the no-vacancy heart

When I was in my 20’s, this was a constant fear my girlfriends and I dodged:  that the young man we were interested in was somehow still hung up on his ex-girlfriend.  Usually, this wasn’t actually the case.  Sure, maybe some residual physical attraction lingered, and the knowledge of that never feels good, but generally those relationships hadn’t lasted long enough or involved deep enough feelings and expectations to really claim the young man’s heart.

Ah… the good ol’ days….

Since my divorce, I have encountered a seemingly endless supply of men who are, quite plainly and quite simply, still hung up on a woman from their past.  Sometimes the past is quite recent —  like the guy I dated mere months after he caught the woman he’d been planning to marry in bed with another man — but sometimes it’s quite distant — like the 44-year-old I saw recently who never quite got over his college sweetheart.  Sometimes the pain and the emotional distance is obvious, but other times it’s buried deep enough that I don’t find it until I’ve already invested myself in this man.  No matter.  Their hearts are taken, spoken for, fully occupied.

And, like women, their hearts make no logical sense.  Take the last guy I dated, who had a lovely photo of his former girlfriend with his children displayed prominently in his living room.  This is the same girlfriend, mind you, who cheated on him four times (that’s right — that’s the number FOUR), and had a nasty habit of getting falling down drunk quite often.  Or how about the guy I dated last autumn, who was still in love with his ex-wife, even though she’d started sleeping with his friends during their marriage.  Granted, she was a former lingerie model with a culinary degree (I’m not kidding; it was almost a relief to not have to compete with that anymore…), but, nonetheless, she’d treated him atrociously and he still loved her.

I suppose that there should be something comforting in  knowing that men can carry torches for us beyond all reason.  And yet, most of the time, I would not want to be lumped in with the women for whom these torches burn.  In my small, unscientific study, they seem to be very selfish, insecure, and manipulative people.  Not exactly a class I’m itching to join.

Now, I’m not saying that men are alone in holding on to their longing.  Women pine and mourn and hold onto the shreds of a once-great love for far too long, too.  But — and this is a big but — most of us don’t pretend otherwise. We know that we’re not over him and that if he walked back in the door, we’d be there in a second.  It once took me four years to get over a great love, which is considerably longer than the relationship itself lasted.  But I knew, all that time, that I still loved him.  And when I was over him — finally! — I knew that, too.

By contrast, most of the men that I’ve met and dated when they were still hung up on someone else would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that they were over the women they were not actually over.  It’s only later, when we’re friends and not lovers, that they sometimes own up to possibility that maybe, just maybe, they aren’t really over her after all.   I credit the male credo of “I’m good.  It’s all good.” with helping them bury their feelings and convince themselves that those feelings no longer exist.  Women don’t have that luxury, and even if we wanted it, our girl friends would call out bullshit mighty quickly, and it would probably go something like this:

“I’m over him.  I totally am.  I feel really good!” 

“Really?  Are you sure?”

“No!  {sob} I still miss him!  Why do I still miss him?!”

I think a lot of women have suffered the experience of being relationship roadkill to a man who is oblivious to his own heartache and just rolls right over her feelings.  In this situation, typically the woman is faulted for having “cared too much.”  This makes my head want to explode.  I can’t remember the last time I actually criticized someone for caring too much about me; as far as I’m concerned, love in any degree is a gift and an honor.  I’ve had my share of men claim to love me when I didn’t seek or desire their love, but I never faulted them for it; I was always touched and honored that they’d bestowed that upon me, even when the feeling was far from mutual.  But maybe that’s just me.

A large part of me feels enormous compassion and empathy for these men.  It was not so long ago that I my own heart was broken and I was wondering if I had anything left for anyone, ever.  It is terrible to desire someone that can no longer be yours, for whatever reason.  But I just wish that they came with a prominent surgeon general’s warning label or a no vacancy sign, so that I could avoid becoming entangled with them.  Is that really too much to ask?



Filed under dating, divorce, general musings, relationships, single mom

5 responses to “the no-vacancy heart

  1. The T

    You read me too well for my own benefit… i must tell you that have picked a sore subject… for the sake that I love reading your words however and respect what it is that you have to say…I have had too much rum out sailing with friends on the Caribbean….so i want to respond but do not feel as though it would be thougtful of your words and instead turn into a rant…or a rave…or a destructive piece of work that I cannot be proud of… so I will hold my tongue appropriately…OMG i soooooo spelled it correctly…you should give me brownie points and stuff… I have had a hard night… but I do honestly love your words and your direction… I am never here to judge but to give my own unique viewpoint… I must tell you though… tomorrow’s words might be sharp…they may cut you deeply…but just know the soul that powers those same words is beautiful…and hungers for incredible love… prepare thyself..i’m certain my passion would come out in words…and thoughts normally deemed sacred….


