Love Stories

My longing for the love of my life has evolved over time.

My first marriage was not just falling in love; it was plummeting. It wasn’t just being struck by lightning; it was a freaking electrical storm. It wasn’t love at first sight as much as it was a total blinding eclipse. Our courtship wasn’t merely a whirlwind; it was a Category 5 hurricane. For as epic as our love story was, both its inception and its annihilation, our children will never have to wonder if I was in love with their father. I adored him.

At 43, I’m too tired to fall in love like that again.

For a while in my early single years post divorce, I wanted to meet a man and have more babies. Even though I already had three, I was so taken with them that I thought I wanted more. So I would date and rate each suitor on his potential to be a good father. I would size up his genetics, his finances, his family tree, his past and his potential. I also wanted to know if the man would be suitable for my own beloved children, so I analyzed everything he said and did and naturally everyone came up short under such scrutiny. Eventually my patience, and my biological clock, ran out.

I thought it would be ideal to meet a man whose family was tragically lost at sea so he would be unencumbered yet experienced. Such a suitor did not present himself so I moved onto another dream, the perfectly blended family. In this phase I inserted every single daddy I dated into a mental family Christmas card. In this card, we would look at each other adoringly, and our combined beautiful array of children would make a panorama of harmony and bliss, and even the blended canine component would sit nicely and look at the camera. Nevermind that I couldn’t ever get my own unblended family to mind me for the annual Christmas card photo. The kids would cry, fight, or run off, I’d have a bad hair day or a pimple, and the dogs would gnaw the Santa hat or run off chasing the children. I wisely gave up and only attempt collage cards on Tiny Prints using random photos from my iPhone.

I thought I wanted a partner to shoulder the parenting load with me. I thought I had so much mother love inside me that I had sufficient overflow for his brood. I thought that we could merge our lives, our children’s lives, their sports and school schedules, our careers, our finances, our exes, our custody schedules, our travel plans, our holidays, our extended families, and our dreams. I thought we could combine all of our baggage and hit the road together.

I thought I needed that man in order to raise my kids. But in the meantime, I was doing a damn good job of raising them.

And now they are getting older, as in, I can see the light at the end of the proverbial parenting tunnel and in a few years my beloved chicks will leave my nest. This is both liberation and lament (definitely more lament). So my vision changes yet again. I’m not sure with only a few years left with my darlings that I would even want to blend our lives, divide my time and my energy, and shake up the good mojo we have going on over at Chez Armstrong. I would do it, but I am no longer looking for it. It would have to find me, and make itself abundantly known and undeniably compelling.

So today, what do I want? I don’t want to fall in love so fast or so hard that I lose myself and get the bends. I don’t need anyone to “complete me.” I don’t need a man to pay my bills or raise my children. I don’t as much need a man, as I would like one. But my previously rigid requirements are very blurry now. I would hope my children love him, but I’m more concerned that I do. I want someone to make me laugh, travel with me, make adventures and mischief, someone smart enough to challenge me, strong enough to bolster me, and soft enough to undo me. I want a partner, not a plan. He doesn’t have to share my house, or I his, but I’d like to share a mutual version of already wonderful lives. We could be married or unmarried, blended or unblended—what’s important is no longer when, what or how, but whom.

Late one night in Barcelona, my dear friend Ana summed up my heart quest better than I have ever been able to do it before or since. “Kiki, you need to meet un hombre imperfecto que te quiera en una manera perfecta.”

An imperfect man who loves you in a perfect way.

I will wait for that for as long as it takes.


Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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