Lighting a Candle in Pure Oxygen
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
As much as I hate to admit it, during my second singledom, the absolute best thing for my man-woman relationships has been to build them slowly, sometimes agonizingly slowly. Some of these relationships never took root in a foundation of friendship, and so they fizzled—thankfully—before ever blossoming to romance. I’m glad of that now. It saved me a lot of heartache with men who would not have been good to me or for me, and it’s built a couple of friendships that I hope to have with me for the rest of my life.
At the same time, I’ve watched a number of friends and colleagues flame and burn with new lovers and eventually set themselves on fire so nothing remained but ash. One of my colleagues left her husband around Christmastime, and so needed to fill a long-empty emotional void that she fell for the first man she saw on her way to her lawyer’s office. In a matter of weeks, while her divorce papers were finalizing, she jumped from one relationship to the next, with plenty of gasps but not so much as a deep breath. She left one marriage for another, one family for another, filling that void as quickly as possible rather than investigating to see the nature of the void and figure out how to fill it and what to fill it with. Rather than investigate the emotional void and how it came to be, she rushed to fill it with anything and everything and as fast as possible.
When she met the second “one and only true love” of her life, I complained to my friend David, a scientist specializing in explosives, that it seemed other women moved on quickly from their broken marriages. He reminded me that if you light a candle in a pure oxygen environment, it will burn very, very brightly and quickly, but then there will be nothing left.
It’s true. Three months into her second marriage—four months after her divorce—and my colleague is questioning her actions. Maybe she should have waited, she says. There was so much more to discover about her second husband, things she never would have guessed, and things she glimpsed but chose to overlook. As Mark says, romance is the drug that prevents us from immediately recognizing our parents in our new lovers and thus keeps us from running like hell.
They have not yet hit their four-month anniversary and already all the little things she adored in that first passionate month—which ended in a marriage proposal—are driving her nuts. After enduring a spouse who really did not care where she was or how she spent her time, she longed for that kind of attention. And yet, already his constant attention is turning into a prison. She can’t finish a meeting at work without a phone call to make sure she’s not with some other man.
Her new marriage lacks strength, lacks a strong foundation, and that saddens me because she’s such a sweet person. I’ve worked with her for a long time, and I really like her, even though I’m not “allowed” to spend much time with her now. She might actually be with some other man and not with me, you know? They have only the strength of the romance, which is already fading, and no basis in trust. Or as another friend of mine once said, a broken bone that mends too quickly will always be weak and susceptible to further fractures.
So for all my complaints that getting to know someone—really know them—takes so very long, I’m glad I’ve purposely chosen not to fill the void with just anything that comes along.
One day at a time, one brick at a time, I build my relationships with men, friends first and then we’ll see if there’s anything more. And if there is, then that foundation will be our temple, and instead of a candle in pure oxygen, I will hope for a bonfire with enough fuel to last a lifetime.