What if we started this week’s story with a quick theme song?
Relationships are difficult, aren’t they. There’s a reason why half of all American marriages end in divorce – they require a lot of communication, dedication, compromise, understanding and a whole lot more.
Last up in the Kim saga mini-drama, (link), I had proposed marriage at the tender age of only 19. What I have not yet shared however was that although I loved Kim, (aka Sheila), very deeply, we had started off like a lot of high school couples – immature and a bit volatile. While a little bit of volatility might help sometimes in the bedroom, it does not much in the area of communication. We are all formed by many things, like our upbringing or surroundings, and as such, we each handle things differently.
Sheila had fallen into a bad habit of using abusive language. Many might have been able to handle this ok, but I am not one of those people, never have been. If I apply a bit of self analysis, I think it might be linked to the fact that I prefer fewer, but deeper personal relationships. If someone I don’t care for much were to speak to me in an abusive manner, I can easily shrug it off. If however, that person is someone I care for, the stab goes into me rather deep. When it is someone really special, (like my girlfriend or fiancé), it ends up being a pain that stabs me directly in the heart.
Over the many years of life I have learned, (I think), that communication is perhaps the most important aspect of a successful relationship. Sheila and I had great chemistry and similar objectives but the poor communication had led to my vulnerability; I see this now, but was much too young to understand then. Mix a vulnerable assistant manager me with cute little Taco Bell females and I guess it was inevitable that I’d fall for one of them.
Her name was Des, short for Desiree. She was a cute little thing, just a year younger than I, she had a great outgoing personality and she was a flirt. Des was engaged, same as me. We were both unhappy though with our less than perfect relationships and due to our working the same shifts, we quickly got to know and appreciate each other. One thing led to another and one night we ended up singing Paradise by the Dashboard Light. You get the visual.
And that’s how it got started. The more time I spent with Des, the better about myself I felt. Eventually we both sat down one night to have a serious discussion and out of that we both decided that we ended our fling with each other, or ended our engagements. We were in love with each other and we both still loved our fiancées but our confusion and the highness from the affair led to our decision to break off the engagements. I still loved Sheila, but I hated the way I was treated at times and asking her to stop just never solved the issue. We were young and stupid.
Love, falling in love, romantic trysts, distressed relationships, it all takes its toll on the psyche. I was no different than anyone else my age, inexperienced and confused but determined. We moved forward, Des and I, we both moved forward with the act of breaking off an engagement. Sounds devastating doesn’t it. I guess it was but we were just 19 with our whole lives ahead of us. The details of the breakup are relatively unimportant, Sheila returned the ring and I returned it to Herschede’s. Des and I moved forward.
The rest of the summer and the Fall of 77 moved fast. I had very little contact with Sheila over that time. The times that she contacted me I tried to maintain distance. I didn’t want to make any mistakes or send any false signals. I knew she still loved me and frankly, (in hindsight), I still loved her too but my relationship with Des was so drama-free that all I was really focused on was being a good Assistant Mgr and having fun. It was a fun relationship and that autumn I played best man to my best friend Terry (link) as well as attending the worst concert of my life (link).
Over the course of my time with Des, (6-7 months), with each successive phone call I received from Sheila, I felt that she was softening up, beginning to understand what she had done to me and how she had made me feel. In short, I began to believe that she meant it when she said she was sorry, that she really was sorry.
I believe the night was New Year’s Eve. I was at Taco Bell, working late, likely filling out some yearend inventory reports. I received a phone call from Sheila, saying she was on her way home from a party and asking if she could stop by to say hi. I was alone that night, not expecting Des, and so I said yeah sure, I guess. I still remember what Sheila was wearing that night, a three piece suit, white with red and blue pin stripes. The office was located immediately by the rear door and when she stepped into my office, I don’t know, something just clicked. She was nothing but apologetic and asked me again if I could give her another chance. My heart opened and something inside told me that Sheila was now a new person, new and improved. I felt really bad for Des but I knew that Sheila and I belonged together.
Knock, knock, knock…..and there it was. I immediately knew Des was here to surprise me. I recall my words, “crap that’s Des”. I looked out the small security window to see Des with a huge smile on her face. It was immediately erased when she saw my face when I opened the door and quickly stepped outside. She knew, immediately she knew, women always know. I said – “I don’t want there to be any trouble here, I’ll call you”. Des only said, “she’s here, isn’t she”, and began to cry. I didn’t have to tell her, she knew I was going back to Sheila.
Lots of tears followed and I felt guilty, like I had somehow led Des on. I didn’t, but it still felt that way. She asked for a last date said she needed closure on a good note. Naturally I complied, how could I not. Des had done nothing wrong in our relationship, everything right really. Love is a very strong, compelling force though and the love I felt for Sheila was too much to resist, especially now that I felt Sheila was new and improved.
Many years later, I realized that it really wasn’t Desiree who had broken us up; it would have been someone else, anyone really. I wasn’t getting the right type of communication and good communication is really key for a good relationship. The wrong words in a relationship built on love can do far more harm than the actions by those we love. We need more than just love in a long lasting relationship.
Des didn’t break us up. She helped me see what type of relationship I wanted in a future wife. Would Sheila and I make it this time? Stay tuned.