I always said that couples should always date for at least a year before even discussing marriage. But I broke that rule when I met Rob.
I only started to date again because I had just experienced the most painful breakup of my entire life and I was trying to find something to distract me. See? Rebound relationships never work. They can't. You have to take time to mourn before you're emotionally healthy enough to move on. I learned the hard way.
This is me with Todd just a month prior to meeting Rob. Todd is the one who got away. I'm here to tell you that rebound relationships never, ever work.
Our first meeting was at his house. He offered to cook me lobster. He worked at the same company as my friend, Shannon. She asked around to ensure he was ligit. I asked Shannon if Rob was cute. She paused. "Well, he's 'cute enough'." Hmmm... I gave Shannon the address I was going to and texted her upon arrival. When I pulled up to his house, Rob was standing outside. My first impression was average at best. He was wearing dumpy sweats and a big huge Chargers jacket. All in navy. He had an oversized head, he was far heavier than I expected from a guy who said he ran marathons, and a strange walk-- tiny little steps. But he had good coloring and nice eyes. He seemed nice enough. Our date was ok. The next day, he showed up at my daughter's skating practice and, afterwards, rented skates and went skating with her. He was clearly trying hard. It was cute.
He was quick with getting me introduced to his family. Within a week, he had a talk with his younger daughter that he was going to be dating again and was he OK with it? He brought her to my condo and introduced us. Wow, that's bold, I thought. I just tell my daughter that Rob is my buddy, no more. (Years later when I learned that Rob and his ex wife had just separated about a month prior to meeting me, I was horrified. In my opinion, you just don't do that to your kids! You don't show your children that after a marriage, you just hop right back into a new relationship! That's so damaging and teaches such horrible messages to them that it makes my head spin. Of course, when your only concern is yourself, things like teaching kids important life lessons just don't matter. Yuck. Bad character? Hell yes.)
Just a few weeks after meeting Rob, he asked me to take family photos at the beach. This is one of them.
Not too long after meeting Rob, his ex wife called him when I was at the house. "Rob, I'm happy you're dating someone new, but you have kids so please take it slow." She said before Rob cut her off in a very loud booming voice: "I don't give a fuck what you think!" and he hung up on her. "Sorry," he said to me in a sheepish voice. I think he was a little shocked that he had let me see a very tiny eentsy weentsy glimpse of his temper. "She's so awful and I learned that communication skill from her."
For several weeks, I wouldn't even kiss Rob. The first time we did kiss, I got a voicemail a few hours later from a giddy Rob. "That was the best kiss of my life," he said. I thought it was funny but endearing. A few weeks later, he asked me for a commitment. "Rob, you just got out of a marriage. You need to date around. You shouldn't just commit to me this fast. Please, see what's out there," I said. "Do you want me to date others?" he asked. YES, I wanted to say. But that wouldn't be nice so I didn't. "Not really. I don't want to know about it but it's ok. You really should. Do it for yourself. If I'm really that great, you'll come back." But he insisted that he didn't want to date anyone else. I felt kind of bad because I was dating another guy, Conrad. But I was allowed, after all.
And then one day out of the blue, I heard from my ex boyfriend, Todd. My heart stopped. We talked and a few days later, I went to his house. We went for a run, got some pizza, and went back to his house where he pulled out his guitar and serenade me. Oh my gosh, I was melting. I was completely and totally madly in love with him. The whole world stopped spinning, I lost track of time, I was enthralled. This was how I should feel for Rob and I just didn't. I couldn't. I never would.
When I got home, there was Rob. Attentive, kind, thoughtful Rob who was so nice to Morgan and was clearly trying so hard to be "the guy" for me. I felt so small and guilty. Todd needed to be my past, not my present. I vowed to try harder to love Rob. He wasn't nearly as handsome, engaging or fun to talk to but he was so honest and great. It was really hard but I stopped responding to Todd's phone calls and, if I did, I was flip and flaky. I stopped seeing Conrad.
A few weeks later, I couldn't help it. I went out with Todd again. Hey, Rob and I didn't have a spoken commitment yet so technically I wasn't cheating. Todd and I went to dinner and then, on our way home, opened up my sunroof, blasted Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve, pushed the driver's seat as far back as it could go, and made out like crazy under a full moon. It was something out of a movie. I never wanted our time together to end.
