Tag Archives: dating

How to make the first move

I went out to lunch with a coworker today. She’s someone I have known for years, and have always thought she was just a wonderful person. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been bubbly and upbeat, cheering others on around her in their endeavors, and just an inspiration on how to be a decent person. But being a natural introvert, I’ve never been one to make the first move to get to know her better – or anyone at work, for that matter. I’ve always left it up to others to try and get to know me better because it’s just easier that way, you know? There’s less risk involved. Naturally that must mean I have tons of friends, right?

You’d think, huh.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t work that way. But regardless, this coworker and I connected recently and came to the mutual decision that we should really have lunch. We ended up having over an hour of fantastic conversation as we discussed everything from our kids to our faith, and everything in between. When we got back to our desks, she emailed me the kindest note. In it, she mentioned that while it might not seem like it, she’s actually a very shy person.

“I’m not one to socialize much,” she wrote, “but you make it very easy. Let’s do it again!”

When it’s hard to make friends, maybe we just need a reminder we’re not the only ones who are shy. Somewhere out there is another human being who is longing for a friend and not sure how to go about it. It’s not just us who are afraid to make the first move. Others are too. But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

This truth is currently being illustrated by my stepson, Frizz, as he agonizes how to ask out the girl he has liked for the better part of the school year. As a senior, he is closing in on the end of his high school years. He is also closing in on the last chance he has to even talk to the girl he likes – let alone ask her out on a date, and perhaps even ask her to be his girlfriend. But just making that first step is terrifying enough, let alone any of the steps that follow after that.

Not sure how to advise my stepson, I asked my daughter, DQ, how she has been asked out in the past. She shared her most recent experience with me. The boy got to know her by asking a lot of questions about her, keeping his attention focused on her. The attraction proved to be mutual, and both of them dropped hints about their interest in each other. And when this boy was able to see that DQ was into him, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

“I guess what Frizz should do is just really try to get to know this girl better, then get her number, and when the moment seems right, tell her how he feels and see if she feels the same way,” DQ advised. “If he does it right, he might even know that she likes him back when he gets to that point.”

Of course, she makes it sound so easy. And truthfully, if you put your nerves aside, it really is that easy. But for someone as shy as Frizz, as shy as my coworker, as shy as ME, taking that first step can feel like preparing to jump off a cliff.

But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

I guess this could be a lesson in anything. We never know what will happen unless we make that first move – whether it be making a new friend, expressing a feeling of adoration, publishing a book, taking a stand for yourself, risking it all…. If we live a life so full of caution that it keeps us from living life to the fullest, we can’t claim we know the bad that will happen. We also will never know the good that will happen.

Being social for an introvert might feel totally unnatural. But while painful at first, barreling through that shyness isn’t lethal. It might seem that way, but taking that first step won’t strike you down dead. The worst that can happen is that you might get turned down. Sucky, sure. But you’ll be able to move beyond it rather than getting stuck in the unknown. And the best that can happen? You’ll get exactly what you wanted in the first place. A new friend. That special someone who likes you just as much as you like her. Or a published book (only a few more weeks left until A Symphony of Cicadas is officially published).

We’ll never know until we’ve made the first move.

Merging families without marriage

Sound off: Is an unmarried merge of families setting a bad example for the kids?

Two weeks ago I wrote about moving in with my boyfriend, Mr. W.  This was a decision we did not take lightly in our 2 ½ years of being in a relationship with each other, and I’ll be moved out of my own place and into his by this weekend.  By moving in with each other, we are each giving up our total independence of having a space to call all our own – something that became very sacred in each of our single lives.  We’re giving up the separateness of our families as we combine them into something new.  But these are no longer sacrifices as we gain so much more – more time with each other, a shared life, a break in the financial obligations, and all the other perks of living with the one you love.

There was plenty of discussion before we finally came to this stage of feeling confident enough (and out of shellshock from our previous divorces) to be able to live with someone we love once again, plus going through the complicated process of combining families.  We’re making a bunch of decisions that are solidifying the permanent status of our relationship – but without yet being married.

Understandably so, several readers took issue with this – questioning the example that is being set for the kids, as well as feeling that “it’s a slap in the face” to those who are married.  I had originally written this article as a story of hope for those just starting their single parent adventure, feeling pulled apart by the financial hardships and lack of time that go along with that role.  But I realized there is a whole other issue at hand that needs to be discussed –

Merging families without marriage.

According to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau in 2007, 6.4 million couples chose to cohabitate before marriage – making up roughly 10% of all opposite sex coupled Americans, and rising almost 1.5 million since 2006.  And of that number, 45% of them had children living in the household that were related to at least one of the cohabitating adults.  And while past research showed a higher percentage of failed marriages in those who chose to live together before marriage, the present research shows there’s virtually no difference.

I have several friends who chose to live together before marriage.  One couple in particular just recently tied the knot, and is now in the final stages of an adoption process that will make their unified family complete.  Another couple, who has no children, is showing no interest in ever getting married.  And yet it’s unthinkable that they would ever split up despite their lack of marriage license.  My sister (also no kids) is in the process of planning a wedding with her fiancée while also living with him.  And one couple that swore off marriage yet raised a whole family together for 30+ years finally bit the bullet and exchanged rings a few years back – after their kids were raised, finished college, and making lives of their own.  Heck, even the royal couple, William and Kate, are setting their own cohabitation example for the world while in the spotlight by “living in sin”.  And another couple I know are raising their two children together and are unmarried.  In fact, they weren’t even allowed to marry until recently, being that they are also lesbian.

I have friends who did not move in together at all until their wedding night – planning a life together in separate homes, yet letting the reality of it be a mystery until they were legally joined. One I wrote about here, her marriage 6 months ago also symbolizing a sacred promise to her new husband.  My own parents just celebrated 34 years of marriage last week, starting their new life together on their wedding night.  And another couple I know who waited until marriage to cohabitate has been married for 40 years – yet are now living in, not only separate beds, but separate homes, just so that they can remain happily married without killing each other. 

And then there are my single mom friends who choose NOT to live with someone else while raising kids.  One in particular has only been divorced for 4 or so years, has a steady boyfriend, and promises she will never marry nor cohabitate again.  She enjoys her personal living space too much, and she’s adamant in her unwillingness to ever give it up – especially while raising her kids.  This same mom lived with her ex-husband before they got married and had children, and shared a wonderful marriage with him before they grew apart and divorced.  

