I see the email address and I pause. Take a deep breath. Blow it out slowly.
It’s from a path not taken. A path I left in an increasingly distant past. A path best left behind me.
Yet, there the email sits. To open it may be to open Pandora’s box. But to not open it brings its own challenges, namely my own curiosity. I don’t like unopened presents. And he knows that.
“He” is the sender of this email, one who knows me well enough but not as well as he thinks. He confused communing with me with owning me. A wise male friend said to me, “He wants the Harriet to his Ozzie. Do you want to live in the 1950s?” The words were true, but unnecessary. I knew what I had to do. It was just so hard at the time to do it. To give up the familiarity of a steady for the mosh pit of being middle-aged and single again.
He sends me two song titles and nothing else, knowing they were part of memories we shared. And then, two minutes later, thinks better of it and sends a nice message along the lines of “thinking of You.” He always capitalized “You” when writing to me, about me. Something I found charming at first and then disturbing over time when his controlling tendencies started to show themselves. When it started to feel like he wanted the perfect version of me—Me—versus the real-life woman.
I think back several years. He is introducing me to old friends, a couple he’s known for many years. And I say, “It’s casual, right? I’ll wear the jeans.” And he says, “No, no—the dress. Wear the dress.” “Aren’t we going to a pizza joint?” I ask. “Yes, but I’ll take you for cocktails before,” he answers. I demur but he insists. And so I sat at a pizza parlor dressed in clothing that didn’t fit the occasion or my mood, as his friend’s wife innocently asks if I’ve just come from work. “Yes,” I say, too tired to explain. And I realized in that moment that he had begun making me tired more and more often. From frequent texts that ranged from “Where are you right now?” to an undecipherable need for more reassuring emojis than I knew existed, I think I began to see our joint path ending that evening.
We all want to be loved, to be cherished. We want someone to feel the flutter of butterflies when we appear on the scene. And that should mellow into a solidity and solidarity, over time, that still gives us that warm feeling. It shouldn’t begin to feel like a lasso around our neck. I recall him saying something once when talking to his best friend about me. Their conclusion was that I was like a “headstrong filly.” I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. Was I to be tamed, then? A funny sort of thought, me with my love of books and quiet nights. Yes, I have my moments but if you know me—if you really love me and get me—you won’t break me. You won’t have to. I’ll just come to you because I sense you’re good, you’re true, you’re for me.
Maybe it was a Southern thing. I dated another man within the year who was a long, tall Texan. He too compared me to a skittish horse. When I finally agreed to date him and him alone, he cackled triumphantly. “Can you hear the clink? That’s the corral door closing, honey. I’ve got the wild mustang fenced in now.”
This is not the first time my emailer has tried to revisit our past. He kept his things in storage for far longer than most men would have, despite having moved 800 miles away. And when he returned for them, he tried to return for me also. It was a pleasant evening—we fell into an easy, familiar rhythm at dinner. And I’m ashamed to say that when he used that word—the “l” word—I said it too. It was a Pavlovian response, out of my mouth before I realized it. And I instantly regretted it. I owed us greater honesty than that. What I wanted was the comfort and security I missed—but it wasn’t true love.
Other than shaking your head at my choices, I hope you’re remembering your own paths not taken. Because we all should now and again, if only to remind ourselves that we are on a chosen path. If only to keep our living intentional.
It’s not fair, really. I’m the writer and so you only get my bits and pieces of these very whole human beings. One who could make me belly laugh so hard that I cried and the other who could make a gal feel oh so special on a typical Friday night. But there were less great parts also. As in any relationship. I wish both of these men well. Everyone deserves a love that lasts.
The long and short of it is—as you already know—I opened the email. I gave him a quick, polite response and he continued the convo with an invitation to reconnect. “I’m a great tour guide,” he said of his new locale. “You know it. I’d love to show you the town. And the changes in me.”
I’d by lying if I didn’t tell you that I was 10% tempted (at the time, which was a while ago). But the other 90% of me weighed in with a resounding “no.” Those changes will be something some other woman will have to enjoy, completely unaware things were ever otherwise with him.
