Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “moving on

My Ex-Wife Never Was All That Honest

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She was living with another man when we started having lunches. She started dating me before telling me or him of the other person. Along the way, that summer, she shut down our relationship so she could go “finish up” with him. She called me about six weeks later.

That opening volley should have been a red flag. But I was smitten. She was/is very pretty. I was very lonely. We hooked up soon after she moved out and she moved in with me in a matter of weeks. She made a very sensible move. She let go of the man who was unlikely to ever give her a child, something she had desperately begun to think about, and she found a man of means who was also ready for kids. Bingo.

There were a couple of wrinkles in her fantasy, however. 1. I did not make enough money to support a stay-at-home mom in the neighborhood we were committed to raising our children. 2. I suffered from occasional bouts of depression. She did too, but that’s another story all together.

So there we were, heading towards kids with some drastic changes to make. I was playing in a band, working for myself, and living in a condo that was paid for but not big enough to raise a family. What she needed was for me to get a real job, quit the band, and buy a house that could support our desired 2 kids in the neighborhood with the good schools. I caught the vision to. And so that’s what we did. I quit the band, got a full-time job, and we moved from my condo to a house in the “good schools” neighborhood. Of course we were 5 – 6 years ahead of needing those good schools, but hey, we were kids, we were in love, we were becoming parents.

So time goes along for a bit, we have two kids, a boy and then a girl, and we start having the frictions that married-with-children couples do. And a lot of that trouble had to do with money. I didn’t really think of it at the time, because we had decided to have her stay home with the kids as much as possible, while I continued the “big job” pursuit. While things went okay, the job market after 9-11 was awful. Our boat was taking on water. We spent most of the cash from the sale of the condo, and we were down to bare bones on our mortgage and house repairs.

It was about this time, and for some of those reasons, that I started a major slide into overwhelm, otherwise known as major depression. Not only was I responsible for an entire little family now, and a house payment, I also had lost my self-employment opportunity when the real estate market shut down after 9-11. Everybody had it hard, I get that, but somehow we didn’t join together as a team. Somehow we grew apart and the plan was for me to work, and work harder at finding work, and for her to … Well, we weren’t really sure what she was going to do. She didn’t know what she “wanted” to do, so I was committed to letting her fish around and figure it out. Meanwhile, our finances are swirling down the drain. But I never was one for being a stickler around money.

About the time things got really hard, she began to take lunches with a co-worker from a new group she was consulting with. Of course, I had no idea she was doing lunch with anyone. I stumbled upon a series of emails between them one afternoon while I was de-spamming our communal computer. BOOM. I was punched in the dick. She was revealing her deepest secrets, her concerns for my depression, her loneliness, and even her own inner struggles about being married to someone with depression.

I remember she came home with the kids and tried to talk to me about the evening plans. I was almost incoherent. It might have been easy to chalk that up to my struggles with depression, but this was different. Somewhere along the way she had taken out our personal love story and begun sharing it with another man. She was introducing him to the free coffee at our neighborhood library. She was doing lunches with a younger man just when her actual man needed her the most.

She came clean at this point. Not at doing anything wrong, but in acknowledging how this behavior might hurt me. She agreed to never do it again, and to end the “relationship” with this other man. But the damage had been done. She’d broken our sacred trust. And I am not sure if I ever felt 100% secure in my relationship after that. When sex went on hiatus, I remember wondering if she were seeing another man on the side, this time with physical comforts as well as mental comforts. I don’t think that was ever the case, but I’m not 100% sure.

Once the infidelity happens, even if it’s only emotional, the trust suffers. The odd thing, however, is how she made our “trust” an issue that I was mostly responsible for damaging. The “trust” issues seemed to all be about me. Not us? Our therapy sessions were less than productive as we searched for answers to MY depression and MY trust issues. She was the “okay” one.

Today, it’s easier to see how the entire relationship had been based on half-truths and omissions. I don’t have any regrets, at this point, because I look at our kids and I know we did the best we could. The best we could, however was less than 100% from her. At the moment when your partner is suffering and in need of your comfort, that is not the time to begin a “friendship” with a new person from work. A woman, maybe, but a handsome man?

I have learned a lot about trust and honesty in my life. My first and second marriages have taught me many things. I know that I will not tolerate infidelity, emotional or physical, and that TRUST is an issue that is shared. We had a trust issue in our marriage. While she was actually out doing something untrustworthy, I was the one being attacked. Perhaps the attack was the only defense she could come up with, for the way she was feeling inside.

She knew the moment I spoke of it, that afternoon when I found the email, that she had betrayed me. She never fully apologized for it. She said she wouldn’t do it again. That was as good as it ever got between us. I think that fracture is what led me towards divorce once it was offered. While I fought against the divorce, when I saw what I was up against, I gave in and complied. I guess I did the same thing at the beginning of our relationship when I first heard about the other man she was living with.

Things would be very different in my life had I walked away. I did not.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Fractured Women: Learning About Boundaries in Dating After Divorce

OFF-womenWe are all fractured after a divorce. Each of us must do the work necessary to heal the wounding before we venture out into the dating pool. Two fractured people cannot have a healthy relationship. And once you’ve begun to heal, the visibility of the fractures is much more clear.

