My latest for eHarmony … Mistake or Decision?
Mistakes are not a problem. Not learning from them is.
I wrote a post recently about Dating Deal Breakers where I suggested it is good to know before you start dating what your ‘dating deal breakers’ are – you know, those things which are non-negotiable to you in a potential date/mate/spouse.
I used an example of one of my own ‘dating deal breakers.’ When I re-entered the dating scene several years ago, I told myself I would never date a man who had cheated in a prior relationship. You may have the same deal breaker, or you may have something different. I’ve heard some people say they will never date a person who smokes, or will never date a person with a criminal record, or will never date a person who is divorced, or will never date a person who doesn’t have a college degree. You get the picture. We all have our own biases, our own chips on our shoulders, and our own standards and expectations.
A good guy friend of mine asked me if I was being too judgmental when I told him I wouldn’t date anyone who had cheated in a prior relationship. He said that people make mistakes (yes, we all do!), and if we have learned from them, then we shouldn’t be punished moving forward. Interesting point. And, even more interesting coming from him. I respect this guy a lot. He’s a good guy. But, I knew where his perspective was coming from. You see, he cheated on his wife years ago. It was a mistake. He confessed. She forgave him. They worked through it. Years later, they are still married and very happy together. In his words, “I made a huge mistake, but I learned from it, and I won’t do it again.”
He thought that people who say no to dating anyone who has cheated in a prior relationship are potentially closing the door on some really great people who could turn out to be great partners. I agree – to a certain extent.
Lots of famous people have really great things to say about mistakes.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein
There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go. – Richard Bach
The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything. - Theodore Roosevelt
I’m all about making mistakes. If you are going to try anything new in life, you are bound to make mistakes. But I guess that’s where I diverge in my thinking. Deciding to try cheating while in a relationship is not the kind of “trying something new” that I think is supposed to apply to this notion of “mistakes.”
I’d rather not date a guy who has crossed that guard-rail or that boundary, which has resulted in him making a “mistake.” Cheating on someone isn’t a mistake; it’s a conscious “decision.” To me a “mistake” means you can practice at it and get better so as not to make the same “mistake” again. In this scenario, that makes no sense. Although I have met people who have learned from their “mistakes” and are careful not to be caught next time. They aren’t changing their behavior, but rather they are just more careful in how they cover their tracks.
A very good friend shared this thought with me recently. Her insight is spectacularly amazing. “We all make mistakes. It is what we do afterwards that counts. We can change our behavior or continue our behavior. If we continue our behavior, it is no longer a mistake, but a choice.”
What about you? Any “mistakes” you are willing to overlook? Any “decisions” that are dating deal breakers?
My latest for eHarmony: Dating Deal-Breakers!
f your date has more issues than a magazine, it’s time to cancel the subscription!
On my first date with the guy who is now my husband, I recall asking him if he had ever cheated while in a relationship before. That was important to me. Really important. “Deal breaker” important. If he had said “Yes,” there wouldn’t have been a second date. Fortunately, his answer was a resounding, “No, never.” There was indeed a second date, and a third, and a fourth … and a wedding!
I had coffee with a friend recently who is back in the dating scene. I asked her what her “deal breakers” were. She wasn’t sure what I meant. “You know,” I said, “those things that are absolutely non-negotiable on your part … things about which you aren’t willing to compromise.” I suggested that you have to be clear on these things before you start to date or you might be willing to compromise on things that are really important to you as you find other characteristics really attractive. Ultimately, that means you may lower your standards.
She asked some great questions.
“Can’t people make mistakes,” she asked? “You are all about the power of forgiveness … don’t you believe that some people make mistakes and shouldn’t be penalized for them going forward?” She’s right. I am a huge proponent of the power of forgiveness, but there is a difference between forgiving someone for something they have done in the past, and compromising on your own values and deciding that it isn’t important to you moving forward. I believe in forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences or accountability for actions. In my example, I could absolutely see forgiving someone who made a mistake and cheated in a prior relationship, but to me the consequence would have meant no second date with me. Maybe I would have lost out. On the other hand, maybe I would have saved myself some potential heartache. It’s truly a personal decision and one that each person needs to make independently. We each have to set our own standards. My deal breakers may be different than your deal breakers, and vice versa.
