I was in the midst of a personal meltdown. My divorce after a long marriage was heartbreaking and painful. A job transition was taking longer than I had thought, causing financial concerns, and loneliness and stress were taking their toll on me.
I’m not the type of person who embraces being alone. Don’t get me wrong — I really like me. But I am more comfortable being part of a “we.” I found myself looking for love in all the wrong places in L.A.
I had been dating endlessly with no game plan. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. (Everyone I knew told me so.) This style of dating was a frustrating landscape that I didn’t belong in, and the more I went out in the Valley, the more I disliked dating.
I had even dated a few women on the Westside but found them to be less my type. Therefore, I stuck to the Valley and met most of my dates at the Local Peasant in Sherman Oaks or the Surly Goat in Encino.
As a solution to my dating challenges, I reconnected with someone from my past, thinking that she was my destiny and that, with the right amount of time, destiny would prevail. Boy, I was wrong.
So I stopped looking.
I was out with my daughter late one night when I received a text from an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. She also sent me a picture of a longtime friend of hers, explaining that the woman was newly single. My friend wanted to know if I was interested in meeting her friend.
I remember the picture well. The woman in the photo was beautiful, with long strawberry blond hair, an amazing smile and just a hint of sass.
After pressing my friend for details, I took the woman’s number. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to wait a few days to call her. I didn’t want to seem desperate.
I decided to text her before reaching out with a phone call. After a few texts back and forth, she agreed to the call, and we talked on a Sunday evening. I liked her immediately. She was smart, funny, direct and totally adorable. We made plans to get together for brunch the following week.
This was my first-ever daytime date. It was a spring-like 75 degrees in Los Angeles (in February!), and I decided to go casual and wear my usual uniform of shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. I was determined to be me. I figured this woman wasn’t likely going to be a long-term thing anyway.
Again, I was wrong. She walked into Hamptons 818 in Sherman Oaks and she was beautiful, vibrant and hot! I was worried that some people might think I was her father (she’s 12 years my junior) and that she would get carded for the bottomless mimosas we ordered.
We settled into the date and started a meaningful conversation. She was damaged, also the victim of a recent divorce, and she was finding her way. However, she was filled with life, bursting at the seams with thoughts and ideas about things she wanted to do, see and experience. I loved her energy and intelligence, her zest for living life to its fullest. I noticed that when I talked, she listened — I mean actually listened. She heard me and took genuine interest in what I was saying.
As we parted ways after the date, we left things with a simple hug and nothing more (I am, of course, a gentleman), but we did make plans to be in touch again.
After our successful second date, I texted her that I wanted to see her again. Her response was: “I am not looking for a relationship.”
I quickly replied that I wasn’t either, so there was no problem. (I was lying!)
I dug her and wanted her to be mine. As weeks and months went on, we spent plenty of time together and began getting closer. Our physical chemistry was immediate and magnetic, and dare I say spectacular.
However, I was still lost, stuck in the past and not open to her. I liked her but I wasn’t able to give her the fullness of my heart that she deserved. I saw her as a placeholder, a bridge to someone else and the love I was looking for.
I broke things off with her a couple of times, determined to find that love and move my life forward.
After the last of the brief breakups, I decided to open my heart to her and make her my priority. I wanted to give her all that she deserved.
I wasn’t afraid of expressing my feelings, which she wasn’t used to — at all. My expressiveness initially freaked her out, but she has adapted and forced herself to be more open and vulnerable. We now have a deeper love for each other.
We laugh together — and sometimes at each other. She is overflowing with love, and I think it surprises her. She has taught me to take things as they come and live life to its fullest. She has made me a better man. We moved in together a little over a year ago.
My Yael is my angel. Yes, I said her name. I want the world to know how much I love this woman and how she saved me. She also puts up with my mood swings and emotional expressions of my love (she calls them cheesy). Now this angel will become my wife on May 28, and I couldn’t be happier.
As I’ve learned, sometimes when you think you are looking for love in all the wrong places, you just need to open your eyes a bit wider. It may be right in front of you.
The author is an executive recruiter and the dad of two amazing daughters. He lives in Sherman Oaks. Find him on Instagram: @milmansearchgroup
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This story originally appeared on LATimes