How one man accepted true love in spite of the circumstances.
When I met my wife, she was married.
“Happily?” I asked a colleague at the law firm where I worked. He recommended that I forget about her. But I had no choice. From the moment our eyes first met – I knew she was the one. The funny thing about this epiphany was that I was finally at a place in my life where I was completely comfortable being alone. I’d just come out of a good relationship that was about to get serious but that I didn’t want to become serious. My heart just wasn’t in it. So I walked away. In the month between leaving that relationship and meeting my future wife, I felt stronger and more confident than at any point in my life. I needed no one. I was perfectly fine standing on my own.
And then she appeared on my first day at a new job. And my heart jumped out of my chest. I knew. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. She was the one.
She’ll tell you that even though she thought I was cute, she didn’t have the same lightning strike that I had. Because she was married, I didn’t pursue her. I wasn’t a home wrecker, after all. I let nature take its course.
Nature was on a fast track. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, about two months after meeting, we were in love. But controversy swirled around us like sharks on chum. I was sober about a year and a half and everyone I knew told me to stay away from her because I was playing with fire and that pursuing a married woman would only lead to relapse. And because she was reluctant to share her feelings for me with anyone in her inner circles, I had to bear the brunt of her apprehension as well. A task that I was somehow up for.
At our firm’s annual Christmas party, everything came to a head. She arrived with her husband and sat at a table with other paralegals and associates. I sat on the opposite side of the room, across a dance floor, with other guys from the copy room. My table was full raucous banter, but for when the firm’s partners would stop by to slap us on the backs and wish us a Merry Christmas. Despite the joviality, I wasn’t feeling it. Instead, I spent the entire night staring across the dance floor at the table where my future wife sat with her current husband. I tried hating him, but couldn’t. I had nothing against him. He just married the wrong person. So I tried thinking of ways for me to be a romantic hero and sweep her off her feet. I considered walking over and inviting him to a duel. Because he didn’t know I existed, I would have had the upper hand. I felt bad for him as I watched him from afar. He wasn’t a bad looking man. He wore glasses. And I noticed that he never once touched her. Not even to hold her hand or touch her back as he leaned in to hear something she’d say. Every minute or so, she would look over in my direction. I knew that she too was enduring the same gut-wrenching pain that was tearing me apart. After a couple of hours of this, and before the drunk, white lawyers gathered on the dance floor for a synchronized routine, I left. Being in the same room with the person I loved and not being able to touch her, or smell her, or talk to her was too much. I wasn’t worried about the husband. He was a non-factor. I was worried whether my heart was true and whether the most powerful emotion I’d ever known was really just a lie. I didn’t want a drink. I wanted to be alone.
As I started across the parking lot, she emerged from the building behind me, ran up and threw her arms around my neck. She was crying. “I love you so much,” she said. “I want to leave with you. Please take me with you.” We stood there, embracing in the cold for what seemed like forever.
Level heads prevailed that night. But within a month, she left her husband and moved in with me. I never did pick up a drink, and nearly 20 years later, she and I have two daughters together. And we all live happily ever after.
—Photo J.J. Verhoef/Flickr