Love After Divorce: A Reflection on a Journey, Part 1

I was on Terri Trespicio’s radio show, How to Click?, last week. Her questions had me reflecting on the journey that has taken me from married to single to dating to engaged over the past few years. Yes, that’s right, I said engaged:) But, more on that later! I am always asked how I managed to go from a huddled heap on the floor in the moments after the text that ended my life as I knew it to a new, healthy relationship where I can love and trust and be vulnerable again. I’ve realized I’ve shared much about the divorce and even the dating but not much about what got me to this place. So, here goes!

I signed up for Match.com the winter after my July disaster. I truly had no expectations of finding anyone. In fact, I kept myself safely tucked behind the twin shields of my story and my planned upcoming move across the country (and the spreadsheets). I was dating for practice; I had never done it as an adult. I saw it as fun, informative, and a distraction from the pain. I went on many dates, usually 6-7 a week. Many were first dates, but I did see some guys on a repeated basis. One guy, we’ll call him John, managed to slip through some of the defenses I had erected. I slowly starting seeing him and not committing to as many dates with others.

I was drawn to the fact that John had a confident way about him that made me feel taken care of and he was not afraid to challenge me. He quickly spotted my analytical shield and worked to lower it by always greeting me with, “How do you feel?” And, he wouldn’t take my wishy-washy answers. I liked that challenge, especially because my ex never really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. What’s interesting, is that the confidence and smooth capability I was drawn to also scared me. It kept me from ever trusting him. It soon became clear that his idea of relationship perfection was for me to be a kept woman, staying at home while he supported us, which he was very capable of doing. This idea turned my stomach, however. Not only do I never want to be without my own source of income, I also can’t handle the thought of being held to another because of the need for financial security. Those were his fears coming out – a way for him to make sure that he was never abandoned. My unwillingness to be bought eventually caused him to do a disappearing act. That doesn’t go over too well with a woman whose husband did the same less than a year earlier.

Rewind to the beginning of Match Madness. One of my early dates was at a coffee shop (after a night spent in Athens. GA with John – I told you it was crazy!) with a man named Brock. There was an attraction between us immediately, yet we both had turn-offs about the other. He thought I was too conservative and too closed off. I thought he was self-centered, bordering on rude. Luckily, we both recognized that there was more there and that, in both cases, the offensive behaviors were coming out of fear and self-protection. We shared stories, talked about geeky science stuff, and talked about crazy dating experiences (he had way more stories than me at that point!). I may have written him off except that when he talked about his dog, a German shepherd he had to put down the prior year, he teared up. Tears fell down his face in a public venue with a new woman and he let them fall unapologetically. I was intrigued.

Brock and I fell into the habit of evening phone calls on the nights I wasn’t out with someone else. I remember lying on the green flannel sheets in the spare bedroom I occupied at my friend’s house, sounds of baby and kitchen life coming up the stairs, while Brock and I talked about everything and nothing. Through those conversations, he learned I was not nearly as conservative as he initially thought and I started to open up more. I learned that his ADD nature was what led to the behavior that I initially  interpreted as rude and that he was the rare person who was confident (in most areas and willing to admit when he wasn’t) and that the bravado was not hiding deeper insecurities. We eventually met for a second date at his friend’s Superbowl party. We had a good evening, but not much quality time between the game and all of the other people. When he walked me to my car at the end of the evening, he tried to kiss me. I turned away, leaving his lips on my cheek as I stayed in the embrace. I know, I know. He still doesn’t let me live that down!

Why did I turn away? This was at a time where John had established himself at the top of the Match pack. But still, I never committed exclusivity to anyone. I used my discomfort about John being in the picture as my excuse, but I wonder if I was aware that more was brewing with Brock and I was afraid of what that would bring?

Weeks later, John pulled his disappearing act. Brock happened to call on the night I realized what had occurred. He could tell I was upset and inquired as to the reason. I told him he didn’t want to know since it dealt with another guy. Well, not only did he say he wanted to know, he stayed on the phone with me for hours as I dealt with the emotions of anger and abandonment triggered by another disappearance. That was an important night for us – he saw me vulnerable and I got to see his character.