So here’s your chance to sound off – no judgment.  I’d love to hear your point of view about living together before marriage in general.  Do you see a problem with it?  Does your view change if there are no kids involved?  Do you think relationships suffer from living together before marriage, or suffer if a couple does NOT live together before marriage?  Do you have a personal story to share?  Let me know.  And as always, anonymous comments are welcome, but mean comments are not.

Post-divorce families

‘He is eating to fill the hole in his life you created when you left him fatherless (except for two weeks a year).’

This was only part of the comment that sat in my inbox all night long regarding a blog that had nothing to do with divorce. And while the comment was completely off-base in what they considered the gospel truth (my kids being fatherless, only seeing their dad two weeks out of the year, screwed up family life…), I found issue with it – that someone would look at the tiny window I have posted about my life and make such an unfair judgment of it. I considered deleting the comment, but then I decided it was better not to. And I thought that maybe this was a good time to say a thing or two about marriage, and about divorce.

A marriage is meant to unite two people for life. It’s something that must be worked at every single day with all your heart to ensure that it stays strong. It’s not a covenant made with the stipulation that if things don’t work out, you can just break it. It’s a promise that two people make when they have found their future in another person. And it’s what those same two people count on as they create a life together, create children together, plan a future together. So when the cookie cutter dream of growing old together doesn’t work out as planned, the result is something more than painful. No one goes into marriage planning their demise (and if they are, maybe the marriage should be seriously thought through some more). But life happens. People change. Situations arise.

Thing is, I get what the poster is saying about divorce. I am also of the belief that if divorce can be avoided, it should. But sometimes divorce is the answer, and there is no way around it. Sometimes things are so toxic that to NOT divorce would be cruel to not only the parents, but to the kids as well. If I’d done things over again, I never would have allowed divorce to be a part of my life. Divorce was, hands down, the worst thing that ever happened to me – and I’ve gone through some pretty traumatic experiences. But the only way I could have avoided divorcing was by never meeting my ex in the first place. And that would mean there would be no DQ, and there would be no Taz.

My kids’ dad and I were never what you would consider compatible. We, in all honesty, should never have married. But we were young and in love. And a year and a half into our relationship, we were pregnant. When DQ was 18 months old, we married in a beautiful and quiet ceremony in my parents’ backyard. 18 more months, and DQ was a big sister. And a year later, we were pregnant with our third. But that pregnancy ended 7 months in. We, for the first time, came face to face with mortality as we picked up the pieces of our lives after our son’s stillbirth.

We didn’t handle it well.

There are too many other personal events that happened in our relationship before and during our marriage that I will fail in mentioning out of respect for my family and my ex. The stillbirth was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the demise of our marriage. The simple truth is, we became toxic. And our home was no place to raise a healthy family. And so we ended our marriage, and went through the very long process of putting our lives back together.

Let me tell you what happens when you get a divorce. Your souls, that were intertwined when you made that covenant together, are ripped apart. Unlike a clean cut, it is a jagged edge. Some pieces of their soul still reside with yours, and some pieces of your soul still reside with theirs. It is so much more than the dividing of property, money, and time with the children. It is setting fire to all your hopes and dreams that were once a for sure thing, and watching it go up in smoke. Mourning a divorce is much like mourning the death of a loved one. And that is exactly what is happening. That person, whose eyes you saw your whole life in, has died. And the person that is left is someone strange who you just don’t know anymore. They look different. They sound different. They even smell different.

The person you loved is gone.

And once the smoke settles and all is said and done, a divorced person must pick themselves up and get on with their lives. Life doesn’t end with divorce, even when it feels like it. For some people it’s a stop on the path they are traveling. For a few, it’s a fork in the road. And for others, like me, it’s when the journey truly begins.

And what about the kids? I can’t speak for everyone’s children regarding divorce. I can only speak for mine. And in the beginning stages of the divorce, my kids were understandably devastated. Regardless of what our family life looked like, it’s what they knew. They loved (love) their dad. And they loved (love) me. And they wanted all of us in one house under one roof creating one life together. And if we had done that, my kids would have used our poisonous marriage as a model for their own relationships. They would have taken on the venomous way that we spoke to each other. Their future would have been bleak as they absorbed the ghosts of mine and their dad’s downfalls.

But what about today? Today, having two single parent homes is a way of life for the kids, their reality. And they accept it because it has become their norm. Today my ex and I are able to carry a conversation. We are able to discuss different things regarding parenting our children. We are able to team up when something is going on with either of the kids, and talk about it with them together. This last year my kids were with their father every single weekend. And during the summer they were with him just about every other week. He was there at many of our son’s baseball games, and will be there for many of our daughter’s soccer games this fall. Are things perfect? No. There are times when bitterness rises up in either one of us. But do we yell at each other or talk poorly about each other to our kids? Absolutely not. After 6 years of being divorced, both of us have matured enough to honor the relationship our kids have with the other parent. And I can honestly say that we promote that wholeheartedly. 

And finally, dating after divorce – ‘I will bet if you offer him this “i’ll give up dating and only focus on you untill your 18.” You may find he would be willing to exercise more and might be able to give up eating to fill a hole in his life for love.’ (from said blog) There are so many different aspects to post-divorce dating that I couldn’t possibly do it justice in one paragraph. Would the kids be better off if their mom or dad never dated again after divorce? Sure. Then they don’t have to deal with change, or another person entering the family dynamic. Of course, they would also be happy if you never had any kids after them, never moved to a different house or had them change schools, they never went through puberty, and the weather always stayed perfectly spring-like every single day. But life happens. And so does change. And kids are much more resilient than us stubborn old adults are. And while some people do choose to wait to date until after their kids have left the house, and my hat goes off to them for making that sacrifice, I just don’t believe that this is required of a parent. We are human. We have needs too. I’m not just talking physical needs, though those are important too. I’m talking the need to have someone accountable to every single day of our life. We want that person to create a life together with. We want companionship, someone to hold our hand in the times that are tough and to laugh with us when life is good. We want someone to go to sleep with every night and to wake up to every morning. We want someone to grow old with, who will be there once the kids do move away. Basically, we want that dream back that we let go of when, through divorce, we severed the toxicity that was overtaking our vitality. And more than our own needs, I truly believe it’s vital for a kid to see their parent taking care of their own needs while they are taking care of the kid.  After all, wouldn’t we want the same for our children?  We are still our children’s role models, and taking care of ourselves is just one of many lessons we can offer our kids.

