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It can happen in a business environment, your neighborhood, across a continent or what feels like — or may be — thousands of miles away. Hearts may be broken via long distance and months or years of commuting and making the airlines rich. And you don’t have to be in your teens or thirties to take a fall that is more devastating than any you encountered when you were young, too stupid to know better, or too optimistic.
Susan, a 58-year-old Bonjour Paris reader (and acquaintance), has just written me a letter telling me that she’s inconsolable over a man she’d met in Paris. Marc had said and done all of the right things, but in reality, was dishonest with her. Or, more likely, dishonest with himself.
It’s an old story. Marc vowed he was on the way to a divorce; the settlement agreement was signed and it was only a question of telling the judge to make it official. In fact, Marc was unable to unravel his long-term marriage. Despite years of analysis and therapy, he couldn’t be truthful. He was paralyzed, living in the past. He’d built a shrine to his wife, who had left him; he hid behind his children.
The irony was Susan never wanted to re-marry: been there and done that. She had her own children. And she was smart enough not to want to inherit Marc’s copious legacy of hurts and injuries.
What had kept Susan involved with the most dangerous kind of married man? ? Marc wasn’t just her lover, he was her best friend. They had shared so much. They’d laughed so hard their bellies hurt. They were even able to cry together.
But although Marc spoke of a future together, any conversation about the future would send him an online dating service to see if there were anything better out there. Susan knew Marc had done that twice since meeting her — and she’d gone ballistic. But she ignored everything she knew; she could fix what no other woman could. And, often, she did help Marc feel better and stronger about himself.
I asked Susan why she’d missed the signals. Her only response was that she knew Marc “loved me in his way.” The emotional and physical connection she felt with him was extraordinary. And, she wrote, "Who says relationships have to be healthy?"
Trusting, affectionate women who want to share their lives with new lovers, only to find that the men aren’t committed or honest — that’s the raw material of the great French novels. Every once in a while, we’d do well to remember it’s also the raw material of our lives — and that, in love, as with so many other problems, the past is usually prologue.
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