Well, I told some of my social media friends that I would be writing a summary of my 2014 dating experiences and what I learned from them. After all, I wrote one for 2013 that was pretty fantastic, if I do say so, myself. I had some incredibly meaningful relationships and some experiences that truly impacted my life straight out of the dating gate in 2013. I fully expected 2014 to be the year of only bigger and better things. Damn, I was cocky.
In looking back over 2014, what's stood out to me is that it seemed to be my year of giving second (third, fourth, etc.) chances. Some turned out, thus far, to be a good thing. Others didn't work out so well. Here's a recap.
You know the one. I oftened referred to him as "Cute Scientist" on Facebook. After seven months, though, he simply became known as "Fucker." He was neuroscientist #2 out of three, for those keeping count. I met him in January. It seemed like a great start to the year. He was a little different than most men I'd dated. Quiet, and a bit awkward even, I do believe I gave him the most chances of all, when it comes right down to it. I saw him for seven months. We all know how that ended. In case you don't, you can read about how he was married and I had no clue. I won't rehash that here. However, what I will mention in this post is that I know I gave that one far too many chances. He was emotionally unavailable and showed me time and again he didn't value my time. Yet I continuously gave him a pass. At the time, I excused his behavior as simply being quirks of his uber intelligence. Looking back, I now realize that I simply valued the comfort and consistency of having him in my life. He was routine. I saw him reguarly. We stuck to a pretty regular rotation of dates. Some may see it as boring. For me, it was comfort. When it comes down to it, though, that comfort wasn't worth sacrificing my dignity.
The Scientist That Came Back
The first man I dated after my separation was neuroscientist #1. It was a whirlwind of intense emotion. I loved that man fiercely. Then he went away. He had his reasons, but it hurt like hell. He was gone from my life for nearly a year. Then one day, out of the blue, I received an email from him. I didn't hesitate to let him back in my life. I have such an attachment to this person. I don't make genuine connections easily. So when I do, I tend to hold on for dear life. I welcomed him back without question. He's a complicated person, and it took some time for me to reconcile the nature of our relationship. So far, I have no regrets at giving this one a second chance and am content to have my friend back. Chalk one up for second chances.
The Local Man With an Air of Mystery
We dated before. It didn't work out. So why would I give it another shot? Well, if I'm being completely honest, I'd have to admit that it's because of the sexual chemistry we had, as well as his many talents. Also, while looking at things honestly, I realized that the main reason things didn't work with us the first time was due to a serious lack of communication. So when I saw him visiting my OkCupid profile multiple times, I sent him a message telling him that he could at least say hello if he intended to keep stopping by. That got the conversation rolling.
We set up a date and actually talked about some of the underlying reasons we didn't see eye to eye in our previous go round. Armed with our newfound information and understanding, we ended up having a fantastic time together. We've enjoyed each other's company on a different level from our last attempt and seem to be moving forward in a positive way. We're going slowlly and building trust in each other, which was much-needed. I'm looking forward to seeing where our newfound openness and understanding take us.
The One Whose Ego Is Bigger Than His Heart
There's another man I ended things with due to a disagreement. In fact the disagreement was actually more of a fight, and it was rather hurtful. I may have mentioned him in another blog post, referring to his tactics of disagreement as a "mindfuck." So don't ask me why I decided to reach out to him when I saw our match rating on OkCupid had gone up to a 99%. I though that maybe we could be friends, since we seemed to be so compatible in a lot of ways.
Our initial reunion was amicable. It was actually a comfort to have him back in my life. He sent me a friend request on Facebook and was there to "like" my posts and encourage me. It was nice. Until I posted something he disagreed with. It got quite ugly. I held my ground and explained my reasoning. He dug his feet in and continued to push his position. As it turned out, friends who had initially agreed with him actually ended up pointing out the flaws in his argument, as well as his style of making that argument. One woman even told him he was being a bully. Long story short, he ended up telling me we could no longer be friends and blocking me. But, truthfully, it was a relief to have had that argument occur publicly. It was validation that our earlier argument was not my fault and that I hadn't imagined his bullying tactics. Despite the fact that I belive the guy genuinely does have a big heart, his ego and need to be right are much bigger. Chalk this one up to a learning experience that second chances don't always work out.