Note:  With that said, a parent shouldn’t introduce a date until they are sure that this person has a future with them. That means that first, second, tenth dates should happen away from the house. The biggest reason for this, besides getting to know the person well enough to ensure they aren’t a child molester, is to avoid your child growing attached to this person only to force them to say goodbye. A child’s heart is not a revolving door.  End note.

Finally, post-divorce relationships, and sometimes, eventually, second marriages, can be a godsend to children of divorce. They have the opportunity (hopefully) to witness what a healthy relationship looks like. And they have something to model their own future relationships after. This is one of my joys with Mr. W – my kids get to see what a loving relationship looks like. Not only that, here is this man who has accepted my children, and loves them for who they are. He is not their father – they already have a dad. But when they enter his home, they are treated no differently than his own son. We are still two separate families. We are still families that are restructuring our lives after divorce. But we are now cautiously including each other’s families in that plan.

So, I’m sorry to disappoint this dear poster who is insistent that my family is going down the drain because of my divorce and my insistence to carry on a relationship with a wonderful man (going on 2 years come September!). My more educated opinion to my life is that we’re only getting better every single day.

Surviving Single Parenthood

In the beginning of the end, I left my husband. I had known I was leaving for over a year by the time that I actually made the move, but it took a lot of strength and decision making on my part to actually make the jump and leave behind the future we had planned out together. And in the first couple of weeks, I relished in my decision. I was free, and could taste that freedom in everything – the air, the night, my time, and how I raised my kids. I was the epitome of the strong, independent divorced woman, ready to become a spokesperson for any human being that was suffering from a bad marriage.

Of course, reality hit a few weeks in when a case of loneliness hit, bringing along his best friend – Doubt. I doubted that leaving him was the best decision. I doubted I could survive on my own. I doubted my kids would be healthy without two parents in the house. I doubted I would ever meet someone who would love me.

And of course, Doubt also has an evil twin named Bad Choices. Namely, I started dating again way too early. A month after I split, my ex moved on. And rather than be the lonely single one who had no one to love her, I was determined to match my ex and find someone else too. Healthy, right? I tried to live my life as a young, free chick interested in finding that next Mr. Right (or Mr. Wrong…whatever worked) instead of putting the majority of my focus on my kids at home.

It took years for me to conquer the overwhelming feelings of loneliness and doubt, and to overcome making Bad Choices in the name of trying to band-aid the hurt. But I admit to all of you that it’s an everyday struggle. Loneliness and doubt never go away. I still have sleepless nights when I question my little family’s future, and whether I can financially survive till the end of the month. And focusing on my kids when feelings of bitterness well up inside can sometimes be extremely difficult. But the deep-seeded fears have taken root and grown into plants of hope, seeing how far I’ve come from those first few months of being a new single parent.

Along the years, I have learned several survival tips that I wish I had known from the beginning.

First – counseling is vital! I owe my life to the counselor that helped me through those first couple years. She not only helped me to see what was wrong with my broken People Picker, she helped me in strides to become more confident and set realistic goals for myself. She also met with my kids regularly, letting them get out all their feelings of hurt and anger. She helped all of us transform our broken family to become a healthy family that worked together.

Second – budgeting is key. Being on a single income is extremely rough in this day and age. Over the years I have transformed my budget to something extremely solid. I know exactly how much is coming in each month, and how much is going out. I don’t live on credit, and work only with what I actually have. I don’t have luxuries like cable, beauty treatments like hair or nails, expensive clothing, nights out on the town, or anything extra like that. I do allow for a little fun in my budget, but I never go overboard. My kids and our survival is more important than spending money I can’t afford to spend.  And frankly, I’d rather have a roof over my head and food on the table than to get my hair did or wear expensive clothing.

Third – it’s ok to ask for help. Raising a family with one pair of hands is a difficult task. But that’s why we have friends and family. My parents helped me out the first couple of years by letting me live with them. They helped my transition into single parenthood by being my second pair of hands with the kids. And it helped me to go from a stay-at-home mom to a mom who worked outside of the home and supported her family. I also made an alliance with one of my other single mommy friends, trading off weekends with each other’s kids so that we could get a day to ourselves. During that time I was free to get out of the house unencumbered by kids, was able to get my house back in order before they came home again, or just spend a few hours enjoying the silence.

Last – I wish someone had told me to take my time in the dating world. Or rather, I wish I had listened when I was told to wait. Because I started dating a couple months into my divorce, it was a disaster. First off, I was still healing from a bad marriage. And any relationship I started, I brought in that extra baggage. Also, my assumptions were that all guys were the same. So I was on the lookout for any little sign that would prove me right that they were all like my ex. And not only that, I really was choosing guys just like my ex, and each relationship would deepen that original hurt a little bit more until I was ready to swear off dating altogether.

Being a single parent is delicate balancing act. In the world of exes, split parent households, tighter budgeting, single parent dating, and balancing a family with only one pair of hands, it can be a stressful, confusing, hectic life.

What are some things you are struggling with now?
What are some things you have learned along the way?
And if there was any advice you wish you had known when you started this journey, what would it be?

Taming the Green Eyed Monster

This is part three of a short relationship series.  If you haven’t already, read part 1, and part 2. 

So imagine this. You’re out to eat with your boyfriend. The two of you are enjoying the spring weather at an outside table, sharing the dessert from one bowl as you gaze into each other’s eyes. You’ve just said something witty and start to laugh, when you realize he isn’t laughing with you. His attention is elsewhere for a second before he turns back to you.

“Hmm?” he asks, realizing that he’d missed something.

He may have missed something, but you sure didn’t. A quick glance over your shoulder and you see exactly what caught his attention – a girl walking by on the street in her little short spring dress, walking her tiny rat of a dog and smiling in the direction of your man.

