two lessons i’ve learned during the ‘big d’ #2

Almost 12 months ago, I found out that my ex was cheating on me and at the time, I felt like the world stopped and wouldn’t start again. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t figure out what to do, I couldn’t see what was really standing in front of me – a pathetic excuse for a man.

Today though, I see this man in a slightly different light. I’m actually thankful that he did what he did. I hate his actions and choices and don’t condone them but I have chosen to forgive him for things he did to me and for how his actions affected my kids. I can’t say that I don’t have moments where I have to talk myself down from huge amounts of anger that I have toward his continued poor choices, but I’ve had to make the decision to let God deal with him and also to make the choice to allow God to grow positive things in my life by just letting a lot of things go. (And please don’t think that it’s easy to do this…I have to make a conscious decision to do this every darn day.)

And what a difference 12 months can make.

life lessons during divorce_for blog post

Lesson #1: I had to grow my little Mommy and Me Gang.

My kids have grown so much, emotionally, in a positive way. I didn’t fully realize the negative impact my soon-to-be-ex really had on them and shame on me for not realizing it. I’ve really beaten myself up over some of the things that they’ve shared with me now, that they felt they just ‘had to deal with’ because they knew I loved their stepdad.

Now though, my little family of four is so solid and I can honestly say that had I been with my ex still, I think my family-unit with my three kids would have suffered even more because they were silently struggling with my ex. Now that he’s gone, I’ve watched my second son really open up to me about everything that he’s feeling because he feels supported and heard; I’ve watched my oldest son learn empathy, sympathy, and how to care for others; and my little lady…well, she’s learning how to drive her brothers insane but that’s what two-year old little sisters are supposed to do.

I’ve learned how to connect with them and we have this weird gang-like mentality – that to get past one of us, you have to get past all of us. And without my ex making his poor choices, I wouldn’t have had that. I didn’t have this before my ex and I got together but I’ve had the last 10-12 months to build that relationship and it’s the most incredible experience. They are fully aware that they come first, before any man in my life, or anything else.

As my best friend told me a looooong time ago, give yourself time, if you’re getting divorced, to build a bond with your kids that is impenetrable. I didn’t…I thought I had, but I didn’t give it enough time before being in a serious relationship and it prevented me from seeing exactly what they were experiencing because we weren’t impenetrable yet and they just wanted me to be happy so they avoided sharing how they were feeling about my ex…sadly, I don’t think that they felt that they had a choice. Today, they know that they get to pull the kill-switch if they have issues with someone that I am dating.

My advice – wait until you are on solid ground with the kiddos before you introduce a serious relationship to the kids. I would even recommend waiting until your relationship is solid with your kids before jumping into a serious relationship yourself.

Lesson #2: Don’t expect your relationships to change until you change your habits.

Basically, if you don’t change anything, you’ll find yourself in the same types of relationships over and over and over…until you change something.

I like to serve others and make them happy. It’s who I am and it makes me happy to know that I was the one that put a smile on someone else’s face. The only problem with that is that I’ve only focused on being the support for someone else I’m in a relationship with instead of making sure that my needs were also being met. In a way – I needed to learn how to serve myself.

About nine months before I found out that my ex had been cheating on me, I left my job, my career, of 17 years so that I could help him with his business and support our household needs while he built his business. While it was the dumbest decision I could have agreed to, in the end I think I may end up thanking him. I’m working my tail off to build my own business so that I can create and maintain the same lifestyle that my kids have always been used to and so that I get to use my brain every day doing the things that I love – being creative and being there for them as their mother and support system.

Had I not left my job, I wouldn’t have been in a situation that forced me out of my comfort zone to create my own little world in which I allowed myself to fully do things my way. I had to make myself become a little selfish and to choose to do things that I’ve always wanted to do but was never given the chance to do because my spouse didn’t want to do them…like make my kids Matzo Ball soup whenever they wanted or choose a restaurant other than Ale House if I was going out to eat for dinner. (It’s the little things that make me happy.)