So it seems the recurring theme of my romantic life in 2014 was "second chances." These are merely a few examples. There actually are one or two more instinces where second chances were given, either by me or by someone else, in my dating life. But these are the main ones. Navigating the decision of whether to let someone back in your life or to stick to your guns can be difficult. No one wants to allow themselves to be used or treated badly. And I do always advocate for following your instincts. If you think someone is bad for you, you're probably right. However, for the most part, I am inclined to give someone a second chance. Thankfully, important people in my life have afforded me a chance or two, or even three, over the years.
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I've had this post in my mind for some time now. In fact, it started out as an overall "what not to do" post based on my experience with online dating. However, it's come down to this one very specific piece of advice because this is probably my biggest pet peeve. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it doesn't really bother other women. Though my friends tell me it's annoying to them, as well. So it's a thing for at least a few of us. I call it the Hi Phenomenon because I see it so often on the dating sites.
It may seem that I'm being picky or outrageous in expecting a man not to say hello when he reaches out to a woman. That's not what we're talking about here. I'm referring to the messages that say simply, "Hi." That's it. Just, "Hi." Even the ones that say, "Hi. How are you?" confound me. What am I supposed to do with that? There are so many reasons why the Hi Phenomenon is such a turnoff for me.
It Tells Me Nothing
First and foremost, saying hello tells me nothing about you. Yes, of course I can look at your profile, but only if something compels me to believe I may be interested in getting to know you. A simple, "Hi" is not compelling. At all. However, a nice note telling me something about you and why you chose to get in touch with me would be great. That's all I'm asking for, and I don't think it's that much of an ask.
I Don't Have Time for This
Seriously. No one has time for the Hi Phenomenon. If you write, "Hi,' what am I supposed to write back? Please don't think we're going to go back and forth with one word exchanges. That is not going to happen. Ever. We're all busy people. If you have time for this type of single word, shallow interaction, I probably don't have time for you. As a single mom, my dating time is limited. I want to know that the person I'm choosing to spend that time with has more to say than just, "Hi."
Frankly, it really is just lazy for you to send me this one word. I realize that the men on dating sites send out more messages on average than the women do and that their odds of hearing back are not often that high. So I get that you may not want to compose a lengthy note when it's likely you may never hear back from a woman. I get it. I do. Think about it from our perspective. Don't you think you'd increase your chances of a reply if you give a little bit of yourself in that first message?
Which brings me to my next point. If all you have to say is, "Hi," I'm going to think there's not a lot going on in that pretty little head of yours. I want depth of character, someone who has a lot to say, a man with personality. "Hi" conveys none of that. It makes me think you have nothing to offer. You know what else? It makes me think you're going to expect me to do all the work. You get off saying just one word, and I'm expected to send a reply and actually carry the conversation. No thank you. I want to invest my time in someone who shows me right off the bat that he'll take some time to get to know me, not expect me to put forth all the effort.
So there you have it. Some reasons why it's not a good idea to contact a woman on a dating site with the tired, boring, lazy "Hi" message. I hope this has been helpful. It certainly was therapeutic for me. In fact, I think I'll pass it along to the five Hi Guys I got messages from today alone. Imagine how many I've gotten in the past year, and perhaps, you'll have an even better understanding of why I hate the Hi Phenomenon. Don't say, "Hi."
If you're my Facebook friend, you likely watched the saga unfold about a month ago when I found out that a man I'd been dating for seven months was married. I took to my wall with vague reference to the subject as an outlet, a way to vent. I didn't originally intend to disclose details of the matter. I was embarrassed that I could be so naive and blind. And for such a long time. I soon realized, however, that I wasn't the one who should feel shame. I gave of myself freely to this man. I was upfront about who I was, and I was supportive of who he was. It was he who was deceitful, manipulative, unethical and emotionally unavailable.