Jealousy. It’s rampant in relationships. From the tiniest twinge over a night out with the boys leaving you at home alone, to the myriad of texts your girl might be receiving and you have no idea who they’re from. Some experts claim that twinges of jealousy might make things a little more exciting in a relationship. I’m not so sure about that, however. But what I do agree with is that jealousy exists in every relationship out there, whether it’s just the little twinges, to something that is way more consuming and causes loss of sleep (or loss of control over resulting actions…)

So what is jealousy? It’s when the overactive imagination starts playing the “What If” game. What if he is really out with another girl when he’s saying that he has to work late? What if she is thinking of her ex while she’s kissing me? Thing is, the “What If” game is a dangerous pastime, and too much dappling in this game can actually make things happen that may not necessarily happen. Huh? Bear with me here. If you are playing the “What If” game, you are creating a belief in yourself that they are guilty of doing something that you have no proof of (if you do have proof, that’s another story). What used to be a whim in your mind that was along the line of “perhaps” becomes cemented inside of you as gospel truth. With this thought process going on in your mind, you will act differently towards them. Instead of being confident and secure, you become accusatory, jealous, clingy, and insecure. And the funny thing is, they may not have done anything to deserve this treatment.

So how do you overcome the little green-eyed monster that has the ability to eat your soul?

First of all, you need to know yourself. What are your triggers? Does it make you jealous to know that your girl is still friends with her ex? Does it bother you when your man appears to be too friendly with the waitress taking your order? Do you feel a sense of rage when your girlfriend likes to hang out with the guys at work? Is it a certain behavior your SO exhibits around the opposite sex or when another person seems to be checking out your SO? Or is it something that no one is doing but still has you feeling jealousy? Figure out everything that triggers your jealousy, and then WRITE THEM DOWN. Don’t only write them down, but write down WHY they make you jealous.

Next, you need to be open and honest with your SO. Tell him that you are feeling jealous, and share why. Don’t accuse them of doing anything wrong, but explain that these jealous feelings are inside of you and you would like help in conquering them. “I felt really jealous when I heard that you went to coffee with your ex. I know you’re with me, and that if you wanted to be with her, you would be. But I can’t help feeling really put off knowing that you are spending alone time with someone you were once intimate with.” This is a perfect time to share expectations in your relationship. Truth is, this conversation should be had around the time that the two of you first decide to be committed to only each other. But it is never too late to discuss and negotiate ground rules in your commitment that allow the two of you to feel safe and secure. This might mean letting personal history remain untouched until the two of you are more comfortable and secure in your relationship to discuss those kinds of things. Or maybe it’s guidelines for dealing with ex-partners or friends of the opposite sex. Whatever it is, these are things that are important to you or your SO, and must be agreed upon together. There may be some things that you will have to give in a little about, such as deciding that being Facebook friends with an ex is ok, but having lunch with them is not. It’s not your favorite solution, but it’s one you can live with, and so can your SO. Come up with a plan together on ways to avoid these triggers. If her flirtiness is causing jealousy in you, it needs to be addressed. If he is being texted at all times of the day and you are feeling put off, guidelines need to be discussed.

The thing to remember about jealousy is that it more likely than not has something to do with YOU and not with your SO. Perhaps you were abandoned as a child by a parent. Or maybe you’ve been cheated on in the past. Maybe you weren’t included with a group of friends in high school or have been rejected time and again in your life’s opportunities. Being rejected or abandoned or lied to in the past has the capability to leave marks of insecurity lingering in your identity. Your SO doesn’t even have to do anything to have you feeling possessive over them if you have allowed these insecure feelings to take their toll on you. If you are feeling consumed with jealousy to the point of rage or doing something irrational, get help immediately.

If it is your SO that is feeling jealous, be understanding of the situation. Are you doing something that might be provoking his jealousy? Be aware of your actions and change those things that might not be sitting well with your SO. If it’s honestly nothing that you are doing, don’t be afraid to bring it up with them. Ensure your SO of your devotion to him by letting him know you are thinking of him. Perhaps a hidden note in his car, or a random text, or maybe even a spontaneous date that you have set up for the two of you. Take the extra bit of effort to ensure them that you love him and want to be with only him. And while I don’t advocate with supplying your SO with every single second of your day, be transparent with them about what you are up to during the day so that they aren’t left in a dangerous guessing game with your whereabouts. And, of course, if your SO’s behavior is feeling dangerous or overly possessive, it’s time to seek out counseling – or just get the heck out of there. Many cases that involve domestic violence or murder stemmed from feelings of intense jealousy. If your SO has already gone too far in his jealous impulses, please involve the police and LEAVE.

A lot of what I have learned about jealousy shared by several different experts, such as Dr. Pamela Varaday, and by Roger S. Gil, MAFMT, who has an Internet TV show called LuvBuzd.tv. Last year Gil did an amazing talk on jealousy that I want to share with you.  The guy is funny, and he’s real.  And he has a way with talking about difficult subjects by laying them out in real scenarios and still have you chuckling in the end.  Check it out:

Hey, Jealousy

“My boyfriend left the house and I don’t when he’s coming back,” Jenny told me the other day on the phone. I listened sympathetically while she sobbed, relaying the whole story. A year ago in her single days, she’d had a few too many at the bar while out with friends.  She ended up going home with one of her guy friends. Their friendship crossed the line quickly, but stopped after a heavy make out session when they had sobered up enough to realize that where they were going wasn’t somewhere they’d want to be in the morning. They stopped it short and promised to never speak of it again.

Several months later, Jenny’s new boyfriend asked her about her past relationship with this friend, and true to their agreement, Jenny denied that anything had ever happened. It was when she was still single, and she decided that telling him would only make him uncomfortable as they were all mutual friends. And mostly, she knew that he would be pissed that she had hooked up with a friend of theirs.  Keeping mum about the situation was the only thing she could think of doing. 

But as time wore on, Jenny felt guilty about lying. So she fessed up. What resulted was a yelling match, a slammed door, and Jenny on the other line with me sobbing into the phone. And as she wondered what she was going to do, I couldn’t help but feel my anger seethe at how the blame was being placed entirely on her.

