I was 26 when I went to work for a big company and was assigned to a senior manager who was 48.
He was a superb teacher, and I advanced to higher jobs where we no longer worked together but we remained friends.
He began to confide in me about his unhappy marriage but did not suggest an affair.
He loved his kids too much to leave and he believed he had to keep trying to stay with their mother.
Our lunch meetings were few and far between because both of us had huge workloads.
Five years later, when I was 31and he was 53, he said he and his wife agreed that they could no longer live together.
He said she’d never agree to a divorce, and he couldn’t push her to do so, as she’d already alienated two of his kids from seeing him once he leaves.
He said he loved me, and if I was willing to accept never being able to marry, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.
I agreed. We were together for 28 loving years, till he died at 81, two years ago.
I’m 61 now, a still-healthy and active widow (gym, walking, travel), but terribly lonely. I’ve been reluctant to even consider dating, then recently was introduced to a man through a mutual friend.
I only lasted two dates as he thought I had money to share from my years in executive positions, and suggested I invest in his business.
My brief attempt at online dating was even worse – a scammer who wanted to move in and hinted he’d then own half my house; and a man, late-70s, who wanted a ready-made caregiver since I’d had that role during my partner’s last years.
As I consider my future, I’m haunted by one question: Was I wrong to commit my best years to someone so much older than me?
I wonder: Should young women be warned that such romances inevitably lead to being left without a life companion, just when your own health and energy starts to diminish, and finding another partner for the “golden years” is far more elusive?
Sad and Lonely
You can warn “young” women and men about a lot of things, but they’ll still respond to their drives, urges, needs, emotions based on the choices they’re presented through circumstances and/or fate. Just as you did.
Twenty-eight “loving years” is a wonderful achievement, for which you ended up lucky. Hold that truth close.
Then consider current reality: With good health and energy, you have the opportunity to expand your friendships by following your interests – whether in art, music, books, sports, nature, etc.
You can afford the comfortable levels of group travel where you see new parts of the world in the company of some like-minded people.
It may just be too early for you to be dating with an eye on a future that involves having a partner.
That could be because the time you had as a couple was too profound and meaningful, to focus on someone else. Not yet.
You may also need grief counselling… instead of mourning the loss of your loved one, you’ve turned to mourning the implications of the decision you made years back.
But you were by then an intelligent, independent adult, not a besotted young girl who was pursued and persuaded to choose a man you respected and loved. You still need to grieve his loss, but not your long-ago decision.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the harm caused by today’s divisive attitudes to religion and diversity:
“I’m a Zen atheist minister who’s spent my life being badly abused by my Christian family who try to convert me to Christianity against my will and punish me in harmful ways.
“They insist that I should be killed because of my religious identity. They’ve physically, emotionally, financially abused me, even stolen my paycheques, property, mail, health insurance card (hoping to harm me through a health condition I have, hoping I wouldn’t be able to access health care).
“They just think about me as being unwilling to be in their religion.
“I believe that, in some families, an early family intervention could help family members to understand that each individual has a human right to choose their religion or no religion, such that it’s possible to restore family harmony.
“I hope that future families and generations will have such "spiritual midwives."
Tip of the day:
If a past decision led to long-lasting love and happiness, current regrets are self-defeating.