Last Call

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This will be my last post on this blog. I haven’t posted in a while and kept telling myself that I was just taking the summer off and I would get back to it, but the truth is that the blog has served its purpose. Almost two years ago I started this blog to process the pain of divorce, to share the joys and challenges of single motherhood, and to connect with other people going through the same experiences. I feel I have accomplished all these things. Though there is still residual heartbreak from everything that has happened, most of me is healed now. I don’t need the daily therapy of writing things down. I don’t even think of myself as a “divorced person” or a “single mother” anymore, even though I am still both of those things. Life feels pretty normal again, and for the most part, I am happy.

This blog has been my greatest form of therapy in difficult times. I’m grateful for all the friends and strangers who reached out with kind words and for the times people called me out when I was being selfish. I’m glad I was able to share some personal experiences and I hope that in doing so I helped some people not feel so alone.

Probably the most important lesson I have learned over these past two years is that time heals pain even when it seems like the wounds will never heal. Our worst moments in life are often followed by our best and that has certainly been true for me.

This will be the end of this particular blog, but I am working on other writing projects and will probably resurface somewhere else on the web. Thank you to everyone who was a part of my journey.

Love,

Tessie

When It Comes to Dating, Confidence Is Everything

My last post was a bit of a downer about all the awkward situations I have found myself in recently on dates. I’m happy to report that since writing that post I have taken stock of my situation and decided to dedicate this summer 2016 to one goal: to conquer my fear of dating.

I’m not looking for love or a boyfriend. I just want to learn to feel confident, to recognize the good things I have to offer a potential date, and to relax and enjoy what should be a fun and freeing activity.

To usher in the new era, a friend took me on a shopping spree to buy new clothes, makeup and perfume. Now, those of you who know me are probably thinking “whaaaaat??” I’m notoriously shopping-averse. But it’s not really about needing makeup or fancy perfume to feel beautiful. It is more a symbolic gesture, something to take me out of my comfort zone and create a sense of novelty. Since I’m trying to build confidence, it’s helpful to wear something new that reminds me to separate these experiences from the ones before.

I also made the big decision to allow my daughter to spend the summer with her father. Normally I wouldn’t want to be separated from her for so long, but I recognized that part of my anxiety around dating had to do with the difficulty of dating as a single parent. For a fulltime custodial parent, spending an evening out takes time, effort and money so there is pressure for the experience to be worth the investment. Many times I would choose to spend a precious evening out with a close girlfriend instead of a date, since I was guaranteed to have a good time with the friend. Online dating only exacerbates this situation. People you meet online are often very different in person than you expected, so that increases the chances of disappointment and feeling that the date is not “worth” the effort to find and hire a babysitter. But now, with my daughter away, the investment in a single date is minimal, so I am more able focus enjoying it.

Another strategy that is helping to build confidence is that I am dating lots of different people, plus making time for friends and even going out some nights alone. The variety of people and experiences takes the pressure off any one date. When I was dating a new person once every couple months, expectations were higher – and often not met. But now, if Tuesday’s date doesn’t go well, I have another on Wednesday, so it’s not a big deal. (Ironically, this has made all my dates go much better because I’m more easy-going and fun).

Since setting this goal for myself about three weeks ago, I have already seen enormous changes in how I feel and act on dates. I’m much more relaxed. I haven’t bolted halfway through a date, ignored anyone’s texts, or gotten skittish. In fact, it’s been fun! Yay for summer and learning to conquer fears!

The Hardest Part of Dating After Divorce

This might sound strange, but the hardest part of dating after divorce is being so bad at it. I have been trying to go out with different people lately and the only thing the “dates” seem to have in common is that I do something stupid and regret it afterwards. With one guy I was having great chemistry and conversation until a friend (who was with us at the time) starting teasing me about finally talking to someone, and I was so embarrassed that I ignored the guy (the one I liked) for the next several days. Once my head cleared, I was shocked and pretty miserable at my own immature reaction. I don’t know why I let the friend get under my skin so much when he was really only being encouraging.

On another date things were going pretty well, but as the night wore I on got so nervous that my “date” might try to kiss me that I just got up and left rather than face the awkwardness of turning him down. Later I realized that I could have just told him nicely that I wasn’t ready to kiss yet. Duh.

