I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since Jeff moved out. Didn’t we just tell the kids that we make each other sad and we can’t stay married? It seems like only yesterday I was having the suckiest New Year’s ever.
I remember thinking last year in the midst of all the heartache and fear, I can’t wait until a year from now when this is all in the past. Well, here I am. I made it. The kids made it. Jeff made it.
No ring on my finger. Not even a tan line to mark where the ring used to be. It’s a sad waste to have my engagement ring and wedding band resting in separate rows in my jewelry box — never to be together again. There is a lot of history and memories in those rings. My marriage will forever be a part of my experience. Jeff and I have no wish to forget everything. We built a family and a home in the 18 years we were together. It’s better to see all we accomplished than all we tore apart. Sometimes there is a dull ache where the family unit used to be. Most of the time there is a feeling of authenticity and natural living where tension and pretend satisfaction used to be.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say dating is the best part of being divorced — the freedom to enjoy the company of a man. For years I had an almost desperate desire to connect deeply with a partner. The more I learned about myself the more I wanted to share with someone else. But I couldn’t share with other men. I was already spoken for. Didn’t matter if my husband and I didn’t fill each other up.
Now, for the first time in my life men want to know me. All the navel gazing and self-awareness books paid off. I have a mild grip on who I am. Men sense that. There is a soul in residence and she is available. That’s attractive.
The first three months after Jeff moved out I focused on adjusting, the kids, and writing. I told myself I needed time alone to learn how to save myself – not rely on a man to take care of everything and make me happy. I needed to get stronger.
Then I went on a coffee date with a friend that turned into a couple of months of conversations and canoodling. He rekindled my interest in physical affection. I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about kisses on your neck while you do the dishes or sitting on someone’s lap while you relay the events of your day. It was fun and new, but ultimately not right. We parted as friends. No drama.
A few months of single Brenda. More navel gazing and hanging out with friends.
Then, after Jeff introduced the kids to his girlfriend, (I’m not proud of this but…) I felt an intense need to beef up Team Brenda so I joined an online dating service. It was a great ego boost — lots of attention — but I had to kiss a few frogs (not literal kissing, actually just a lot of first dates that felt like job interviews). I did make a good friend in the process, someone from my home state of Michigan.
Then I met someone I couldn’t ignore. I think it’s fairly common for newly single people to choose companions who are exact opposites of their exes. That’s what I did. I went a little nuts with the most sensual and erotic guy I’ve ever met. I learned a thing or two but in the end it felt empty. A lot of heat and passion but not a lot of genuine caring.
While dating Mr. Erotic, another attractive man slipped into my life and showed me true warmth. We have known each other for years. This is where I rest now, in his sweet attention. It feels like home.
A few things I learned from cozy conversations with men are: 1. Men like committed relationships. They almost all wanted to get on with the serious stuff, be done with mass dating. 2. There are a lot of marriages where husbands and wives sleep in separate rooms, rarely having sex. 3. Physical affection and respect are oxygen to men.
I’m so grateful I have had this year of exploring. Each relationship gave me a clearer picture of what I want and the time off from dating taught me I can rely on myself.
I admit the first few months of the kids going back and forth between our houses was sort of heavenly for me. I went from never daring to watch a television show by myself (without suffering from a huge guilt trip) to two nights a week and every other weekend wide open for my own discretion. Hours of reading, writing, talking on the phone, and of course, watching movies and shows of my choice (Mad Men finally). As an introvert, it felt like getting a transfusion of life essence. I was an individual with my own ideas and desires again.
But this changed. After a few months I was only a little excited when they left for their dad’s but really excited when they came back.
If I’m totally honest, I’ll admit it’s frustrating to think about your kids being influenced by the other parent without your input, especially when significant others join the picture. Sharing your kids with others is very, very, difficult. I knew this would be the hardest part about the divorce. It’s hard to bear the kids creating family memories without you. Sure, you know they will grow up and have experiences without you but when your parenting time is cut in half AND they are spending more time outside the home, it’s rough. Jeff and I have maintained a healthy relationship. The kids see us getting along and chatting easily. I believe we respect each other and we try our best to put the kids’ best interest first. And it’s still hard.
At the end of the summer Jeff had the kids 5 weekends in a row because of the way the schedule and holidays fell. I almost lost it.
There is a redeeming factor in all of this. I believe Jeff and I are both more patient, attentive parents now than we were at the end of our marriage. Our kids seem to have plateaued off into relative contentedness.
As I said in last week’s post, I’m sick of myself. I’m ready to emerge from the cocoon of my self-awareness study. I want to get out and help others. I want to earn some money. I want to revel in the time with my kids. I’ve learned to be resourceful. I’ve learned how many close and dedicated friends I have.
Freedom is so sweet but it comes at a cost.
I embrace freedom and all the possibilities.
Have you found freedom this year? What has changed for you over the last year? How have you changed?
- Learning to cry (mminnaar.wordpress.com)
- First One Over the Wall: What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over(space2live)
- What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over Pt. 2: Money Mediation and Accounts (space2live.net)
- What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over Pt. 3: The Kids (space2live.net)
- What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over Pt.4: Being Alone, Dating and Co-Parenting (space2live)
- Divorce Done Right: How to Keep Your Post-Divorce Relationship Healthy and Friendly (space2live)