Jealousy doesn’t feel good.  I’m not sure who those people out there are that claim a little bit of jealousy keeps the interest going in a relationship, but I don’t believe it for a second.  Having been a part of a jealous relationship, I can honestly say that it is not healthy, and it’s totally unnecessary. Sure, we all have been hurt in the past, and it’s a natural impulse to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in the present (even when we know that if it’s going to happen, it will with or without us monitoring the situation). And it’s true that there are many situations when jealousy is warranted because someone is truly untrustworthy. But in other times, jealousy has nothing to do with the accused, and everything to do with the accuser. It’s their issue, stemming all the way back to a time when someone did them wrong. In the past, I’ve been yelled at because a guy so much as looked at me, and I’ve been called horrible names if my eyes ever met another male’s gaze. And then there’s the questioning about past relationships before the current beau was even in the picture. Curiosity is one thing. It’s ok to know about the person you love before they knew you, and what their past relationships were like. It gives glimpses into your loved one’s past that explain a bit about who they are today. And if honest curiosity is all it is, then by all means, ask away. But when past behaviors are held against someone who has moved on from it, that’s when it gets hairy. I’m sorry to say that I have divulged too much information in the past when put under the bright lights and interrogated. I did it in the name of trust, to show that person that I had nothing to hide. Let me be the first to tell you, it doesn’t work. If someone is so adamant that they are going to catch you in something, and you placate this little fantasy by giving them everything they think they need, it won’t stop. No matter how many times I gave away the farm when it came to my own personal past life, nothing was ever good enough. My life before them was consistently held against me. And the questioning continued until the relationship inevitably died.

What I came to realize years later was that, while I had felt like I was in the wrong, it was actually my significant other who should have been in the hot seat. They had no right to be asking me about things from my past when they only chose to use it against me. I, like Jenny, and like many of you out there, am not a saint. I have done things I regret, but have learned lessons from these blemishes. They have helped me to grow in many areas as a result. While I wish I had the wisdom then not to make some of the mistakes I did, I wouldn’t take them away. I am the person I am today because of them. And I’ll be damned to make the same mistake twice.

Hearing Jenny go on and on about how she was 100% in the wrong, and wondering how she could ever regain her boyfriend’s trust again, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“Jenny, have you ever wondered about WHY you lied in the first place?” I asked her.

“Because he would have been mad at me and at our friend for having kissed,” she told me.

“Besides the fact that kissing him was not wrong, have you ever thought that maybe you lied because it wasn’t safe for you to tell the truth?” I asked her. She murmured in agreement. “Jenny, I can’t help but feel pissed that this guy is even bringing up the past. He has made it an unsafe place for you to even tell him about your past, and yet he still expects you to answer him honestly when he asks you questions that don’t have anything to do with him. He has no right interrogating you when he knows how he’ll react if you confirm his suspicions. He really needs to grow up in the jealousy department. And instead of getting mad at you, maybe he should be mad at himself for making it impossible to be honest with him over these hard issues.”

She didn’t take this so well, and the conversation almost ended. I’d gone a little farther than I knew I should. But I was really angry at this guy, who I usually think highly of, but who was also making my friend’s life miserable in this moment.  Not to mention that he was being a complete jackass.

“This is fixable,” I said, softening the blow a little. “The black and white of this situation is that you lied to him. And now he feels like he can’t trust you. But the gray part is the reason that you lied in the first place. That’s the part of this conflict that needs to be addressed so that you two can grow from this. It’s just going to take some communication. Good news is that when stuff like this arises, it gives opportunity for growth and can actually strengthen your relationship. A successful relationship must be worked on every day.”

“Well, right now he doesn’t even want to talk about it, or to me. I’m not sure what to do except to just give him his space.”

“That’s all you can do,” I told her. “Wait until you two can talk rationally before you try and work it out.”

Jenny wasn’t totally convinced with what I had to say, and is still taking a big brunt of this on her shoulders. And I wonder…

Am I wrong?

Should she have told him the truth upfront since they are in a committed relationship?
Is there a line in relationships where honesty is not the best policy, or should honesty be adhered to at all times? 
Did her lie make her untrustworthy and guilty of withholding information?
Or am I right in thinking that he shares a large part of the blame here for her lie?

Ticking clocks

“Four years?!?” I exclaimed when Mr. W and I first brought up talk of moving in with each other a month or two ago. We were both too scared to even mention the “M” word, but my sister’s recent visit to introduce her fiancé had me reeling and questioning my own life. While we’ve been together for 1.5 years, Mr. W and I are in agreement that neither one of us wants to give up our homes in the now. We both love being together, and spend every weekend with each other. But we also enjoy having our own place to come home to at night. We enjoy that quiet time of not having to speak if we don’t want to. Frankly, we are still enjoying our independence way too much to combine our homes and our families. Besides, one of us (most likely me) would be moving from our home town to reside in the other’s town. That would mean uprooting the kids from their schools and their friends, and having a much longer commute every day. It’s not an easy change either of us wanted to make in the present.

But when I brought up future talk that involved moving in together, he mentioned that it most likely won’t happen until after his son graduates high school. And since his son is a freshman….

“Four years?!?”

This is going to sound so silly. So please don’t think less of me. But I have been inundated with thoughts about the end of the world. And seeing the movie 2012 did not help any. In the back of my mind I am worried that in two years time, life as we know it will end. And while I know that the world has been slated to end numerous times (220 and counting), I can’t help but feel nervous about the fact that we may only have 2 more years. Is this just crazy talk? Could I be winding up my end of the world clock for nothing? I sure hope so. But with all the major earthquakes going on, the hazards over in Yellowstone, the polar ice caps melting and global warming becoming a problem, plus the fact that the date of the “end” is on the winter solstice AND the date when all of the planets become perfectly aligned… It just makes me nervous, ok? So this date stands out in my mind as the date that I better have all my ducks in a row and experience everything I want to experience in my life. And marriage is one of those experiences. By my calculations, we wouldn’t be moving in together until one year after the end of the world as we know it. And that isn’t even mentioning marriage at all.

