Gentlemen’s Corner is a series of blog posts by men. I want to give men the opportunity to speak about themselves in relation to how they see us, think about us, feel about us… their wishes, dreams, and hopes for us… and their wants, needs, and desires from us. This is an effort to bridge the gaps that seem to perpetually plague our interactions. If you’re a man interested in contributing to this site with a relevant post, please send an email pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org
“I wish women could hear men talk about our love for them.” – P. Shaffer
I talk about a lot of different topics on this site. Sex. Relationships. Reality. That’s what this blog is all about. I am very interested in helping people improve various aspects of their lives and I constantly seek various means to help people to that end. I write, of course, from a woman’s perspective. A woman trying to define a new wave of feminism. I am ALWAYS interested in the male perspective on the things I discuss and when I get the chance to post their contributions, I revel in that.
A few months ago, I encountered a dynamic brother online, Patrick D Shaffer, who, among many other things, was about to put out a book about Love. Imagine my intrigue, as brothers aren’t really doing a whole lot of writing about Love. It seems like everywhere we turn, these relationship advice books are more and more condescending towards women, telling us what WE are going wrong and what WE need to be doing better to get that “good man”… because it’s all our fault, right? Right. I was interested to see where he was going with this book, which turned out to be a memoir. He asked if I’d be interested in reviewing the book and sharing it with my readers. I agreed.
Fast forward a couple of months, the book is in my hand and I dig into it. Listen folks… I read this book TWICE in one week. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like he was writing MY story, word-for-word. I felt happy, sad, hopefully, wistful, vulnerable, and a myriad of other emotions as I read his heartfelt words. I shed tears, I laughed, I smiled in connection, but most of all, I got it! I understood exactly what he was talking about because I’ve been there. His candor, his open honesty, and his willingness to expose himself for the sake of inspiring others was so admirable to me, I knew I had to share this with everyone who would listen. This book is for men, women, anyone really, who has ever felt the pain of heartbreak and wondered if they had it in them to heal and move forward.
“Love Again” is a story about going through a hurtful parting and working on the necessary healing to reach a place of being able to love again… to trust again… to believe again. Patrick takes us through the darkest days while still managing to drop bright jewels of hope. I haven’t been this affected by a book in a very long time. He approached me about having a conversation about the book, and here it is. Read it closely, read his words, read his wisdom, and buy the book. BUY. THE. BOOK. I promise you, if you’ve not purchased a book that has truly moved you in some time and you are hungry for that, you want to buy “Love Again”.
You talked about how we don’t “unlove” someone and you spoke about this in relation to your ex-wife. How does that work when we seek to love other people? How do those two loves coexist?
Well I think therein lies how much of a mystery love is. The capacity of our heart to hold simultaneously two positions in life… no I can’t unlove my ex-wife, love is eternal. We have redefined our positions in life towards each other. That allows me to love her and care for her and to be free and open to have that which I thought I would have with someone else. I don’t think love is cheapened when it does not last a lifetime or it does not live into a fairy tale about what we thought it would be. I think that f I hated her, it would very much cripple my capacity to love someone. Giving myself permission to love her enables me to be free to love again.
Music is such an essential part of this book. I remember you writing about how your apartment was robbed and you lost many of your rare Prince songs. You also talk about Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, and others. What impact has music had on your understanding of love and relationships?
I’m glad you picked that up. There is a playlist in “Love Again”. There are some obvious songs and some cryptic ones… I use some lines and I’d be interested in seeing if people could make a list of all of the songs or the majority of them. I think Black music for us, in particular, has always put words around our feelings and helped us to understand what was going on in our own relationships and lives at any given moment. Maybe like a Christian would look at the book of Psalms and find David’s diary of words and be able to relate what was happening in his life to their own. I think Black music has done the same.
Who writes about love the best, in your opinion? What is your favorite love song of all time?
