I heard the whispering when I began dating. I felt the stares. I saw the gritted teeth behind forced smiles. My face flushed through the awkward pauses and the stammering of those brave enough to broach the presence of (gasp!) my new man.
“I’m happy for you, but…isn’t it way too soon? You really should have taken time for yourself. I’m just worried about you, that’s all.” There it is. Judgement day.
This translated to one of five hidden meanings:
1. You must have been having an affair and it broke up your marriage.
2. You’re kind of a slut if you want to know the truth.
3. There’s no way you ever loved your husband if you’ve moved on “this fast.”
4. I don’t approve of you seeing someone right now. It makes me uncomfortable
5. You clearly have lost your mind.
The people that had a problem with me dating weren’t lonely, they weren’t sad and they had certainly never been divorced. They were going home and eating meatloaf and mashed potatoes with their families and spooning their spouses at night. They hadn’t haggled with their neighbors while selling everything they owned on their front lawn or listened to the wheels of their grill while it was dragged down the street to its new home. Their spouse hadn’t decided that their birthday was the only day he was able to meet to divide their assets. They weren’t sitting home alone on Christmas Eve because they had nowhere to go. It’s a loneliness that couples who spend their weekends doing fun couple things can’t possibly understand.
Ten years ago this August I was preparing to send my first born son Kyle off to college at the University of Central Florida. For about 300 days a year, Kyle was going to be 9 hours and 7 minutes away by car, 1 hour and 50 minutes away by plane and 13 hours and 4 agonizing minutes away by train. Not that I had counted. Though the thought of paying out of state tuition was scary, the thought of how little time I had left with Kyle under my watchful eye – and how much space would soon separate us – terrified me even more.
The crying began two days before Kyle turned 18. I was in the grocery store, rounding the corner of aisle 11. I came across the cute little jars of baby food, the pacifiers, and the diapers. My emotions started reeling like a grocery cart with a bum wheel.
I used to be the one to feed him, to soothe him and to well…you know…wipe him.
I felt sick and sad. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t wiped him in 15 years and that he wouldn’t hold my hand or hug me even if I paid him. By the time I got to the frozen food section I had the ugly cries. Tator Tots and Bomb Pops shouldn’t be so damned tragic. Clean-up on aisle 18.
When couples separate they often share the same house or apartment long after the decision is made to go their divergent ways. My divorce was no different. We played an awkward game of suburban chicken while we both saved for a down payment on a new life.
Living together for months amidst our memories, we rested our heads at night on broken glass.
Finally, my ex screamed, Uncle. Uncle “Phil,” that is.
Ten years after my husband and I were married my college roommate married his Uncle Phil, and became my Aunt “Liz.” (Read that a few times until it makes sense. I’ll wait.) When the time came for my husband to move out of our home, “Liz and Phil” were our Switzerland. My ex had his uncle to help with the heavy lifting and my aunt came to steady me.
Phil gathered us in the kitchen and told us he had something important to say. He lovingly told us that nothing had happened yet that couldn’t be reversed or unpacked– that we could still make things right – that we could try harder. Phil said he knew in his gut that as soon as the first table or nightstand made it onto the truck that it was over, and that
this didn’t have to end with sore backs and dusty corners.
Dating is hard enough without being middle aged, divorced, and weighed down with more baggage than a senior citizen on a 40-day repositioning cruise. With age brings laugh lines, AARP discounts, saggy boobs, and perspective. I’m probably needier than most women, but I want an exceptional life and an exceptional love to share it with. I’m not afraid to ask for what I need and I’m fortunate to have found a man who isn’t afraid to give it to me. I won’t pretend to know what’s going on in the hearts and head of all divorced women. But, I’ve had dinner with a lot of them.
And their hearts are breaking because their heads are telling them their current relationship isn’t giving them what they need. And their heads are winning. Guys, if you love a divorced woman, let this be your light bulb moment.
