How I looked for a husband and found one in three weeks
I play the cello as an amateur. I always have had a string quartett that meets at least once a month. One of the violin players of my quartett was 25 years old: tall, slim with middleblond fine hair. Then I was 50 years old – blond, not too tall, not too small, not too slim and full of the joys of life. He wanted to learn French with me and proposed to teach me the piano in exchange. So we started. We met once or twice a week. The more often we met, the closer we grew. Feeling this, I thought: this time I will not let IT happen like so many times before, this time I will talk before we make love. ’Am I right you would like to start a love affair with me?’ I asked. ’Yes’, he said, ’I like you very much. But I know, you think I am too young for you’. ’No, no you are not too young. We are both adults. But you have a girlfriend and what’s more, a girlfriend who lives with you. You are not free at all for a new woman. What if I like being with you? What will happen to me? No, the way things are this is not possible with me.’ I felt very good after that.
For ten years I had had a blissful relationship with my first husband. I loved him very much – and I loved to have nice girlfriends around. One was too nice – but to my husband.
Research has it that husbands do not go astray in times of arguments, difficulties and problems, but when married life goes easy. At that time in 1972 – I was then thirty three years old – I thought it had been my fault as well as his, because ’it takes two to tango’. So I suffered and came to the verdict, that I obviously was not well enough equipped for love. My alternative draft of a life-style was studying, getting a fulltime job as a teacher and living in other countries. My daughter lived with me, she was then 7 years old. We lived our life with a likewise divorced girlfriend of mine and her daughter and a nice man, whom we had chosen to show our little girls a good example of ’men can be nice’.
Of course I could not stay away from Love. Again and again I had far too many passionate relationships with very nice men. They were handsome, funny, intellectually brilliant – interested in politics, philosophy, literature, art. It was like I was undertaking a social science project on my own body and soul for almost 17 years. This was my time of being Single and a single mother. The procedure of a love affair would go like this: we would get to know each other, he would be charming, we would get into this state of fluttering hopeful feelings and would end up in bed. It would be wonderful, my hopes would blossom and slowly slowly he would become more and more diffident, strange. So I would try harder to get things right again. I would be very nice and undemanding, expecting nothing. And then the relationship would somehow fizzle out. If you know what it means to tear these feelings out of your heart you know it, if not it cannot be explained to you because the sadness and desperation goes through your complete being. How often I shed some lonely tears. How I longed for a friendly embrace! If I could do that now to myself through time and space, I would do it!
I had always been an eager reader of women’s magazines. One day in the French ‚Marie Claire’ I found a very helpful article: ’How do you know, that the man in your life is nice?’ Just reading the title was a revelation. I wondered why hadn’t I asked this question until now? This article pointed out for what to be attentive in a man:
1 when he is with you, you feel better than without him,
2 when he has gone, you know exactly when and how you will meet again,
3 you never ever sit in front of a telephone waiting for his call
4 or asking yourself, should you ring him,
5 he introduces you into his life,
6 you know his place as well as he your place,
7 you can ask him any question that comes to your mind,
8 you are never afraid,
9 you are never sitting lonely puzzling about anything,
in short: your life has become light and sunny at all times!
My young piano-teacher and French-student phoned me six weeks later and said:’I have stopped the relationship with my girlfriend, she has moved out. I am free for you’. Now this impressed me very much. Although he was that much younger I felt that a real man had talked to me. So we taught each other French and the piano, we played Violin-Cello duets, he cooked for me, we went to the opera and in the park to play table-tennis. He mostly came to my place but I stayed at his place too, where he mixed me blue, orange or red cocktails, a hobby he had just discovered in his young life. This was a healing relationship and it restored the confidence in myself. It finally convinced me to look for a new husband. So on his 26th birthday after a lovely year with him I called my young lover and told him:’I have a great present for you.’ Thrilled he asked:’What?’ ’I am finishing our relationship today. That is my present for you. And then I am going to look for a husband for me. You have been wonderful: you gave me back my trust in men. Thank you! Of course, you will not be pushed out of my life, only as a lover.’
Now, I sat down to plan finding myself a husband. I wrote a list of the character traits I was looking for. I wanted no big bang of falling in love which would get smaller and smaller. I wanted a small thing which would grow. ’Right,’ I said to myself, ’this time I will do it just like a Victorian father with his only daughter. Not even a kiss before the marriage contract isn’t signed.’ I do not have the list of my 23 points any more, but the most important points I do remember:
– he must be a musician, which meant that he must play an instrument to join the string quartett and he should love all kinds of music from opera through jazz to pop.
– he must be interested in politics in a left winged way to understand my life from say 1968 to 1975.
