This Is What It's Really Like To Date After Divorce

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I’m a divorced mother, and I may have met the love of my life on Tinder. Over three months ago, just before I walked into the restaurant to meet him for our afternoon date, I thought, What if he sees me in person and is disappointed?

I choose my best pictures for my profile (of course), and wondered if it would be apparent that’s what I did when he saw me. As he stood up from his seat and greeted me as I walked in, his big smile said he wasn’t disappointed.

But as soon as I sat next to him I felt feelings of doubt sneak in and try to take hold of the moment. You can be a confident woman, believe in yourself, and have a “take me or leave me” attitude and still be afraid of rejection. You can still want to be liked. You can still carry scars from your past relationship and try to hide those scars from others lest they make you look ugly.

After talking for an hour over a drink, he said, “Your pictures are great. You looked really attractive in all of them, but in person with you is where it’s at.”

I had no idea how hard it would be to put myself out there after my marriage ended. I’m not talking about dating; I’m talking about how it feels to be a woman who’s been through a divorce and really, really let yourself be vulnerable and open to finding love again.

There should be a class for this shit.

I thought I was ready, but then I had second thoughts.

Just stop thinking. Just be in the moment. Just let go.

Those thoughts have run through my mind constantly since meeting him, but I can’t do it — I don’t know how to be anyone other than a woman who found out her husband was having an affair after 10 years of marriage. Although it happened almost 7 years ago, and I’ve healed, she’s still here. She’s bolted herself to my soul.

I don’t know how to not drag her along with me. Because whenever I tell her to let go, whenever I scream, “Fuck off and let me move on” in her face, she won’t fuck off and leave. She just won’t — she’s here to stay.

I don’t know how to let go of the insecurities I feel about the fact my marriage ended in divorce. You can be happier after you’ve let go of someone who’s not right for you, proud of yourself for breaking free, and feel stronger than ever, but there is still a tiny flicker of something — something I can’t explain that sits on my shoulder and reminds me it’s never worked out with anyone thus far, and if I can’t make it with the man I had three kids with, can I handle a relationship with anyone?

It’s not about thinking your new partner is so much like your ex they are going to hurt you in the same way. It’s more about letting yourself grow and realize you are deserving of a special kind of love. A kind of love that feels right and good and whole. A kind of love that’s not perfect, even though you want it to be and every moment it’s not you think, I’m the problem, I’m not lovable.

Sometimes we get really comfortable being uncomfortable so we twist and turn things so they don’t work in our favor because that’s what we are used to.

A divorce can break you, and once you start to heal from that hurt you feel fresh and new, but you constantly wonder when that feeling is going to slip away because it always has before.

There are those of us who try to sabotage a healthy relationship before the person leaves us. Since my divorce, I have become one of those women. I know all the women I’ve been before are probably here to stay, but this scared woman has to leave — she needs to go now. I will not turn into someone who is more comfortable refusing what she deserves than opening her heart to it.

I won’t.

My boyfriend — and yes, I finally feel comfortable calling him my boyfriend — said to me recently, “It’s okay to talk about the problems we are having. It’s okay to talk about it when I make you feel a certain way, instead of shutting me out. Because if you don’t tell me what you need, I’ll never learn. I’ll never know what you need. I want to give you what you need.”

He made me realize I need to give myself what I need, too. And that means not shutting out all the pieces that made me who I am today. All the joy, all the hurt, all the sorrow from past relationships are mine. I am supposed to learn and grow from every experience, not punish myself for still feeling them.

I believe the relationships of our lives harm us, they can break us down and make us to view ourselves as someone we are not. They make us feel uncomfortable. They change us, scare us, and dammit, they stay with us.

But I also believe every single relationship we’ve had is a thread that has been woven into a beautiful cloth. Some pieces of it aren’t perfect, and that’s where you focus, that’s what draws you in.

Those imperfections make other parts of you overcompensate. They make you more aware, louder, more sensitive. They make you feel deeply, they make you who you are at this very moment.

Right now, there is a man I met on Tinder who loves every piece of me. And all I have to do is let him. It sounds easy, I know. But the hard part is letting him love the pieces of me that have been changed because my marriage ended, and I need to start loving those pieces, too.

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