So, as with much of my life, I opened up on social media a bit about the situation. I told my friends and followers that I had been duped by this man. I let them know the basics of how I had come to learn of the deception. I commisserated with others who had been in similar situations. That's the reason I share so much on my Facebook page and on this blog. Because I know that, as humans, we encounter similar circumstances and that talking about them can help us all to heal and to move forward in a healthier way. Thus, I figure a month has passed, so maybe now is the time to expand on the story and to try to make sense of the lessons that can be learned from it.
The Back Story
I'll try to give a quick synopsis for those who haven't followed along. I started talking to him on a dating site this past winter. I read in his profile that he was a research scientist and briefly thought about the first man I had dated after my divorce who was also a research scientist. Then I contacted him. We had a high match, according to the site, and he was cute. He responded, and after some time we decided to begin talking off site using another online platform. That's when I learned his full name. Being a writer who relies on research, I headed to Google to see what I could learn. As he had indicated in his profile, this man was also a skilled musician. I came across some of his performance videos and was impressed. Then I saw his work bio and stopped dead in my tracks. Yep, sure enough he worked under the same institution and department as the first scientist. Hmmm... How should I handle this one? I hadn't been in touch with that first guy in months, and I thought about not mentioning it. But then I decided to let this scientist know about the first scientist so that there would be no secrets down the line. What if we hit it off and he should find out months later that I kept this information from him? Better to be upfront from the beginning. So I told him I had dated his colleague. He said he did know the guy but that they rarely saw each other. He wasn't concerned with details of my past, and we moved on.
We had our first date. I talked the whole time. He seemed shy and a bit awkward, kind of like you might expect of an overachieving scientist. I wasn't sure there'd be a second date, but there was something about him. He seemed so genuine. We went out again, and this quiet, reserved scientist began to grow on me. He was sweet and affectionate. And so cute. I began referring to him on Facebook as "Cute Scientist." I'd mention him in a post while I waited for him to arrive to our dates. My friends became interested in how things were progressing. I was interested in that, myself. He seemed a bit distant and reserved. I attributed that to his personality and left it at that, though there were times I felt a bit like he wasn't letting me in. I became used to this compartmentalization and convinced myself that it was okay. Our relationship was what it was, and it was actually comfortable. There was no reason to rush anything, I told myself. Why not just enjoy things as they are? After all, you can't push a person to change for you, right?
Follow Your Instincts
The first lesson I learned in all of this is to follow my instincts. Yes, we all know this one, but it sure is hard to do. However, I did follow my gut in one respect. I was tempted to date only this guy and to stop seeing other people. Dating can be exhausting, and I was tired of allowing myself to be vulnerable, quite honestly. I felt that this man, despite his affectionate side, was not giving himself fully to me. So I knew it didn't make sense to commit to someone who was so emotionally distant. While I may have slowed down on seeing others, I didn't completely close myself off to meeting someone new. Looking back on it, that's one of the things I'm most glad about. Had I devoted myself exclusively to this man, only to have been completely duped into thinking there was a chance at something real, I would have been more disappointed than I ultimately was. Always follow your gut. If something doesn't feel right, it's probably not.
I did follow my instincts when I started to feel that something wasn't adding up. I dug in and did a little more investigating. More than just a simple Google search. I looked at the people finder sites and took note of the names associated with this man as possible relatives. That's what led me to realize he had more children than he had told me about. There was another name associated with his profile. I thought it was a male name until I began to search for it and came up with a woman's Facebook page. Scrolling through, I saw that this woman had recently had a stroke. He told me once that he had to cancel a date because a friend had had a stroke. Okay, then. I continued to scroll. Then I came to the update I didn't want to see. The one in which she announced her new married name. It really does feel like you've been kicked in the stomach when you see something like that. It's even worse when you see photos of the man you've been intimate with on his wife's Facebook page. It hurt, and it was a disappointment. But I'm so glad I followed my instincts. Always follow your instincts.