– he should have been married
– he should have had children to know what a very difficult task that is
– he should be at the most five years younger or five years older than me
– he should like literature, discussing matters, hiking, never ever drink too much, enjoy a nice home, like to see films, etc.
There were no points like: rich, tall, slim, a good lover, have the same sense of humour as me. We actually do not have the same sense of humour. Sometimes we have to explain where to laugh about a joke. And that is funny!
Around that time I had started to read books about spirituality. What intrigued me most was the notion that thoughts are the strongest tool in the universe. If you want a wish to come true, you have to visualize it as if you already had received it. So I started to sleep only on one side of my matrimonial bed and before going to sleep, I said ’Good Night’ to the other half of my bed, where I imagined my future husband.
But, of course, now I had to make my project public. At that time I was the director of an amateur theatre group. I thought, they know a lot of people and possibly someone for me. I started the evening sessions with relaxation-exercises in Alexander technique. So when they were happily relaxing on the floor on the stage of the big hall in my school, I said: ’I have made up my mind to marry again. But so far I have no one I could marry. I have a list of 23 points outlining what kind of a husband I want. If you think you know someone for me, I would be most pleased if you could present me to him.’ Their reaction was shock. The men were shocked because of my honesty. The women were shocked because – almost all of them were married – they had thought at times of difficulties to live a nice uncomplicated unmarried life as a Single like me.
My own working life was that of a very happy teacher and a very happy learner. This year in 1989 I had booked a language course at an Italian language school in Florence.
Florence, this medieval pearl of beauty in the Italian Tuscany! Florence, the birthplayce of the Italian Renaissance! In Florence we students lived in individual families or in small appartments. At the school we were scheduled to meet for the first time 1 May 1989 at 10 o’clock. When I arrived, I chose a free seat near a man, who looked six foot tall, slim, blond hair with a tiny reddish glimmer. He looked a bit like my tutor at my Drama School in London and I thought he was English. ’Sorry, is this chair taken?’ I asked. ’No’, he said, ’it’s not.’ ’Are you from England?’ I wanted to know. ’No, I am German’, he replied. ’Oh, I am German too. How about talking German.’
This first session was just a welcome with some first instructions. Next to me on my other side sat a young woman from Austria, Helga: slim, with short hair and the owner of a Volkswagen. We planned to drive around the Tuscany. After this, the director of the school, a German, invited us in a bar across the road. He wanted to know what had made us choose his school to learn Italian. When it was my turn, I said that I had quickly joined the Union for a teachers strike and in the following Union-Paper there had been an advertisment of his school. I had hardly finished my explanation when the ’Englishman’ from Germany continued:
’… married to a doctor, living Eppendorfer Landstraße, one daughter.’ ’Who are you?’ I asked surprised. ’Well, we studied together at Hamburg University and I made a film about you and your Street-Theatre-Group during a university strike.’ I was truly flabbergasted. I did not have the slightest recollection of him.
Helga and I had planned to look at the breathtaking city and to go by her car to the famous little places surrounding Florence. But this day at hand, we just wanted to stroll around Florence. So we did. The sun was shining, the Italian women were beautiful and ever so stylishly dressed, the restaurants had young waiters, who looked just as handsome as in the Renaissance paintings and we felt great having arrived in another world. At lunchtime we met Richard, my German Englishman. Together with him we had an Italian meal. Then all of us went home. Richard’s appartment was situated in the same direction as the family I stayed with, so we went together. ’Couldn’t we do something together one day?’ he asked me.
’Helga and me, we will do an outing to the little places near Florence. Would you like to join us?’ I said. ’I have been here so often’, he said, ’I know them all.’ ’OK’, I said,’how about watching a film together.’ ’You can speak Italian, while I am just starting to learn it’, he answered. ’Well then, you could come with me just to please me.’ I said. ’OK, why not’, he answered.
In Italy almost every single public square – la piazza – has been masterly planned to sing the glory of the duke, who has paid for it. Obeliscs from Egypt, sculptures from Michelangelo and Donatello, fountains with all possible ways of falling waters. It is like a fine outdoor living room of the duke to give his people the feel of his solemn splendour. Just to name the squares one after the other is like a song: Piazza della Signoria, Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Libertà, Piazza Maria Novella, Piazza de’Pitti, Piazza Santa Croce. And the words ’Santa Croce’ would be the first password on our joint email account; but then, of course, we had no idea.
When we met for the first time alone, we had an ice cream in the colors of the rainbow, later we wanted to see a film. Now Richard asked interested: ’What are you doing at the moment. How is your life going?’ ’Do you mean professionally or privatly?’ I asked.
