying down the hill on snow tubes together. I was so shocked when I heard last year that they had separated, and he had the same reaction to our news. We both had the same thought - "they seemed like a perfect couple!"
As we have been meeting over these past months, for coffee here and there, or a night at the pub, we have provided each other with support and friendship, and always with love and respect. Since I met him, if anyone ever asked me "who is the most decent and loving man you know?", I would have named him. As I have learned more about the circumstances of his separation, my heart aches for him. He has been treated poorly, perhaps even cruelly, and yet continues to show compassion towards his ex-wife and takes on the responsibility himself for actions she has taken that have been hurtful, unhealthy and really damaging to everyone in their family (including herself). It is who he is - he would always carry the burden so as to relieve someone else of the weight.
A few weeks ago, we went out for a different kind of dinner. It wasn't one of those "we're at the pub anyway we should order food " evenings - this was actually going out for dinner to a nice restaurant where you kind of had to dress up. All through our meal, I kept being blind-sided by this series of thoughts: a) oh man, this feels kinda like a date, b) it feels kinda good that it feels like a date, and c) oh my goodness, is it okay that it feels good that it feels like a date? Then we saw each other on Saturday for coffee, as described in a post a few days ago.
I contacted him this morning to ask if he'd meet me today after work. I knew I had to say something or Friday night would just feel so awkward for me, and he would no doubt feel that (because we have never had an awkward moment between us, ever!). We met at 4:30 and I knew we only had 2 hours because we both had to pick up our kids from work. At 6:15, I still hadn't said anything! I have never been nervous about talking to him about anything, so this was strange for me. He left the table to go to the washroom and when he came back I forced myself to take a big breath and just be out with it. He seemed genuinely surprised, but also seemed to feel the same way. We now had only 10 minutes to talk, so not much could be covered. I received a lengthy and very honest email from him this evening. He shared many of the details of his separation, and about some very complicating factors in his life, adding that he wanted me to know about all of it so that I could change my mind if I wanted to. His message was lovely, and loving, as it would be. I responded with an equally frank and honest email about the baggage I carry from spending 20 years in a hurtful environment. We decided that neither one of us wanted to run away, and that we would go on to have dinner on Friday night, this time knowing it was a date. And it felt kinda good!