One night, while being pampered at an event with the lovely ladies over at Houston Moms Blog, I was chatting with the fantastically lovely owner, Kelly, extending my apologies for leaving the event early. It was after 8 PM, and Mr. M still had a forty-five minute drive ahead of him.
“How does that work?” she asked, explaining, “I’ve always meant to ask you that, and maybe you can write about it. Being divorced, having a child, does he stay with you? Where do you stay? Will you move in together before you’re married? How does it all work?”
Of course, since she asked me to write about this topic, I knew I had to write about it.
I’m a writer, therefore I write. That’s how this whole “writing thing” works.
Dating, for me, took a new spin after my divorce. I learned a lot about who I was as a person during that time. I taught myself how to stop being a complacent doormat (mostly through my mother, who kept telling me to “grow a damn backbone”), and I took a stand for my beliefs and my Christianity in the process.
Occasionally that has bothered Mr. M. There have been times when he’s griped, “Sure, you can tell me no without any problems, but you cave when anyone else asks you to do something. I see how it is.”
He’s been half-wrong in that claim. I’ve had no problem telling him no because I trust him, and I know he’ll treat me with respect and kindness in the process. He’s never denigrated my worth as a person, because he places value in me.
I value him as well, which is why we work.
However, it wasn’t just myself that I needed to focus on after my divorce–although, I had a lot of soul-searching, “where did I go wrong, and why didn’t I get out before the marriage” moments. Those thoughts always circled back to the main focus of my life: my child. If I hadn’t gotten married, I wouldn’t have my tiny human. He is the light in my life, and the silver lining on every impending storm. As a divorced mom, one who found herself forced back into the dating arena, I not only had to find a person who could accept all of my level of crazy, but also someone who could learn to love my child as his own. Not only that, but I needed a relationship that emulated what a loving, open relationship looked like to my child.
Whereas I wasn’t all that picky before my marriage and subsequent divorce, now I was nothing but picky.
… I probably should have started off that way.
Tiny human, bright light, silver lining.
I knew whatever man came into my life needed to embody certain characteristics, because I wouldn’t tolerate anything less. That’s when I came up with a list of demands, and refused to budge on my wishes. It’s my life with my child, and I get to say what I am willing to tolerate.
1) He needed to be Christian.
Many moons ago, I accepted Jesus into my life. I’ve believed that everyone should be treated with respect and kindness, even if I don’t feel they deserve my respect–like the woman at work who makes me sing the Wicked Witch’s theme song every time she passes. I have always smiled bright, been polite, and done my Godly duty to this woman.
… Yes, I’ve been working on getting the theme song out of my head. I’m Christian, but I’m the first to admit that I’m not the best Christian on the planet. Once I’ve figured out how to be the best human in the world, I’ll throw myself a party.
That will never happen!
I’ve dated and married men who weren’t Christian. I could count on one hand how many times those relationships worked out, without holding up any fingers.
When I began dating after my divorce, I knew the only way for it to work was if we both sought God in our struggles, and both uplifted each other through our faith.
The other day, I wanted to be petty. No, I wanted to be downright mean. I’ve never done that before; there’s a first for everything. When I told Mr. M my desire, his first question was, “And when you prayed about that idea, what did God tell you?”
Thanks, Hun, for reminding me that I’m better than vindictiveness–that I’m a strong woman of God.
2) He needed to understand we would not live together before marriage.
This was my first rule post-divorce. The one thing I won’t ever do, as a Christian, is demonstrate inappropriate home relationships to my son. I allowed myself to break my beliefs before I got married, but I won’t do that again.
Thankfully, Mr. M has been in full agreement. Our homes will not be blended until after we are married, and not a day sooner.
3) He needed to understand we would not sleep in the same room together when children were present before marriage.
Mr. M and I have had an agreement since we first started dating. Since my house does not have an extra bedroom, if he wanted to spend the night here for something happening on Saturday morning, he could sleep on the couch.
Mr. M is not a couch sleeper.
There have been weekends where Tiny and I have spent the weekend at “the lake house,” which is our name for Mr. M’s house. Whenever that has occurred, Tiny and I have slept in one bedroom, and Mr. M has slept in a room on the opposite side of the house. We have done over the last two years for my son’s sake, in order to build trust and stability in his life.
Divorced children need stability; they need to know a new relationship will not overtake the relationship with their parent.
4) He needed to be able to love my child as his own child.
Having been a stepmom, this came easier for me post-divorce. Mr. M has a son, whom I lovingly refer to as Lil Dude. This child, when he hugs, squeezes tight, and doesn’t let go. Who wouldn’t love that? It took a while for us to bond, but I let him know from the beginning that I was there for him, and that I would be ready for his acceptance whenever he was ready to give it.
Mr. M and Tiny have been on a journey, as well. Mr. M told me in our first year of dating that he didn’t know how to forge a true bond with Tiny. I told him that he needed to be the hug giver, the kiss giver, and the person open to hearing information about Tiny’s day. The more he showed his ability to love, the more love he would receive from Tiny.
They have an amazing bond now, and I love that we have all taken the time to build and forge those relationships.
5) He needed to be both trusted and loved by my child.
When a person has taken the time to build and foster an open relationship with a child, the child will eventually begin to accept the person in his life–particularly if that person shows and demonstrates a commitment to their significant other. Children are watchers. They see everything that goes on, even when we don’t realize that they’ve been listening.
I’ve always said that three things have to happen in order for a post-divorce relationship to work: Mr. M and I have to love each other, Mr. M has to love my child, and my child has to love him. If one of those bonds doesn’t form, the relationship is doomed from the start.
Post-divorce dating has been a struggle. Mr. M and I have separate lives, separate homes, and children who need us to remember that they come first. We have had to figure out how to fit each other into our existing lives, keep our children the most important aspect of our relationship, and make God the rock of relationship. However, because of the demands I created for myself, and my unwillingness to stray from those demands, I’ve found a man who not only deals with my crazy, but loves me because of it.