He cemented the deal soon after when he emailed me a picture of the puppy he had recently adopted. Smart man. He knew I couldn’t resist the dog. Just before my spring break, we went on our first “real” date. I met him at his house and after plenty of Tiger love, we went to dinner in downtown Roswell. We had both softened by that point, no longer operating behind our shields. When he moved to kiss me in the town park after dinner, I happily reciprocated.

I left soon after to go to Seattle with a friend over my school break. Brock and I stayed in contact. He made the first of many moves that week that eventually gained my trust (not an easy task after my experiences). He divulged some information that he could have kept hidden and I may have never known. However, he could not let things go further without telling me everything. The information didn’t bother me; it was outshined by the fact that he wasn’t prone to concealing things I may not want to hear (as my ex was apparently wont to do). Gold star for that one!

The second step on the path to trust came soon after. He was out of town for the day and asked me if I would stop by his house and take care of Tiger. Here I was, alone in the house with all of its papers and computers, only weeks into the relationship. I mentioned before that I’ve never been a snooper, but the fact that he trusted me around his stuff (and his dog) and didn’t feel like he had anything to hide made me comfortable. I’ve also talked about how Tiger helped me trust – dogs can’t lie and their temperament reveals much about their owner.

I was still dating others; he made it exclusive before I was ready to. He was patient with me. He knew that I had not had much dating experience and that I needed to end Match on my own terms. It  wasn’t always comfortable with him but he never made me feel like I needed to hide or do things differently.

 

We had a huge crossroads looming on the horizon – I was planning on moving to Seattle at the end of the school year. Here’s how crazy this was. We really didn’t start to date until April. School ends in May. I had already put in notice at my current school. I made the decision to apply for some local jobs and, assuming I got one, commit to staying in Atlanta for a year so that we could give the relationship a chance to develop beyond its infancy. I secured employment and moved from my friend’s house into an apartment down the street from Brock all in a three week span. That was scary. We didn’t want to push things, didn’t want to move quickly, but those first few steps came fast and furious out of necessity.

We became exclusive early that summer. I had no problem leaving Match behind; I no longer was interested in anyone else. We moved slowly as far as emotional intimacy is concerned. I was still having some bad days and the anger was very near the surface.He helped me during the rough patches (I remember a night where he gave me a quick boxing lesson and then left me to attempt to decimate his heavy bag as I dealt with the anger from more financial unfairness from the ex), but he didn’t coddle me. He made it clear that he was uneasy with the healing I still had ahead of me and that I wasn’t nearly as far along on that journey as I claimed to be.

He was also scarred from a past relationship and had never really been in a healthy partnership. I think it worked because we were both patient with the other and honest the entire time. I worked on moving through my pain and anger and he worked on being a partner. We never pushed. He told me he loved me one evening while we were in the car just before we pulled out of the garage to go to dinner. I responded by folding into him. He said, “I know you’re not ready to say it yet. It’s okay.”

I wasn’t ready that night, but eventually I was.

 

Love After Divorce: A Reflection on a Journey, Part 2

Thank you for sharing!

40 thoughts on “Love After Divorce: A Reflection on a Journey, Part 1

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I really needed to hear a story like this right now. A year and a half out of my divorce and I am burnt out from the dating world. I just spent a trying year in the dating scene going on too many lacklustre dates with people who were “okay” but no one who made me feel anything. Recently, I was on the verge of making the decision to accept permanent single status as I was feeling so disillusioned with starting new relationships. Reading this post today gave me that little bit of hope I needed to not willingly accept this disillusioned state I’ve come to. It’s even got me thinking too “what are me defences I have?” Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome:) I hesitated to share this part of my journey because I didn’t know if it would have much value. Thank you for showing me otherwise.

      I can understand being disillusioned. I think you’re right to look at your own defenses. Regardless of the people who meet, your own barriers will stop you short every time. I know – I’ve been there:)

      Dating is like so much else in life. If you try too hard, it seems to elude you. But, if you can approach it with curiosity and willingness, you may just find what you want.