This little filly is going to keep galloping in another direction. I have a feeling there’s a horse whisperer somewhere in my future. God, I hope so. I don’t want to have to jump any more fences.
55 Comments Add yours
What a well-written, candid, and inspiring blog post! I would be more surprised with what you shared in this post if a friend hadn’t recently shared with me that she had just ended a relationship with someone who wanted more and more and more to control her… Argh! And this guy was a seemingly super-evolved meditation teacher/leader in his local community! All one needs to do is watch a documentary about a true horse-whisperer to see that past practices — and current metaphors — about breaking a wild horse’s spirit are cruel and unnecessary. May your healthy intuition — and unbroken spirit — continue to guide you along life’s trail/path/journey…
Thank you! I’m amazed at how many women have similar stories to tell. I like to think Gen Z is more enlightened, overall. I grew up watching my parents in a marriage that was ahead of their time. That helps for sure. And yes–horse whispering. No need to control. A great relationship has an abundance of trust AND freedom. That’s why it works . . .
Another memory lane Kristine… I’ve also been queued to look back and realise IAM where I’m meant to be AND no one can tame me! Like yourself we were born to be free and run wilderly❤️ happy days, then and now, all experience bringing us to this great transformative time💃🏼🌈
Here’s to running free, Barbara! 🥂 And to men strong enough to run with us.
Go girl … the other direction sounds like a great idea! 🙂
Heading toward that new horizon:). Feels good!
I love the way you tell a story, Kristine, and see this as a happy ending, in its own way. To be with someone controlling or who wants to “tame” you is not love. Good choice on your part. 🙂
Thank you, Robin😊. Kind words. And you’re right. This is a happy ending. And if it’s the only ending, I am OK with it. But I do love true love. And so if that’s the ending that I live on into with the right person, that would be an awesome way to live also. 💫
Love the metaphor, filly and horse whisperer. Do you think controlling men see this fault in themselves Kristine? And do they even consider it a fault? It certainly seems to be common and, quite often, turns from reasonably benign to much darker and harmful.
Always enjoy your posts as much as for the quality writing as for the content.
Oh Roy. Weighty question. But first, thank you so much for the kind words on my posts. Truly mean some thing coming from someone who writes as much as you do😊. I won’t go into the details here but the controlling bit was something I had never really encountered until I dated in middle age. Isn’t that odd? And had my radar been better, I would have completely avoided it. It does seem to be far more common than I’d like. And it became worse as time went on. I love being wooed. I love a man that is emotionally courageous and will let me know that he is interested and cares about me. But a man wants to keep tabs on my every action and needs constant reassurance? No way. Not ever.
I love the way you’re so honestly introspective:-)
Thank you:). Honestly, sometimes it gives me a vulnerability headache after the fact. But I don’t really know any other way to be . . .
Relationships change us….no doubt about it. Both me and my husband changed a lot since we first met. But a relationship can’t start or sustain with the “hope” that we will be able to change the other person someday. Many people unfortunately make that mistake. They already have a fixed notion of exactly how they want their partner to dress, to speak, to behave, to live…..when they find someone, they immediately launch a project of fitting that person into that mould. Conflicts are inevitable when the other person is already well-adjusted in his/her own mould.
When I was 21, I started a relationship. It lasted for 4 years. My boyfriend who was also my classmate, used to tell me that I caught his attention because he thought I was very smart, and driven and focussed on my career. He used to tell me he found be inspiring and that I was nothing like many other girls who attended university but really wanted to find a good husband and settle down. But we started having problems because I put my career first. He wanted a career-oriented ambitious woman who would sacrifice her career to be with him.
Ah, yes. The blind spots and inevitable inconsistencies in our own illogical thoughts and feelings about a partner. I often say that I have a wonderful radar about people as long as we are not romantically involved. But for some reason romantic entanglement jams my radar. I have worked hard as I’ve gotten older to change that. And your words are just so true. People are who they are. We all have faults and foibles. So finding someone whose faults and foibles Are those you can stomach is super important. I’m so glad that you have a husband who you’ve been able to change with – instead of just change.
Yep, keep galloping, it’s good that the percentage that wanted to go back was only a small one 🙂
I agree! Healthier than not!