Dating is what you do before you really know the person. Dating shows intent and a commitment of time. That’s it. Aside from that, dating is like a probationary period. What you’re looking to establish is compatibility and joyfulness together. What you’re looking to avoid, or put boundaries around are the things the don’t work. Sometimes we call them Red Flags. The “uh oh” moments in early stages of dating that signal something is off.

A relationship is what begins to develop over time. As you find time to be together things begin to progress forward or they don’t. The momentum and path of that arc is up to the participation of both partners. One person cannot create a relationship with someone else who is not willing. Perhaps they are afraid. Perhaps they want to play the field a bit, not sure if you’re the right one. Perhaps even the concept of “Relationship” freaks them out, and they will buck and run at the first sign that things are moving towards coupling.

There are no simple rules for navigating either of these plateaus of getting to know someone. I used to think I had some effective strategies and maps for doing better and better until I located the right partner. I was deluded. I thought I had a good handle on my boundaries and how many red flags I was willing to tolerate before kissing off a potential partner. Again I was wrong.

Then something happened that broke through my easy-going acceptance of our differences. We had a date planned and she texted me that she was running late.

Assuming you know anything about where things are going to go, is a bad idea. Of course we make assumptions, and that’s how we move forward. But you’re assumptions are often wrong, and based on previous experience. The person in front of you, is unlike any previous experience you’ve ever had. Still there are some concepts you can stay with.

Boundaries are imaginary lines you believe you will not accept. Behaviours you will not put up with, this time around. And positive boundaries about things you want to do and want to cultivate in a dating relationship. But boundaries are imaginary, and can be crossed and broken at any time. So set them, watch them, believe in the idea of them, but know that this person you are negotiating with may jump the fence at anytime. The jump may be towards you, as in “Hey, I kinda want to have sex with you right now.” Or away from you, “Sorry, I can’t do this anymore, can we still be friends.” Your response should be based in the present moment and not in some idea you have of what is right or wrong.

It’s still hard to negotiate this setting and breaking of boundaries. This building and crushing of expectations. It’s best to talk through as much of it as possible. Say something when you are uncomfortable. Risk throwing a red flag if things are going in a direction that feels wrong.

And example from a previous post-divorce relationship involved a woman who was much younger than me. There was some disconnect there, to start with, but I was open-minded and willing. But something kept happening that I couldn’t quite reconcile with my idea of boundaries. She kept bringing up drugs. It wasn’t hard core stuff, but I was surprised every time she mentioned, “Hey we could smoke some pot.” I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but the idea wouldn’t have occurred to me. Ever. Back in college, perhaps, but today… Um, not so much. Still I was willing to pass through that boundary to meet this woman halfway. We didn’t smoke pot together, however, but we moved along.

Then something happened that broke through my easy-going acceptance of our differences. We had a date planned and she texted me that she was running late. Okay, no big deal. I could go into her house, it was open, and wait for her. It was 10 pm. Still, fine, no worries yet. When she got there, around 10:20 she was loving and sexy as usual, and we moved on into the evening’s festivities without much discussion of what had held her up.

She wasn’t hiding from me, she usually said what she was thinking. As we went out to a club and had a few beers she told me she’d been visiting one of her friends and he’d invited her upstairs to get high. Um. Hello red flag. A few more unexpected twists and we were done. Parting as friends. No worries.

More recently I had a very different experience of boundaries and red flags. I’d say things were going swimmingly with this relationship, but something was a bit off. I couldn’t put my finger on what, but I was listening intently. There was something to the quality of her affection that seemed to reveal something underneath that was not being expressed. She liked to say how “sexy” I was. Not a bad thing, but also sort of focused on the surface, when it became the refrain. Okay, so sexy was good, right?

There comes a time when you have to pack your goodwill hunting and leave a good thing. Sadly that’s where it ends.

And as we moved along she would jerk back occasionally when things go too close. No Relationship at this time please, was the request. Okay. But the pull backs kept happening at regular intervals. Hmm. Perhaps this needed watching as well. And my own denial of these hiccups, was also something I became aware of. Okay, we’re watching the “relationship” discussion and I’m watching my own obsessive behavior that was allowing me to ignore some warning signs. But I was completely turned-on by this woman and I was willing to jump boundaries together, as long as we kept going.

And then in less than 24 hours she threw out so many red flags (well, technically she red flagged me right out of the relationship) that everything changed without any input from me. I was unaware that I’d been sidelined until we got together for dinner. But there was a strange quality to the night. Even the cadence and tone of our texting had changed. Come-on’s like “I really want you,” were simply ignored, where before they would always raise a sexy response.

And the responsiveness never returned although we limped along for a few days, apart, while she entertained guests. And then the well-considered FRIENDS email came. Okay, there comes a time when you have to pack your goodwill hunting and leave a good thing. Sadly that’s where it ends. Even though I was the one who was red carded due to unknown fouls, she was the one who had thrown the final red flag on my playing field. And I knew it, felt it, that first night of disconnect.

And like that she was gone. The love was gone. The heat was iced. And that was much more telling than just being “sexy, and darling, and fun.”

