Moving on after the divorce is difficult, especially if you have children. Here is my story.
Here’s what I learned about moving on after divorce when you have kids
“Mom, I think you have to get married again.” James told me this with an innocent nonchalance when I sat on the couch for the first time all day.
“What do you mean bud?” I asked genuinely curious.
“Well, I think you are very tired because you are alone and have to get married so that you can have help with us,” he explained so sweetly.
“Oh, honey, it’s really cute that you notice mom is tired. If I ever get married again, it really won’t be that I can have any help with you. If I got married again, it would be that another adult could spend energy giving me love. Right now, I spend all my energy loving you and nobody spends energy loving me. “I tried to choose words that my old-souled seven-year-old could consume.
“Well, mom, okay. Then let’s do it, ”he said matter-of-factly. He was ready, in his mind this seemed easy enough to find someone who loves mom to look up. Just like cake.
I chuckled, “Well baby, if I found someone to love me, would they want to sleep with me at night and wouldn’t you and your brothers be able to cope if you couldn’t take turns sleeping with me?”
I thought this point was a surefire way to turn him off from the idea of mom being loved. After all, this is my son who is ashamed when he sees me naked and who hides his eyes from kissing scenes and the like.
He looked at me thoughtfully for a few breaths and then replied: “Welp, I think we have to get used to that first.” He shrugged and walked away. Conversation over.
You only know me alone
I’ve been basically single for as long as any of my sons can remember. Phil and I separated when David was only two years old. I mentioned something in conversation recently about “when dad lived here” and David stopped me in the middle of a sentence.
“Wait, my father lived here?” David was very serious. He has no memory of a time when mom and dad shared their home.
James was five when Phil moved out. He was three years old when our marriage hit the wall. Gabriel was seven, five when it hit the wall. These children really have no memories of a time when they saw their mother in a loving, happy relationship. Phil and I had a respectful partnership. One that was all about our children. We didn’t share much tenderness, at least it was so rare that our children didn’t see it. We didn’t share a lot of intimacy, at least not in the way our children could notice.
As I pondered my son’s observations, which I might need, I realized that my sons never saw their mother being well loved. They have never seen me valued, adored, or delighted. You have never seen a man express his passion or attraction for me.
They just know how their mother is alone.
If you move on after the divorce, timing is everything
James, sharing his thoughts, would have caught my attention anytime, but the moment he said so was a particularly unique timing. Perhaps a week before this conversation, I had unexpectedly reconnected with a man I had dated a couple of times. I didn’t know (and don’t know) where this relationship was going, but I knew I was feeling things that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
A warning and a permit
I decided to recognize James’ comment as both a warning sign and a permit.
The warning was that my son will assume that anyone who passes is staying here. I mention love and he says “get married”. James, and presumably his brothers, will likely take anyone who shows up in their world as a fixture. I have to be careful about how much of my dating life is shared with my children.
The permit was that my son recognized by himself a loneliness in his mother, which he considers resolved. He naturally understands that there is an open space in our lives that could be filled with another man. This was my sign that my children are fine and that I have permission to open myself to love. You have space for me to be loved by someone else, which means I have the space too.
I have needs too
That moment was very important to me. I have been very conscious over the past few years that I have ignored my need for companionship and affection. It was easy for me to do. It was safe. Like anyone outside of a failed marriage, my fear of being hurt again is palpable. The easiest way to avoid injury is to not feel anything at all. I’ve been happy to keep my life simple (and safe) since my marriage ended. I pretended to be open to a relationship and complained that no suitable men had come around. The real reason is that I am alone because I am too scared not to be.
At that moment, knowing that my heart was already beginning to melt, whether I wanted it to or not, I decided it was time to let myself in, that I have my own needs. Moving on after the divorce is not easy, but it can be done. I realized that it was time for me to step into the unknown, trust myself, trust my children, and trust the process.