People Are Not Always As They Seem
Deep down, I knew this. I've had so many experiences in which I've come to find out that I wasn't compatible with someone, either a romantic interest or even a friend. There have been times when others have disappointed me or outright been completely different than what they appeared to be. However, this one is the biggest eye-opener I've experienced. I truly believed this man was completely genuine and forthright. That's part of the reason I continued dating him, despite not being able to see him often or to really be a part of his life. When I wrote that blog post about what I want in a man, that whole section on "genuine spirit" was inspired by him. I was so wrong. So very wrong. This man I thought was so sweet and not a game-player like other men had been more deceptive than anyone I've encountered.
Never Allow Yourself to be Second
While I didn't know the entire seven months that this guy was married, I did know that he wasn't giving me adequate attention and was compartmentalizing me into slots of time that fit his schedule. I knew that his time with me was very separate from the rest of his life. I made excuses and allowed myself to settle for what I had convinced myself was our "comfortable routine." I told myself it was his personality to compartmentalize things, that he was a very private person. It's interesting the things we will convince ourselves of in order to avoid discomfort. Having had the last month to look back on the situation and to assess some of my other interactions with men, I've realized that I have allowed this to happen before, that I've accepted whatever time, affection or attention I could get from men on more than one occasion. In fact, it's been a pattern. It's rather depressing to acknowledge this and to admit the truth. It's also freeing, though. It's like now I can re-focus my energy and be aware of my past patterns, moving forward with intention to avoid making those same mistakes. I hope that I can.
So there's my story. It's not pretty. It kind of sucks. I just hope that it will help someone to look for signs they may have missed in a relationship or to go easy on themselves if they've experienced something similar. I'd love to hear your feedback. Has anything like this ever happened to you? What did you learn?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.
My oldest is 15 and is entering his Sophomore year of high school! Where on earth did the time go? I hold a Master's degree in College Student Personnel and have actually worked as a college academic adviser. I know quite a bit about the developmental stages adolescents experience in college, the kinds of coursework they should take for most programs and the kinds of struggles they may face adjusting to higher education. However, I must admit, that I don't have as firm a grasp on the college preparation process as I'd like. Particularly when it comes to my own child, who will be leaving the nest in only three short years. Just look at him. I sitll don't know when he became a young man.
So when it comes to preparing him for college, I am quite glad to be able to access resources such as the KapMap College Planner for Kaplan Test Prep. It breaks everything down into a month by month, easy to follow visual calendar that we parents can use as a guide to follow when helping our kids to prepare for college admissions. The map actually advises to begin planning Freshman year. As a former college adviser, I do agree that there are many things you and your high school student can begin doing this early to get ready for college.
Some recommendations to consider:
Consider leadership and volunteer opportunities. Colleges look for students with a wide array of interests and involvement. While there's no need to sign them up for every sport or to overextend them, it's a good idea to encourage your students to get involved in activities that genuinely interest them and to recommend they take on leadership roles.
Establish good study habits. This cannot be over stated, truly. College students need to be far more self-directed in their studies, so it's a good plan to teach them early about ways to study effectively.
Present yourself positively in social media. It's true. With all of its benefits, we all know that social media can have its downsides, as well. Remind your high schooler that future admissions officers, recruiters or hiring agents can view their social media history.
Think about taking the PSAT Sophomore year and begin studying the summer before. While not necessary, the PSAT is a good practice for the SAT, which a majority of colleges still utilize in determining admissions criteria.
Stay in touch with the school guidance counselor. This is probably the best resource for your child when it comes to being in the loop regarding college prep. The guidance counselor can provide information on when to register for entrance exams, recommend college admissions software like Navlance to start researching schools and act as a personal reference on admissions essays.
Begin visiting college fairs to get an idea of what's out there and what interests you. There may even be college fairs at your child's school. Chances are a local community college will hold one. These are a good opportunity to speak with college representatives and pick up school literature all in one stop.
Study for the SAT and enroll to take it. Again, this test is the one most schools to consider when evaluating a student for admissions.
Talk to other students who have gone through the process. If your chld knows an upper classman who has started college, advise them to chat with that person. Some firsthand knowledge is definitely beneficial.
