In 2001, I went to my first team meeting. I was an angry man, angry over a divorce.
The smallest details with my ex-wife led to a massive battle with her, and my anger was getting the better of me. I remember before I joined MDI, I was at a soccer game and my ex became agitated and started yelling at me.
I lost it.
Then, as I was on my way to my car, I heard a mother say to her child, “It’s OK Conrad; the man is just having a bad day. That stuck with me, I don’t know why. I knew something had to change. Not long after that a friend of mine, Doug Belden, brought me to my first meeting. There I watched one man clear a grudge or “list” on another man.
I grabbed my balls and was in.
I was still angry and responding to my ex-wife’s mood swings. I responded to her without thinking things through, with venom and anger. Some men on my team called me out on my reactions. They said, “You’re not taking care of your family.” I became defensive. I wasn’t listening to them or thinking things out. The team never stopped until I finally listened.
It wasn’t about my ex. It was about myself, my response, my daughter, how I chose to show up. The test was while I was working on myself, my ex wasn’t working on herself. She wasn’t going to change. So, what would change? Answer: How I reacted and responded with the help of the men in the circle.
I started dating, and my ex remarried in time. I started to become serious with one woman who later went back with an ex-boyfriend. I had many first dates that were last dates. I remember one gal with whom I had a good physical relationship. But we had nothing to talk about. Another time while I had spent a few nights with this gal, I fell asleep during the date. Not my finest moment.
In the beginning, it seemed like those women I dated had a lot of drama … or I did. At my team meetings the whole team except for me was involved with a significant other. The team would bring a relationship exercise to a meeting, and I would say, “I’m not using my mother or daughter.” I didn’t participate; I just listened.
I continued to date, with a rule that I didn’t want to go out with anyone who had more personal problems than me.
I met a wonderful gal, however the distance was too far. I didn’t want a long-distance relationship. I started to see a widow around the time of COVID. She was a wonderful person. We saw each other exclusively for five months. Neither of us felt the chemistry. We went our separate ways . This felt very familiar: seeing someone, looking for common ground companionship, becoming physical and then part ways. No anger, just no future.
In November 2020, a friend wanted me to meet someone he knew, and I told him “NO.” He started bugging me for the following three weeks and every day: “You have to meet Pam.” Finally I agreed to meet her for coffee. I thought I’d buy her coffee, spend 30 minutes talking with her and then leave.
However, the conversation was incredible, I liked her humor and we made plans to go out. The conversation was excellent on the date. I still liked her humor and we made plans to see each other again. We next went on a hike.
We kept going out and the lessons I got from the men kept coming up. Even those lessons I learned even when I could only listen and not participate. I took it in and had a chance to implement what I got: do a thousand little things, get her car door, pay her compliments, carry her bags, making her feel appreciated. And on.
I soon began to realize she was investing in me: making agreements with me, asking me to see only her, telling me what she wanted, testing my reply, introducing me to her friends and family, observing how I showed up in social situations.
I began to introduce her to my friends, my family. It dawned on me this woman had taught me how to love again, to be vulnerable, to be in a committed relationship.
Heck it had only been 20 years.
I have spent the last three years with her and have come to realize this is my last long-term partner… one with whom I can share my life.