The next day, I looked at my phone and there were several texts and voicemails from Rob in an absolute panic. Where was I? Why weren't we together? Terri (his ex wife) had cheated on him and he just couldn't handle it if I did that, too. It broke my heart. Oh.My.Gosh. I can't do this to him again. He doesn't deserve this, I thought. I called him and reassured him that I wouldn't cheat on him. He went for a run and came over to my house afterwards. I made a huge dinner to haul over to his house later that evening while he took a shower. That evening, I was really tired, and I fell asleep in his arms as we watched TV. It was sweet. This is real, I thought. No more Todd for me.
The next morning, I got a text from Rob: "Good morning. I love you. How's that?"
It took my breath away. I called him immediately. I couldn't say I loved him yet, I said, but give me time. After I hung up, I wondered why I just couldn't love him. What was wrong with me? I'll try harder. Surely it'll come?
Rob was great with my daughter, Morgan. He quickly became Dad. They were tight. They went fishing and did many things together. He was fun and she loves him very much. One of the tragedies of our divorce is Morgan and Siena. The last time Morgan saw Rob, she cried for a week. They miss him very much. It breaks my heart.
A few weeks later, we gathered up Morgan and his two daughters and we went skiing in Mammoth. I decided that even if I didn't love Rob, it was time to tell him I loved him anyway. Maybe if I said it, the feelings would follow. And that set us on a collision course of marriage.
Morgan searching for eggs left by the Easter bunny at the condo we rented in Mammoth. Rob spent time the night before hiding all kinds of goodies. Rob is standing in the forefront but you can only see his shoes.
It was maybe a month later and we were at his sister's mother in law's house for dinner. As Rob and I were sitting at a table and eating, Rob stood up and said, "Marry me in August." I was shocked and literally spit out my food. "You got me on that one," I said. Rob responded: "I'm serious."
Over the next few weeks, we decided that some day we would get married but we'd just wait to see when that would be. In my mind, I thought two things: 1) I didn't love him and, please, I wanted to love him. I knew I never would. But I thought that he would be a great companion and dad and we could probably build a great life together. And, best yet, we both had kids and some day they'd all have kids of their own and we could be surrounded by family; and 2) It was just an engagement some day maybe and people breakup all the time. I wasn't in too deep and I could back out of this relationship at any time if I wasn't feeling it.
And then we were driving around the Del Cerro neighborhood of San Diego one Sunday, there was an open house, we stopped and walked in and realized that, if we were to get married, the layout was perfect for our family. It had a pool, a master bedroom with attached office, a guest room on the main level, a big huge kitchen... Upstairs there were two bedrooms at one end and another bedroom at the other (perfect to separate Morgan a little bit from the older girls) and a loft where the kids could hang out in their own space.
"Let's make an offer!" Rob said.
I loved buying homes. Besides, it was just an offer. This was fun. Let's lowball it. They'll never accept. So we did and they accepted and Holy Hell, I was buying a house with Rob. We signed some papers and a few days later, I realized I wanted none of this. My "boyfriend/potential fiancé some day" became my fiancé NOW in that instance because we were buying a house together and I didn't love him and I wasn't sure I wanted to marry him at all and I loved my condo and now I would have to leave the beach community I loved so much and my simple life was beginning to end and WHAT THE HELL WAS I DOING? NO NO NO NO NO. Rob was excited every day. I was sick. I couldn't sleep. I took a bath one night and had a complete and total panic attack. I had to back out. I could NOT DO THIS!!
I called Rob. "I need to back out. I can't do this. I don't want to break up (truth was, I sort of did. I didn't want any of this) but I don't want to buy this house. It's too expensive. It's too soon. I'm not ready. I don't want to move from this cute condo. I love you (not true) but I can't." I couldn't breathe. I was nearly hyperventilating. I started crying.
"Calm down," Rob said in his soothing voice. "It'll be OK. Things always work out."
"No they don't," I said.
That night, my ex husband asked if he could come over and use my computer. His wasn't working. Sure, I said. But it was bedtime. I went to sleep with Morgan in her room, locked our door, told Mike to lockup on his way out, and that was that. I was sound asleep when I got a phone call around 2:00 AM from Rob. I answered. He was yelling at me. "I just went over to your house to try and reassure you but guess who I found when I opened your door? Mike! What the HELL is he doing in your house?" he screamed.
