I read a story on Medium today by lengutman titled “It’s Time to Quit the Lonely Heart’s Club,” about people under the age of 55 having heart attacks. The article was about the loneliness felt by many men under the age of 50 who have had heart attacks. Men tend to be private beings, and because of this, they don’t work on cultivating and sustaining relationships.
Many men tend to try and go it alone, internalizing all of their fears and health concerns. They have to pretend they have it all together, even when that’s not the case.
Some older, single men have no girlfriend/wife, husband or significant other, and they may not have great social support systems so they feel isolated. There are no cheerleaders at doctors appointments, no people close to their own ages to discuss how their lives have changed since their heart attacks. Loneliness sets in.
It can be devastating.
But what about the man who has a wife or a long-term partner they live with? They are living two separate lives. The couple has over time checked out of their marriage, and they simply don’t care if either of them get sick. They are only together to avoid losing wealth. When either of them get sick, they don’t have a support system, they must go it alone.
I met a very nice, wealthy gentleman a few years ago. He was 55 years old at the time, and he had recently had his second heart attack. He had his first heart attack at 45. He was pretty young when he had the first one. This gentleman had done well enough in his career which allowed him to retire early. A heart attack was not a part of his early retirement plan. He was living near the beach, and expecting to live his new life to the fullest, but his heart had other plans.
He and his wife had relocated to the South after years of living up North. They had an empty nest, and no sex life. Their lives consisted of going to church on Sundays. It was the only thing they did together. Meals were alone most days, and he ate out, a lot. That was not healthy for a person with heart health issues. According to him, he and his wife shared a home, and he lived on one side of the house, while the wife lived on the other. Sounded just like many other couples I knew.
He and his wife shared nothing together, except his money. This was his second marriage. His first was to his high school sweetheart. He acknowledges how inexperienced he was at the time, and how the marriage was a huge mistake. He was young and dumb he said. The gentleman still had memories of all of the money spent on alimony and child support for years. He recounted to me all of his struggles during the early years, and how he was a bachelor for a long time before remarrying. He wasn’t looking to give away his hard earned money again to his second wife, especially since he was retired and now suffering from chronic health issues with no insurance. He weighed the options. Staying was the only way he could survive financially.
He was stuck, and very lonely.
I met this gentleman online, and we had developed a very nice friendship. At the time, I was going through my own issues, so the companionship was nice. I was separating from my spouse for the some of the same reasons, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. I wasn’t married to being married, nor did I care about any money/wealth I was leaving behind. My mental health and freedom was worth more than anything on earth.
I would rather live in a tent alone than to live in a house with someone who didn’t care about me. Been there, done that, and got a t-shirt or three!
Me and this guy enjoyed each other. We talked about politics, race issues, aging, sex and intimacy, sports, etc. Nothing was off limits. We met for breakfasts and lunches, and we took day trips to all sorts of little places which was cool. We broadened each others horizons so to speak.
At the time, I didn’t think anything about his health issues. He was my friend and we enjoyed each other’s company. At some point in our friendship though, he told me that he wanted more.
Selfishly, I declined.
He had recently had another mini-heart attack, and was prone to more the older he grew I would later learn. His health was in steady decline. I also didn’t realize he was dealing with depression. He was dealing with his health issues all alone. He didn’t have anyone to go to his doctors appointments with him. His adult kids lived out of state. He had no one to discuss his health issues and fears with.
His wife would drive him to appointments when his health prevented him from doing so. She also would go to the hospital to visit him during overnight hospital stays after heart attacks. But that’s about it. There was no warmth, no touches, no love there. When he talked about it, he would tear up. He missed that.
Going to another level with this man was not really an option. The odds were stacked against me.
I declined his pursuit for a variety of reasons. At the time, I was dealing with my own shit. I was already in a sexless relationship with a man his age, and I wasn’t looking to get into another one. For some reason, I assumed his health issues would impact his ability to have sex. For a variety of reasons, I decided to have a conversation with him about sex. It was something at the time that was high on my priority list. I was in my sexual prime, and not really wanting to go down this road of no sex again, regardless of his marital status.
Lastly, I had been second for a long time in my marriage. I wasn’t ready to be number two, again. Although he said he would be able to spend ample time with me, I knew what that equated to. I had gone down that road too. It just wasn’t the right fit for me.
The conversation was painful. At the time, I was honest, yet firm in my decision regarding my needs and wants going forward in future relationships. My friend was honest with me about his current and future sexual capabilities. He didn’t try to lie to me (I appreciated that), nor did he attempt to prevent me from finding “what I thought I needed” for my life. We concluded that we should not go forward.
We parted ways after that day.
The relationship between us was never the same. He had chosen his money over his happiness, and I selfishly (to some extent) chose sex over long-term companionship with a good guy. I understood and respected his decision, and he respected mines (albeit a with a tad bit of grudge/insult). After our mutual decision to part ways, I would check on him from time to time when he came across my mind. This guy was amazing, and had so much to offer someone in the way of companionship, yet he chose to go it alone. His conversations with me got shorter and shorter. Eventually, we stopped talking.
Depression was taking its toll.
I often wonder what could have been between us. I don’t know where he is now. I don’t even know if he is alive. I feel bad about that.
Reading that article about loneliness today hit home for me, I was convicted. I made our relationship an all or nothing extravaganza when it didn’t have to be that way. We could have just kept things as they were, and I would have still had a friend who likely needs me now more than ever. We both made a mess of things, but I feel the fact that his decision to live in misery did his health no favors.
At some point, we all have to decide who is going to be our master. Is it happiness? Loneliness? God? Money? Fear? Who (or what) is going to be your master? Is your master causing you to be lonely and does it isolate you? If so, maybe you need to find you a new leader.
We also have to decide whether we’re going to continue to be a slave to our master (if our master brings us no joy), or if we are going to try and break free so that we may enjoy this life.
Life is too short to be attached to things and stuff. It’s damn to short to be attached to money and lonely.
While I understand we all have to make tough decisions, I often question going to your grave with your money. Is money worth staying in a bad relationship? Is being lonely good for your health? Studies say no. It’s a personal matter, that can have devastating long-term health consequences.
I feel bad that I left a good friend lonely.
I’m going to reach out to him to see how he’s doing. I hope he responds. I hope he forgives me. The older I get, the more I appreciate and treasure genuine, authentic people. They are rare. I’m going to do a better job of cultivating my friendships.
Thanks for reading! Check back to see find out the results of my contact with him. I hope it’s not too late.