Dating After Divorce

Last year, when my ex-husband told me he was done with our marriage, a tiny voice in my head whispered, “Might as well join a convent until the girls are in college.”

In the months leading up to the end of my marriage, I thought a lot about old relationships. I dissected what is was about them which made me feel alive and loved – first loves, one night stands, old lovers, flirtations, and even the blossoming of my relationship with my ex-husband. I dreamed of what it would be like to be a woman in love and lust again. Despite repeated attempts, I wasn’t getting there with my husband. Bound by my values to vows of loyalty, the only thing left to do was stick it out.

I  was married, emotionally exhausted, and profoundly lonely.

Here he was, breaking it off and setting us both free. You’d imagine some small part of me would have been excited at the prospect of finding romance again. A convent, however, is neither exciting nor romantic.

It does provide tremendous comedic relief, though. I told friends about my holy thoughts and we had ourselves some good laughs imagining my life as a dating single mother. Humor was good medicine during those first days of raw emotions and trying to keep it together. Once the laughter died down, my separation and divorce became a fact of life not this grand tragic moment, and the reality set in – I’m single.

The last time I was single was over a decade ago when I was living on a college campus in the middle of Boston. I didn’t know tragedy or pain, just possibility. My heart was ripe for the taking, my breasts were perky, and my options for love or a lover were limitless. Whatever my desire, all I had to do was look in any direction and strike up a conversation. People, familiar and new, swarmed all around me, every minute of every day.

Now I’m a mother of two daughters living in the suburbs of Rhode Island. I know pain intimately; and I’m mending a wounded spirit and heart. New people rarely enter my life and I spend more than 50% of my time at places and events geared at the under 10 crowd. Options for love and lust are few and far between.

I tell friends this and they all point me to online dating.

“Everyone’s doing it.”
“People get married after meeting through online dating sites.”
“It’s just how it’s done now. I mean, what else are you going to do? Go clubbing?”
“At the very least you could get laid.”

I gave in. I set up a blank account on Match to lurk around and see if there was hope out there. I made two major discoveries. First, men take horrible pictures of themselves (my advice: step away from the mirror, lose the wife beater, make absolutely no face which you imagine looks sexy or handsome – you will look like Zoolander, hand the camera to someone else). Second, every man within a 50 mile radius of my zip code is incredibly creepy. I searched maybe a dozen times over the course of a few months, and while I saw a handful who seemed not creepy and interesting, I walked away from Match.com with my assumptions confirmed – there’s no way in hell I want anyone on that site knowing who I am or how to contact me. The convent looks more attractive everyday. Even a blind date looks more appealing.

I report back to my friends, those hopeful fools I love so much, they say I can’t give up. I can’t be single for the rest of my life, they tell me. Only until they’re eighteen, I correct them. That’s not so long, right? Aren’t humans living much longer lives these days?

“Use it or lose it” and “You have to get under someone to get over someone”, my newly divorced friends who are dating remind me. Did I mention my divorced friends? Like attracts like and once I got separated, I found myself in this wonderful community of other newly single mothers. These women are supportive, encouraging, and inspiring. They are also very clearly divided down the middle – the dating and the not dating.

The dating crowd tells me you’ve just got to jump back in and have fun (wink-wink-Tinder-Tinder). The not dating ladies remind me to take my time, wait until I’m good and ready, what’s the rush (wink-wink-failed-marriage)? I believe them both.

Have I gone on any dates since my separation? Nope. Do I want to? Yesnomaybe. Do I want to be in a relationship? Yikes, slow down. Do I want to get married again? I don’t know.

I do know –

I want to love again. I want to kiss and hold hands and be caressed. I want to sit and talk about everything and nothing until forever. I want tenderness and a hand on the small of my back. I want to put my head on someone’s lap when I need to cry, when I need to close my eyes, when my favorite show is on. I want someone to hold, to stand by. I want someone willing to put in the work. I want someone to go through the best and worst of it with me and be willing to come out on the other side. I want to trust again, myself included.