1. Divorced women have been loved and left, or we left because we weren’t loved. Or some variation of that. Let that sink in a moment. Regardless of which side of the bed we found ourselves on, the marriage was lacking – likely for a long time. And we’ve been thinking (obsessing…) about what we want in a partner very carefully. We have a list. Warning – it’s long. You might as well ask us for it up front and think about if you can be that guy.
Our settling days are over. If we don’t get what we want and need, we will probably move on. Most of us would rather be alone than go without what we need again.
52 years ago today a 19 -year old girl gave birth to me. She held me, she fed me, and then she gave me away.
My parents reinforced from an early age that being adopted meant that I was loved twice, blessed double. They told me that I was born to a girl who loved me beyond measure but couldn’t provide me the life I deserved. My mom and dad gushed that they had wanted me more than any other baby in the whole wide world. The first images that lived in my tiny brain of the adoption process were of my parents in a baby store (Cute Babies R Us – One Per Customer) scanning thousands of smiling faces, readily and joyfully settling on mine.
On October 28th, 2013, I was cleaning out my garage on what would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday. I was six years into counseling, clearly lingering at my own pace, making progress in my own time, trying to figure out who I was before life had its way with me. I put in my ear buds, strapped on my iPod and started digging into the pieces of our marriage and family that had built up in the garage and in my head from the past 25 years. Continue reading
I felt the eyes of an older gentleman behind me in line at Home Depot staring at the purple splotches on my arms that were peeking out from underneath my long sleeved shirt. As I yanked on my sleeves to cover the imperfections, he looked at me with concern and said,
“My wife had bleeding like that when she wasn’t much older than you. She died a short time later. Are you sick like that?”
I replied with a weak smile and said,
“Gee, I sure hope not.”
A few years ago my husband and I ended our marriage of 26 years. It was my fault, it was his fault, it was my decision, it was his decision. We both own so many bits and pieces of it that it’s difficult to remember where one disappointment ended and another began. We wanted it over and we wanted it never to end. We desperately needed our family preserved, but for either of us to survive, something had to change.
For some, divorce might be easy. But for most of us, it’s not. My personal journey stretched over daily prayers, years of therapy, a good portion of the Barnes and Noble self-help section and a lot of wine and chocolate.
The divorce hit me hard, differently, but no less devastating than the loss of my parents. When they passed, friends and family talked about what beautiful people my parents were, the way things used to be and the life changes that were to come. There was a marking of their time on earth, talk about the significance of the loss, and casseroles – lots and lots of casseroles. I went through similar stages of grief with my separation and divorce. I kept waiting for the cards, the phone calls, the turkey tetrazzini…but they never came.
As a woman of uncertain means, I’ve ventured into new experiences using discounts from sites like Living Social and Groupon. The list of sources I like massages from is a short one – my boyfriend (still waiting), my daughter, and the chair at the nail salon. Though I have had a few massages from strangers, they tended to leave me feeling a bit less touched by an angel and a bit more ‘where have your hands been and what are you thinking of?’
I didn’t think it could happen to me.
If I could choose one mindset that succinctly sums up most of my life it would be those eight words. The unimaginable.
A near fatal blood kidney disease was the last thing I would have thought I’d deal with my junior year of high school (so were the hickeys I gave the guy I was kinda seeing the night before his confirmation.) I didn’t think I’d be married by the age of 21 or have three children by the age of 27. I wouldn’t have wished that my youngest child was autistic, but it happened all the same. It would have hurt too much to imagine I would lose both of my parents by the age of 38, just six years apart, or that my mother-in-law would be murdered in 2001. I would have been devastated to think I’d be divorced by the age of 49.
And I certainly never thought I’d take a 14,500-foot skydiving leap as a way to cope.
I never dreamed I’d be dating a hunky fireman at 52 (well….I might have fantasized once or twice after a few glasses of wine) or that I would be sending vaguely inappropriately pictures of New Kids on the Block to my best friend each night, a 48-year-old woman with special needs.