Have you ever dated someone new and thought, “Wow, this is really great!”? Did it begin without any of the usual fumbling around or awkwardness? And then one day, did one of you completely lose control of your rational mind and react to something in a way totally out of character, causing the instantaneous, yet slow-motion, shattering of a perfectly lovely wine glass, I mean, relationship? I don’t know about you, but I can answer with a resounding YES to all three of those statements, the lattermost being I who lost her damn mind.
When I turned 40 this year, I resolved myself to being more honest, more forgiving, and more brave, with others and with myself. Because of that resolution, I’ve repaired a few frayed friendships and eased a few others aside. But there is one relationship that has lingered, that I don’t yet know how to handle. One that, until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know still burned. I’m referring to an old flame. He’s just a lick older than I, witty, charming, funny as all get out, devastatingly handsome, and a good man. A great man, actually, though he has yet to believe that about himself. To sum up what occurred, I shall D&J it for you:
Dick meets Jane. Dick is awesome. (Dick is awesome, but that’s another conversation). Dick thinks Jane is awesome. Dick and Jane laugh at sophomoric humor like hyenas on the African savanna. Jane is empathetic to Dick’s current circumstances, but doesn’t realize trouble is a’brewin’. Dick’s circumstances bring un-dealt-with emotions to Jane’s surface. And then… CRASH! Poor Dick does something funny, yet Jane loses control of her logical mind and sense of humor and berates Dick. Dick says “screw this.” Jane says “whatever.” Dick and Jane are no longer Dick and Jane.
Perfectly good relationship potential broken into a million pieces. What is most striking to me about this story is that the two of us are, respectively within our fields, great at conflict resolution. So why didn’t we apply those tools in this situation? It’s taken me nearly 18 months and sitting with him over a few beers recently to figure it out.
We were damaged people then. We were desperately trying to appear––to the public, to ourselves––as if our lives were great and we were getting along just fine. The problem was we were both, in our own ways, deluding ourselves. We all work through trials and tribulations differently. The sticky part comes in when we’ve begun picking and choosing what we’re going to deal with and what we’re going to scoot under the rug or tuck away in the deep dark corner of our heart. I have news for you: no matter how tightly you locked that sucker up, it always finds a way of creeping out, and generally in the most inopportune of circumstances.
I sat across from this old flame, listening to him talk about all the great things happening in his life; things that have given him forward momentum, something he didn’t quite have when we were dating. It was like meeting him for the first time all over again; he is so familiar to me that it feels as though I’ve known him for a decade, but the energy and the aura surrounding him are suddenly lighter and more positively charged. It is… intoxicating. It’s taken all my self control not to inundate him, but I can’t help myself from wanting to be in regular contact. We both said we’d not date each other again, after “the shattering of the perfectly good wine glass.” I’m drawn to him, even still, even after 18 months not seeing him and thinking we were truly just going to be friends. The Universe blindsided me (bitch). Do I ride it out and see if the spark truly is still there? Or do I stick to my resolution to be honest and brave, and tell him how I’m feeling, risking a let down?
And therein lies my dilemma: is it possible to start a new burn with an old flame?