Senior year is the time to send out those college applications and to fill out the FAFSA for financial aid. There is now a common college application that is accepted at many schools, which helps to streamline the process. A good college essay is required, as well. These steps will take time. So start early in the year. The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is not as overwhelming as it sounds and can be completed online.
Visit your top choice schools. If you can, it's a good idea to take a trip to visit the schools that are in the running so that you and your child can get a feel for which may be the best fit for them.
These are just a few of the highlights. The KapMap really goes into detail about how to prepare for college. Don't let it overwhelm you. It is very in-depth, but it's just a guideline. Approach the process in the way that works best for you and your child. There are some very good and thorough tips in this resource, though, and I must say I was impressed with the information.
Besides the KapMap, you'll find more information from Kaplan Test Prep online:
To any man I am currently dating or may date in the future, this is not an instruction manual or an itemized list of "must haves." I'm not idealistic or unrealistic enough to think you can pick and choose character traits of a partner as if they were items on a grocery list. This post is simply a personal reflection of what I've learned about myself regarding what's important to me in a romantic partner. I would never want another person to change simply to become what I desire them to be. Where's the fun in that?
** End of Disclaimer **
I began the process of online dating about a year ago with clear intentions. I wanted to be more social. I wanted to try new things. I wanted to meet interesting people. I wanted to get out more. Perhaps, most importantly, I wanted to date a lot of men. Yes, I said a lot of men. I specifically wanted to avoid getting into any serious relationships right away because I felt it was important to explore what was out there, to learn what was most important to me in a partner and to not settle. Here's a list, in no particular order, of what I've discovered I need in a significant other.
Just today I was talking with a girlfriend about that pesky question on OkCupid that goes something like this, "How often do you need to be in contact with your significant other?" The answer I run from is, "Everyday, unless otherwise specified." Because I don't necessarily want to talk to the person I'm dating every single day. And I sure as hell won't allow them to say that I must "unless otherwise specified." Communication is great. In fact, it's on my list here. It's important. However, my life is busy. I'm a single mom of three kids, and I work as a freelancer. I can't guarantee that I'll have time each day to be in touch with someone I'm dating. I don't want one more "obligation" on my to-do list, thank you very much.
Also? Along the lines of independence, I want a man who thinks independently and who knows that he is in control of his own life's circumstances. I cannot have a "partner" who doesn't act as such, one who needs to ask my opinion before making a single move or one who follows the crowd simply because it takes too much effort to use his own brain to come up with his own unique thoughts and opinions. Perhaps, most importantly, I need a man who knows that he is in charge of his own destiny, that he is not subject to the whims of a cruel world and that no one is out to make his life harder or to control him. Taking independent control of one's own life and circumstances is incredibly sexy.
Another big one on my list of important traits in a partner is that he put forth some effort on my behalf, at least as much as I'm giving him. I might as well also specify here that I need someone who puts forth effort even after they've gotten sex. Interesting how much sweetness, romantic gestures and meaningful words can be given until that first sexual encounter, and then those things seem to dwindle away. Wonder why that is?
That is definitely not what I'm looking for. I need someone who's going to continue to go above and beyond for me even after the sex. I should probably clarify that I don't mean I expect our give and take to be completely equitable at all times. Relationships aren't like that. Sometimes, one partner will have more time, energy and ability to do more of the giving, while the other may be in a position to be a bit more needy. However, I simply refuse to be the constant giver, the one who always worries about the other, the one one who asks what's wrong, the one who makes the plans, the one who puts forth the effort. You get the idea.
I grew up in a household where affection wasn't given openly, emotions weren't discussed and praise was very rarely handed out. So I know how hard it can be to talk about the rough stuff. Those things like vulnerable emotions or small criticisms can be difficult to express. I know. I also know that in order for a relationship to be healthy and to thrive, open communication is necessary. I can compromise to some extent. I will be understanding if it's hard for my partner to speak as freely as I do or to wear his heart on his sleeve. However, I place communication in the same category as going the extra mile or showing some effort. I need my significant other to be able to compromise his comfort level for me, to show that I matter, to go above and beyond in order to make sure we're on the same page and to work to avoid misunderstandings.