Keep on galloping, Kristine. I’ve been there and count my lucky stars that my second marriage is my dream come true. Don’t second guess your decision. I’m sure there will be a horse whisperer in your future if you are open to it. xx
I think I finally am open to it, Jennifer! I’m just getting clearer and clearer on it all:). And I LOVE (yes, all caps) that your second marriage is a dream come true. Those are the stories that encourage me and the couples that inspire me. Why does it not surprise me that you found that?
I’m not sure why it doesn’t surprise you, but it certainly surprised me when it happened. My life since has made up for, and is still making up for many of the hardships of my past. I was not actively looking for anyone by any means, but when I saw the opportunity for love, I welcomed it. I wish the same for you! ❤️
It doesn’t surprise me because on your blog, you’re so you. You appear comfortable in your own skin, you share generously, you are open to life. I have to believe that like attracts like in that instance–hence, no surprise that you’re happy. And that’s a beautiful thing:).
That’s very sweet of you to say. I guess I believe to be happy, I need to be myself. 😊
A college buddy tried to reconnect with me about a year ago. We had one conversation and an e-mail, and all the old alarms went off. We once had been great friends, but I still remember how much friendship with him could cost. I discussed the situation with my wife, and she confirmed my negative reaction. She had always found him odd. I’m glad that you can spot the traps. Stepping around the snares saves so much time and regret.
If we could all just listen to our intuition and our gut without getting confused by any noise, I really think it would save us all a lot of heartache. I’m glad you listened to yourself. Not all the lessons are for us. And there are some classrooms I think we have the right to clean we’ve moved beyond.
It’s a wonderful thing when the relationship led you to knowing yourself this much better, Kay, and you stick to that knowledge!
Right? I really think that’s what relationships are all about :-). But I sure would like to find the one that I can learn from longer-term again, Mark. It’s more fun when you’re learning with another person :-).
You are in the right frame of mind and spirit, Kay. Now we need the other half of that puzzle to come into your life!
I said the other day, had I known what I know now, about relationships or what traits I admire, or think I need to be happy, I probably wouldn’t have gone on that first date with my husband ha! And may I add, I see how difficult dating Is these days with a 25yr old and 17yr old daughter. But I did want to add , that the challenges and differences we have had over the years (30 so far,)has been what has grown us both . Relationships and life is hard. We have to work with it, unravel it, change and flow with it. I think sometimes we forget that and hope it isn’t true, but my only advice is to keep healing you and the rest will open up in the right time 💕💚 love your honest and open writing Kay xx
Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint, right? I get it. But I think at this point in my life – having created I mainly happy space for myself – I really want a good fit. I’m not naïve enough to know that that doesn’t mean work. But I’m also not willing to take on the baggage of people who haven’t done the work. I’m betting you are wise enough for that to make sense :-). I love marriages that I’ve stood the test of time. It’s a testament to what true love can look like. And it gives me hope :-). Thanks for sharing your experience!
I’m glad you’ve kept your wild and free spirit alive Kristine.
Me too😉. And thanks for the virtual visit!
I can totally relate to your experience. I just hope, having had two husbands and one 8+ year relationship, that I have learned that like you, this filly might be tamed temporarily but eventually will break out. I also have been re-approached, and have had to remember why we were no longer together. I hope I have learned to note the red flags and pay more serious attention rather than sacrificing their message to a desire to be loved, included, to be “normal”. I have survived, gone on in the face of “you can’t do that” (am I not able, or you won’t let me?), got an M.S. at age 53, and enjoy the company and support of good friends and interesting people. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
I had no idea that you had gotten an MS at 53! Bravo! That’s phenomenal. And this whole “normal” thing. Being part of the herd doesn’t necessarily make us healthy. I’m not sure our version of “normal” is what everyone needs or even should have. But happiness? A healthy love? Now that I wish for everyone. Thank you for sharing. It means a lot.
Good for you! A wise decision indeed. Best wishes. 🌸
Thank you! Amazing how the entirety of life seems to be one big learning opportunity.🤔
Very wise words dear lady. And yes, the universe does indeed bring back ‘bits’, but usually only to show us where we have come to and encourage us to keep looking forward.