“What if you ultimately decide that your deal breaker isn’t really a deal breaker after all?” She said that initially she thought one of her deal breakers would be if a guy was a smoker. She was just starting to date a guy and discovered that while he wasn’t a chain smoker, he did smoke cigars occasionally – usually when he was out with the guys playing cards. She said she would never have considered dating a smoker, but that this didn’t seem like such a big deal. I think we have to be really clear on the parameters of our deal breakers ahead of time so that when we are confronted with them we know where we stand. In this case, her deal breaker of never dating a smoker should have been articulated more clearly. What she really meant was never getting involved with a chain-smoking, cigarette-puffing, nicotine addict. Sure, we can adjust our deal breakers as we go along, but it might be more effective to have them more clearly identified in the beginning!
“What if I fall for a guy even if he has one of my no-doubt-about-it deal breakers?” Well, we are all human, and you have to live with the consequences of your change of heart. If you decide that a deal breaker really isn’t one after all, then fine; just be confident that it honestly and truly isn’t going to resurface as an issue in the future. I’ve seen too many people decide that they are going to “ignore” an issue in the short-term because they are sure they can “change him” in the future. A word to the wise … that doesn’t always work! I haven’t seen too many people succeed when they held out hope in “changing” someone for the better.
If we know in advance what things are our dating deal makers, and which things are our dating deal breakers, it can make the dating process that much more simple. Goodness knows there are too many other things to think about when dating!
What about you? Do you know your dating deal breakers? What are they?
My latest for Huffington Post … How Dare You!
“Never lie to someone who trusts you. Never trust someone who lies to you.”
I ran into an acquaintance the other day. Last time I saw her, nearly 10 months ago, she was bursting at the seams with joy. After surviving an ugly divorce, and slugging through the ups and down of the dating pool, she had finally met “Mr. Wonderful.” She took it slowly, careful to protect her heart as so many of us do after going through a divorce. She was cautious, but she was also falling in love, and soon she let her heart take over.
Mr. Wonderful had been divorced for two years. His ex-wife and their three kids lived in another state. He had relocated after the divorce for his job. He frequently had my friend over to his condo in town. It was nicely decorated and filled with photos of his children. He spoke about his ex-wife and about his love for his kids. He talked about how difficult the divorce had been on his teen girls. He talked about watching expenses as he now paid child support and alimony. He flew back to his home state once a month to see his kids. He seemed like a good guy who cared for his kids and who worried about the effects of the divorce on them. Seems pretty natural to me. Nothing seemed amiss.
He wouldn’t accept her friend request on Facebook as he said his teenagers were watching his account carefully and would be freaked out if they knew their dad was dating. I can buy this. He took her away for the weekend to the wedding of one of his best friends from high school and she met all of his friends and their wives. Seems like a big step if you ask me!
My friend went from testing the water with her big toe to jumping in head first! After several months of quietly dating and getting to know Mr. Wonderful, she made the assessment that she could trust him. She let her guard down and introduced him to her two kids. The four of them began to hang out regularly.
He came over and they cooked dinner together in her kitchen. He joined she and her kids on hikes at the state park. They went to the movies together. Her son really took to Mr. Wonderful. His own dad hadn’t been a really strong role model and had made some poor decisions, and my friend was pleased to see her son connecting so well.
My friend’s daughter, however, was a bit more suspicious. Perhaps she had been impacted more than she realized by the circumstances surrounding her mom and dad’s divorce. It had left her a bit angry and suspicious. Without anything other than an intuition that something was “off,” she began to do some research. These young people today are quite quick and clever at Internet research and finding puzzle pieces from site to site to develop the full picture.
It nearly broke her heart when she had to go tell her mom that this guy, “Mr . Wonderful,” was a fraud. He wasn’t divorced at all. In fact, he was still married. He still lived in his home out of state with his wife and three kids, and only happened to be living in the condo because he was on a long-term project with his company.
Needless to say, my friend was absolutely devastated. Yes, her heart was broken, but more devastating than that was the fact that she had become a party to a lie and had allowed her two precious children to become a party to a lie. She is one of these women who would never, ever have an affair with a married man. This is not even conceivable to her. She is one of these moms who would never, ever do anything to hurt her children. To allow a fraud to enter their lives and hurt her children made her blood boil.
