Day 355: Alive and Well

Last night, I read an article called ‘The Divorcee Stigma That’s Alive and Well,” published by the Huff Post Divorce Blog. It was written by D.A. Wolf.

(For some reason I can’t hyperlink it, so I’m just going to post the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/d-a-wolf/the-divorcee-stigma-it-st_b_4039529.html)

In it, the author discusses the stereotypes of the divorced woman. She writes, “It conjures a sexy little ex-missus in cocktail dress and kitten heels, presumed to be on the prowl for another woman’s husband.” She suggests that the most effective way to dissociate from this stereotype is to remarry. She states, “And if you haven’t somehow compensated for divorce by walking down the aisle a second time, you’re regarded with suspicion, pity, or at the very least — bewilderment.”

Amen, sister.

Now that Jack and I are no longer a couple, a significant portion of my acquaintances are all, “Oh my goodness! Now what are you going to do?” As though being partnerless is a crisis, similar to an exploded tire on the interstate or a drained bank account. I’m a failure, it seems. Unwanted. Trapped in a merry-go-round of singlehood, desperate to get off a ride that’s purposeless and leaves you feeling faintly queasy.

I didn’t date Jack with the intent to remarry. We were together with the intent of being happy. Supporting each other. Regardless of any variables that led to us not being together, we’ve always enjoyed each other’s company. We loved seeing our kids together. We successfully cultivated a sense of family for a long time.

That being said, I do understand the appeal of getting remarried. The implied sense of security. Blending two incomes and retirement accounts. Sharing parenting responsibilities. Sex, companionship, extended family members, and someone to help hang Christmas lights. There’s something about belonging to the “I’m somebody’s wife” club that has a certain appeal.

But there’s a harsh reality to marriage, especially a second marriage. You are more at-risk for divorce, not less. You have the potential to bring the baggage of your first marriage into the second. Blending two families–especially if both include children–is hard, and research indicates that adjustment is typically bumpier between the stepmother and stepchildren (versus the stepfather and stepchildren). While I think remarrying can be very brave, I also think it can be entered into with naiveté and self-delusion, especially if it occurs within the first months of a new romance. After all, your new partner seems perfect at first; everything your former spouse was not. But with time, you reveal your faults to one another; maybe someone is rife with emotional insecurity, spends money foolishly, or has no patience for their partner’s work. Worse, a mental illness may be uncovered, there may be an unhealthy preoccupation with their ex, or, most horrifyingly, one might learn that their partner is not actually a good parent.

So, if I’m lucky enough to find a wonderful new partner, there will be no rushing into marriage here. No jumping into something, fingers crossed that it will work out. Now that some time has passed since parting ways with Jack, I’m enjoying my status as a single woman, and dipping my toes into the dating pool seems fun and promising, not intense or goal-driven.

The kids, considerably older now than when I met Jack and having experienced the highs and lows of their father’s remarriage, are titillated by the possibility of their mother dating. Sydney, in particular, is fascinated with the process and yearns to be included in the details. Me, always on the lookout for an opportunity to role-model healthy behavior, intends to discuss things like proper pacing of a relationship, desirable vs. undesirable characteristics in a partnership, and walking the line between forming a connection with a new partner and maintaining balance with your work, friends, and most importantly, your home life. I want them to understand that while a partnership may be a positive addition to my (our) life, it’s not a mandatory component.

Last week, after learning that I had been asked to go to dinner by two different men, Sydney asked, “So which one are you going to go out with?” “Um…neither,” I answered. I want them to understand that being partner-less is highly preferable to being with the wrong man, and happiness is self-cultivated, not gleaned through the attention of another.

 

So, I guess I’m telling you to stay tuned. Oh, and feel free to offer me any advice.

 

Day 351: A Little Bit of Closure

I haven’t blogged in forever. The last few months have been super busy. I was offered a part-time gig to teach a psychology class at a local college, and my days quickly became consumed with preparing lectures, creating relevant, meaningful assignments, and grading. Between that class and my regular job as a parent coach, I felt like I was hunched over my computer every day for hours. Blogging just became a hindrance, and I didn’t feel inspired to write anything that was particularly educational, emotive, or didn’t have an invoice attached.

But now, final grades are turned in, there is a small lull in client care as the holidays fast approach, and my Christmas shopping is done. I actually have the time to think about things that don’t fall under the category of “things I have to do tomorrow.”

Also, I needed to write about Jack.

We’re no longer a romantic partnership, and we haven’t been for quite awhile. I write that with the lowest amount of melodrama possible, because we’re still a team in many ways. Just last night I was all, “Sydney is sick and I need to know if you’re available to come watch Dylan if I need to take her to urgent care.” He was all, “Of course. Keep me posted.” Last week, he texted me at midnight to insist that I log into his Dish Network app and watch a television show he knew I’d like. We’re only a text away from each other, and I doubt I’ll be removing him from my list of emergency contacts any time soon.

I’m not going to pretend our parting wasn’t painful, because it was. Damn, it still is in many ways. The romantic portion of the relationship ends and you have to be all healthy and maintain appropriate boundaries and try not to focus on the fact that you’ve lost your best friend, his beloved child, his extended family, and his dog. Weeks after we parted, the kids and I saw his daughter at the movies and we all just sort of collapsed onto each other. Grief is fading as we start to form 3-person routines instead of 5-person routines, but there’s still vague sense of unfairness about the whole situation.

That being said, I know it was the right decision, and that knowledge comforts me as I wander through my days without a partner who loves my kids, curls up with me at night, and knows to hand me something sweet immediately after we finish eating dinner to prevent me from getting grouchy.

I’m less lonely than I thought I’d be. Both because I’ve made a huge effort to get out of the house to try new activities and meet new people, and because I’m pretty happy with the life I’ve built–with Jack’s support–during the last couple of years. My life hasn’t evolved into something awesome because I had an awesome boyfriend–it evolved into something awesome because I’ve found that sweet spot between independence and connecting with other people who love and respect me. Jack was one of those people, and I suspect he still is, although it’s in a completely different way than before.

Our parting was a learning experience, however. I learned that not all men feel it’s necessary to light a fuse to destroy the remnants of our relationship. Not all men alter reality so that they can embody the role of “wronged martyr” while I’m shoved into the “big bad unreasonable bitch” role.  When we first stepped away from each other, I kept waiting for the explosion–maybe the dining room table he’s storing for me would be found in the driveway, he wouldn’t return the necklace I’d left on the bedside table, or he’d systematically poison my reputation among his family and our common friends.

However, it appears that spite isn’t universal. Retaliation isn’t satisfying to everyone. Not all pain needs to be nursed indefinitely. Nope, that’s unique to just one type of man. The type of man whom I feel certain I will never be with again. And most importantly, my kids get to see that mommy can choose to be with a man who can handle himself with grace and dignity, even when he’s feeling frustrated or hurt. They get to see a man who feels a sense of loyalty to our past even as our future together becomes a little hazy.

As I’ve always said about Jack, once you’re part of his tribe, you’re always part of it, even if your role is amended over time.

I hope he knows he’s forever part of my tribe too.