’Privately’, he replied. ’Well, I am looking for a husband. I have given myself three years for my search. He can be English, French, Italian or German’, I said. ’What? —— How?’, he stuttered. ’I have a list of 23 points, what he has got to be like. I am just starting my search’, I replied truthfully. ’And what about Love?’ he asked. I laughed. I liked that. It was the first time in my life a man had asked about love. ’Oh, it is enough if we like each other. I am going to look for a husband like a Victorian father for his only daughter; not even a kiss, before he hasn’t made up his mind. I want to marry,’I replied. ’Well, you must let me know how that works,’ he said. ’Sure’, I said.’I will.’ The film was nice, but I understood not a lot more than Richard, because the Italians are easily carried away by their temperament and speak very fast.
The next days my lessons were wonderful, a real treat, because I had a teacher all to myself. Two days later Helga, who was in the same beginners class as Richard, called me:
’Imagine, this Richard wants to come with us. He said, he is going to prepare a nice picnic basket for us. What do you say?’ ’Oh, that’s OK. He is rather quiet, so he won’t be any trouble.’
On the day of our outing Richard had prepared a big picnic basket with the most delicious stuff to eat and to drink. When we got into the car, he readily went to sit in the back, saying: ’Well, you planned the outing and I can’t see a good reason why men should always have the front seat.’ I quite liked that. Right after we had left the car for the first break, he asked: ’What’s your first point?’ ’He should be interested in music, play an instrument so that we can play music together, sing together, go to the opera and concerts for classical music or jazz or even pop music.’ He did not answer, but when I came back to my oldfashioned Florentine room with a huge brown bed and a tiny table, I knew he played the cello, like me, played the flute, the guitar and sang in a very good choir in Cologne, where he lived at that moment.
The second point – left winged interest in politics – he covered perfectly, the third – having been married – too, because still married he had been living seperated from his wife for the last two years. Interesting all this readily given information by him, but on the other hand also a very normal reaction, if somebody gives out a list of character traits. Then it started to become interesting. He asked for the next point and I said, that my future husband should be at the most five years younger or five years older. ’Why such a small age range?’ he asked. I told him the story of my last so-much-younger-than-me boyfriend. ’Well,’ he said, ’that proofs it perfectly: if a man so much younger than you can fall in love with you, it means, that you can easily let your future husband be ten years younger.’ ’Maybe’, I said, ’but I hate to have to look younger, I want to look just the way I am.’ There were the other points and he kept on asking, but much less eagerly. He kept on coming back to the age difference. Why this was so dawned on me when he said en passant that he was forty-two, which ment he was 8 years younger than me. So – when I went home I had a proper look at my list and ticked off how many points he covered. I was surprised, he had 18 out of 23. I thought that was a good score.
The following Sunday we sat in the sunshine on a meadow with a nice overview of the Arno river. The sun was shining, the other people seemed far away, some kids played and laughed around us; we were on holiday. I had with me a German Sunday paper with a supplement in which there were three fotos and articles about some famous people, which I had spoken about before because I knew them personally. Indicating the fotos he asked: ’Don’t you think it will frighten your future husband when you know so many famous people?’ I replied:’Does it frighten you?’ ’No, it doesn’t’, he said. ’Ok. You see, I have only started three weeks ago to look for a husband, and today I feel, you could be this man,’ I said. ’Yes,’he said, ’I have the same feeling.’ ’I am not in love with you, but I like you and I have counted on my list. You have 18 points going for you and I think now I have to learn to propose my wish. So if you are interested in being my future husband, you would have to get immediately divorced, because I am not looking for a lover or a nice friend. I am only interested in a husband’, I explained. ’Your offer is most interesting,’ he answered, ’but I have not been on my own for such a long time as you. I planned to live as a single for a while. So 67% of me says ’yes’, for a 100% I need time.’ ’Don’t worry’, I said, ’I have to learn to propose. It is part of my plan. I am not in love with you but I like you. It is just an offer. Take your time. I will go on looking. And if you are not interested, you can just vanish into thin air. I know men like to do that because they are often cowards. I give you my number and if you want to use it I would be happy to hear from you. If not: so far no harm done.“
Before I left Florence – I had only booked two weeks, Richard four – we had a meal together. On this warm Italian evening we sat together at the table of a romantic little restaurant and Richard sat opposite me. Flowers and a lighted candle between warm bread and cold wine he asked again, ’And what about love?’ I replied’, Do you like me?’ ’Yes’, he answered. ’That is sufficient. If you like me and I like you, why shouldn’t we learn to love each other in the run of the years. We have quite a number of interests in common.’ He walked me home. Under a full moon in the warm Italian night we exchanged just little French air-kisses and a friendly ’Good bye!’
Back in Hamburg my friends were appalled. ’What? You proposed marriage to a perfect stranger? Are you crazy?’ They kept on phoning me, asking if he had called. He hadn’t. After three weeks he called. ’Oh’, I said, ’I thought you had forgotten all about me.’
