Dale Vaughn and Elizabeth Menzel: He Runs a Men's Group. She Runs a Women's Group. And It's Bliss
After five years together, Menzel's heart still flutters at the sound of Vaughn's footsteps in the hall. Vaughn is still gentlemanly. He opens doors, pulls out chairs, always walks on the outside on the sidewalk, drapes his coat over her shoulders when she's cold and does most of the driving. When she's walking across the living room, he'll grab her, dip her, then kiss her, as if they were dancing the tango. He enjoys these "classical" trappings of masculinity.
The dance between masculine and feminine energy is one of their favorite subjects. Masculine and feminine, Menzel explains, are like two ends of a battery. A couple must recharge their respective energies in order to stay passionate.
"When you're around someone a lot, your polarity starts to come to the middle. Instead of supercharged masculine, or supercharged feminine, you become friendly instead of romantic," Vaughn says.
So he leads his men's group. She leads her women's group. Menzel's group is bigger — it's up to 300 women these days.
In their relationship, Menzel jokes that she is in charge of nutrition, while Vaughn covers security.
In bed one night, she heard a noise: "Baby, what was that?" Within a heartbeat, he'd leapt across the room, knife in hand. It was hot — and it was exactly what Menzel needed.
Vaughn's supportive, adoring parents have been happily married for more than 30 years. By contrast, Menzel's parents divorced when she was 7. Her dad, a heart surgeon, was away most of the time. When he was around, she was terrified. "He scared the hell out of me," she says quietly. He was a foreboding, callous figure, preachy about responsibility yet "insanely irresponsible." He owned a boat and plane and was the kind of man who'd fly into a closed airport during a storm, or sail through a hurricane. He put the lives of her and her brother in jeopardy many times.
"Omnipotence," Menzel says, "it's common with heart and brain surgeons. You're touching a heart. He's holding someone's life in his hands, day after day."
Raised by an exhausted single mom, Menzel was alone a lot. Always nervous, she barely slept, terrified that if someone broke into the house, her mom wouldn't be able to protect her. "She'd die trying, but she'd die trying," Menzel says with an ironic smile. Vaughn, on the other hand, wouldn't die trying. "He'd kill the fucker."
A lean 5 feet 7 inches, he's not exactly a burly man. But that's only his physical body. A friend of hers met Vaughn after hearing her talk about him for two years. "I thought you were going to be a really big guy," the friend said.
"He is big," Menzel protested. "His body's small. But his energy's huge!"
To Menzel, emotions are an electromagnetic energy frequency. Sadness has a frequency. So does happiness. Whether these frequencies correspond to specific numeric units of, say, hertz or megahertz, Menzel isn't sure. Though, the last time she checked, a way to measure it "was in the works."
For two years before she met Vaughn, Menzel prepared herself for love. She wanted to be "at a really healthy" frequency.
She didn't date. She didn't let herself out of bed in the morning until she could feel her partner beside her. Closing her eyes, she'd envision the two of them out to dinner together, or at the movies, or traveling to Peru. She imagined feeling grounded and safe. She didn't let her feet touch the ground until she was smiling and she felt as if she was "with my man."
Every morning and night for two years without skipping a day, she practiced this. "I really got clear," she says. Guys who didn't match her frequency stopped being attracted to her, and she stopped being attracted to them.
After a year and a half, people were starting to wonder. "You look like you're in love," they'd say.
"I am in love. I just haven't met him yet."
That inner tickle, that giddiness, was percolating inside her six months before she even laid eyes on Vaughn. "The relationship was already happening before we got together," she says.
It's maybe not as crazy as it sounds. Your significant other, Menzel believes, is a representation of what you know as love. If hitting and being hit, or sharing huge meals, or prolonged absence is what you understand as love, that's often what you'll attract. "Until you heal your shit," she says, "you're gonna be sending out a beacon. And you're gonna attract someone who matches that signal."
One January afternoon, Menzel answers the door wrapped only in a towel, hair dripping wet from a shower. Harp music plays in the background. She keeps a flexible schedule. The masculine is structure; feminine is flow and fluidity.
Of course Vaughn was attracted to her from the beginning. Everyone is attracted to her: "It's why she's able to hold giant circles of women together. It's called 'lighting up a room' for a reason," he says. When she walks into a room, "She gives everyone an energy hug."
She feels the same way about him. When he's away, the world "doesn't sparkle and shine" like it does when he's around. Menzel's trust in him is absolute.
She is 46 now. Vaughn is 28. In the beginning, he wondered what their future held: "Ten years down the road, say we get there, what does our relationship look like?"
Today, he dismisses those worries as a silly notion.
Menzel fluffs her wet hair in the mirror, then sits down, a fierce look in her eye. She wants to clarify what she means by trust. It is not a guarantee that they're always going to be together. Rather, it's a guarantee that he will always be honest with her. That he will do his best to be compassionate, to listen, to be present. "It's not about the outcome," she insists.
Their commitment is not to one another. It is to love itself. They are simply choosing to shine that love onto each other. "It's a mistake when people make a commitment to each other," Menzel says, "because humans are so ... " She struggles to find the word and finally settles on "fallible."
She has no idea if humans are meant to mate for life. And she doesn't know if she'll be with Vaughn forever.
"The mind loves certainty," she says. "It loves to grab onto something. But when you're dedicated to the energy that makes you love, that has less and less of a place. Because it's all about letting go."