There have been a couple others who have tried calling or texting and I’ve ignored them rather than extend the courtesy of explaining that I’m not interested. That’s rude and I would hate it if someone did that to me. I don’t know why I act like this. It’s like being in permanent flight mode, incapable of thinking of a rational response to certain advances until hours, or even days too late.

It is especially disconcerting because all the emotions I feel when dating – awkwardness, incompetency, even fear – are feelings I don’t usually encounter in other areas of my life. I have good friends, a stable job, and a decent level of competency in most activities I choose to do. I am used to feeling confident and self-assured. Dating turns me into a person I don’t even recognize and I am often surprised and embarrassed at my behavior. It’s hard – and humbling – to be forced to stare one’s own emotional immaturity in the face.

I guess the good news is that there is a lot of room to grow and I look forward to the day when I can feel confident in this area as well and look back and laugh at all the silly things I once did.

Why Is It So Hard to Find Relationships?

When my husband of six years decided that he wanted a divorce and left me to raise our daughter alone, I was devastated. However, I also felt a deep sense of relief and optimism. For a long time my husband had basically treated me like a roommate. At 28 years old, I was frustrated and very, very scared at the thought of living the rest of my life like that. I regretted marrying so young. While most of my peers had spent their 20s dating and exploring before settling down, I had been faithful to one man who was done with me before I was 30. I felt doomed.

So divorce, in a way, meant opportunity. It meant a second chance to meet new people and feel like a woman again. I was young and assumed it wouldn’t be too hard to find people to date. Long-term relationships would be difficult, I reasoned, since it’s rare to make deep connections and of course the divorce had left me with a child and some trust issues. But I didn’t need to worry about anything long-term just yet. This was my time to have a little fun.

I had this fantasy about being able to enjoy dating different people, but things haven’t turned out quite like I had hoped. Almost two years now after the divorce, I am bewildered at how difficult it is to find even basic chemistry with another person. Forget deep compatibility – I’m talking just “hey, you’re cute and kind of fun so let’s hang out tomorrow afternoon.” I had imagined that there would be lots of these opportunities and that the tricky part would be to weed through them to find someone with whom to form a truly meaningful relationship with long-term potential.

It’s frustrating and disappointing to discover that even basic chemistry is really hard to find – never mind anything beyond that. The silver lining on my divorce hasn’t turned out to be so silver after all.

Why I Haven’t Been Writing

Last year around this time I was writing blogs almost every weekday consistently. But lately I’ve had trouble summoning the discipline to write even once a week. Part of it probably has to do with the warm weather returning. After awaking from winter hibernation, I am more inclined to do fun activities than sit at a computer (which I do a large part of the day anyways for work). But I’m realizing that it’s not just spring fever that has kept me away from the keyboard.

I started this blog to write about the experiences I was going through as a newly divorced, single mother. But the thing is – I don’t really feel like a divorced, single mom anymore. Don’t get me wrong – I am still all of those things, but lately, life just feels like life.

I don’t feel the pain of divorce acutely anymore. None of those immediate post-divorce necessities (moving and downsizing, adjusting to life as a single parent, letting go of resentment towards my ex) are present. Since my ex-husband barely calls, he seems more like a distant ex-boyfriend than the father of our child. I don’t think about him much and when I do, I don’t feel angry. Thoughts of him or us or what went wrong don’t plague me like they used to. I don’t feel compelled to write about divorce anymore because I don’t really feel divorced. I just feel like a normal person.

I am still single and I suppose I could write about trying to date, which I’ve been doing unsuccessfully, but I don’t really think everyone needs to know about every date, nor do I want every guy I meet to fear he will wind up dissected on my blog. I am also still a mom, but there are so many mom blogs I sometimes wonder what’s so special about mine.

My best blog posts came from a place of pain, when I was hurt and confused and needed to process what was happening. But that pain is gone and life is so normal that it doesn’t seem worth writing about. There is still plenty of excitement – some great travel escapades, fun moments with friends, joys and frustrations of raising a 2-year-old, drama at work – but those are things that don’t necessarily pertain to being separated or a single parent.

I do feel guilty about not writing. I have this inner war with myself all the time.