On a bit more trivial a level, I even hope that casual dates will grasp the importance of communication. I can't tell you the number of men who've just walked away from me without a word. I'm a grown woman. I promise not to fall apart if you tell me you no longer wish to see me. Honest. However, if you take the cowardly way out, I can't guarantee I won't show up unexpectedly with the intent of making you squirm just a wee bit. Especially if you've seen me naked. I tend to hold a guy accountable for a bit of forthright communication if he's seen me naked. I don't think that's too much to ask.
Yes, a little romance once in a while would be appreciated. I'm not saying I want someone to spend lots of money on me or indulge me with grand gestures constantly. That would defeat the purpose. When I think of romance, things like flowers for no reason or a sweet text actually come to mind. Not that I'd be opposed to a grand gesture. Whatever the romantic notion is, I want it to be genuine, not out of a sense of obligation or because it's some Hallmark holiday. The romance I want is the kind that lets me know he's thinking of me, that he took a little extra time to show me he cares. Genuine Spirit
The most appealing men I've dated have been genuine of spirit. The ones whose actions and words I don't question. I've come to find that's a rare thing. That's why I appreciate it so very much when I find it. The security and appreciation that come with not having to second guess a man's sincerity are simply immeasurable. When I find this kind of genuine soul, I value them highly and will work to keep them in my life. I may place this trait above all others, in fact.
Aw, affection. I love a hug or a snuggle. What about a kiss on the forehead or a caress of the arm? Those sweet little things seem to have gone by the wayside with many modern men. Not that raw sexuality isn't hot. I like that, too, as long as it's genuine and not forced. But a man who's not afraid to express himself and his emotions through honest gestures of affection and sweetness scores high points in my book. Let's not forget the post-sex cuddle. It's a must, don't you think?
Finally, a compassionate man is a must-have for me. Oh, hell, I might as well just say that if he's not socially progressive in his politics, it's an absolute deal breaker. I absolutely cannot spend my life, emotions and energy on someone who cannot sympathize with and care for his fellow human being. Of course, I want him to show compassion and understanding for my feelings and to be there for me when I'm especially vulnerable, sad or knocked down by life. It has to go beyond that, though. I absolutely need to be with someone who gives a damn about others, who values improving the plight of those who are struggling and who wants to make a difference in the world. That matters to me.
Again, please understand that I know it's unlikely I will find a man who demonstrates every single one of these traits. This list is mainly a reminder for myself of the kinds of things that are important. It's a list of self-discovery. After two failed marriages and a number of romantic encounters, I've come up with this list through my experiences. I suppose it's really just a reminder that I have learned, and am continuing to learn daily, what really matters in a successful relationship so that the next time I enter into one long-term, I'll be more confident that I'm ready.
Recently, I told someone that I've seen a number of people come in and out of my life over the past year since my separation and divorce. That statement really struck something within me. It was a revelation of sorts. I realized that through my dating encounters, starting life on my own as a single mom and through some complex family issues, I truly have experienced a great deal of loss lately. I didn't realize until that moment just what an impact these losses have had on me and what a part they've played in the roller coaster of emotions I've experienced.
After giving it some thought, though, it hit me that I've actually come out stronger for having experienced the loss of people from my life, either through my own choosing or through theirs. While it can surely be a painful process, it can also prove to be an awakening or a cleansing of sorts. Losing or purging people from your life can offer true perspective on just what kinds of influences you honestly want and need to surround you. And that realization can be pretty damn insightful. Here are some of the benefits I've discovered in letting people go from my life. While I'm primarily referring to the choice to remove someone from your inner circle, it's true that sometimes these positive feelings can come, in time, when someone chooses to walk away from you, as well.