Stevie Wonder. The greatest love song ever written was “Overjoyed”. Stevie is just one of those people. I think Prince is, of course… my book cover is in purple. I was 9 years old when I saw Purple Rain, Prince… some of the stuff he did changed my whole life. At the end when he opens up about “I never meant to cause you any sorrow…” I was 9 years old and didn’t know what he was talking about but I understood what he was saying. At the end of the songs I was in tears… whatever his emotions were moved me so deeply.
Going back to slavery and Afrikan Spiritualism, music and words have always brought peoples to progressive ends. I think we find healing and comfort in different songs. Music is part of my own tapestry. As a writer, I am just amazed at what [Stevie] can do with words…. just the idea of metaphor and symbolism and hyperbole at times.
In the beginning of Chapter 10, you talk about how men love women in ways that they don’t always express. What do you want women to take away from this interview and from the book about the ways in which men love us?
I wanted to demonstrate how men love and to demonstrate that we are not as shallow as we appear to be in pop culture. I open the first chapter talking about the love I had for my mother, grandmother and the early sense of loss I carried with me through life. In chapter 2, I talk about how I met my ex-wife and how I remember everything about that night and the times we courted and what it meant to me. Most men who talk publicly never tell women in public discourse that we are very perceptive about the ways in which we attach to each other. Women in pop culture are trained to see love like how they love each other. A man’s love is very different, and just because we don’t do it publicly, it doesn’t mean that [we don’t] connect at all. I wanted to put words around how I connected with my exwife and put words around how that loss affected me, how that void affected me. Even though divorce could be the most responsible things to do, a man isn’t always ready to have an exit interview. We just leave… we don’t want to talk about things, which is what I did. I tried to bring the reader into those dark moments and get the reader to feel that I was feeling what she was [feeling]. I went through my process of being angry and in denial and ultimately finding peace and acceptance about it. We don’t write about those things publicly. I told my ex-wife “I don’t want you to read it to find ways to disagree about the details of this story or that story. I want you to listen to me and know that you were loved”. Even though it didn’t work out the way I wanted. I had all of the intentions in the world… in that moment, with all of the sincerity of my heart, this is what love sounded like. I want to vicariously communicate (to the women who wondered if they ever meant something to me) “You did mean something”. Not all men are willing to put how they feel into a book but we feel as deeply as you do about loss.
You speak in the book about how we need to grieve and mourn the loss of a relationship. It opened my eyes to a new concept and I definitely agreed with you. How did you come to think of it that way?
Psychologists say that divorce is harder emotionally on us than death itself and they give a myriad of reasons. It is a death, the [end of a] relationship is a death. Nobody goes to the altar even conceiving that this could not work out. I was young, so contextualize where this is coming from. If anyone had their nose open, it was me. I was 22 years old. I had all of these ideas and that I did everything right. We all make presumptions about life that if we do the right things then right things will happen for us. I was grieving all of the fantasies and dreams. In death, there is some finality. This is absolutely it and you bury somebody you love and walk away. When you love somebody at least the love is still in tact. When you divorce its more complicated than that. All of our dreams about family, the cars, the kids you’re taking. I didn’t have a Plan B. It wasn’t just loss of her and the marriage. I lost myself and I was grieving the loss of the man I thought I was. In all of my efforts to do these things, it wasn’t enough. Love alone, the sincerity of the heart alone, good intentions alone are not enough to sustain commitment. We can have the intentions of what we want, but we find that in love we cant sustain what we need to make the relationship work.
We had all of our eggs in one basket and even though we loved each other, we didn’t love each other enough to be married. Being a Christian is not always enough. Marriage and love and relationships are very human experiences. My grief was on so many levels. Choosing to have a therapeutic course in my life, along with my spiritual devotion, was the only way to recognize all of the pain I was in. I am an advocate of mental health. Divorce, like death itself, causes trauma. If we’re not able to unravel or have the help to unravel ourselves, we can grieve for 20-30 years and not have the wherewithal to heal. I don’t want to be 65 years old grieving over something that happened in my 20s. Divorce is a great moment of reconstruction for your soul. Either you’re going to make a decisions that you’re going to let this hold you for the rest of your life or you are going to dream again, I am going to live again, and I am going to love again, and I am going to be free again. It takes you a minute to get that point where you can you believe you can be happy again and love again.
