One month after my ex-husband moved out of the house, I had sex with a new partner for the first time. It was a Tuesday, after our second date. We had wonderful Chinese food and even better sex. The last time I’d had sex with a man so soon after meeting, I was with him for 20 years and we had three kids together.
I wanted him to stay the night, and he did. But as he was lying there, playing romantic music from his phone, telling me all the things he “loved” about me, I began to panic. I felt he was just saying those things because he was riding the high from the amazing sex we just had, and instead of enjoying the moment, I began to spiral into the sea of anxiety.
He really doesn’t mean these things he’s whispering in my ear. If he really gets to know me and sees how anxious I get when the house is a mess, how smelly my gas is after eating roasted veggies (I love roasted veggies and I’m not giving them up), if I give him a grand view of my floppy breasts, he’ll leave. He’ll find someone younger and more attractive who doesn’t like roasted veggies. He’ll find someone who will make him want to stay beyond the hardships and their PMS. There is no way that will be me.
Looking back, I thought I was ready to be in another relationship, but really, I was just chasing a feeling. A feeling I could give to myself, but I was waiting for a man to show me I was actually worthy of feeling it before giving myself permission. That love affair didn’t last, of course. You can’t fully accept someone when you can’t accept yourself, and I spent about eight months not dating so that I could focus on working on myself.
When you are without a partner, though, one week can feel like months. It’s easy for someone who is in a relationship to tell you to take time for you — they have someone to come home to at night, someone to have sex with, someone to talk to over dinner. You have to dip your toe in the water to see if you are ready on your own terms before diving in.
So, while friends and family told me maybe I wasn’t quite ready, I decided I was and took a trip to Tinder Town for the first time.
Within a few weeks I’d met a great guy who showed up with flowers one night shortly after we’d met, proclaiming he wanted to do this with me for real. I felt the same and was elated. We shared a great evening, and when he left the next morning, he sent me a text that said, “You are amazing. I could get used to waking up with you every morning.”
This was what I had wanted, but somehow it wasn’t enough. I stood in the middle of my kitchen reading his text over and over as a wave of panic washed over me. Instead of basking in the joy of my new love affair, I was terrified it was going to end.
Divorce will do that to you; it’s proof something beautiful ends. So, instead of taking your next relationship for what it is and enjoying its uniqueness, you measure it against your marriage and deem yourself doomed before you get to month two.
Again, I was looking to this man to heal wounds left from my broken marriage when really, that was up to me. I still wasn’t ready.
I stuck it out though, hiding my anxiety he’d leave by staying as busy as I could. I got over the feeling, sure, but it took months of talking myself down and a few therapy sessions where I was reminded to give this new relationship a chance to breathe air into itself without dragging my past into it. Easier said than done.
As things got more serious, the mourning and grieving of my marriage really hit me. While talking with a friend who was seven months post-divorce, she gave me some amazing advice: “Things will never be the same with him as they were with your ex. Once you accept that, it will be easier, but give yourself time.”
It was then I realized I needed even more time than I thought I had needed. I began to grow angry at myself, wondering how the hell I was supposed to move forward if these feelings kept holding me back. And if these feelings kept holding me back, how the hell was I going to move forward?
I had no idea how hard it would be to get into a relationship after sharing my life with the same person for so long.
I was excited at first. I was longing for passion and intimacy and thought I had a freshness about me that I could share with someone.
While I do believe that feeling exists for me and anyone who is divorced looking to start over, I’ve realized it comes in moments. It hits you after a great first date. It shows up after you are really honest with yourself about what you want and decide you won’t settle for someone who isn’t that.
But it can disappear as soon as you begin to feel vulnerable and crave your old life. You will have days when you truly believe you are so broken, there’s no fixing your heart. You may think you had one shot at lasting love and you blew it and you just aren’t capable.
Meeting someone and falling in love after divorce is so much more than just a mutual attraction and wanting the same things. It’s a journey you have to commit to when it’s hard, when it doesn’t feel right, and when you don’t feel lovable.
I’ve heard from people who have found Their Person after divorce that it’s worth all the angst and stress and struggle. And I’ll continue to believe that, because I’m deserving and worthy of a healthy relationship.
But I’ve taken off my rose-colored glasses. I’ve allowed myself to slow down, tell a man I don’t want him to stay the night, and call off a date when I need to sit on my sofa and cry about how I miss tucking in my kids every night.
The right one will stick, and I have no problem waiting for him.