A couple years ago, I wrote a post about shining despite the toxic people in your life. In that post, I detailed some ways to deal with and rise above the negative forces that exist around you. At the end, though, I acknowledged that sometimes it makes sense to just let someone go. Since the writing of that post, I've obviously made that decision when I chose to end my marriage. However, I've made the choice to remove other people from my life, as well, recently. One particular decision was even more difficult and emotional than choosing divorce. Despite the pain, the guilt and the feelings of loss, there eventually came an overwhelming feeling of empowerment. It's a powerful thing to hold your life in your own hands and decide just what you will accept into your world and what you absolutely cannot abide. I can't tell you when you should let go. That's a very personal matter. But I can tell you that the decision to do so can be incredibly liberating.
In fact, you may find that once you've dropped that emotional baggage, so to speak, from your day to day existence that you have more energy. Sometimes dealing with negativity, criticism, passive-aggressivness or other harmful behavior on a regular basis can truly drain our emotional reserves without our even realizing it. However, once we remove those toxic influences, we often come to find that we feel a lot lighter and more positive about ourselves and what we can accomplish. It's also incredibly energizing when you stop chasing others. That's a lesson I've taken to heart a number of times over the past year. I must admit that I can become easily attached, and I've found myself in situations where I'm expending more energy on another person than they are on me. That's a tireseome game to play, so I've decided to stop playing it. And you know what? I've been so much happier when I've made the conscious decision to stop the chase. In a few instances, the person actually did turn their energy back toward my direction, but in some cases, they didn't. When they disappeared, I realized that was okay and was likely meant to be. When you stop chasing people, you have a lot more energy for the important things and the connections who really matter in life. I think ending the chase may have been one of the toughest, but most rewarding, lessons for me as of late.
Finally, you'll likely find that it's simply a relief when you actually decide to no longer allow that negative force in your life. No longer having the weight of their presence hanging around your neck can actually feel physically freeing. I've found that feeling of intense relief is usually a sure sign that you've made the right decision. That's when you realize you're better off without that person than you were with them, that they were not enriching your life in any way. That's not to say you won't still struggle with sadness and guilt from time to time. You may, but that feeling of relief can be a concrete reminder of not only what is gone, but what you've taken back and what you've gained. Honor that feeling.
These are the biggest things I've taken away from seeing people come into and out of my life recently. While there is often pain involved in loss, I'm still open to letting people in, as I've discovered that making true, positive and supportive connections is worth the risk of dealing with the painful ones.
I'm 40, and I've been divorced twice. You'd think adjusting to being a single mom would be easier the second time around. Not so in my case. In fact, I think it's even harder this go around. After my first divorce, I held a regular job with decent pay and good benefits. I still struggled financially because daycare was expensive and my first husband was not in a financial position to pay child support at the time. However, I received a steady paycheck and never had to worry about how much money was coming in that week, unlike my current life as a freelancer. Also? I went from one relationship straight to another. I had the man who would become my second husband to depend on when I needed support of any kind, so I never really felt alone or overwhelmed. This time? Things are quite a bit different. Both of my exes are exceptional in handling their fatherly obligations, so thankfully, I'm not entirely on my own. However, much more seems to have fallen on my shoulders and to be weighing on them after divorce number two.
The weight of uncertainty on my daily life since going out on my own is crushing. Every day I feel it. Yes, money is a huge worry for me now. Things were tight before. Financial concerns were an issue. But now that I'm the primary wage earner for my kids, I feel the burden so much more. I can even empathize with the stress that my ex-husband must have felt when it was he who was primarily financially responsible for the family. However, as a freelancer, so many things can and do occur that affect the regularity of income I make. Believe me, though, I've considered every option. Given my areas of study and my time spent out of the traditional work force, my earning potential in a regular job with regular pay is not high. Even if I were to luck into a job that paid what my previous employment as a college adviser paid, I would still likely be struggling just as much due to the costs of daycare, gas, clothing and other job-related expenses. I've crunched the numbers. Several times. I've also considered the added stress of dealing with the commute, daycare pick up and drop off, running errands like grocery shopping after work, taking time off for appointments, worrying about how to pick kids up from practices and after school activities, time spent away from the kids... You get the idea. I just don't see that I'd be any further ahead financially or have any additional peace of mind by working outside the home at this particular stage, and I'd still likely be under the soul crushing weight of daily uncertainty. So for now, I will simply be thankful to have a flexible source of income, no matter how unpredictable it may sometimes be. The good news is that there is always potential for improving that income. It's not static, unlike most gigs in the traditional workforce. So I do feel optimistic about that.
