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September 17, 2009

The Big Question

Filed under: The Big Question — Francesca @ 10:25 am

Lately Francesca has been thinking about The One Who Got Away, the man who dated Francesca long, long ago and then stopped dating her, in part because he was stupid and did not know what was good for him, and in part because she was stupid and did not know what was good for her. She was thinking about what she might have done differently, whether it would have been worth it, whether she’d be happy now with him if they’d both been smarter (probably not). It is all academic — he is married with the two little children– but sometimes one is wistful, and wonders.

Today Francesca wants to know:

Have you forgiven yourself yet for not knowing Then what you know Now?


  1. Years ago right after my divorce I was completely smitten with a man that I was sure I could not live without. It ate at me every day. I hung on his every pronouncement as if it had issued directly from the lips of an imortal and all-knowing being. I thought he was a paragon among men and had no equal he was a hero straight out of a Norse Saga. Baaaaamp! WRONG! He is now married with 2 kids, losing his hair, drinking too much and completely shall we say henpecked by a domineering wife. Also, his political views are slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. Not only have I forgiven myself for not knowing then what I know now, I am positively giddy with relief and living happily ever after :-)

    Comment by gemdiva — September 17, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  2. How appropriate.

    My experience is the polar opposite of Gemdiva’s. My best male buddy, the guy I always thought I could live the rest of my life with, disappeared just after I got married–and stayed disappeared for 15 years.

    When we finally caught up with each other again, I was flummoxed to find that I still felt like I could’ve lived the rest of my life with him. Luckily (maybe?), he’s been happily married to somebody else for a decade now and they’re trying for kids. He told me recently that he’s still kicking himself for not pulling a Graduate and interrupting my wedding…..but everything happens for a reason, right?

    It’s hard. He doesn’t want to have too much contact, because it’s difficult for him to reconcile what he feels for me with his life now. And I don’t want to have too much contact, either, because I want to get on with my life. Still, when we do end up hanging out, it’s easy and natural and fun.

    I realized long after he ran off that I’d based my must-have list for boyfriends on him. After my marriage ended, that must-have list got revised, and looking at it six years after the divorce, I find that it still matches him pretty exactly. I’ve recently met somebody new, who might not make me feel like I’m settling, so we’ll see what happens.

    The one good thing about this whole romantic/friendship CF is that I can look wistfully back on What Might’ve Been without having to deal with his snoring, back hair, and dirty socks.

    Comment by Jo — September 17, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  3. I guess I don’t understand the question–I don’t judge my past self for not knowing things I only learned after the experience in question. I don’t feel guilty because I am convinced I did the best I could at the time.

    Comment by Kai Jones — September 17, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  4. Yes, I have thought of what could be having known what I know now. Even though I am deliriously and happily marriage lo these last eight years.

    Then I friended the one that got away on facebook. He’s married too. Turns out, hindsight was viewed through rose colored glasses. The more I notice, the more I notice he wasn’t so great.

    But, I can say that the bits and pieces that were so very awesome, those were very important to me. And thus, finding Mr. Hall, he has the very awesome bits and pieces and more. Thus the complete package appeared and now we are married. :)


    Comment by Mrs. Hall — September 17, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  5. I hate when people think “what might have been”. There is a reason why it didn’t work out and people easily forget how it really was. You remember the good times, maybe some of the bad times but believe me, there was a lot more going on that led to your break up.

    Years ago, before I met my husband, I was dating a beautiful French-Italian (dangerous mix for me) artist. We broke up first when he told me by email, when I was at work, that he has gotten back together with his ex. We got back together when he decided that he liked me better than the ex (I should mention that he initially had left the ex for me – now I am mortified that I stole somebody else’s man but I was only 22 and very insecure). Anyway, a few month later I broke up with him because I found out that he had been dating another girl at the same time. I pretty much had to constantly remind myself of all the things that he did to me to not give in to his attempts to contact me. Because most of the time all I remembered where the good times – how we had talked all night, how he had inspired my artistic side so much and how he believed that I was a great artist, how he looked absolutely perfect, so perfect that my superficial, gay roommate was totally in love with him and the Sartorialist would have definitely taken a picture of him, would he have ever met him on the street.
    I had my moments when I thought “what if I would have said I wanted children and not lied and said I didn’t want children because I thought that’s what he wanted me to say” (turned out he loved children and was planning to have a family soon) – you know what? He would have kept on cheating, he would have kept on changing his mind to who he wants to be with and as beautiful and artistic he is – when it comes to brains, my husband is so much smarter and interesting – I think even if my ex wouldn’t have been a cheater, I would have eventually wanted more out of my conversations than talking about art, tattoos and sex all the time.

    If your ex is married with two children now he obviously found the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with and obviously that person wasn’t you, so let it go. Because he is not “the one” for you. There is somebody out there (maybe you found him already?) who is much better suited for you. If you are really right for each other, you don’ t just break up. You don’t even DARE to say “maybe we should take a break” because you couldn’t STAND to be without that person.
    When I was dating cheating artist a friend of mine told me “You know you found the right person for you if everything is easy and you don’t have to worry and fight all the time. The right person is going to try to make your life easier, not harder.” Best advice EVER.

    Comment by Ali — September 17, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  6. Mostly.

