Sighing, I avoided the array of delectable, calorie-laden treats. I plopped celery and carrot sticks on my plate, adding a spoonful of dip. I’d always been thin, but having a younger boyfriend added to my motivation to remain so.
It was the last meeting of our co-dependent group. Thanks to doctors Minirth and Meier, co-dependency was the current dysfunctional trend. After weeks of meetings, I still wasn’t sure if I suffered from this malady or it was just a preventative measure I had embarked upon.
I was forty-two-years old, married too young at sixteen, a difficult marriage that ended in divorce after twenty-two years. I was concerned because I had been dating a younger man for two years. Did I seek out co-dependent relationships? Was I a disaster waiting to happen? I wanted to find out.
I found a seat far away from Rochelle, the Christian counselor who was the facilitator of our group. Rochelle was my age, also divorced. I liked her just fine, but she frightened me. Every week, she managed to single someone out for a probing inquisition. I’m sure this was designed to help, but it was painful to watch a fellow groupie squirm. Fortunately, it had never happened to me and I wasn’t about to give her a chance.
I froze! Rochelle re-entered the room just as Mary got up to refill her plate. Rochelle smiled sweetly as she made her way toward me.
“Mind if I sit here?”
“Of course not,” I mumbled.
She plunged right in without a prelude of polite conversation. “So, tell me about this relationship you’re in.”
I glanced frantically around the room, hoping to be rescued. At least we weren’t in a meeting format that involved whole group participation.
“Well, we’ve been dating for two years, but the relationship isn’t going anywhere.” I swallowed nervously.
“Oh? Why not? What seems to be the problem?”
“I’m a lot older than he is.”
“Really? How much older?”
“Uh, sixteen years. He’s only seven years older than my oldest child. I have grandchildren older than his children.” I cringed at my own words.
“Why is it a problem that you’re the older one?”
Was she kidding? “Well, my kids are all grown. He’s got custody of his two little boys.”
“I take it that you don’t want to raise anymore children.”
“That’s not it! I love children.” I was definitely experiencing fight-or-flight syndrome.
“I guess you aren’t attracted to each other then?”
She was getting on my nerves. “Of course we’re attracted to each other. We wouldn’t be dating if we weren’t!”
“I see. So, you don’t love each other?” Was she sneering?
“We….we say we love each other. I’m sure we love each other.”
Rochelle cocked her eyebrows at me. “Then I suppose that both of your families disapprove. Are they making things difficult for you?”
“Well, at first my kids weren’t too thrilled, but mostly because they wanted to protect me. But they really like Jeff, and they’re happy for me now. And his family didn’t like it at all at first, but they’re okay with it now. They’re very supportive.”
Rochelle sat there for a few more minutes, nibbling at her food. I surveyed her out of the corner of my eye, trying to gauge her next move.
“Are there other problems? He has a job, doesn’t he?”
What was she insinuating? “He has a great job. And I guess I worry too much what others might think, my church friends and such. I don’t want anyone to think badly of me. I’m very active in church and hold leadership positions. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that?”
“So what do others think? Is it that he doesn’t go to church, that he’s not a believer?”
“Of course he’s a believer.” Did she honestly think I would date a non-believer? “We met in our church singles’ group. And everyone at church is fine with it. They know I’m level-headed and not prone to foolishness. My friends that are my age think it’s awesome.”
“The age difference seems to bother you more than it does others. Are there any guarantees that you would be happier, more compatible with a man your age?” She patted my arm as she got up. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
We’ve been very happily married for seventeen years now. Did Rochelle persuade me that night or did I figure it out?
Just don’t call me cougar or I’ll scratch your eyes out!
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