One morning, about six months after I’d given birth to what became the best parting gift ever, my husband rolled over, looked at me and said, “I don’t really want to do this anymore.” To my everlasting relief, before I could spew a tirade of “how dare yous,” I heard myself sigh and say, “Me neither.”
For ages after that exchange, I couldn’t get over how life turned on a dime. What if he’d slept in that morning and I’d already started my day with the kids? Would he have rolled over, mumbled to himself, showered and stayed married? Without all the pieces falling into place exactly the way they did, might we have spent an entire unhappy lifetime together rather than just a fraught decade?
In all honesty, our marriage had been resuscitated so many times it would have needed one of those newfangled pacemakers to keep it going — the kind that not only gives you a jump start but also notifies the appropriate authorities you were about to flat line. Once the truth was out, there was no waiting for the kids to turn 18. To me, nothing spells “living a lie” more than Dad leaving the nest the same week they do.
Right before my husband’s eventful rollover, we’d been house hunting. While most couples are busy dividing their property, we acquired a new one. When my girls and I moved into our little house in Rancho Park, my husband moved into the guest house, one small patch of grass away. He had the run of the house, the kids didn’t have to miss him and there was always someone around to kill the really big spiders.
As I pondered this new living arrangement, my soon-to-be ex assured me I shouldn’t worry. If I ever got serious with another guy, he’d definitely move out. I took one last look around, made some calls and found him an apartment nearby. I mean, what kind of guy would want to date a woman whose ex-husband was waving to him from a lounge chair in the backyard?
And date I did. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be finding love where I used to look for it — summer camp, the disco, high school — so I was especially grateful when friends offered to set me up. There is no greater stamp of approval from the people in your life than their belief that you are relationship worthy — at least until you meet the questionable cast of characters they have in store for you.
I had Indonesian food in Westwood with a guy so invested in testing his daddy skills that he buckled my seat belt and told me if I dangled my arm out the window he’d be forced to pull over. I dated a dentist who pooh-poohed kissing because of the questionable things he’d seen in other people’s mouths, and a lifelong bachelor who, on our first date announced, “I don’t want to raise another man’s kids.”
When I was especially doubtful about finding love, my mother would repeat her dating mantra: “You never know what’s right around the corner.” And if you consider four years right around the corner, she was absolutely right.
A few years after my divorce, I ran into some dear friends of my ex. For as long as I’d known them they’d declared they’d never have children, but here they were inviting me over to meet their newborn. In the course of the visit, they asked if I was dating anyone special, and since I was seeing only the non-kissing dentist, I said no.
They set me up.
Let me go over this again: the best friends of my ex (he won custody of them in the divorce), the same couple who never wanted kids (whose baby I was there to see), set me up with the man I was going to fall crazy in love with. The odds of this happening are so minuscule I once again found myself obsessively pondering how life turns on a dime. What if I hadn’t run into them? What if they felt awkward setting me up? What if I’d never met my first husband and in turn never met his friends?
Our first date was in late summer. We walked up to John O’Groats, a cozy neighborhood joint on Pico Boulevard with great pancakes. We’d both been on enough lousy setups to know breakfast was the way to go. The commitment is small, there’s generally no alcohol involved and maple syrup sweetens just about anything. Turns out we didn’t need the syrup. It wasn’t long before we graduated from breakfast to dinner and then right back to breakfast again. He said yes to a life of complicated love with ex-husbands and kids and in-laws and old friends. We married the next year. And while he might not have been right around the corner, he was absolutely worth the wait.
Elena Krupp is a film and television writer living in Los Angeles.
L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns are archived at latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.