    I was in love with a guy when I was very young. As much as I wished he was, he was not in love with me. I finally snapped to that reality when a friend started sleeping with him. I’ve never forgiven her (or him). I don’t regret having loved him, I don’t regret that I devoted so much time and energy to someone who was never going to love me, but what I do regret is that when it was over, I didn’t devote the same amount of energy to therapy. There were reasons I loved him knowing full well he didn’t and it took much too long to find out why.

    Comment by Lee — September 17, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  7. I must respectfully disagree with all the wonderful ladies (here and elsewhere) who say that you will recognize the right person because it is easy and you never think back to what might have been with someone else.

    When I got married, my uncle gave me the best piece of relationship advice I’ve ever received: marriage means agreeing to put up with someone else’s crazy in return for them putting up with yours. Even with the right person, long term relationships are difficult and infuriating at times. And you will still at some point realize that choosing that one person means not choosing many others, some of whom you haven’t met and exist only in your head. I believe that there is no “right person” or “one person” or whatever, there are just many people with whom you have varying degrees of compatibility and who possess annoying traits that you may or may not consider worth dealing with depending on your personal threshold for drama in a relationship. That threshold changes over time, so it’s really not fair to beat yourself up over not ditching a dramatic relationship from your twenties if at the time you thought that major drama = deep emotional commitment.

    All of that is to say, there are times when I want to throw my husband out our second story window, and I sometimes wonder what might have been with someone else. But I’ve wanted to throw my ex-boyfriends out windows even more, and my husband puts up with my crazy (which, I assure you, is quite significant) much better than anyone else ever has, so I consider it a fair trade.

    Comment by Evie — September 17, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  8. “marriage means agreeing to put up with someone else’s crazy in return for them putting up with yours”.

    I’m going to get that embroidered onto some pillows

    Comment by klee — September 17, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  9. So I have zero luck in the department all the rest of you are commenting, but I do have one that nagged at me for a long time.

    I spent a long time beating myself up for not quitting my first job long before I did. There were red flags left and right that this was not the right place for me, but I stayed. The pay was crap, the working conditions worse and I was being sabotaged by the folks who should have been teaching me the ropes. It crushed me in so many ways and it took me forever to get any sense of self worth back. It also took me a very long time to just accept the fact that I was 18 and didn’t know any better and it’s OK. I’ve learned the lessons and while I have had a number of crappy jobs since I have never tolerated being treated that badly ever again.

    Comment by Beth C. — September 17, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  10. I wish I could, but the answer is No. Unfortunately guilt plays a big role in defining my emotions and I am still learning to deal with it.

    Thank you Francesca for posting this.

    Comment by J — September 17, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  11. I have forgiven myself for not knowing then what I know now. I am completely in love with my husband, and it is a love that is based on truth, respect, compassion and passion.

    I learned a lot from my past loves that brought me to this great love. I had to learn that I did not want to be treated like crap, and I didn’t want to treat some one like crap. I had to learn that laughter was important, and that conversation needed to be deeper then the surface. I had to learn that what my parents wanted for me was not as important as what I wanted. I had to learn that my goals were as important as his goals. I needed to learn that a life of service to the greater good was who I am at my core. I needed to learn to be me and allow him to be him. I needed to learn that asking for what I want, be it more shoes, more time, more food, more sex or less criticisim, less guilt did not make me “bad.” All of the “ones that got away” lead me to the man who inspires me to be the best me I can be, not because he wants a vision of perfection, but because he loves me and believes in me. If I had not gone through the messieness, joy and pain of the past loves, I would not be able to be the me with my great love.

    This is not to say that our marriage is all roses and perfection. It’s not. We work at it. We have an agreement that only one of us can be crazy at a time. We sometimes make eachother nuts. At the end of the day, we are better as a couple then we are alone. We give eachother the love, support and room to be ourselves. I didn’t have that with any of my past relationships. We have a safe place with eachother, and sometimes, in this crazy world and life, having a safe place to recharge and regroup is the most important thing.

    I thank the ones that got away for teaching me what I needed to know in order to be with the one that I was meant to be with.

    Comment by Kimks — September 17, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

  12. Have you forgiven yourself yet for not knowing Then what you know Now?

    Thank you …this helped me let go of some self-recriminations for not knowing then what I do now. :)

    Comment by living400lbs — September 18, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  13. I guess I figure I know what I know now because I learned it (sometimes painfully) way back when.

    I don’t regret any of the men I dated before Mr. Twistie, but I can definitely say that I made some poor choices. In the end, though, none of them were absolutely disastrous, and what I learned from those relationships makes me appreciate Mr. Twistie all the more. I honestly think if I hadn’t dated a couple of guys who weren’t worth the heartache I might never have seen the amazing man I married.

    Evie’s father’s saying (which I love, love, LOVE, incidentally!) reminds me of what my father used to say about me and Mr. Twistie: they’re saving two perfectly normal people.

    Damn good thing, too. I don’t do normal so well.

    Forgive myself? I really don’t think I have any reason to either forgive or beat myself up over those old loves. Head scratching is about as much energy as I can muster over it. I’m too busy living the life I have to worry that much over what might have been.

    Comment by Twistie — September 19, 2009 @ 5:23 am

  14. No. I haven’t, and I don’t expect to.

    Comment by La BellaDonna — September 24, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

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