I can only imagine what a single woman feels when her biological clock is ticking. That window of opportunity to have a child before she reaches middle age is sounding its alarm after every single bad date to the point that she becomes desperate, even mulling over the thoughts of settling for Mr. Good Enough than waiting for Mr. Perfect to come along. I already have my children, and there are no plans for any new bundles of joy to join my wild and rambunctious family. And Mr. W is in utter agreement. We have no desire to seal our love with a perfect combination of our finest qualities in the form of a child. Having my first child at 20 means that I will be enjoying my 40’s as a free woman, able to explore this world without dragging a child along beside me on a kid leash (greatest invention in the world, in my opinion, btw). So my biological clock has never sounded an alarm in my life, and I am eternally grateful for that. But all this end of the world “nonsense” is sounding a different kind of alarm. And it is spurring that desperate pull to create forever in a very short period of time.

And this goes against everything I stand for as the woman I have become in the years since my divorce. My first marriage was based on blind love. And that didn’t work out at all. Since then, I have slowly become more realistic about what a marriage entails and what I can do differently to be a part of a successful union. I have embraced my independence, and I’m proud of that. And with Mr. W, for the first time I am 100% still me as I have refused to lose myself in the name of love. And that only makes our relationship that much sweeter. But I am a romantic at heart. While I don’t have my future wedding planned out to the very last detail, I do have visions of a simple ceremony with my closest friends. And more important than the wedding, I have visions of what my marriage will look like years later. I want that marriage. If there were no time frame at all, and there very well may not be a time frame at all, I could wait forever for that dream.

And all this talk of impending doom is stifling the voice of my inner Magi and pulling out that desperate single woman complex that is afraid to end up as the crazy cat woman in my final days.

A coworker came up to me last week, and we started talking about my relationship with Mr. W. Somehow in the conversation, the topic turned to the exorbitant costs of college. Her own children were in the throes of college, and her family was now dealing with the realities of expenses from it. She had set aside a certain amount for each child, and let each one know what they were being given, and that they were responsible for the rest. As a result, they had applied for as many grants, scholarships, and loans that they could get their hands on to ensure that they could continue going when their parents’ gift of money had run out.

I don’t have that luxury of setting up a college fund. At least not right now. With my income, every single penny is going to the here and now. I just don’t have enough to plan for a future that will be here before I know it, yet still seems so very far away. My co-worker went on to talk about how she had applied each child for FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid. With her and her husband’s income, they had barely made the cut.

“Not that I want to pry,” she continued, “as I don’t know what you and Mr. W have planned for your future. But you have a real financial advantage as a single mom when your kids go to school.”

I hadn’t thought of that. Whether the world is ending or not, I still have to plan for the future of my kids. And I couldn’t let romantic hopes and dreams get in the way of that. More than marriage, traveling the world, being rich and famous, or any other dream for myself, I want my kids to be educated and have a life that is a million times easier than the path I laid out for myself. And college is the stepping stone for that reality.

So my big announcement? I am NOT getting married. Well, not now at least. And not any time in the near future. Additionally, I refuse to be burdened by an end of the world prediction that may very well be listed in the future as another silly notion by us humans that came and went without anything remarkable happening at all. Sure, my decision is hardly romantic at all. But it’s realistic, and it’s using my head.

As for the moving in thing, I think I may try and whittle those years down to maybe two years from now. Four years?!? Please.

Wedding Bells

As the weather turns from gloomy to a cautious warmth of sun, long winter coats give way for tank tops and skirts, and the birds start building their nests and preparing for a family on the way, springtime brings forth twitterpated hopes and dreams of wedding bells on the horizon. It seems like everywhere I turn, someone is getting engaged or is already planning the party of a lifetime to celebrate their union with the one they love. One of my best friends is getting married this August and has been sharing the details of food tastings, venue shoppings, and the adventure of finding the perfect wedding gown that will make her a princess for a day. My sister met the man of her dreams 6 months ago and, because they just knew, they are now planning their own wedding slated for next summer. Even my sister’s roommate is in on the season of weddings and became engaged and then married all in one week. Wedding bells are being sounded far and near, and even the most happily single person is being affected by the siren of this marriage call.

I’ll admit it, I also am hearing this siren call. It’s hard not to be when I am literally surrounded by joyous announcements and Pachelbel Canon in D. I’ve been divorced for 6 years, and it is definitely a hope of mine to one day be walking down that aisle to join the man I am destined to be with forever. But having been divorced, it is also my desire not to rush into anything with my eyes closed, and then go through another bitter divorce. Nevertheless, the sudden influx of wedding announcements has placed engagement rings and honeymoons on the brain. And it has spurred marriage talk between me and Mr. W.

It seems like every time I find myself truly single, I go through this uncomfortable stage of dreading the possibility of ending up alone for the rest of my life. It’s a scary feeling. I sit in near panic at the prospect of raising my kids alone, and then being left in solitude when they fly the nest, possibly surrounded by a bunch of cats because I can’t handle the thought of not having something accountable for my life.

I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady. I don’t even like cats all that much.

I even want to get married because I want to change my last name. After my divorce, I kept my married name because it was the same last name of my children. It had taken a lot of thought and worry to make that decision. But because I had married and divorced by the time I was 25, I didn’t want to give the appearance that I had bore children out of wedlock. I wanted it known that I had once been married to my children’s father, that they had been planned, that they hadn’t just been born out of a one night mistake. (In hindsight, this was a silly reason to keep my married name. I had only had that last name for 4.5 years and hadn’t really established it as my own in any public way. And now, having been divorced longer than I’d been married, I still carry that name and it’s the name that everyone knows me by. And I wish that I had changed it.)

And of course, I want to be joined forever with a man who is my best friend, partner, and confidante in this crazy thing called life. I want that forever companion that I can wake up to every morning, drink coffee with and share stories out of the newspaper, curl up with in the evening while we watch TV by a fire, swing on a porch swing in the evenings as we slowly grow old together, have the luxury to take for granted that someone is always there for me and me for him…. I want to be able to introduce myself as Mrs. So and So, walk into a get together on my forever companion’s arm, be included into a second family, and have a more established title than just “girlfriend”. I want that security of knowing that I will be with that one person for the rest of my life – that one day when he or I are taking our final breaths, the other will be holding our hand and wishing us well from this life to the next.