I’ve really had to self-reflect over and over and truly learn what I’m worth and how strong I really can be and I’ve learned how to serve myself. It may sound extremely selfish but I needed to be forced to do that because otherwise, I likely would end up with another man that took and took and took from me, because I like to serve, without the guy giving back to me or serving me. And I’m not high-maintenance…I promise. I don’t expect much more than thoughtful attention, learning my coffee order, and giving me the time I need to watch any of The Real Housewives.

And then…

…when I least expected it, someone really important entered in my life. And because I was more solid within my own expectations of myself and my behavior, I knew what I was willing to allow into my life and into my kids lives and how much I would allow myself to serve without being served in return.

The beginning of a new relationship is fun and exciting and you want to do everything for that person to not only impress them but to make them happy. My fatal flaw in relationships is that I have always misinterpreted the happiness that I feel, after serving someone, as happiness, that the person I’m with, is returning to me.

The reality is that the happiness that I felt in past relationships, in the beginning, I had created on my own and that’s not healthy. You should be with someone that gives as much as you give.

And with this guy, I have this. Had I not learned to focus on making myself a priority and how to appreciate ‘how I’m wired’, I could easily have gotten lost in a new relationship. I appreciate my quirks now and won’t let myself be in a relationship unless that person appreciates them as well.

Thanks to my ex, I was forced to take a hard look at myself and the personality traits (from the people I was with) that I had been allowing in my life. I wasn’t questioning myself about what I had done wrong in my marriage, because no one should take blame for my divorce except the cheater and abuser, but I was quizzing myself about the type of person I would ever again allow in my life or my kids lives. And I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process.

My advice – reflect upon your past in order to know what behavior contributed to the divorce and then work your tail off in order to not repeat that behavior, whether that is allowing it in your life or determining that it’s your behavior that needs to change.

The key, though, is to give yourself time to make these changes and not to rush things or allow others to tell you what your timeline should be. You’ll know when you are ready for your next step in life.

Please note that this post and most of the posts on my website/blog may contain affiliate links. Should you decide to click on one of these ads and purchase something through this link, I will get a commission from it but the pricing is no different for you than going directly to their website. Not all items recommended on this site are affiliate links. Thank you for your trust and readership!
Advertisements

my relationship goals

About five years ago, I gave some advice that I thought was sound…marry for passion – and that’s all someone needed to make a marriage successful.

A friend of mine told me that he was thinking about ‘the future’ with his girlfriend. I had been married for a little over 8 years, at the time, so I thought I knew all about what you should and shouldn’t do…which was basically don’t marry someone because you think you owe it to them because you’ve been with them for a certain amount of time – marry them because you want them desperately…and if you had passion that’s all you needed. (I was sooo wrong!)

I had been missing passion in marriage #1 for different reasons (not necessarily his fault) and so as I divorced my first husband, I thought that if I found that then it would fix the issue I had in marriage #1.

So marriage #2…I married thinking that I was marrying for passion yet what I hadn’t found out yet was that my soon-to-be-husband (at the time) was passionate with a lot of people, not just me. Regardless, looking back I realize that I was looking at one quality in each of my husbands and focusing on just that one trait, putting all hope in that one trait, instead of looking to find someone that was the ‘whole package’.

I’ve had my fair share of issues with both of my ex husbands but the one thing that I will say in defense of #1 is that he tried. He may have had blind spots that just couldn’t be changed but he tried. Even when I told him that I was done, he tried. The issue is that I had been done for months…if not longer. My fault was in waiting so long to tell him that I had issues with him and our marriage. Maybe if I had told him sooner things could have been repaired but even as I ask myself that same thing today, I don’t think that anything would have changed. He is who he is and I am who I am and we weren’t right together. I just wish that we could have figured that out 13 years ago and saved a lot of people a lot of time and headaches…but then I wouldn’t have the two best squirt league hockey players ever. 🙂

My ex husband #2 ran when things were exposed and even to this day, instead of admitting when he’s done things that just aren’t right or sane or kind or normal – he makes things worse. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He was raised to think that running from responsibilities was normal…that mom and dad and money would fix things…it’s just that the dad with the money isn’t there any longer and the mom didn’t invest her money wisely and instead has flushed it down the drain by supporting three of her four boys without ever getting a cent in return because they can’t keep jobs, take advantage of her and repay nothing.

