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That’s what we said to each other. And we meant it.

Don was 52 when we met. I was 44. We met at a three-day hypnotherapy-training workshop. Don was working as a neuropsychologist but had a secret life as a shaman doing soul retrieval. I had a practice as a past-life and early childhood regression therapist. We were both in relationships at the time.

After the three-day training we decided to meet to practice the new techniques we’d learned. For about a year we’d get together every two weeks or so and do a therapy session for each other. It was so bizarre. In the session each of us would be deeply self-revealing. After all what’s the point of doing therapy if you’re not willing to go deep into the places that need to be healed. As soon as the sessions were over Don would revert to being mister professional Doctor Read, and I would be flakey new-age therapist Alison totally intimidated by him. It’s amazing the enormous help we were able to be for each other in these therapy sessions given the dynamic between us.

During this time we became friends of a sort. We were both part of Vancouver’s “spiritual” community and would see each other at parties. We met each other’s partners. The following year I moved from Vancouver to live in the far north for a couple of years. Don came for a holiday and stayed with us for ten days. He became friends with my boyfriend.

Don had previously been married for more than ten years. My “childhood” marriage lasted all of eighteen months. I thought I was so mature waiting until I was 21 to get married. By 22 I was separated, and by 23 divorced. Finally free! What followed our marriages, for both of us, were a series of more and more dysfunctional relationships. Each of us was good for about three years. We were both also single on and off for many years. We were the King and Queen of how not to do intimate relationship. The relationship Don was in when we first met was an off-again on-again and finally off-again affair. The same for me and my boyfriend at the time. The only way I could get out of that relationship was to just up and leave for Australia. I stayed for six months during which time Don had yet another disastrous affair. I licked my wounds at home with my mother and big sisters.

On my return to Canada we reconnected. I was emotionally shredded from a lifetime of self-sabotage, and from years of hurting myself through getting involved, one after another, with the wrong men. I was not able to communicate clearly – with myself, let alone with my partner. I was intimidated in every relationship, and always afraid of being rejected. Don, bless him, felt a calling to take care of me. It was a pretty low point in my life, but at least I had a job, a roof over my head thanks to my sister, and a friend in Don. Don had just emerged from another truly disastrous affair that had left him feeling done. We were both so done. Done, cooked, finished with relationships. It was time to stick a fork in us both!

At this point we’d known each other for a little over four years. For the next eight months we’d get together about twice a week. We’d go to movies, go for walks, go out for dinner, and talk our heads off. When we went for walks sometimes we’d sit with our arms around each other – a sign of the closeness of our friendship. And we were really clear that that’s all it was. It was during this time that we told each other, more than once, that we never ever ever wanted to be in another relationship again. Ever! And we both meant it. We were not remotely attracted to each other beyond our sweet friendship. We felt very safe with each other because neither of us had a hidden agenda, or was feeling unrequited love.

And then it happened. We’d been to a movie and then went to a restaurant for dessert. I went to the bathroom. It was situated such that when I came back Don, sitting at the table, had his back to me. Without thinking I spontaneously hugged him around his shoulders from behind. It was electric. We both look back at that time and know that that was when everything changed. Don doesn’t remember me putting my arms around him. He just remembers that when I sat down he knew that he was in love with me. There is no explaining it. It’s as though somebody flipped a switch. Suddenly we were in love with each other and there was no turning back. Of course nothing was acknowledged at the time, but it only took us a few more days. That first kiss was pretty terrifying.

About a week later I had a dream that I was riding a horse in an intricate pattern all around and up and down and back and forth over green rolling hills that reminded me of the English countryside. When I awoke I knew immediately that I had been making a blueprint. In the next instant I knew that it was the blueprint for how not to do relationships. And in the next instant after that I knew that if I had the blueprint for how not to do a relationship then by holding it up to a mirror I automatically had the blueprint for how to do it.

Within nine months we were living together and were married three years later in 2002. I was 51 and Don was 59. To this day we are shocked by the way it suddenly turned around. And profoundly grateful. We think God played a trick on us; a very good trick.

Of course all this begs the question: how’s it working out for you guys? I’ve pretty much covered that in this post about being together twenty-four seven.


Photos: Top – Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Bottom – a selfie on the ferry – returning to Playa after a day snorkelling off Cozumel.

Next post: Snorkelling Cozumel, parasailing, and swimming with turtles.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2016.