So we set up expectations. We reset them and agree to different boundaries. We try and meet a person where they are, but occasionally (perhaps often) we run out of ways to accept the variations. And the final red flag can come from either party, in this case it happened overnight.

In looking for a partner you have to be willing to stretch and reset your imaginary boundaries. You have to listen and adapt, learn, the ways of this mysterious other person. But when the real fracture comes you have to be ready to hear it and move on.

I’m still early in this re-partnering as an adult. I don’t have a huge number of “dates” to go on, but I’m beginning to understand that the percentage of wounded adults is a lot higher than the ones who have done the work to heal themselves after divorce. So we continue on down the path and look forward to the next learning opportunity.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: woMAN, caro paris, creative commons usage


Gone. A Pause at Summer’s End.

What we lose in divorce

And out of the clear blue sky, it is gone, and I am sad.

It’s been a great summer. Through many challenges and growth opportunities, but we made it. And with the school drop off today, after a three-day weekend, I find myself struggling to maintain momentum. I’ve got plenty of work to do, so it’s not lack of requirements. It’s something else.

Little reminders of the loss of my children sometimes sneak up on me when I’m not paying attention. And the coffee doesn’t stave off the bummed out feelings. The nap that sounds like an escape is really just a temporary sedation.

In divorce you lose everything.

Maybe this is preparation for the empty nest that’s at least 5 years away. Or this is just part of being a single parent with less than half-time custody. But I’m not sure it’s about custody, or schedules, or even the divorce. I think it’s me. My sadness. My losses. The grip of my daughter’s hand as we walk into Starbucks for her lunch sandwich. Those things that we take for granted, the ever-present child, is stolen away by the changes required by divorce.

And as always, it is a growth opportunity to me. It is a moment to pause and reflect. Remember not to fall into soulful revery and sadness. And pickup with the work to be done. But the pause IS important.

This is what we’ve lost.

And with so much to gain from the newly available time, the nights and weekends “off,” the opportunities to find what makes us GO again, there are still these little pauses, setbacks, to remember our own pain. And to walk on into what’s next.

This is not about them. It’s not about her. It’s about me.

The journey is long. And, for the most part, we travel alone. And we have choices about how we move and grow with the changes, losses, and new wins in our lives.

Time for a walk in the sun. The work will get done. The days will grow shorter. And another chapter is waiting to be created.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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The Good Side of Divorce – Making Things Go Easier

my son's observations of me

Sometimes it takes a 3rd party to show you how good you’ve got it. This weekend a sitter asked my kids to write a simple page about why they like me. Above is my son’s observation. (I’ll share my daughter’s in a later post about fathers and daughters.) A few of the things I am grateful for in my divorce (see it’s not all rant and rave):

  1. We don’t fight (we didn’t, but we still don’t)
  2. We always put the kids first (if I can be flexible and help her, it’s best for the kids. If I get more kid time as a result, so much the better.)
  3. She’s a great mom and I try and recognize that as much as possible. (She’s not just the mother of my children, she’s someone who I still care about deeply. And she has a huge responsibility with the SOP in getting them to school, fed, loved, and cared for. And she rocks it. Regardless of how my anger often blows out on this blog, I don’t…Try not to…let any of it fly her way.)
  4. I have a lot of time to grow myself into a better dad, a better lover (eventually), and a more responsive and expressive human.
  5. My kids and I can get silly for hours at a time. (some of the policing she provided, might not have been necessary. Now we don’t have it. I’m the police, jester, and mediator, all in one.)
  6. When I have my kids I am ON 100%. (Dating and all the crap that goes with finding a new relationship, takes a back seat to my kids. Always. I’m glad we have a 6-month before introducing a GF or BF rule, but I haven’t even gotten close. I’m not looking for “almost’ or “good enough” this next time around. I’m looking for extraordinary.)
  7. She takes the best care of them she can. (I was always amazed at the kid-centered activities she could come up with. She’s better with the school activities. She’s much better with painting and crafts with friends… She’s got a ton of great gifts that she is giving to them as well.)

+++ No buts.

My anger is my own. My kids are a shared resource and responsibility. My ex-y is a wonderful human being who is doing her best in the world.

We’re done, but we’re never DONE. Like it or not, she’s in my life for the duration too. Her eventual BF-to-husband, is merely a matter of time. Dr. Marriage Divorce Counsellor said, “The deciding parent is often a lot more able and willing to move on. They’ve been moving on long before the actual divorce happens.”

How that still makes me sad I don’t know. But she moved on. And the more I support her “what’s next” the better it is going to be for my kids. (It might still hurt, but that’s part of growing into this new world order, and getting on with what is good for me too.)

This blog aside, I keep my shit to myself for the most part. Maybe too much when we were married, to the detriment of my own happiness. But I don’t have to do that now. My anger is my own. My kids are a shared resource and responsibility. My ex-y is a wonderful human being who is doing her best in the world. It is my hope that The Off Parent is more about me and my struggles, joy, and recovery than it is a bitch-fest about her. Sure I can go there. But in the real world, I leave as much of it HERE as possible.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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