Luckily, having found myself single many, many, many (did I say many?) times, I have also become aware of the calm after the storm when I accept my singleness and actually revel in it. So what if I end up alone? I will be able to live my life exactly how I want, only my dreams to answer to. And my dreams of marriage and growing old with one person as we sway on a porch swing turn into living in a small cottage with lots of windows and a garden outside all by myself so that I can live my life uninterrupted and without the distractions of romance and a shared future. And I can swing myself on my own damn porch swing.

Inevitably, this is always when I find my next true love.

From Day 1 with Mr. W, there has been this magnetic pull between us. I still get butterflies when I see him smile at me from across the room, sending me his secret wink and dimpled grin. It was pretty apparent in those early days that this was more than just a fling or a short dating interlude before moving on to the real thing. And as we got to know each other more, I started losing my independent resolve and started thinking a couple of secret “forever” thoughts. But I kept them close to my heart this time instead of drowning him with questions of “Where do you see this going?” or scribbling my name as Mrs. Crissi Wonderful. I’d grown up in the years since my divorce, and realized that I didn’t need to rush into anything super fast. It was more important to take the time to ensure the possibility of forever than to go through the hurts and pain of another rushed, failed marriage.

But the marriage call has been pounding me upside the head so furiously that I accidentally let those hopes and dreams slip out of my mouth. What happened as a result set off many, many conversations that led to the decision we made this weekend.

Folks, I have an announcement to make. To be continued… (I know, this is so evil of me…)

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First Kiss

Over the weekend, while my texting tween was hunched over her cell phone, she paused long enough to ask me if she could go over to the house of this new “friend” to hang out. I agreed, thinking that it was no different than when she went over to one of her other guy friend’s house. Her first guy friend had been friends with her since 1st grade, and for several years had even considered themselves best friends. I had gotten to know this kid well, as well as his family. And there had never been any reason to not let them hang out. But after I agreed to let my daughter hang out with this new “friend”, I immediately regretted the words. Why? My daughter was a tomboy, naturally drawn to being one of the guys at school, and chatting with her guy pals on Facebook. So what was causing me to bristle at the thought of her hanging out with one of the guys?

For one, it was the way they had been texting back and forth consistently for the past several days. Two, it was the way she lit up, eager to talk up his good points every time I asked a few innocent questions about who he was, what he liked, his intentions for my daughter, plans for the future, and what his parents did for a living. You know, innocent. Three, she was getting to the age when male-female friendships developed into something more than just hanging out, and I wasn’t sure that I had counseled her enough on matters of the heart and the art of being chaste.

Most of all, it was that I didn’t even know this kid or his parents.

I retracted later in the day and told her that before she could go over to this friend’s house, I needed to meet him. That meant that they would not be picking her up from school as originally planned, I would. And I would be driving her to his house so that I could meet him AND his parents, plus find out exactly where she would be staying. Plus, I needed to talk to his mom on the phone first. She immediately fought me on this.

“But Mom, you said!” she cried.

“I know I said. But I don’t even know this kid. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I get to know whose house my daughter is going to.”

“Great. You say I can go, and then you change all the rules. Totally fair,” she said to me in her attempt to manipulate the situation back into her court. Little did she know that I was the master of manipulation.

“Let’s put it this way, DQ, either I meet him and his parents, or you don’t go.”

She hunched back over her phone, and a few minutes later she had an address for me, and had given my phone number to her friend so that he could pass it on to his mom.

The mom called me later that day. We both laughed over this ruse our kids were pulling over our eyes, thinking we were none the wiser.

“She keeps telling me that they’re just friends,” I told the mom. “But I’m fairly certain that there is more going on.” She agreed, mentioning that her son was doing the same thing and that she wasn’t fooled. She assured me that she would be keeping a watchful eye on them, and I couldn’t help but mention that I’d love it if his bedroom door remained open while my daughter was there.

“I do want you to know that my son is a good kid,” she said. “I know I’m biased, but he’s really great.”

“I have no doubt about that,” I reassured her. “I just know my daughter, and I remember what I was like at her age.” Truth be told, however, that yes, I was worried about her son possibly stealing my daughter’s first kiss and then breaking her heart.

I was 13 when I received my first kiss. Almost overnight, this particular boy had become the crush of every single girl at school. He was exotic, of Persian descent. And he had a smile that could win millions. So it was my luck that he happened to be on the schoolyard the same day as Open House when my parents were stuck in a stuffy classroom, learning about what their daughter would be doing that year in school. He was with a bunch of mutual friends, so I joined the group. And we all came up with the brilliant idea that we would play Truth or Dare. It was my turn, and the dare given to me both elated and terrified me.

I was to kiss this beautiful Persian boy.

I entered the center of this circle, and so did he. He got really close to me and wrapped his arms around my waist. He dropped his head down close to mine, and then his lips touched my lips. What happened next shocked the hell out of me.

He shoved his tongue in my mouth.

I had never in my life experienced something so gross, so slimy, so absolutely horrendous. This was kissing? This was disgusting! Sure, the idea that we were actually FRENCH KISSING was awesome. I was experiencing my very first REAL kiss, and everyone got to see. And I knew what a French kiss was before I had actually experienced one. But I hadn’t anticipated the slick, wet feeling of what a French kiss actually felt like. Ick ick ick ick ick!!!!

When the crowd had dispersed, we were left alone to sit and talk. Or rather, not talk. We didn’t really know each other, and we had nothing to say. He finally turned to me.

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

What could I say? True, I hardly knew him. True, he didn’t even know I existed until this evening. But we had kissed, so now we were in love forever.

“Yes!” I said. We sealed it with another kiss just in the nick of time. My parents came out of the classroom only moments later.

For three glorious days, we were the couple on campus. This meant that we never talked at school, and only glanced at each other with shy smiles until one of us turned away. We may have even talked on the phone at least once. But on the third day, he walked up to me and told me that he liked another girl and wanted to break up. I was crushed, of course, but smiled and told him that was ok. As I remember, he cycled through that girl just as fast as the relationship he had with me, dumping her for two girls who agreed to be his girlfriends simultaneously. I’d love to say that this was my first and last experience of dating a player. I’d love to. But some guys have become way too adept at using their prettiness as a power, and let’s just say it has been my kryptonite more than once.

And being that my daughter was raised by me, and has proven to be very much like me, I knew that she might face the same problem. This was especially evident when her “friend” walked out of his room to greet us. He was tall and slender. He wore the standard skater clothes with long dark hair that fell perfectly in place. And he gave us a shy smile when I said hello to him, flipping his hair ever so slightly.