So I haven’t dated since my separation. Instead of meeting new guys, I’ve spent the last year making new friends and nurturing old friendships. They’re reminding me of the kind of friend I want to be and the kind of friend I’m looking for in whoever comes next. Slow and steady, this is the road I’m taking towards love.

If you’ve dated after divorce, found love after divorce, and maybe even, yikes, gotten married after divorce, I’d love to hear your story. Every story encourages the romantic in me.

Hugs

Seven has been full of eye rolls and huffing and puffing and “are you even listening to me?” Shitty diapers, midnight fevers, and not sharing seem like a walk in the park right now.

Seven, on my part, has been full of deep breaths and giving space and a voice inside whispering, “Don’t forget the fucking year we’ve all had.” It is teaching and stretching me more than any tearful, toy throwing tantrum ever has. Or maybe those moments prepared me for these moments.

Seven, thankfully, has also been full of rushing me with hugs and unexpected snuggles. Tenderness that catches me off guard. These embraces speak to me.

They tell a tale of a little girl whose world is changing – new home, new school, new routine, new family dynamic. They tell a tale of a little girl between, who can sense the changes around her and those taking place in the world she holds within – heart and mind expanding, growing richer, more complex. It’s the story of a girl who remembers being 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and knows she’s left those days behind but still carries them with her as she figures 7 out. She’s juggling a young heart and big emotions. She’s looking for her place like we all once did (and still do).

So. There are hugs, so many more than before. I relish every one. Eye rolls and raised voices, huffs, puffs and lost patience, today those are the sounds and signals of change and growth and becoming. Hugs are the space the between, the stillness.

This is her love language and I’m no linguistic specialist but I’m her mom so I learn as the moments pass. Hugs, embraces, touch, tenderness, cuddles – this her heart speaks, this her heart calls for. This I give her.

So much has been going on the last few months there’s been little time for writing. Make that no time for writing. And yesterday, in a frenzied pizza joint with 20 kids running around, inspiration called and I listened. We finally moved and are slowly making ourselves at home. This hopefully means I’ll be writing more. Come back and visit, k?

The Grass Ain’t Greener

I’ve been told I’m an amazing mother. My daughters are lucky to have me. The girls are wonderful children because I’m doing such a tremendous job. I usually smile and say thanks while admitting to being nothing more than human, imperfect and human. Anything after “thanks”, though, usually gets brushed aside. I’m left feeling like a fraud. Like somehow, through my writing or something I shared on social media or the tiny moment of my day they witnessed, I gave the impression I’m June Fucking Cleaver. I am far, far from it.

I share a lot about my life and my interests on social media but it doesn’t capture it all.  No one really ever gets to see the whole picture besides us. I share those things because my mind is easily distracted and prone to forgetfulness; so sharing is my way of reliving, repeating and burning it into my memory.

I don’t share when I lose my temper and raise my voice. I don’t share every time one of my daughters has a tantrum. I don’t share all the times I’ve taken toys from my daughters and put them on top of our fridge. I don’t share when I make my daughters cry because I’ve said no yet again or I rush them away from something important they’re doing to go run errands. I don’t share when I’m impatient and take my young children’s words personally. There are plenty of don’t share moments. Those poor decisions I’d rather soon forget, aren’t shared but they certainly aren’t swept under the carpet.

apologize to your children

For some reason, the joyful memories are fleeting while the hard moments are always waiting in the wings. This is why I share the good moments, to hold onto them. This is why I share so much about the kind of parent and woman I want to be; it takes practice and constant learning.

So whether it’s me or someone else, the grass is never greener. We are all human, perfectly flawed and growing. Every mother is amazing. Every child is lucky to have the mother they cosmically chose when they were just a star in the sky. And we’re all doing a tremendous job at this motherhood business. Some days tremendously awesome, others tremendously crappy, and others still tremendously mediocre.