Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM
After her promiscuous 30s and early-40s, Nancy, was celibate for 15 years.
When she was 55, she got involved with Jerry, 47, a charming alcoholic. “I was getting older and feeling unattractive without a man in my life. My mother was a high-functioning alcoholic, but I had no experience with a male alcoholic. He was just out of rehab, and it never occurred to me he would drink again. Plus, I’ve learned through therapy that one of my life assignments was to be a rescuer and a caretaker. He filled the bill on many levels.”
Jerry began drinking again. “I couldn’t throw him out because he had nowhere to go — blah blah blah. I spent three years with him going to Al-Anon. When he died, it was a shock but no surprise.”
When Jerry died, Nancy called his best friend, Terry. “Six months later, I was romanced and seduced by Terry, another younger alcoholic, who was also an untreated bipolar. I was still numb and just went along with him. He was charming, exotic, functional, intriguing and smart. I found him compelling.”
Life became more and more difficult, and Nancy says she considered leaving. “But I had become convinced that I needed him. Toward the end, I was also convinced that if I didn’t get out, I would be dead. We were together for nine years, most of which I lived in a state between fight and flight. I was under constant low-level stress. I developed hypertension, diabetes, kidney stones and sleep problems.
“The end was sad, ugly, and full of threats to burn down the house and worse. I asked him to leave, got a restraining order and five months later he was dead of alcohol and drug abuse.”
Nancy says, “I am a very smart woman, though sometimes it doesn’t seem so. I am also an excellent counselor but not so good at taking what I know to be the sensible action.”
Nancy is now 67, retired, living peacefully in her own home with her two dogs and reflecting on her life.
“Like all the girls I grew up with, I just assumed I’d get married and have children. That’s what women did. Most of the girls in college were there to find husbands and most did.
But I made some choices unusual for a woman of my generation.
“I think, in retrospect, I was usually attracted to men who were unacceptable or unavailable for a myriad of reasons. I really think this was my subconscious acting to prevent me from marrying. I’ve worked my whole life, so I never needed a man for support. I never particularly wanted to be married, so I wasn’t. I knew I didn’t want children, so I had none.
“Facing old age alone is daunting, and I wonder if it would be easier with a husband and children, but neither assures that you’ll not be alone so I don’t know.
“There’s a lot I don’t know. What I do know is that my life and choices are my own, not recommended to others, but not to be despaired over either. And there are yet more choices to be made ’cause I ain’t done yet.”
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