What space are you in right now?
A clear space. A clean space. After all of this time I know Patrick better. I know I didn’t know Patrick before I got married. Her coming into my life grew me up. Her leaving my life grew me up.
How much do you think age played a role in your divorce?
I think age played a great deal in it, only because you’re not conscious how sacrificial and selfless marriage is at such a young age. I’m not saying people that young can’t do it, but I think that our lives are so unfinished in some ways. Marriage demands that you redefine yourself in terms of each others and as a couple. If you don’t know your self and life is constantly causing you to redefine… marriage cant compete with your own selfish wants and needs. Marriage is really not about one individual person, it’s about the unit. Age and maturity play a part.
You speak about your faith and you are a pastor in the Christian faith. How essential has your faith been in your healing process and getting through the divorce?
To say that my faith is essential is such a weak statement. I don’t know if I have more dynamic words than that. The idea of the book itself is an assumption that there is a God who sees us when we are having bad dreams as children, the God who sees us when we find the love of our life, the God that sees us when that love leaves us, and the God that sees us when that love leaves us and we’re reaching out for some hope. The moral of the short story at the end is [about] the constancy of God and that God watches over us in each state in our lives. Even though I’d been in church all of my life and loved God as much as I knew, I was angry at God and wondering what happened to my life. I felt tricked, duped, bewildered… yet understanding that I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.
What about people who aren’t christian, what advice do you have for them?
For someone who has not found or put their finger on what they believe, in terms of religion, or people who say they have problems with organized religion and the Black Church, if you could ever understand at the core of what our intentions are, it is that God is Love. There is a loving God who made us as creatures and He went further to call us his children. Allowing that relationship with God is the beginning of love. It wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I understood that concept that I am God’s child no matter what.
Many of my readers are people who have been hurt really bad and are past the point of being jaded or cynical. They are indifferent. What do you say to someone who believes, without question, that he/she will never love again?
The first thing out of my mouth is that I get it. I was there. It’s not a bad place to be, its a bad place to stay. Its’ not a bad place to be after you have been through bad experiences. I would caution them and say that you’re indifference is your defense mechanism for not being hurt. If I challenge you…and tell you that the next time you open your heart, you can receive the greatest gift of love that you could get everything that would make you forget what you’ve been through, would you open up?
Love is a risk, its a crap shoot. I don’t care how hurt you are, you never lose sight or consciousness of yourself You realize that you have a need not just to be loved but to love somebody. Love needs an object. People buy dogs, cats, and plants to have something to watch grow and nurture and love. You can open up your heart and have that love come in and replenish you.
My grandfather was that indifferent, after war, divorce, losing a child together, he settled on a life of just waking up everyday. He didn’t have anything in his life that could touch his soul that could keep him connected with the earth and with love. His mind went away before his body did. Love keeps us here sometimes. I’ve read about how older people live longer because they are in community with someone, someone talking/touching/loving them. Your heart keeps on beating because you have someone there. To give up on love is saying you are giving up on life.
Will you love again?
I started already and that love begins with me. I had to learn how to love me. I had to learn how to love God, in ways I didn’t before. I am so optimistic about loving again and opening and sharing with someone else.
I read the book twice, partly because after the first read, I felt that you left it open. I get the sense that you don’t have it all figured out and are still working through some things.
I left the book open-ended. Ending it neatly would be so cheap and condescending and the ending would be detached from the journey of the book. I’m still living my life and being transformed by what I’m experiencing. When you read it, that’s where you are. Your life is still moving and in progression. I was pushed to close it, but I didn’t want to. It would have no meaning, it would be cheap to do it that way. I’m still reconciling and changing and having ideas running through my mind and heart.
Any last words for the readers?
I would hope the reader would come away knowing that wherever you are, you are not alone in your journey. That we’re all companions in this journey in love and loss and rediscovery. I wanted to join with people and I wanted people to join with me so I wouldn’t feel so alone, so people who read it could say me too. So hopefully they will read the book and feel like I didn’t just tell my story but I am telling their story.