So as I look to the future and consider who to date and what my next steps will be when I’m ready to even think about a serious relationship, I have some advice for my 24 year old self (the person I was before I was married).

Don’t:

  • Don’t be with someone just because of the passion. If they are passionate with you – maybe they are passionate with everyone?? (keep reading – I’m going to contradict myself soon.)
  • Don’t be with someone for their bank account. Obviously…this can change at the drop of a hat – take 2008 for an example.
  • Don’t be with someone for the ‘hopes’ that you have together. Hope is just that…if it doesn’t come to fruition, you’ll blame them but you should really be blaming yourself for putting your entire relationship on the other person’s shoulders. Marriage is 100%/100%, not 50/50. As long as everyone is contributing fully to the hopes and dreams you’ll probably make big things happen.
  • Don’t be with someone for what you think you can change them into being. Don’t change them…it won’t ever work – no matter how great you think you are at this. You may be able to change them for a short while but they will revert and either hate you for changing them in the first place or hate themselves for letting you do it.
  • Don’t be with someone for the status factor. – This can change fast!! A job can be lost; someone can be voted out of office; someone can sell their business; someone can change their career dreams. And then what’s left…nothing.

Instead…

  • Be with someone for all of it…be with them for who they are today…and nothing more. The person that is standing in front of you is who they will be for the rest of their lives. And you can’t expect them to be any different – that’s not fair to anyone.
  • Be with someone for who you are together. You may be with this person for the rest of your life…if you are better when they are around and visa versa then all is well with the world. BUT if you are better yet you drain them of their fabulousness, then that’s not good. If you are constantly taking and taking from them emotionally, you don’t deserve them. BUT if you return the favor and both of you build each other up…then that’s a different story.
  • Be with someone for passion. I still haven’t changed my stance on this. The only caveat is that the other person needs to be just as passionate (and that’s where I went wrong with my Irish Idiot). And when the passion dies, work your hardest to bring it back to life…this is one thing that can be revived if everyone is trying.
  • Be with someone that pushes you to see yourself the same way that they do and the same way that you saw yourself before ‘your love’ came into the picture. Don’t get your self-esteem from them but get reassurance from them. There’s a big difference. Be you and only you and never apologize. If you have to apologize, then this isn’t your person.
  • Be with the person that stays on your mind (and of course meets all of the above), whenever you have your brain on. You’ll always think about them, you’ll compare them to everyone else, you’ll want to call them during lonely moments, you’ll want to text them after every achievement…don’t ignore this because you think that you can forget them. But…forget them if there is only thing on your mind…..

So to the friend that I gave the advice to five years ago…I hope that your marriage is going well and that you can check off more ‘boxes’ than just passion, as I recommended because I only had a small idea of what I was really talking about. AND two marriages later, I can’t and won’t claim to be an expert…except I can give advice on what didn’t work and what I wish had worked.

What are some of the things that you look for in a ‘significant other’? I’d love to hear your thoughts…especially as I get ready to dive into the dating world again!

Please note that this post and most of the posts on my website/blog may contain affiliate links. Should you decide to click on one of these ads and purchase something through this link, I will get a commission from it (the pricing is no different for you than going directly to their website)(I do not get commissions from sites where you donate money or things). Not all items recommended on this site are affiliate links. I only recommend items that I feel are amazing because I’ve used and tried them. Thank you for your trust and readership!