That’s what really got her! Forget that she’s been hurt. She is a strong, caring, beautiful woman and will recover. But, don’t mess with her kids! How dare he enter their lives, begin to entwine himself into their lives, while leading a double-life. Her son trusted him. He viewed him as a role model … and now this? How do you explain it?
I’m not naïve enough to think that people aren’t going to lie and that people aren’t going to cheat. That’s been going on since the beginning of mankind. But, is it too much to ask that when you choose to lie and cheat that you think about the ripple effect you are creating — especially with the kids who are involved? This man loved his own biological kids dearly and would do anything to protect them from harm (put aside the fact that he was harming them by cheating on their mom). Yet, he didn’t appear to given any consideration to the implications of his actions on my friend’s children. There is a ripple effect, and it’s a big one.
Why share this story? Frankly, this isn’t the first friend to whom this has happened. These women aren’t stupid. They aren’t blind. They are trusting. We all want to love and be loved. We tend to ignore little signs and our intuition. And, there are some really good liars out there. If I can help one person to just be a bit more aware, not distrusting, but just a bit more cognizant of all the circumstances, then it’s worth it.
I don’t think much of people who cheat. I hold cheaters who knowingly hurt children as part of their web of lies and deceit in even lower regard. People – think about your actions. Get over your ego. Work on your marriage. Don’t hurt others. Get a life.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A lie cannot live.” Sooner or later, you will be caught, and you will drag down a lot of innocent people with you. MLK, Jr. also said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” In spite of being hurt, I encouraged my friend to stick with love and trust.
I encouraged her to not let this experience make her distrustful of everyone who enters into her life and the lives of her children. Be more diligent? Yes. Ask more questions? Yes. Pause a bit longer before you leap? Yes. But, at the end of the day, life is for living. Learn from your past, but don’t get stuck in the past. Move forward with joy in your heart!
My latest for “Always New You!” … High Road and Being Brave!
I just read a “divorce” book that I have to write about. In fact, I think every single woman should read it. If you are a widow, if you have been through a divorce, if you have friends who are widowed or divorced, then this book is for you. Do I sound cliché if I say, “I laughed, I cried … ?”
Written by Sue Magnum, “Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self” is the story of six newly single moms who write about the worst event in their lives. Three of the six women found themselves widowed, and the other three found themselves confronting divorce.
This isn’t just six sad and tragic stories of six different women. The substance of the book comes from a year’s worth of emails that were exchanged amongst the women as they looked to create a safe space in which to grieve. They called themselves, “Single Moms After Loss: Talking Advising Healing Laughing Crying” or SMAL TAHLC (small talk!) for short. Nothing was off limits – which led many of the tears that I shed, and the laughter that I shared – as I related to things with which they were dealing. The stories are crafted together in a brilliant roller-coaster of a ride.
No subject was off limits. These women address the questions that I know went through my mind, and so many other women with whom I speak. Things like: “Will I ever have sex again? (heck, I even have a whole chapter in my first book “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” about this one!), “I thought I was religious, but is there really a God?,” “When should I tell my children that I’m dating?,” and “Wow…I’m happy…is that allowed?”
You know my mantra is “taking the high road” and doing what is right by your kids in the face of whatever life brings you. Going through a divorce is certainly one of those things that can rock your world, and it’s often difficult to stay on that high road! If you are looking for a quick read, and an inspiring story, then this book is for you. I bonded with the women in the pages of this book, and loved it when each ultimately accepted her new reality, and in several cases, discovered what Life 2.0 had in store for her. Yes, happiness is allowed, and you will find it again!
My latest for the Divorce Support Center! Other Side of Me
“In nearly every religion I am aware of, there is a variation of the golden rule. And even for the non-religious, it is a tenet of people who believe in humanistic principles.” ~ Hillary Clinton
I was on a flight last week that was delayed due to weather. This led to our circling over Atlanta for more than an hour. Of course, we started to run low on fuel (typical summer afternoon flying into Atlanta.) We were diverted to Birmingham, Alabama to refuel then flew back to Atlanta, ultimately arriving 4 ½ hours late. To add insult to injury, once we landed, we had to sit on the runway for 30 minutes before we were able to get a gate to deplane.