"What? Well, as you can see, I am sleeping without him. I am LOCKED in Morgan's room. He was using my computer. Ok, I have to be at work early tomorrow. You know this. I will talk to you later," I said. (Hint Hint, Rob: I'm still on good terms with my ex husband, it sure would be nice if you could speak with your ex wife. Why was that? Oh, right, Rob said that his ex wife was a screaming hateful woman so he was unable to.)
"Fine! We are backing out of the house!" he yelled.
I was so relieved. Yes! My out. "Ok, sounds good. If we can't make it through this glitch, we won't make it through anything big. So let's cancel the house and we'll figure out 'us' later. I'm going back to sleep. I'll talk to you tomorrow." I hung up. I felt hopeful that this whole mess could go away.
But nope. Rob apologized. I did, too. Sorry I let my ex husband in the house but it's not like I was shagging him. Gross. And, unfortunately, the purchase of the house kept crossing one hurdle after the next, on its collision course.
Once more, I tried to back out. Rob flipped out this time: "We will lose $25,000. We can't back out. It'll be fine." Well, Rob, it's my $25,000 we'll lose, not yours because any penny you had went to your ex wife in the divorce, I wanted to remind him. I didn't. I took the high road and kept my mouth shut about that one. Instead, I responded: "I don't care about the money! I'm not ready for this. I can't do it."
Rob said, "Please tell me you will show up today at closing and sign papers. Please promise me."
When Rob's ex wife found out we were purchasing a home and he was selling their former home, she was livid. She called him: "You don't get married so fast, Rob! You heal, you get therapy, you help your girls adjust to their new reality. What are you doing? Oh my God, Rob, you need therapy. You need help!" I could hear her on their other end of the phone because Rob motioned me over so I could listen in. As she spoke, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. She was right! But how the heck was I supposed to back out? Rob hung up on her. And I tried to put on a brave face, smile, and press forward.
At the time, I owned two homes in Utah that I had purchased as investment properties. I had to sell one of them to buy the house with Rob and try to settle some of the enormous debts that Rob had wracked up to his mother. For his part, Rob sold the little house that he owned and, after all settled, I realized I had a lot more cash on hand than he did. Ugh. And, really, this time it was too late to do anything but start signing-- purchase papers and papers to sell my house and checks-- lots and lots of checks. Some with Rob's money but mostly with mine. What the hell. I stopped sleeping. I also stopped eating. I was a wreck but I put on a brave face and smiled a lot.
Rob, Morgan and I went to the Bahamas over Memorial Day weekend, I got my engagement ring, and on our way back, Rob got a call while we were at the Miami airport that his oldest daughter hadn't gone to school while we were gone. Instead, she had a great time partying while we were away. Oh my, this was going to be fun living with wayward kids that needed to be redirected. Fabulous. Too late now. We got home and closed on the house.
Rob took this photo of Morgan and me at the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas. This is where we got engaged.
My parents were horrified. "Do you love him?" my dad asked. I giggled. "Oh, Dad, what do you think?" He answered, "I don't think you do. I think he's a nice guy but you don't love him. What are you doing?" Good question. Too late.
Julie said, "Liz, I've seen the guys you've been dating since your divorce and he's not even your type. Are you sure about this?" I couldn't answer, not even to my BFF.
Shane put it simply: "I give you five years."
It was time to start packing up my condo. My last night there, I took another bath and cried. We moved two homes over the weekend into our new big house. My boxes were neatly packed up with labels on which room every box should go. Rob's move was a disaster. Boxes of things dumped into them. Some boxes were packed well, others were thrown into the garage in a pile of-- disasterness.
Just a few days later, I had to go to New Orleans for work. Rob followed me out. We had fun. He went home, I stayed for work, I then had to go back to our new house, sick about what I might find when I opened the door. Sure enough, when I arrived, it was late and everyone but Rob's younger daughter was in bed. My heart stopped. I'm an orderly person who loves neatness. The house was a complete disaster. Rob's daughter was unpacking a few boxes in the kitchen, bless her heart, while her older sister and dad were sound asleep. How does anyone sleep when a house looks like this?
One of the photos I took when Rob and I were in New Orleans.
An omen of things to come. And our wedding date was getting closer and closer. Just two months away but I was already stuck. Stuck stuck stuck.