  2. ourlifein3d – Life In 3D started as my Daddy Day Dare. I became a stay at home Dad years ago. My fast-paced professional life was thrown in reverse as I taught phonics and watched yet another episode of Dora The Explorer. Now, many years later, my girls are starting to grow up a little. 'Cute and cuddly' is being replaced with homework, spankings and braces. Check in from time to time to see how this experiment continues to evolve. See if I can survive as the only male in the house. I will offer our stories on the girls' escapades; never dull and hopefully amusing!
    Our Life In 3D says:

    Congratulations on your engagement! 🙂 That is fantastic! I hope you find your peace and happiness, if you haven’t already. Then I hope you find even more…

  3. Dating is very difficult, especially at my age– 53. I went on some dates I met on OKCupid— nice enough guys but no magic. I met my boyfriend at the coffee shop where I spend time working on my book– it was a natural, not planned or anticipated meeting. It just happened the old fashion way. When we feel ready, at peace with ourselves and have moved past the confusion– we open ourselves up to all minds of adventures and possibilities. I am so happy to hear your wonderful news!!!!

    1. Thanks!

      I swear there is is something magical about coffee shops:) I agree that so much comes down to our mindset – we have to accept ourselves before we can truly accept another. I’m glad to hear you’ve reached that place in your journey.

      Good luck with the book!

  4. Heather – Nashville, TN – I'm an almost 30 something divorcee attempting to survive the worst crisis of my life with the help of God.
    Heather says:

    Thanks for this post! I haven’t stepped back into the dating world yet, but this post gives me hope. 🙂

  5. wanderlustryramblings – Blogging has always been a cathartic experience for me. There is something about seeing your thoughts, dreams and desires in black and white. Writing down the multitude of thoughts passing through my mind every second almost gives the thoughts a sort of finitude. So here I have come to blog about the events and happenings that have affected my profoundly and will continue to affect my life as I endeavor to move on. I am also here to write about anything and everything that will help those like me seek solace in the understanding that they are not alone to ultimately begin to deal with their own pain and sense of loss.
    wanderlustryramblings says:

    Congrats on your engagement!!! I am sooo happy for you and extremely glad that you put up this post especially when there are so many who are hesitant of getting back into the dating scenario for the fear of getting hurt again. But here you are, after overcoming your fears and anger and showing us that there is definitely a silver lining to every cloud. A huge hug!!! 🙂

  6. hurthealer – Having overcome a 20 year battle with depression and alcoholism, ‘The Hurt Healer’ celebrates my life today filled with faith, love, healing,serenity, joy and creativity. For many years I called alcohol ‘The Hurt Healer’. It helped numb me from the pain of being abandoned as a child by my mother and abused by my father. It gave me confidence to deal with the present and took away my fear of the future. But my addiction also kept me trapped in a cycle of despair and hopelessness. It is nothing short of a miracle that I am alive today, but I have found freedom in sobriety and have overcome chronic depression. Your past doesn't have to define your present, so join me on an inspirational journey to live life as the person you were meant to be.
    Carolyn Hughes says:

    What a beautiful post! It is filled with so much hope and promise. Wishing you all the best.xo

  7. heightened1 – Single career mom of awesome twins working diligently at a Fortune 500 company, loving the Lord along the way. Trying to do right, stumbling, and getting back up. Sharing my perspective on life here, mainly to sort my thoughts but maybe it will help others too.
    heightened1 says:

    You are an amazing writer. It’s like I’m reading a novel. I can’t get enough. But, I too must to meet my love and carry on tomorrow… or later tonight. 🙂

