When my daughter sent him a text, as she usually does because they like to play games and share the same bathroom humor, he wrote “Give your mom a kiss for me and tell her that I love her.”
She showed me the message like it was nothing and went about her day while I burst into tears.
Naturally my kids wanted to know what was wrong so I explained (while leaving out most of the details) that we’d had a conflict come up and we were trying to work it out, but I was having a really hard time being in a serious relationship since their father and I divorced.
My oldest child, who is 17, said, “So, are you working it out or are you ignoring him and not dealing with it?”
It’s funny how there are times you think your kids have so much to learn about life and there’s more you need to teach them. Then they do something like shove a big mirror in your face and alert you that you are acting in the exact way you’ve told them not to.
When I first started dating after my divorce years ago, I kept a lot from them. The Tinder profiles, the coffee dates, the fact I had an ex-boyfriend from high school come over every night that they were with their dad and we’d eat sushi, talk about the old days, and have fantastic sex.
Of course, they didn’t need to know the nitty-gritty. But according to them, they’d leave and I’d be with my girlfriends, my sisters, or I’d be alone.
After more time passed and they knew I was dating (you can only hide so much from teenagers), I never talked with them about it. Even the few men I started dating exclusively never came into my family life. There isn’t a way I could connect the two, so I kept them separate.
Aside from them playing jokes on me and swiping a few men on my Tinder profile without me knowing about it, I played it cool. As in, I didn’t think it would be appropriate for them to see me get upset, excited, or frustrated about some dude. Hadn’t they been through enough?
Something changed over the last year or so: I stopped hiding my relationship status after meeting a wonderful man. I decided since I was hiding my feelings around relationships, dating, and the men I cared about, it felt like I was keeping secrets and I was ashamed by the fact I had different compartments in my life, which is bullshit.
I don’t care who you are, your romantic relationships and your partner play a big role in your life. The people you love and care about affect you. They have an impact on your moods — in good ways and bad ways. Just because I’m a single mom and wanted to have feelings of steel to protect my kids doesn’t mean it’s the right way to act.
I have a wonderful man in my life who has been here for a while, and I have a feeling he will be in our lives for a really long time. We are not perfect though. We both have kids, busy lives, and baggage because how can you live to be in your mid-forties with all this life that’s happened to you and not be weighted down at least a little?
We have arguments. We hurt each other’s feelings. We react in different ways in certain situations. We both have work to do and we want to do it together, because we are so much in love we can’t see straight.
I will not give my kids the illusion things are perfect all the time or we never disagree because that’s not real life. And I also needed to take that pressure off myself. It’s okay for them to watch us struggle or work through things. It’s all right if they know there is conflict. The last thing I want is for my kids to grow up thinking that relationships mean you don’t argue and things are rosy all the time.
I’m not saying they get in the middle of our disagreements, or even know what they are about. What I am saying is, I don’t have to act like everything is great just because the man in my life isn’t their dad.
Sometime before signing my divorce papers, I took this right away from myself. I thought because I wasn’t married to their father, I had to keep my romantic life so buttoned up they didn’t really see it. And if they did, it had to meet a certain peachy standard.
After trying that, I realized how impossible it was and I have every right to be in a relationship that doesn’t emulate a damn Hallmark movie.
Contrary to what I used to think, acting like Wonder Woman when it comes to being in love helps no one.
I am human. I am allowed to have a less than squeaky-clean relationship. And really, I have every right to show my kids that relationships are work and can be hard, regardless of who I am with. After all, how will they know that’s the way it works and if I don’t show them?
I don’t need to be a martyr. Even if they are the ones who have to set me straight every once in a while, I don’t have to hide that fact that my relationship can be hard sometimes. The last thing I want to do is set the tone that unless something is really good, it shouldn’t be discussed. There’s enough of that going around in this world and I’ll be damned if I am going to add to that noise.