Have you ever read a novel with a good romance woven through the pages? It’s the kind of novel I like to write. I discovered when I first began writing decades ago that I didn’t possess the imagination that some writers are blessed with to write a pure romance. I admire those writers. My stories come with additional plot lines because I cannot find a way to keep the hero and heroine suffering through the pain of unrequited love for 350 pages.
If you have ever suffered through unrequited love, maybe you’ll understand what I’m saying.
When Mel and I met and started dating many years ago, he was a young doctor who had immersed his whole life into medicine, foregoing a social life. I, on the other hand, had searched for a real, abiding, solid love–not just romance, but love–for most of my teen years and adult life, and found that unrequited love is not romantic, it’s painful and lonely. And therefore I had begun writing my own love stories long before Mel came on the scene.
Mel was working as an ER physician in a small-town emergency department far from any access to women his own age who were also single Christians. He prayed one night, “Lord, I’m bored and I’m lonely. Would you please help me?” Very soon after, he gave notice at his place of employment so he could look for a job in a larger town where he might meet someone to share his life with. That was when he was recruited to work in the ER in my hometown. My pastor met him, introduced him to me, and the rest is history. Now Mel likes to tell people, “Since meeting Cheryl, I’ve never been bored or lonely. This isn’t just a marriage, it’s an adventure.”
If you’re in a good marriage, count yourself highly blessed. I always hated dating. There’s always the uncomfortable feeling that either the person you’re with cares more for you than you do for them, or you fall head over heels for this person and are afraid your affections will not be returned.
Don’t get me wrong. The dance of romance, the give and take and flirting and play of a solid marriage can keep that marriage fun and interesting. But the bottom line is always knowing you’re loved.
Those 14 months dating Mel, when he’d never actually been “in love” before, and didn’t know what to expect, were torture to me. I was especially displeased with my pastor when he had the nerve to invite Mel and me and another single woman (!!) to his and his wife’s home for dinner–not his sweet wife’s idea. Still, Mel wasn’t interested in the other woman, and we continued our growing friendship in fits and starts as I wondered and doubted and begged God to put me out of my misery. You see, I’d been through this before. I knew how badly it could end. Mel did not.
I, of course, was in love within the first month. I knew I’d found a rare treasure–a Christian man who respected me and my body. We connected on many levels, spoke the same language, but I was so much more experienced in the trials and disappointments of romance. I wanted it done. I didn’t want to play games, even though I knew that this dating ritual was vital to build a stronger relationship if and when we were to move forward to the next step. I just didn’t like it.
Obviously, our period of indecision ended at last. Mel sort-of proposed (before he ever told me he loved me.) I responded. (“I’m not marrying a man who doesn’t love me.”) He thought about it, decided he finally knew what love was, and that he loved me. At last, after all those months of waiting, he spoke the words, “I love you.” And I thought I’d better cherish that moment because I would probably never hear him say that again.
Was I ever wrong! He says it every day. His love language is words of affirmation, and he speaks them often.
But whew! Do you see what I mean? Dating someone when you’re falling in love is like a freefall. You never know if your chute will open and carry you to safety, or if you’ll hit ground at a high rate of speed in an emotional crash and burn. Speaking as someone who has suffered from more than one broken heart, I don’t want to ever go through that again. I’ll write about it, but I’ve lived it enough to last a lifetime.
I have friends who have chosen the single life because they know the pain of unrequited love. If you are happily married and know some single people, reach out to them. They can become wonderful friends. If you have friends who are in unhappy marriages, be there for them. You can be a solid support for those who have experienced the crash and burn and damage of unrequited love.
If you have found requited love, cherish it, and let your love know how you feel. You can never be married too long to say the words, “I love you.”