’Quite the contrary,’ he said,’for the past three weeks I haven’t been thinking of anything else BUT you, day and night. I am coming to Hamburg to visit my mother and I would like to see you.’ I had cooked a nice meal. I did not know then, that he was the wonderful cook – one trait besides other great character traits I had not had on my list. After the meal I said: ’Well, I have asked you, now it is your turn.’ Smiling he said, ’With the two of us the roles are distributed in a different way. YOU go for what you want and so YOU have got to ask.’ And so I did: ’Would you like to be my husband?’ ’Yes, I would’, he answered. I liked that.
When I told my theatre group that I had found my husband, one of them produced immediatly a key for his lovely house in Semproniano in Italy. ’For Heaven’s sake’, he said.’ Go there with him at least for three weeks and find out if he is what you think he is.’ So we did. I went by train to Cologne and then we took his cello and flute into his car and went to Italy. Before we set off, we sat in his kitchen and discussed openly that the result of these three weeks mattered and that we would give our last OK the day we came back. In Semproniano we had a lovely time, we played music, had nice meals, fell slowly in love, became more and more a very normal couple with the exception that it would end in marriage. That was very soothing for my female soul. We sometimes also discussed fiercly; just another way to get to know each other better. When we came back and sat in his kitchen, we both wrote our decision down: it was twice a ’yes’.
That there was at the beginning of our relationship still the part of the nice girlfriends around me to resolve came into full view when Richard and I spent an evening with one of my girfriends and her husband. She – beautiful, twenty years younger, exceptionally gifted and very rich – started to caress my husbands hair and smiled at him encouringly. It was as if a heavy creaking door of a dark abyss opened up. I went pale. Her husband asked friendly:’Don’t you feel well?’ I said:’O my God, I suddenly remember that again I have got a husband to look after. I had sworn to myself never to be put into this humiliating situation again.’ My husband did not say anything, but my girlfriend said, ’Well, I like him. That’s your problem.’ What did she want to tell me? I remember us walking down her staircase. Her husband patted friendly my back. We went home. My husband said: ’I have done nothing wrong, you know?’ ’I know’, I answered.
In the chic district of my city there were lots of psychotherapists of all kinds and colors. So opposite our flat there were two charming Milton Erikson therapists. One asked me the next day:’Well, and how is the young couple?’ I had not found a way out of my ghastly new sorrows. ’Well, one half is not so fine’, I replied truthfully. ’Come and see me’, he said, ’my method helps quickly. You don’t have to pay. It’s my wedding present.’ When I was in his therapy room he asked, ’What is your trouble?’ ’My first marriage fell apart because of a girlfriend and now I feel threatened again in the same way.’ ’OK,’ he said,’ take this piece of paper. It is your life. Mark your place with a cross.’ I put myself in the middle of the sheet. ’Now put your husband there’, he said. I put my husband right next to me. ’Now put your friends on the paper.’ I marked the friends in a wide circle around us. ’Now place this girlfriend’, he asked me. I stared at the paper to find a place for her, but I could not. And then I knew: I would push her out of my life.
The following week we got an invitation to her summer party. I politely replied that we thanked her for the invitation but we would not come. After having received my card, she phoned immediately. ’Are you crazy’, she asked’, answering my invitation as if we were strangers?’ ’Well’, I said’, it’s good you phone me. Now I can tell you that since our last meeting my feelings for you have completely changed. They remind me painfully of the way my first marriage fell apart and this time I am not going to send my husband away. This time I am going to put every girlfriend out of my circle of friends who even only gives me an uneasy feeling.’ ’I like him’, she repeated. ’This is your problem and besides, what does he say?’ ’He says:’ She is your friend, you have got to decide this’, I replied. ’If you behave like this, you will in the end loose your husband and all your friends,’she said. ’Yes,’ I answered,’life is full of risks, but I want to choose the risks I take myself. I thank you for the nice time we had together. And I will always think of you in a friendly way.’ There was a long pause. I had said what I wanted to say and felt immediatly relieved. ’I have to hang up now, because I feel tears coming.’ ’I am sorry,’ I said,’ Bye-bye.’
This felt really good like having steered out of dangerous waters. The side effect was very relaxing too, because the other girlfriends looked upon this as an example I had given, to keep away from my husband.
During our twenty years together, whenever I told the story of the 23 points in the presence of my husband, more than once a smiling listener would ask Richard:’Well, and how do you feel about having been chosen after a shopping-list?’ ’Fine, I feel fine,’ my husband would answer,“ because I believe, we all have a list, but only very few people know their list so well. And what’s more, without the list I would not have known that I would be the right man for her and she the right woman for me, that we would be just right for each other.’