Love After Divorce: Reflection on a Journey, Part 2
Brock and I had only been dating exclusively for a few weeks when I moved into an apartment 0.8 miles from his house. I know that seems crazy and impulsive, but hear me out:) I had been living in my friend’s spare bedroom for a year (in the same community as my old house) and it was time to go. I was ready for my independence, I no longer worked at the school nearby, and I needed to get out of the area where I spent the entirety of my married life. Brock lived 3o minutes away in an area that was not contaminated with too many marital memories. It was a young, active community with less focus on children than where I had been. I loved the access to the river and parks and, in particular, his tree-lined street brought back positive childhood memories of my grandparent’s house on Washington Island in Wisconsin. I decided to move to that street since it was an area I liked, regardless of what happened with the nascent relationship. I made sure to communicate this to Brock; I didn’t want him thinking I was trying to push things. Luckily, he understood.
That year was a period for really getting to know each other. We met the other’s friends and family. We made it through trips, illnesses, and snowstorms. We had quiet evenings on the couch and wild adventures (Tough Mudder!). We both became comfortable with being paired (yup, that took me longer) and started to operate as a team.
It turned out that eight tenths of a mile was perfect. I enjoyed my space. I had never really lived alone before. In college, I started out living in a co-op and then my ex and I moved in together. I did have 7 months on my own in my twenties when my ex first moved to Atlanta and I stayed behind to complete the semester. But this was different. After living with a busy family with a young baby, I enjoyed the quiet and the solitude. And it was a nice respite at times from Brock’s place with its energy from the dog, martial arts, and a television (I didn’t own one).
We ended up moving in together in stages, which was perfect. For much of that year, I would spend three nights a week at his place. It was easy, as I could always drive (or walk!) the short distance back to my place to eat or get ready for work. Having two places kept the pressure off and gave us each our space but the proximity made it easy to spend blocks of time together. Considering that we both have different styles of living, this period was critical to working out some issues in stages.
I like things neat and organized. I abhor clutter and I love to institute systems to make things run more efficiently. My ex was similar. In fact, in our 15 years living together, we never once had any friction regarding the house or chores. We didn’t have assigned jobs; we just saw something needed doing and we did it. Brock? Yeah, not so much. He can leave an impressive trail of clutter in his wake. He somehow doesn’t see the scum in the shower or the spill on the counter. And chores? Let’s just say he could never fall back on a career as a launderer. This has been our greatest source of friction. On my part, I have had to learn to let go of perfection (Perfection in a Chipped Plate) and to not let my environment dictate my mental state. Brock has had to learn that his actions impact me and that he may have to do more than he wants to keep things running smoothly. Oh, and we also decided jointly that if we ever lived together, we would hire a cleaning service.
The friction between us may have come from the physical space, but we both still had emotional baggage we were working through. His previous relationship had been drama filled and cycled from very good to very bad. Any sign of a repeat of that pattern with would cause him to panic. My marriage had been the opposite; we rarely had conflict. Of course, that was because my husband had been a con man. I was not used to heated disagreements, so any sign of discord also caused me to panic. I mean, if my ex walked out with no signs of disagreement, what would Brock do? Yeah, we were quite a pair. Luckily, we don’t disagree much, but we are now both much more comfortable when it does happen. I’ve learned that it doesn’t mean he is about to disappear and he has learned it doesn’t mean our lives are filled with drama. I’m becoming more comfortable with voicing my needs and he is getting better at listening.
It’s interesting. My ex was very good at saying the right things. When I was upset, he would pull my body against his, flesh to flesh, knowing that the proximity lowered my anxiety. He would then say exactly the right things to calm me down. Brock isn’t as good at that. But I’m glad. I don’t think I can ever trust a smooth talker again. Brock isn’t nearly as demonstrative with his affections, but when it comes, I know it is authentic.He frequently sends me messages of love from Tiger, letting the dog filter his emotions for him. He may have trouble putting his feelings in words, but I get the sweetest notes and drawings on a frequent basis. I trust his kisses and his notes; they leave no room for doubt in how he feels.
Most of our troubles were not with each other, but with our pasts. I never pined for my ex; I fell out of love with with immediately upon receiving the text. However, I still carried a lot of anger and it would flare every time I took another financial hit because of the con man, and those seemed to come every couple of months. I also needed to work through my fears of abandonment. The thought didn’t petrify me like it did in my marriage (I knew now that I could survive), but I was living waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting to be left again. Of course, if I expect Brock to do that, eventually he probably would. There was no magic moment when I fully trusted he was in it for the long haul. Instead, every day we made a choice to be together. Eventually, I relaxed. I still have my moments of doubt. It’s not him; it’s the ghosts of the past whispering in my ears. I’ve learned to discount them. They are operating out of a place of fear and I don’t live there any more. Although our pasts are different and have left different scars, we both have always been determined not to be defined by our pasts.
Brock and I are both passionate about learning and growing. For him, much of that centers around martial arts. I am not nearly as consistent in my endeavors, but I always have projects. We have learned how to find the balance between fueling our passions and fueling the relationship. We each have a respect for the others time and interests. And, I’ve learned to ask for more time when I feel like the relationship needs it.
One passion we share is for fitness. We bonded through walks, hikes, runs, and races. I love having someone that understands my need to move and will share that movement with me. We have learned that difficult conversations are best had on the trail and that the trails also are wonderful for speculating and dreaming about the future.
At one point that year, while I was reading in my clean and organized apartment living room, I received a text.
“Do you want to move in together when your lease is up? Tiger”
“I don’t think your crate is big enough for both of us.”
But I did move in at the end of that year:)