I too have had a visit from the past recently and I will admit it showed me something that I thought I had gone past. I was in fact ‘judging’ her from what I remembered, that past image of that time. She had in fact changed considerably…but…it was still no longer my path. Simply because I too ‘felt’ the inner struggle that her bridge had not been crossed and was still holding her in many patterns.
It takes courage to stand in your heart Kristine and accept who you have become. You have already gone out into the yard and burnt that bridle that is now but a memory. You are loving you by saying no and recognizing it for what it is.
He is obviously mirroring what he still is, you are mirroring what you have become. Trust that and you may be surprised where tall, dark and handsome is waiting. It is usually when we let go our needs and wants and are just being ourselves when he will rock up unannounced while buying an ice cream somewhere. The universe will know when you are in fact just doing you, and then the surprise of that meeting will touch where it should.
Great post my friend, it is always a pleasure to listen to a gift 😀 ❤️ 🙏🏼 🦋
From your lips to God’s ears, Mark. And good for you for holding your own also. I do believe we are tested sometimes. Patterns from the past to see if we will react the same way I make the same errors. But it sounds like we both passed with flying colors and are hurtling into our future. Fasten your seatbelt 🚘.
Haha, that I shall dear lady, the ride could be interesting indeed 😀 ❤️ 🙏🏼 🦋
I love that song by Talking Heads: ‘Don’t fence me in’! No woman should give up who she really is for the love of a man (or woman)- we deserve to remain as untamable as we like, for as long as we like! But when we’re ready for equal partnership, we’re ready 🙏🏼
Good on you 😊💪🏼💪🏼
Equal partnership! You said the magic words. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t want a strong man who can take charge at times. It’s just that I want him to recognize that there will be other times when I can lead :-). You nailed it!
Good for you. I had the same situation. The person I married who was content for me to be me needed to change me into something that I wasn’t. I rebelled and finally called it quits. I could never figure out why and guessed with two or so years of $150 an hour session that she was insecure. She wanted me to be less success oriented. In short, she wanted a plow horse instead of a mustang. Sad thing when you realize it. Glad you resisted. I once heard that people never change and the older I get the more I believe it. Thanks for sharing Kristine.
Oh, isn’t it amazing when you share what you glean from therapy how simple it sounds? If only it were intellectual. But our hearts, well, they’re tricky. Mustangs make terrible work horses. Good thing you knew who you were, John. And thanks, as always, for the kind words.
And I can hear the wooden gate splinter as you kick it in to high gear, escaping to run free until YOU decide when, where and with whom to get corralled. (Weak attempt at saying, you’re the boss of yourself. I enjoyed this post)
Thank you, Steve😉. Not so weak!! I’m practicing my high kicks.
So funny. Good decision in that man who figured you’d go soft if he sent you a couple of emojis. So weak. You held your ground. Good for you! 👍😂😎🤪
Good for you for letting him go. And yes, not always easy. But the red flags you mentioned were definitely deal-breakers. Don’t look back and don’t settle.
Thanks for the encouragement. I think this is what it’s about, right? You can settle but then you live that life. If you know what’s right, you don’t settle. And then you live THAT life:).
To all of this, I say. Good for you, Kristine. Sometimes we feel lonely or alone (we know that is not the same) and think, oh, maybe, just maybe. And then we decide to give it, not necessarily another chance, but an evening. And (thank God) that feeling returns reminding us of why we had to step away in time for us to stop before it starts again.
You just keep waiting, Little Lady… your real Cowboy will come 😉
Oh, do you know how much I love your feisty sweet self, Dale? You get it. I have become much wiser about onward and upward. But persistence can wear you down–until–you’re right–you remember why you left. I have a feeling your cowboy is out there too! It’s all timing . . .
Aww shucks… maybe you recognize yourself in me, eh? Yes, it can. You give in and half-way through the meal think. Shit… What the hell am I doing here? Well, maybe. Who knows…
well written… keep up.
Thanks for visiting, Lokesh!
Hope you will also enjoy my blog too 🙏
I will certainly check it out.