Ask any divorced, single woman what relationship lessons she’s learned over the years. Before you do, grab a beverage and get comfortable. There are so many things I know now about who I am and what I want, and I know the insight came from my own experiences. I learned three key lessons over the past year or so that have solidified “me” in my eyes, and I think they are very valuable to other women who may be on the other side of divorce.
Lesson One: No Fear
At the end of last year, I found myself a divorced woman who hadn’t really dated. That wasn’t atypical, but I didn’t like it. So, I set a New Year’s resolution to try my hand at seeing someone. No, I wasn’t ready for another marriage. But I saw nothing wrong with having someone special, a “practice boyfriend,” if you will. (Let’s refer to him as PB.) It had been three years. I didn’t want to completely harden myself, and this was a way to let someone in a little more and soften it a bit.
It lasted half a year.
But that’s okay! It set up one of the first post-divorce relationship lessons I learned, which is not to set my intentions based on my fears. We’ve all heard the expression, you won’t know until you try. Sometimes “trying” makes a mess on the other side of it, and that’s never fun. We divorcees know that all too well. We have clearly loved and lost, and the thought of losing again can be terrifying.
“Terrified” describes exactly how I felt. I hated thinking about potentially having to break up with somebody. I felt anxious about putting myself in a position to possibly be hurt again, even a little bit. Plus, I hated to admit that I wanted love in my life again. All of these feelings and fears come with starting a relationship. But really, they go with any goal or thing we set out to do or have, especially if we have tried them before. Scars can paralyze us, and more so if they remind us of past failures. But that’s only if we let them.
Lesson Two: The Kids Are Alright
My adventures with PB extended the relationship lessons to people who, besides myself, would be impacted by my involvement. The most important of those were my kids! I had to start thinking about what introducing my kids to a new someone would look like. I wasn’t sure what that would even look or feel like to them. They had only known or seen their father, my ex, being close to me. Not done the right way, bringing a romantic partner around them could have devastating consequences for them and my relationship with them.
I didn’t think about it differently until my nanny showed me a different light. She told me, “If you don’t introduce your boys to someone soon, you’ll never be able to introduce them to anybody. It will be much easier while they’re young. They’re going to get older, and they may not accept anyone if you don’t just do it.” That was an eye-opener for me. I can’t wait until they’re 8 and 10 to bring the first man who’s not their father around. It won’t be fair to them, to my significant other, or to me.
Being in a relationship made me more aware of male presence around my kids. Though I was (and still am somewhat) hesitant about it, I am starting to open up my eyes to a significant male presence in their lives. I think it will normalize the situation for them, so that when the right man comes along, it won’t feel strange or intrusive. Plus, I get to decide what interaction between my partner and my kids looks like. My comfort level will dictate what my kids see and experience.
We don’t have to hold hands, kiss or even be “romantic” in front of them. They don’t even know what that means at their ages! So while I’m still being cautious, I won’t sacrifice the importance of having positive male figures in their lives because feelings and love bring more nuances into our interaction with my boys. No, it didn’t happen with PB, but it may happen with someone in the future. Whenever that happens, I know I can maneuver the situation in a way that will be good and healthy for my sons. They’re going to be okay.
Lesson Three: Boundaries Bring Clarity
Perhaps the most significant of the relationship lessons with PB was a personal revelation about myself. I learned I have some concrete boundaries regarding what I’m willing to give and deal with, and what I am not. I learned in a fairly short amount of time that my relationship with PB did not check all the boxes I needed it to. When I realized that, I was able to say with confidence and strength, “Actually, I’m good without this.”
Listen, I loved PB as a person. As a single mom with a business to run, there’s simply no room to play around when it comes to my time and my heart. I don’t have time for anything that’s even a little bit dramatic. That’s a hard boundary for me, and I’m not willing to give on it. I felt like a villain breaking things off, being completely transparent. But as a dating single mom, I realize my give-and-take parameters were a lot stronger and much more clearly defined than they were when I dated before. And, they were way more apparent than I thought they were.
That’s a great lesson for all dating divorced women. By all means, double down and and communicate about everything. At the end of the day, though, if you both are not speaking the same language, let it go, and learn that sooner than later. Every person will bring their own baggage into a situation. But if your baggage doesn’t match his, it may be best to just walk with the ones you know how to handle: your own!
My time with PB was interesting, but it was more eye-opening for me. I’m sure the next situation will hold epiphanies of its own, also.
But that will be for another blog entry. 😉