He met the 'right' girl on eve of his wedding to another
LOS ANGELES — This month, like so many Junes, I will attend a couple of weddings. Some marriages will last. Some will falter and fail. For better or worse, my world, our world, is always full of lovers falling out of love. Some break up while dating. Others leave short and long-term marriages.
Me? I was 30 days from a wedding. There was a guest list. A marvelous reception had been planned. A florist, musicians, and caterers were at the ready. And a lovely young woman, my fiancée, looked forward to the rest of her life. With me.
She was at home in the Midwest, planning and orchestrating, picking bridesmaids' dresses, dreaming of a perfect honeymoon.
I was at work in California. Marriage was my future; I'd proposed after a two-year relationship. My girl and I were natural together, had grown used to each other. I was nearing 40 and believed I was fortunate to finally know what I wanted.
But a month or so before my wedding, I suddenly wanted something else.
What I wanted had walked into my office and announced herself as my new assistant, hired by my boss. We talked business. We made small talk. I told her I would soon be married. She congratulated me. She said finding dates in L.A. had never been her strong suit. We got to work.
And I went home that night with a train wreck in my heart.
My new assistant, like my fiancée, was young and beautiful, smart, lively, and had a marvelous sense of humor.
That said, I was engaged. I had always been faithful. Nothing, I told myself, was going to happen. But it did: I started to fall in love with another woman.
As weeks unfolded, I knew this planned marriage was wrong for me. I wasn't pulling any plugs, but looked at my wedding with a kind of resignation. That I was attracted, compelled, to another woman was a feeling to fight. What about my fiancée's feelings? What about her parents? Our guests? My own self-respect? Certainly, I wasn't the first guy with second thoughts. Surely, they'd pass. They didn't.
And then there was my smart, self-assured friend, Jack. I told him about the new girl and the growing feeling I was making the wrong move - for everybody concerned.
In the middle of his own crumbling marriage, Jack said simply: "I knew the day I walked down the aisle I was making a mistake. Yet the day arrived. Everyone was there. I went through with it. I should have gotten out."
His story didn't make life any easier. Shaken, I told my assistant about my feelings for her. She said she was attracted to me, too. She said: "Go fix your life and make your decisions before this goes any further."
So I walked around a block in Hollywood a hundred times. How to do what I had to do? Was I strong enough to tell the truth? Break somebody's heart? End her dreams?
In truth, I'd been self-deceptive all along - had grown comfortable being part of a couple, thought marriage was the logical next step. Now my heart was torn.
All this while friends bought plane tickets and clothes, getting ready for my wedding.
I confided in another friend. He was older, twice divorced. He had never steered me wrong.
"Just make a decision, one way or the other," he said. "If you don't get married, you will cause a lot of pain. But someday that pain will stop. You are not causing death or serious injury. Just heartbreak."
So I made the call. I said what I had to say. I then flew 2,000 miles to my fiancée's home. There was a mother and father and a young woman in tears. Recalling the scene today, I still feel less than honorable. I said I was terribly sorry, wrote thousands of dollars in checks, repaying her parents' for a wedding that wasn't going to happen.
That was 16 years ago.
It was the right decision.
The assistant and I married and had a child. My former fiancée was, I am told, unhappy and damaged and bitter for a rather long time. But several years ago she married a mutual acquaintance and, last year, wrote to tell me her life had worked out happily.
But, still, I can't walk that block in Hollywood without thinking of a wonderful girl and an onerous choice.
• Joe Honig, a former CBS and AP journalist, writes for television.