For a former Navy SEAL turned author like me, you’d think the daunting skyscrapers and bustling streets of New York City would be nothing compared to chasing terrorists amidst the harsh mountains of Afghanistan. Yet, here I am, navigating the perilous waters of NYC and Lisbon’s serial dating scene, attempting to find my Elizabeth Bennet among a sea of Miss Bingleys.
I remember back to my very first date in the city, after ending a young marriage of 8 years. It was a scene straight out of an Austen novel. Picture this: a candlelit restaurant, two glasses of wine, and a young lady, more preoccupied with her reflection in her spoon than our conversation. While her discourse concerned her 10,000 Instagram followers more than the subtleties of human connection, I thought, “Ah, the Lydia Bennet of the 21st century!”
It’s not to say that I haven’t come close to finding “the one.” There was the passionate pianist turned publicist from Johannesburg, reminiscent of Marianne Dashwood, who played Beethoven with the same intensity as she approached our whirlwind romance. We met in the lobby of the ACE Hotel in Nomad during my first National book tour. It was instant romance; however, her spirit was too wild, too free, and intense, and a year later I’d lost a best friend in Libya, and it derailed “us.” Our symphony was over before she could play the next note.
Or the beautiful model and yogi. We had a great connection; she was as kind as she was gorgeous. We flew in my new plane from San Diego to New York, and she was a faithful copilot despite losing my alternator (no battery power to lower the landing gear), and an emergency landing in Santa Fe. However, our story ended when she put too much baby pressure on me. “I want to be pregnant by December.”, she proclaimed, six months into our love story. I fled like an uncaged bird desperate for open skies.
Then, there was the Charlotte of my story. A beautiful blonde Turkish girl with piercing blue eyes. A poised, elegant, and educated designer from Parsons. It was a slow burn on the dynamite fuse of love, but we got there eventually, and we both shared a firm belief in true love. I loved taking laps with her on my little airplane over Manhattan’s skyline and Lady Liberty. We’d discuss politics, art, and design, walk through galleries, and talk about a future that never was meant to be. It was on again, off again, and like Charlotte’s first marriage, our story wasn’t meant to last.
This happens a lot in New York I think. “See you in a few weeks, I’m off to Paris or the Hamptons.”
I’ve learned that the singles market has an overabundance of avoidants. “Attached“, is a great book on the theory of attachment and will at least help you understand some of the rules of the dating game we are all playing.
I thought I’d really found the one in the Pandemic. A vision of elegance and poise, a red-haired beauty whose prowess as an equestrian rider truly captivated me more than her magazine covers (also a model). The way she connected with her horse the fluidity of their movements, mirrored the rhythm we began to find with each other. The pandemic brought the world to a standstill, yet in that quiet, our bond deepened. Virtual dinner first date. I ordered duplicate meals, with three special bottles of wine for us to taste over our first Zoom date; Hours-long conversations replaced the usual city rendezvous. I flew her to Fisher Island for our first in-person date and packed a picnic lunch. We had the island to ourselves during the pandemic and shared a first kiss under a big oak tree overlooking the water. But as is often the case in the digital age, the shadows lurking in the online world crept in. A jealous suitor, perhaps envious of what we shared, began to whisper doubts into my DMs. True or not, the seeds of mistrust were sown, and before I could discern truth from fiction, the damage was done. She had a fiery spirit and little patience for me to figure it out. I said I needed time to process everything, and she abruptly ended it.
Recently, in the vast expanse of life’s unpredictable encounters, I encountered a woman of unparalleled character, reminiscent of an Austen heroine in her complexity, kindness, internal beauty, and grace. I felt a connection as deep and profound as the ocean’s unseen dark blue depths. Life happened, and she did not share the same feelings for some reason. This happens sometimes, and despite this disparity, the sheer experience of such a connection was a beautiful reminder to me— a beacon of hope, like a solitary, tenacious flower blooming after a desert rain or a beautiful sea shell found on a vast, uncharted, and bland shore. Life still harbors the promise of profound connections and untold tales of love. It was an incredible reminder that I could still feel the intensity of love rippling through my veins like a lightning strike.
Another great relationship read is, Sex At Dawn.
In life’s vast theater of trials and triumphs, I’ve been bestowed with blessings that stand as pillars of strength and purpose: my remarkable children, and wonderful new friends I’ve made in New York, in YPO.org, and at Harvard Business School. Their presence, like a North Star in a tempest, has guided me through even the most turbulent of romantic seas.
Thus, while modern society might often suggest a pressing need for romantic completion, I stand firm in the solace that with such steadfast bonds already in place, the weight of expectation is alleviated. My heart, ever hopeful but unburdened, marches on. I enjoy my presence, but I know I’m at my best when I have a ride-or-die partner by my side.
“You’ll find your person, but enjoy your single life.”, my 92-year-old grandma said with a twinkle in her eye recently over lunch.
Love you, Grandma.
Between the defining moments on my journey to find love, there were a myriad of dates, each like a chapter in an unfolding novel. There were dinners under city lights where laughter echoed, and eyes sparkled with potential, coffee dates where conversations flowed like old friends reconnecting, and walks in the park where silences spoke volumes. Numerous times, the thrill of excitement coursed through me, thinking I’d finally met a harmonious match, a counterpart to my soul. These fleeting moments, when hope soared and the heart skipped a beat, made the journey a riveting adventure, even if they were mere precursors to the love story I was destined to write.
Navigating modern romance is tough, but, know this: amidst the comical mismatches (Remind me to tell you about my pigeon dinner date in Chinatown!) and the Sex-in-the-city-esque encounters, love is out there. And perhaps, just around the corner or the next swipe right. The shared glances across a crowded Soho cafe, or the soft-spoken promises whispered to each other between the sheets.
No matter how often our hearts are met with misadventures or near misses, it’s essential to remember that every story has its chapters. The beauty lies not only in the destination but also in the journey itself — the laughter, the tears, the heartache, the growth. In the vast tapestry of human connection, every thread, no matter how tangled or frayed, leads us closer to the heart that matches our own.
So, in the grand dance of love, keep dancing, keep hoping, and trust that your partner awaits, just a few steps, or perhaps a story, away.
Amidst the tapestry of life’s challenges, I’ve consistently found solace in the embrace of words. Much like the protagonists in Bradshaw’s tales, the pen (or keyboard) has been my trusted confidant, especially during the shadowed moments after losing cherished friends to the ravages of war as a former Navy SEAL. The anguish of those losses compelled me to scribe my emotions, weaving narratives from my sorrow, using prose as a channel to navigate my grief and find a glimmer of tranquility as I did in both books, The Red Circle, and Among Heroes. This therapeutic dalliance with writing has not only fortified me during personal tempests but has illuminated the path for many seeking understanding in their own tribulations. The written word remains my steadfast ally, a tribute to the redemptive power of pouring one’s soul onto digital print.
It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do. And while the dating apps continue to buzz and the city throws another Miss Bingley my way, I remain steadfast in my quest. My New York love story is a few pages from “The End.” I can feel it, and it’s great to know love still exists in the universe.
In this modern tapestry of connections and fleeting moments, may you sail with courage and discernment, ever hopeful, for even in the vast expanse of today’s world, every heart has its own ‘La La Land’ duet awaiting its perfect harmony.