Frankly, he was a 12 year old babe.

Part of me wanted to say, way to go DQ! But mostly, remembering all the pretty faces that I had given many of my firsts to, I realized that I am in so much trouble. And I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

Parents of tweens, how are you dealing with these coming of age years?  And do you remember your own first kiss?

Holiday of love, or of dread?

When I was a kid, Valentine’s Day was a holiday to look forward to. It was a treat to wake up on Valentine’s Day to see what surprises were left for us at our place on the kitchen table. While most mornings were littered with pleas from us to wait “5 more minutes” before we got up, Valentine’s Day was treated much like Christmas – we were up before the sun. At the table there would be three places set with a little chocolate box, some candy hearts, a Valentine’s Day card, a Pez dispenser, and a new pair of Valentine’s Day socks. Sometimes there would be a little trinket, like a heart shaped glass bead on a chain or a little box with some gold coins on it. But always, there was the surprise of small treats that meant the world for us. After a breakfast of heart-shaped pancakes, we would grab our bag of homemade valentines for our classmates, excited for a day when we received at least 30 new valentines. At the end of the day our bellies would be full of candy and cookies, and our teeth coated with the sugar of little confectioner’s hearts that had messages of “Be mine” and “XOXO”. Then we would read through every single valentine to see if there was some hidden message between the lines of Garfield proclaiming his love for lasagna on a folded piece of pink paper that the cutest boy sent out to every girl in the class.

As adults, Valentine’s Day gets much harder. When I was single, it was the most dreaded of all holidays. It reminded me that I was alone with no one to love me and get me small little trinkets or take me out to dinner. There was no one buying me a dozen overpriced roses or declaring their love for me with those three little words. The holiday of love felt more like a holiday of cruelty as couples walked hand in hand around me, and I was surrounded by the colors of red and pink.

Being that this is my second Valentine’s Day with Mr. Wonderful, I understand now that the holiday of love is no easier as part of a couple, either.

Last Valentine’s Day, we had only been going out for 3 months. We were still wrapped up in the newness of our relationship, proclaiming our newfound love to each other in little ways every day. Coffee in bed. Flowers for the kitchen table for no reason except that we were in love. Little post-its left at each other’s desks or in our inboxes to secretly let the other know we were thinking of them. We only had eyes for each other in those early days, blind to the world around us as we reveled in these new feelings of adoration. So Valentine’s Day was all too exciting as it approached. But as it got closer, it got a little nerve wracking. Being that our relationship was so new, we made a pact that neither of us would go overboard on the other. These limits made things easier on my pocketbook, but even harder as I wracked my brain for something I could get him that let him know just how much he meant to me. What do you get the man that means everything to you without going over $20?

On a whim, days before V Day was to arrive, I found myself in Rite Aid looking for little trinkets for my kids to place at the kitchen table just like my mother had done for me and my sisters. Rite Aid is a great time suck. They have aisles upon aisles of stuff you need, like shampoo and make-up and medicine for every single symptom of the common cold. But they also have aisles dedicated to junk that looks awfully inviting when it is placed on shelves under fluorescent lighting.

That’s right folks. I found cheap gifts of love at a drugstore.

I was intrigued by the little aromatherapy sets – a metal stand that held scented oil that gave off aromas of vanilla or flowers when warmed by a tealight candle. And I found him some designer soap with flecks of seaweed in it and matching scented lotion. I wrapped it all up in a small pink gift bag with red tissue paper and enclosed a card that said perfectly every thing I was feeling for him.

Valentine’s Day came, and I anticipated the moment when he would open his present and be amazed at how well I knew him. He presented me with my gift, a necklace that matched the blue dress I had worn when we went out for New Years Eve. It was full of thought and care. And it made me realize how lame my gift to him was. I mean, seriously. I had bought him an aromatherapy set. And I had bought him soap and lotion.

I had bought him a chick’s gift.

He opened the gift and was so gracious at what he found. He immediately used some of the lotion, which actually smelled delicious. And he raved about the aromatherapy set. He read the words I had written to him, and gave me a sweet kiss of thanks. We set up the candle and poured the oil into the little metal basin. And the aroma that it gave off was reminiscent of the islands in paradise.

If the islands were to smell like melting wax.

Ugh, it was awful! I promised him that I would buy him some more oil to replace the awful cheap drugstore oil. But I never did. I was already shamed enough by the cheap gift that I conveniently forgot all about it. Luckily, the lotion and the soap were wonderful, and I used them every time I came over. I’m not really sure if he ever did get any use out of them. But I enjoyed them.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and I find myself in the same boat as last year. What the heck do you get the most wonderful guy in the world to let him know how much you love him without breaking the bank? It makes me miss the simplicity of the holiday when I was single, only having to buy Pez dispensers and conversation hearts while naïvely mourning my singleness. Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to say that having singleness thrust in my face through a set of heart shaped binoculars was better than being in a relationship around the holiday of love. But at least I didn’t have to buy a gift.

The fact of the matter is, in a caring relationship, gifts of love are given every day. They are in the “bless you” when the other sneezes. They are in a simple cup of coffee on a rushed lunch break. They are in the dinner prepared for the other on a night in, or in the dishes being washed since the other cooked. They are in the way one sneaks out of the bedroom in the morning so the other can sleep in on a lazy Sunday. They are in the bagel and lox bought for breakfast because he knows that’s my favorite breakfast. They are in the mundane task of folding clothes fresh out of the dryer to make his life a little easier as I camp out at his house all weekend long. They are in the neck and shoulder squeezes after a long day doing yardwork. They are in the suffering of the cold air outside as we entertain each other’s kids with an impromptu game of football. They are in the silent mouths and open ears as we listen to each other pour out the troubles of our hearts, and in the hug that follows in comfort that everything is going to be ok.

With that said, however, I’m still left with the dilemma of how to show him just how much I care though some sort of trinket in a wrapped box complete with a card. But I do know that I will be passing up the drugstore this year.

What is your take on Valentine’s Day?
What will you present your love with on Valentine’s Day?
And is there a perfect gift to get a guy for V Day? (keep it clean…)