Stu and I had no difficulty with conversation as we walked around the lake. It was a lovely day and we were enjoying each other's company in that way that only rarely happens when you click with someone; it felt as though we were old friends who hadn't seen each other in years but who could easily fall back in to where we had been before. It was so refreshing to be able to share my faith with someone who could understand; we talked about the difficulties of being in relationship with someone who has a different viewpoint on God and His existence, and how even when you know that you are in the wrong place, it can be difficult to let go of someone you`ve become attached to. Stu was very vocal and outspoken about his faith, and while I had been concerned that he would be another dictator who would want to run his partner`s life and tell her what she could and couldn`t or should and shouldn`t do, I found him to be a sympathetic listener who shook his head in disgust when I related some of my experiences with Christians who issued ultimatums for other people rather than live their faith and try to lead by example. I was hugely relieved by his attitude, especially when he reiterated his viewpoint by saying that no one can force someone to believe in God, and no one can be a true Christian if they push their ways on other people. It is, he said, more likely to push someone away from God, and reflecting on my own experience even as a believer, I had to admit that he was right. I loved God and believed in Him, but my fear of being beaten over the head with a Bible had kept me from men who were believers. Instead, I kept dating men who were not interested in my faith, and who in fact felt scorn for my beliefs at times.
"And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be
pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him." 1 Corinthians 7:13 I see these verses as not being contradictory to each other, for I do believe that a believer in Christ and a non-believer could potentially have a very good marriage, and that it is not expressly forbidden by the Bible for two people of conflicting faiths to marry (Stu would definitely disagree with me here). The main point for me is, it is much easier to be joyful in your beliefs when you can share that joy with the person who loves you and with whom you should be more intimate than anyone else in the world. I can love someone who doesn't believe what I believe (and I have demonstrated that, clearly!) and we can have the best relationship of anyone we know, but if I can't share that crucial part of my life with him, then I am hiding some of the most important things about me from the one I love. It is my choice - not a dictation - after making all these mistakes in the past, to seek out a Christian man as my partner. I don't believe God will condemn me if I love someone not of my faith, but I do believe that He wants me to have the best experience possibly in my love life and future marriage, and to share faith would make it much easier.
This is why I was so thrilled to discover that I found Stu attractive as well as enjoyed conversing with him. Apart from the obvious, sharing a faith in God, we also had a similar sense of humor and conversation style. So many little things we had in common made us laugh - he lived within two blocks of the school my children attended, and he had driven the bus for the high school girls' volleyball team on several occasions, so he knew several of my daughter's friends. And imagine our shock when we discovered that not only were we the same age, but we had attended the same high school, and had been in the same graduating class.
"I thought I recognized you from the ten-year reunion," he stated. I couldn't believe it. Nineteen years ago we attended school together, graduated together, both attended the reunion nine years earlier, and both were involved with my kids' school, and it had taken nineteen years - and an online dating website - for us to meet?
And so, after a slow start (six months of emailing before meeting a guy sure teaches a girl a lesson in patience), Stu and I eased into a courtship of sorts. It was nothing like anything I had experienced before: there was nothing physical, apart from the rare occasion where we held hands in public, and some snuggling on the couch while we watched TV or shared our favorite music with each other. Stu was different from any other guy I had ever met, and he intrigued and fascinated me. He had become used to being solitary, and it was an adjustment for him to have a woman in his life. However, he eased himself into it, and in taking our time, we both got used to the idea of each other. I loved the fact that instead of rushing into a physical relationship - even a kiss, Stu said, was evidence of a commitment that he didn't want to make until he was absolutely certain - we were building an incredible friendship. I was beginning to understand the importance of crafting a solid and true foundation to lead up to what could eventually be a great and stable marriage.
Stu took me up to a cabin on the beach, owned by his family, and we spent a wonderful evening listening to music and chatting by the woodstove, and when he bid me goodnight he retired to a different building and let me settle in the main cabin, where I fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves through the window. In the morning we got up and made pancakes together and ate them on the porch overlooking the ocean. We went fishing together (which was a disaster, but I was glad to experience it with him!), and when he volunteered to drive the speedboat for the kids at a camp slightly up-Island, we drove up together and he took me for a ride or two (the best way to get whiplash or fall off a boat is to be a passenger when Stu is driving). I felt very comfortable with him, and as time wore on I began to entertain the idea that maybe this was the man that God had in mind for me. I could picture Stu and I in a marriage, and I got very excited about the idea.
HB was at the back of my mind, and I still mourned our relationship, but as time went on and Stu and I became more solid, I was beginning to put the idea of HB behind me. Having the kind of courtship - slow and steady - that I was experiencing with Stu, and sharing a faith with him, I recognized how shallow the relationship with HB had been in so many ways. I knew that what I was building with Stu was what I wanted: the honesty, the comfort, and the maturity. Eventually, I felt secure enough in my courtship with Stu and how much I had moved past the relationship with HB that I felt I could resurrect my friendship with HB and keep him at arm's length, and in a way, this was successful. I see now that allowing myself to have HB in my life in any way would not help my chances of having a strong and solid relationship with Stu, but since I had talked with Stu about everything that HB and I had been through - he, of course, was understanding and supportive as usual - I felt that we were strong enough that HB would not stand in our way.
In fact, when my roommate moved out and I was desperate to fill a room in the house, and HB - whom I was now (mostly) able to look at as merely a friend (albeit a friend with whom I shared many intense memories) - offered to move in and pay rent, my main concern was not if I could handle having HB in my house; it was whether or not Stu would be comfortable with it. Despite having my misgivings about the wisdom of allowing an ex-boyfriend - especially one who I had been deeply in love with - living with me, I discussed it with Stu, who mainly seemed concerned that HB would find it difficult to be in such close proximity to me. Indeed, HB still claimed some sort of ownership of me, at least in his head: he and Stu had met and were civil and relaxed with one another, but sometimes he would call me "Baby" out of habit, even in front of Stu. I cautioned him against it, but it still happened. I was worried. I didn't want to mess things up, but I really needed to fill that room, and I knew HB would be pleasant and easy to live with. We worked out a deal: we would try it for one month, and if any one of the three of us were uncomfortable with it, HB would move out immediately, and I could keep the rent money. I agreed. HB moved in.
And very shortly after HB moved in to my house, Stu got a job out of town, and began going away for long periods of time. Sounds like quite the recipe for disaster, doesn't it?
...to be continued...soon, I promise!