  8. Hi there I am so glad I came across your story. I am 23 soon to be 24 in August and I am going through this thing right now with a guy I met at work who I have very strong feelings for. He has claimed he didn’t want a relationship and to make a long story short things were going good until he blew me off one day in November. He has proven he is a great guy with his actions and I blew the whole thing out of proportion and said mean and hurtful things to him. Mostly through text msgs. So at work and outside of work we haven’t talked but a few days ago I told him I would respect his space (about a week ago he said to give it time when I asked where we stood because I needed closure) and I got so mad even more! So I told him I’d respect his space and that I didn’t mean to hurt him and how I’m struggling with being difficult and that when he is ready I will be here to listen and talk. I know we are a good match and when I first laid eyes on him I swear I just knew it in my heart that he was gonna be something special to me. This September will be two years since his first day I met him but April of this yr will be one year since we started hanging out and stuff. The reason why it wasn’t until April was because he had a gf that he lived with across the street! Crazy huh lol. So I read the article you commented on about the guy who asked for advice on how to move on from his ex wife who cheated and I clicked the link to this site. Reading your story honestly gives me hope because everything I have done with this man in my life from working with him (I trained him too =]), talking to him, being in his car (hes such a good driver lol) to eating in front of him and being in his bed, playing video games, going to eat etc has ALWAYS felt right. It’s so strange I’ve never felt this with anyone before and I know he has got to feel it too but I’m trying to give him his space because he’s got trust issues and I made the mistake of trusting someone with info that was spread at our work (the person doesn’t work there but they came to pick up some paperwork and blabbed my business) I’ve learned to cut that person out of my life and to evaluate myself and how I’ve been acting because a friend that I am not on good terms with (we haven’t spoken in months) told me I can be very negative and assume and overreact but I sometimes couldn’t see it you know? I am starting to see what she meant now that this is happening with someone I adore deeply. I’ve also never had a relationship..I don’t date I just can’t do it. I had a little thing with a guy when I was 13 but I was young and didn’t know anything about love and I’m proud to say I’m still kinda new to sex! So I feel like I’ve finally met the man who deserves me as I deserve him. I really liked that you talked about how you chose to work on one thing and how Brock chose to work on himself too. I hope he decides to be with me and to give us a chance because he’s so awesome I can’t even stay mad at him I never could and he makes me laugh like no other ever has! I am scared that I will mess up or do something wrong and that he will leave but your story gives me so much hope I am so thankful that I chose to check my aol email at about 4AM otherwise I would’ve never found this. You’re so great for sharing this and I have always wanted to write but I keep putting it off but when I have time and the confidence to share my stories I will blog them. I thought about vlogging (video blogging for anyone who didn’t know (: ). Too but we’ll see. Thank you for this and I shared this in email with some ladies in my life and I hope they find some joy in reading this too. I am deff subscribing! Namaste and Be Well

    -Amanda M

    P.S
    My mom’s name is Lisa too! 🙂

    1. The most important thing to remember is that you can never control another person, only your response. Believe that you will be okay regardless of what he decides. Because that is what you can control:) Keep that smile on you’re face – I can feel it and your passion for life in your words.

      Thanks for the follow and for sharing my page. I hope it helps bring some insight for you.

      Lisa

  9. MAG – Douala - Cameroon – Marie Abanga aka MAG likes to describe herself as a “Jacqueline of several trades”. She is an everyday woman and mother with a zigzag profile. Let’s give it a try! She is an Activist, an Author, a Coach, a Consultant, a Feminist, a Lawyer, a Lecturer, a Prince 2 Project Manager, a Psychotherapist, a Philanthropist, a minister of the Word of God and...! She just loves to sum it up by saying she is a person of passions and a tale of talents. Her life’s journey has filled over 6 books already and her three musketeers keep her busy at home. MAG is also the founder and CEO of the association Hope for the Abused and Battered, and the Country Director of the Gabriel Bebonbechem Foundation for Epilepsy & Mental wellbeing. The plethora of life's experiences and shenanigans she has lived through and learned from in near 4 decades of existence, have equipped her with such an arsenal to coach, train and motivate just any and everyone. She is so charismatic, dynamic and full of life, going by her designed mantra of 3Ds: Determination; Discipline and Dedication. These sum her+her quest to be the best version of herself and impact others perfectly. She attributes all her wealth of knowledge to her conscientious attendance of both informal and formal school.
    marieabanga says:

    Dear Lisa,
    Thanks for sharing this. I just want to say that hm dating or even falling in love after a divorce, is an ongoing tug. I have been with a guy 11 good months now, and I can still feel how so scared both of us are to use the word LOVE. Well, just for a word though because we are really trying in several other aspects. Cheers on

    1. It is a challenge! It took me years to be okay with being completely vulnerable and there are still times (decreasing, but still) where I react from the past rather than the present. Glad to hear you have something good going on:)

Leave a Reply Cancel reply