Session #2: Train Wrecks
Y’all grab your pen and paper again…therapy is in session.
So, I’ve mentioned a couple times that I’m divorced. Again, happily. I also casually mentioned somewhere in the middle of a paragraph that I’m dating. Kinda. <shrugs> If that’s even what you call it in your thirties. With kids. And an ex-husband. For sake of conversation, we’ll use “dating” for lack of another, more accurate word.
In my current phase, dating looks very different than my previous phases.
My way-back-past self would get an offer for plans, receive a knock on the door, get picked up from the house, and be taken on an actual date. Dinner, a movie, a party, a concert, whatever. Then, I would be dropped off at my house, walked to the door, and that’s it. After a few of these outings, the label was given–you were my boyfriend.
In major contrast, my post-divorce-and-kids-self has a discussion about plans. After some hemmin’ and hawin’, plans are made. We usually meet at whatever destination is chosen. Then, we say our goodbyes and drive ourselves home. OR in the case of chemistry, we may follow each other to one house or the other. The chemistry is tested, and based on the outcome a next-day text or phone call will be made. The word “date” isn’t said. The event isn’t even labeled. You remain a “friend.” Pretty much indefinitely.
I mean, my most recent relationship didn’t receive labels. Ever. For four years. The only label he gained was “mom’s friend.”
And that’s the way it is. But why? Why is there such a severe shift? What takes the label away?Is it age? Is it circumstance? Is it me? Or him?
Imma give you some think time on that…
So, since we can’t actually talk at this point in our one-sided conversation, I’m going to continue with my personal thoughts. Your input can be added later <wink>.
Why the shift?
Well, obviously kids change things.
I mean, kids dictate free time for conversation and time spent together. Usually the “entertaining time” is when they go to their dad’s house. This puts room for growth in a confined space. Maybe not for everybody out there, but my boys don’t meet all of mommy’s friends. Just sayin’.
Hard past relationships change things.
It’s hard to trust the happiness, the ease, the excitement of a new thing. (I say “thing” because I clearly have an issue with labels.) The memory of the past hurt and violation of trust or love is like a cage. So, a sense of control over this new situation (again with the labels) feels necessary. Meeting, not riding together, no labels leaves opportunity for flight…easy departure. It creates an out.
I’m grown. You’re grown. Grown folk handle stuff differently. We don’t need to play games. I mean, there’s no need for attempts to impress. I am who I am; you are who you are. Take it or leave it.
I don’t need you.
Read that again. I. Don’t. Need. You. Y’all, that’s deep. That’s a hard pill to swallow for some people. I love my independence. I love my quiet time. I love the silence. I love being alone. Sometimes. I mean, it took me a long time to get to that point after my divorce. But here I am. I pay my bills, create my own schedules, buy what I want, go where I please, give permissions and punishments at my own discretion…I make all the decisions. I don’t consult with anyone. I don’t ask permission. I don’t “check in” with anyone.
**I mean, I feel it’s necessary to pause for a second and let y’all know that I might be exaggerating just a smidge. Full disclosure: “anyone” includes everyone but my parents. They are my husband.**
I don’t need you to pay for my dinner or my movie. I don’t need you to throw me a couple dollars. I don’t need you to pay a bill. I don’t need help with my kids. My village is strong. I got all that covered. I don’t need you; I want you. That’s intimidating. On every level.
So, yeah, there’s that. Why wouldn’t there be a shift? I’m different. You’re different. Everything’s different.
“Dating” with kids and baggage is a whole lot of brain-dumping and play-dates. In the beginning, there’s a need to divulge EVERYTHING. You need to know this…you need to hear this…you need this warning. It’s like a set-up. If you can handle everything I’m about to tell you–all my faults, all my failures, all my hurts, all my messed up self-reflections and self-diagnoses–then we can proceed. But you have to have your ticket punched by all this baggage first. THEN, we can have a play-date for the kids…a little “chance” meet-and-greet.
And, y’all, kids are like dogs. If they don’t like you, you’re a bad person. And I don’t have time for bad people.
Ok, ok, that’s extreme. But seriously, if my boys don’t like you, it’s a wrap. Regardless of whatever chemistry or fun we thought we had. You’ll go back to one of mom’s friends we don’t talk about.
So, let’s be real…of course the dating changes. The circumstances are different. You’re not looking for a boyfriend or a girlfriend anymore. You’re looking for a stepparent…and the stakes are WAY higher.