Getting a second chance at first love

By From page A2 | June 05, 2012

I wonder if some folks reading this might remember what I penned about a year and a half ago, something about how it was time to take the online-dating plunge. It was no accident that column followed one in which I asked: Who needs marriage? Answer: I do!

A few months later, I was frustrated. About to leave the relationship-website world for good, I realized the one I was on had renewed my membership automatically. So, I decided to add some photos from a speaking event I had recently done in Spain and give it one last shot.

Enter Tom. New to the site, he noticed one of the photos I had added: A picture of me at the bullfights in Madrid, with a particular hat and what he says is a smile that caught his attention.

He reached out to me. We started talking, and we haven’t stopped. A few months ago, Tom asked me to marry him. I said yes. Now I smile all the time.

I’ve never met anyone like Tom. A brilliant scientist, he has a boyish, playful, funny side that I cherish. He is extraordinarily generous and kind. And to take on my large crew? Brave! At the top of his field, attending my middle daughter’s community-theater play was his top priority one recent afternoon.

Are you kidding me?

There are no games with Tom. He let me know from the beginning that he was “all in,” that he was courting me. That’s the definition of “manly,” in my dictionary.

Yes, the chemistry is amazing. So are the shared values, including the fact that he’s a committed Christian. In other words, he has just the qualities I was hoping for — qualities I had written about.

Of course, I’m writing all this as a middle-aged divorcee with four school-aged kids and as someone who thinks the idea of “soul mates” is way overrated. So naturally I keep saying, “Really, God? Really?”

I know I am incredibly fortunate. For some reason I don’t deserve, God simply chose to work in my life at this time in this way, and I am so grateful.

It’s been a long wait, with some false steps along the way, but Tom was worth waiting for.

Of course we know that there are many challenges ahead. Eight children between us, for starters. Tom’s youngest is the same age as my oldest. No wonder Tom is wonderful with my kids.

Tom and I have started premarital counseling. We are well aware that second marriages are more likely to fail than first marriages. And we both realize that we bring with us a lot of, well, interesting emotional histories: Tom, like me, was devastated by a spouse leaving the family. But though neither Tom nor I chose for our first marriages to end, we both desire to be better spouses in our second — and final! — union.

Crucially important? We don’t see each other as fantasies, but as the real people we are. We know that in marriage, we are given sinners to love because those are the only kind of people there are. And we agree with theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who from his prison cell in Nazi Germany wrote to a young newlywed couple, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

Friends, over the nearly eight years I’ve spent as a single mom, so many of you have let me know you’ve been praying for me. You’ve often let me share with you my stories and struggles, and sometimes small triumphs, too. In turn, you have often shared with me your stories of parenting, and single parenting, and of love, and loss, and sometimes love again. I am grateful.

So here I happily share with you my good news, say thank-you for all the support and make a promise: My new journey with Tom will naturally be the subject of many future columns.

Reach Betsy Hart through [email protected]

Betsy Hart


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