  2. The T

    I’m sorry…i just read that…and honestly…even though I have had too much rum..the drama is too much for even me to handle… my apologies…I still love your words…lol…


    kiss me and stuff…or something .com ish…ish…

  3. The T

    Ok…now that its morning and I’ve got all of last night’s party out of my veins…

    Instead of ranting and railing against you, I want to put you into my shoes by carefully listening to the heartfelt words that I’m going to open to you…

    You know me better than I thought you would by letting me know I wasn’t going to like today’s post. The only reason I don’t like it is because you’re almost right…almost…

    You see, I am hung up on one particular love affair and the results of it.

    Her name was Cylie. Not outstandingly beautiful compared to most of the girls I date, however, I owe her a great debt. I’m not in love with her, but I cannot forget how she loved me and how I loved her in return. She didn’t teach me to love, she taught me how to love better….she pulled me into being a better man, and only near the end of our relationship did I WANT to be a better man because of the person she was to me.

    She has done some justice to the females out there… I think about my actions and how they will impact a person’s life. So although you would say that I’m in love with her….I would say I am completely not in love with her. She taught me something all men should know. It was a terrible lesson of how deeply you can love someone and how quickly it can be taken away from you.

    She taught me what I should do when opening myself up to love….which is something I will have with another person….if that person were you, I am bringing a much more powerful love that can completely belong to you and only you that i was incapable of giving before the events of what she did for me. I know every single step of the journey that built the new Thomas… I have analyzed them for all of the right reasons…to study how to love with the fullest of abilities…

    Before her, I had intimate moments…..with her, all moments were intimate. I needed to know what the difference is… do I want her back in my life because she was such a great lesson-teacher? Not in the it’s not the woman that motivates me…it’s the lesson that I take with me. The memories that I have of her fail to compare to the emotions that I’m capable of having with a really incredible woman.

    The results are compounded… I am a better man because of the lesson. Because of the lesson, I will love more women in such a powerful manner, that it may not last forever, but it will keep the lesson moving in positive directions because in the end Cylie Jo completely knows that I have taught her the capacity to love…and the fact that it was our interaction that brought it to light. That girl wrought destruction upon my heart….for that I’ll never forgive…

    So kindly be careful…some of us men aren’t hung up on past women, some of us are hung up on the lessons we’ve learned from them…

    Knowing my passion about this topic, I would hope that you should be willing to look for the incredible woman inside you to become worthy of that type of love…. some guy out there will keep the lessons of that previous lady-friend in his life, but he will use such powerful knowledge on you and you’ll completely love him for it…

    I promise…


    • Thank you for sharing, T. Your comments generated several thoughts, and I’m sure more will follow.

      First, there was quite a different tone between your comments from last night and this morning. I wonder which constitutes your primary and strongest feeling…? No need to answer. Just something I noticed.

      Next, I think that you eloquently captured the value of previous relationships. I honestly, most sincerely do not want a man who is a blank slate (as if such a person even exists) or someone who has no baggage or has never loved deeply. If I have “a type,” it is probably “the imperfect man.” I am fascinated and intrigued by and respect and admire people of both genders who have stumbled and fallen and gotten up again. It is our scars that make us interesting, in my opinion. I have, in fact, found that, while I may be attracted to a man’s virtues, it is his failures — and what he has made of them — that hold my attention, that allow me to love him. Indeed, it is usually as he shows me all his fears and failings that I come to love him most deeply.

      Having said all of that, I must respectfully disagree with part of what you said. My issue is not with whether part of a man’s heart is spoken for; I fully expect that there will be footprints on his heart, lessons learned, sentimentalities retained and held dear. My issue is whether it is completely spoken for. The men to whom I referred were all examples of people who had tried repeatedly to get close to women, myself included but not alone, and found themselves unable to open up… to create the intimacy they claim to want… to truly allow themselves to be happy and fall in love. There simply wasn’t any room; no woman measured up to their previous ideal that still held their heart.

      You may well be the kind of man who has weathered lessons and whose heart is more open as a result — whose past loves have made him more — not less — capable of loving someone deeply in the future. I have some men in my life who are like that, and I absolutely adore them for it. Those are not the men I’m referring to in this post.

      If you’ve read my posts, then hopefully I have conveyed my utmost respect for people of both genders who embrace and incorporate personal growth in their lives. I think that, for those of us in the First World, it is the hardest work we do while on this Earth.

      I appreciate and enjoy your comments. They are thought-provoking. 🙂

      • The T

        Thank you for how delicately you handle yourself. I can appreciate restraint when I see it. Sometimes I can be unfiltered if I am reacting to something that stirs me…

        I must admit that I was stirred by your shoice in words, however, I was also reacting to you…you see…you disarmed me…one second, I had my firewall up and the next, I was vulnerable to things you said. I was transparent to a complete stranger… made me uneasy that you could get that reaction….

        Once I had a chance to get the remnants of rum out of my bloodstream, I was able to digest some of your words, and my viewpoint changed a bit…

        To be quite honest, you push a couple of buttons on me that move me…by mentioning “primary and strongest feelings”….you made me wonder…was I better being raw? Not in this case…I could have dug in by the emotions that you stirred by a time where I felt hurt and damaged by losing a girl who at one time, meant everything to me. Powerful emotions would have meant powerful words. Luckily that never happened…

        You have me completely intrigued…not an easy thing to do…


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