Voice 1: This is good! You don’t need to write as much because you are healing! You are doing things that make you happy. Don’t ruin it for yourself by feeling that you have to be productive every second of every day.

Voice 2:If you want to be a writer someday, you need to work for it. If you want progress, you have to sacrifice. Your life isn’t any richer because you gave into your whims and watched that TV show.

I do think overall that it’s a good sign that I don’t feel compelled to write about divorce or single parenthood anymore. And it’s a message of hope to others who are still in that dark place: there will come a day when the raw hurt has disappeared and life will feel normal that it’s not worth writing about 🙂

The Moment I Realized I Was Lonely

People sometimes ask if it feels lonely being a single mother. I usually answer that although it’s difficult to raise a child alone, I don’t feel lonely. I have good friends and co-workers and a giggling toddler to keep me company. I enjoy my job, my apartment, my life and keep busy enough and social enough to not want for companionship.

The person usually gives me a patient smile. “I mean a different kind of lonely.”

Ah.

For the most part, forgetfulness has spared me that pain. Such a long stretch of solitude and crumbling marriage have elapsed since the last time I was in a romantic relationship that I have only fuzzy memories of what it feels like to love and be loved by a man. It seems like ages ago, like love was just the silly infatuation of a college girl.

That is, until a recent, very brief interest in a guy I started (and then stopped) seeing made all those memories come roaring back. He reminded me of how good it feels to be in a new relationship (and how abruptly that rug can get yanked out from under you). For a short time I felt all those things I’d forgotten about – the excitement over a phone call or a text from him, the obsessive daydreaming, the anticipation of seeing each other. He reminded me of what I don’t have. And now, for the first time since my divorce, I feel lonely.

The loneliness crept up at the park today. I’ve been taking my daughter to parks every weekend for a long time, but today was different. Today I noticed that everyone else at the park was a young couple with children my daughter’s age. I noticed the way they tag-teamed to take care of their little ones, how they shared the joy of their childrens’ delight at the playground, how they smiled at each other. Watching them, I felt jealous and mildly depressed.

It upsets me that something as innocent as spending a brief time with a guy I liked would have such unpleasant, lingering side effects. (Nothing about men is safe! Ugh!) I was fine until he showed up. I was happy and didn’t think about what was missing. I was open to the idea of a relationship if the right person came along, but I wasn’t really looking for one. But now, I remember it and I want it again.

Of course my pro-active side wants to go out and find someone immediately. But I should probably just wait for the memories to pass. I’ll forget again soon.

Falling Back Into Bad Relationship Habits…And Breaking Out of Them

I did a stupid thing the other day. I fell right back into an old relationship habit that has always landed me in trouble – I convinced a guy who had already said he didn’t want to be with me that he should give me another chance.

 

Clearly I have issues here. Each time a boyfriend has ever broken up with me, I have coaxed him back…at least for a little while. I think it has to do with pride and wanting to be in control, two of my greatest vices. It feels good to wield that kind of power over someone else (and of course it feels terrible to be rejected). But the problem is that each time I successfully convince a man to take me back, the balance of power shifts in his favor (ironically, since my actions stem from a desire for control). Each time we get back together the invisible threat of a future breakup looms over my head and I feel like I have to work extra hard to ensure that I don’t get dumped again. That means being everything I think he wants me to be – beautiful, funny, fun, outgoing, sexy. It takes a lot of work to keep that up all the time and it is stressful and unhealthy to feel that if I’m ever not all of those things (if I show up in sweat pants and a bad mood one day, for example) that might be all it takes to get kicked to the curb once again.

 

So that bad news is that a few days ago I did convince a guy who had told me he did not want to pursue a relationship that he should reconsider. And once again, I succeeded in winning him back, but the balance of power had clearly shifted. That old voice whispered my head. Well, he is clearly not as into me as he was before, but no matter, I’ll dazzle him and the old interest will come back.

 

The good news is that this time, probably for the first time in my life, I recognized this voice for what it was – self-destructive. And I ended it after just a few days. This was hard for me, but I’m proud of myself because this is progress. I am starting to recognize my worth and to stop apologizing. If a man doesn’t want me, I don’t need to prove myself to him or impress him with some fake charade that is exhausting to keep up in the long term. I just need to move on. And I think I am finally learning how to do that.