I don’t think love is something you can plan or create. Love for my husband came unexpectedly, and when I had stopped looking for love. It happened when I finally had come to love myself again, and opened my heart to the possibility of finding that one person who would love me for who I am. It was after I got a spine (both figuratively and literally); after spinal surgery and after the mindset change that I was deserving of happiness. Love came after the pain, when I was open to truth, and ready to face the next chapter.
Before I met my life partner, I had almost given up on finding one. I convinced myself that different people in my life combined would fill the void: one man as my lover, one as my friend, one being the father of my children, and so on. Thankfully, I always had loving friends, community and my family. But, with the people in my life filling different needs, I began to believe that there could be more. I was missing a different type of love than the one I have for my children and family, and it was the type of love I had yet to feel.
When I fell in love with my third husband, I had fallen hard, I mean I had landed on my ass and then gotten up deciding never to land there again. When we fell in love, I had known pain, heartache, betrayal and deep sadness–and so had he.
But, I am an optimist at heart, and never lost hope.
When I was 26 years old, I lived in NYC, got married and honeymooned almost free for 2 weeks in Hawaii following a Manhattan Bride contest. We had careers, money and friends and I felt on top of the world. Although we were happy in the beginning, our relationship had secrets and lacked depth, which later destroyed us. I knew we weren’t perfect, but I expected to grow together.
By 32, I had 3 sons. My marriage had commitment to our children, but lacked honesty and the type of deep understanding needed to make a marriage work. He told me he didn’t love me “in that way anymore”, and that was all I needed to give up. We were separated and divorced before our friends and family could even process it; this was never the life I had imagined.
On the bright side, we continued to co-parent well…and we still do.
Yearning for intimacy, I rekindled an old flame. Besides mutual attraction, we had nothing else in common and fought constantly. Due to the nature of our physical relationship, I found myself pregnant at 35—divorced and unmarried with an on-again/off-again relationship. I desperately tried to make it work for the benefit of my daughter–but it was a toxic relationship and within it, I was losing myself.
For the first time in my life, I felt trapped trying to lie in the bed I had made. I tried to accept my fate that an unhappy relationship was better than another child having two homes. It was complex because the friendship piece was missing with him, and therefore, I could not picture co-parenting with him.
I began to believe him when he told me I wasn’t beautiful like I used to be and he questioned who would even want me. Many nights I cried myself to sleep. I lived in despair for allowing myself to be in the situation I was in, but I was constantly trying to hide my sadness for the well-being of my children. Despite my attempts, of course they knew I was not happy.
One day on my son’s field trip, I had a chance encounter with a father who was genuinely interested in what I had to say. This is not the man I fell in love with, but he is the one who reminded me what it felt like to have a man show caring for my thoughts and feelings again. He also reminded me how much I yearned for a partner who was also my friend, it had been a long time. I realized there might still be someone out there for me and I decided not to give up on being happy.
When the love of my life entered my world, I felt his tenderness the moment he walked into the room. I felt peaceful while we said nothing and he sat quietly on my bed. I had been through a hell of a back surgery to correct my life long scoliosis and years of pain, and when I was in the worst condition of my life, he looked at me and I felt beautiful again. I wanted nothing more than for him to stay with me forever. He touched my heart, without touching me at all… and he still does.
I was 40 and my life was about to begin.
You know you’ve found the love of your life when he is all those pieces that you never thought you’d find in one person. He is my best friend, my lover, my confidant and another father to my children. He gives me a feeling of warmth, kindness and respect every time he enters the room. He makes my heart sing when I see him with my children. They are finally witness to their mother living with a man who is in love with her.
It’s important to me that my children see what a healthy and happy relationship looks like, and that despite divorce, a loving relationship is attainable for each of them in their lives.
In love with him, I love myself again. I have begun to make peace with my past and the path that has led me to where I am today. Although he knows my darkest times, in loving me, he nurtures my light.
You know you’ve found the love of your life when just being together feels like home. With him by my side, I have all that I need. For the first time in my adult life, I am happy to be home and it’s my favorite place to be.
What makes our relationship special? We take nothing for granted. We say “thank you”, we say “I’m sorry”, and we say “I love you”– we say that one a lot.
We humbly admit our failings to each other, but we support each other in our successes; to the end, his success is my success and my happiness is his happiness. In times of pain and struggle, we share the pain. We know that when you talk about the little things, you can talk about the big things–the ones that scare you and the ones you dream of.
Everything in my past relationships, even the darkest times, have led me to the love I have now where I can be my truest self. In love with him I grow, and in love with him I know each and every day is a gift.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness, it took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
By Nicole Olivier-Degere
Nicole is an Occupational Therapist, wife and mother in a blended family north of Boston, You can find her on Facebook.