Stoner by John Williams

In his forty-third year William Stoner learned what others, much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.

They were both very shy, and they knew each other slowly, tentatively; they came close and drew apart, they touched and withdrew, neither wishing to impose upon the other more than might be welcomed. Day by day the layers of reserve that protected them dropped away, so that at last they were like many who are extraordinary shy, each open to the other, unprotected, perfectly and unselfconsciously at ease.