Sometimes Love Needs an Invitation

Last night, I heard a story. A man and woman in their sixties stood up in front of a crowded theatre and said they were celebrating their 24th anniversary. Think about that. They have been married for twenty-four years. And they were obviously still in love with each other. It’s quite a beautiful thing to witness.

But the beginning of their story was the most compelling — how they met, and how it might never have happened.

The woman, I will call her Sally, had been through divorce and was finally back on her feet, determined to be alone and happy. Sally didn’t want a man in her life. Relationships brought nothing but pain as far as she was concerned, and she managed to climb out of her own pain to start a new, happy life for herself.

Her now-husband (let’s call him Jim) was similarly averse to relationships back then. Jim was busy building his financial stability, his business, his career. He didn’t need the distraction of a woman in his life.

One day, a mutual friend of Sally and Jim’s wanted to set them up on a date, thinking that they were a good match.

As you can imagine, both Sally and Jim still had no interest in dating.

They didn’t want a romantic relationship of any kind, so they didn’t call each other, didn’t pursue it. They went about the business of happily living their lives.

Fortunately, when Sally told her counselor about this crazy idea to go on a date, Sally’s counselor said to her: “you should be proud of your independence, it’s a wonderful thing. But why not hold the space in your heart for a relationship?”

These words shocked Sally, but they also resonated with her.

She began to try them out:

I want to hold space in my heart, to leave myself open to opportunity. I want to invite love into my life.

These words surprised her, and she let them simmer, thinking about them and pushing them away, only to think back to them again. “Holding space in her heart” sounded more inviting than “wanting a man.” These words sounded true. She wanted to experience love, but on different terms than “needing” love. She wanted it to be an invitation, something to consider should the right person come along.

Sure enough, three weeks after this conversation, once she allowed herself the possibility of a date, Jim decided to give her a call. They immediately hit it off, and have been together since.

An even stranger aspect of the story:

Jim and Sally had been neighbors before they met. They had mutual friends in common. They lived across the street from each other in Hermosa and Redondo Beach on three different occasions. But they’d never met — not until they were both ready. There were all these opportunities, and yet….they wouldn’t have been the same people that showed up for each other the day they actually did meet.

On that day, they invited the possibility of a relationship into their lives. Love felt welcome.

I love this story for many reasons. One, it’s a happy love story, and who doesn’t want to hear more of those? But more importantly, it shows the power of a shift in thinking. Anything seems possible when we ask ourselves, “why not?” or when we say “yes” to something that seems scary. Shifting our thinking from “no way” to “maybe” leaves room for something new, something potentially amazing, to enter our lives.

When I met my husband, it turned out we had been living in the same neighborhood, shopping at the same grocery store, walking the same streets and yet never saw each other. We probably never noticed each other at all. We could have met years earlier but we hadn’t. And one of the reasons, I’m almost positive, is that we weren’t holding space in our hearts for a real relationship. We weren’t quite there yet. We were still holding on to the frustrating cycle of dating exactly the wrong people, accepting that maybe this whole love thing was never going to happen again for us. But, once we were open to the possibility, it did.

Everyone’s relationship trajectory is different. But one thing seems to hold true: the more you let go of the hurt, the pain, the anger, the stuff that you don’t want in your heart, the more you leave room for what you do want.

Let me know if you have a relationship story you’d like to share. How did you meet? I’d love to know.