The realization that I am responsible for every aspect of my family's daily life is another thing that is anxiety provoking for me. Thankfully, my big kids can help, and I depend on them to do so. They have chores, and they watch their little brother sometimes so I can run errands and get writing done. I do depend on them, and I'm so fortunate for that. However, other things that I took for granted have come up in my day to day and have given me more than a few wake up calls. Like the multiple times I got my car stuck in the driveway this snowy winter. There was no husband to call to help shovel me out. Nope, it was mostly all me, though sometimes my oldest son was around to lift some of the load. And the lawn mowing. This time, I relied on my Facebook friends for advice when it came to which kind of mower to buy. I had no clue. Yes, these seem like trivial problems, but they're ones I never really had to think about before. It is a change and an adjustment, especially when there are so many other changes occurring in my life.
Ah, guilt! Guilt and I are long-time friends. We've become particularly close over the last 15 years since I became a mother. We're inseparable besties nowadays after divorce #2. Mostly, I feel guilty about being at my computer so often, while the Wii or YouTube babysits my youngest son, my daughter is glued to her iPad and my oldest is locked in the dungeon with his computer. However, they actually say they like it, and I've taken some steps to make myself more accessible to them. One of the biggest changes I made was to transform my spacious, quiet, secluded office in the basement into my oldest son's room and stick my computer and desk into a small corner of my bedroom so that I can at least be closer to where most of the action is in the household. Guess what though? I actually like the coziness of the new space better. It's more warm and inviting, and I now feel like I'm more a part of the family activities than I did when I was stuck down in the basement. Noah, however, loves having his own space away from everyone else. So I've managed to take some practive measures to deal with that self-induced guilt trip. I'm working a little bit every day to tackle the others that are nipping at its heels.
My "corner office"
The rest of my "master suite."
Finally, there's the loneliness that comes with being a single mom. Don't get me wrong. There are definite advantages to no longer having to deal with the same arguments, stressors and issues with another person day in and day out. However, being the only adult in the house can be a bit lonely, especially when you work at home and rarely get out amongst other people. That's why I've pursued online dating. As I've talked about in other posts, I've definitely learned a lot about myself and about the kind of partner I'm ultimately looking for through the dating interactions I've had over the past year. I've enjoyed the company of some really incredible men who have a great deal to offer. It's been exciting and fun, as well as emotional at times. Dating is nice. It's been good for me to get out of my shell and to connect with others. That doesn't mean the loneliness doesn't still creep in sometimes, particularly at night when the house is quiet and still or when I've read about a dozen Facebook updates of my friends and their happy, intact family units. It can get a bit depressing, if I let it. Fortunately, I can usually snap myself out of it by reminding myself that I chose this life for a reason. And making a choice is an empowering thing.
So there you have it. These are just some of the emotions and life lessons I've encountered since my latest (last?) divorce. It feels so much better to have gotten them out and to be able to put some perspective on the swirling emotions that have threatened, at times, to drag me under. I really do think everything will be all right. Eventually.
For some really good insight on the life of a single mom, I think you should go visit my friend Pauline's blog. She's been doing this gig for a while now and has lots of fabulous advice to offer.
I've been blogging here at Everyday Baby Steps since 2008. However, I can't tell you the last time I updated my "About" page. I know I had intentions to do so. That's why it was marked, "Under Construction" for the longest time. I recall noticing one day that the photographs of my family that I'd placed on the page were terribly out of date, so I took the old page down. Well, finally, I've updated my "About" page, and I must say that I'm quite pleased with it.
There are some things I may like to tweak here and there, but it's a good start for now. I've included a bit about myself and the kids, with recent pictures. I listed some of my favorite highlights from the past several years in blogging, as well. So feel free to stop by and take a look at my new "About" page. Leave a link to your page if you have one. I love to read about my friends and fellow bloggers!