As you can imagine, tension began to run high and some of the passengers got a bit rude and inconsiderate (to put it mildly.) Had these passengers asked themselves, “What is it like to be on the other side of me right now?,” I’m not sure they would have liked the answer.
The following day, I had a meeting scheduled with someone of whom I had never met before. He had reached out to me asking if I would spend some time with him to share ideas on career next steps. I agreed to meet with him and fit him into an already tight schedule. I hustled to get things done that morning (remember, I hadn’t even gotten home until 1:30AM due to my travel delays), drove the 43 minutes to where we had agreed to meet and, you guessed it, he didn’t show up. I checked my email and he had sent me a message 11 minutes prior to when we were supposed to meet saying he couldn’t make it. Seriously? No more advance notice than that? Had he asked himself, “What is it like to be on the other side of me right now?,” I’m not sure he would have liked the answer.
Later that afternoon, I was speaking with a woman in Denver. She is divorced and has been dating a guy for the past 15 months. Interestingly, she and her ex (who also has a steady girlfriend) are beginning to think they still have feelings for each other and they are starting to “date” again. Both are now dating each other (again) and their new partners (who, of course, don’t know about this) simultaneously. If they ask themselves, “What is it like to be on the other side of me right now?,” I’m not sure they would really like the answer.
Late last year, one of the ministers at our church presented a message entitled, ”What it’s like to be on the other side of me?” It was a great message, and it really made you think about your behavior and actions. Have you ever asked yourself, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” Have you ever taken the time to really think about how others see you, perceive you, and experience you? Would you want to be waiting on you in a restaurant?
Would you want to be ringing up your sale at a store?
Would you want to be your friend?
Would you want to be the flight attendant or gate agent assisting you?
Would you want to be your own customer?
Would you want to be dating you?
Would you want to be married to you?
Why or why not?
We are frequently able to rationalize our own behavior and come up with really great excuses for why we act certain ways or do certain things. BUT, if we are really (really) honest with ourselves and look at things through the lens of the person across from us, I think we often find those excuses and rationalizations backfire. We know that we wouldn’t want to be treated that way. This isn’t a new concept at all! While world religions tend to differ greatly in their beliefs and practices, they all tend to share a common idea around “doing unto others what you would like them to do to you.” This “Golden Rule” can be found in Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, to name but a few. It’s a staple amongst the world’s greatest philosophical minds. It’s a basic tenet of human behavior.
What about you? Who are you putting out there? What have you learned about yourself throughout the process of divorce? Do you like the road you have taken, or are you unhappy with who you have become? Do you get a different answer if you ask yourself, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” If your answer isn’t one that makes you feel good or makes you proud, you may want to rethink how you are coming across, how you are presenting yourself, and how you are treating others. At the end of the day, our goal should be to be able to look in the mirror at that person on the other side of me and like who you see! Smile!
Here’s my latest for eHarmony … Fairy Tale
Love isn’t perfect. It isn’t a fairy tale or a storybook, and it doesn’t always come easy. Love is overcoming obstacles, facing challenges, fighting to be together, holding on and never letting go. Love is work, but most of all, love is realizing that every hour, every minute, every second of it was worth it because you did it together.
I did it again last week. We were out of town and stopped for a cold drink after walking around for a few hours. The only open seats were at a table for 4 that had a couple seated at it. They motioned us over to join them (which was so nice!). After a quick moment to assess them, my gut told me they were dating so I dove right in! My husband rolled his eyes and smiled as if to say, “Here she goes again!”
“Can I ask you both a few questions …” I began, and the conversation rolled from there.
This couple was clearly dating. They were cute together. Laughing! Talking! Engaged (meaning engaged in conversation, not engaged to be married). They clearly had life experience. In other words, they weren’t 20-somethings, but rather more like 40-somethings! I wanted to know more about how they met, how long they had been dating, etc.
I love watching and listening to people talk about how they met. It’s always fun to see how they bounce the story back and forth between them, and present the “he said/she said” sides of their relationship. They were finishing each other’s sentences, laughing and smiling as they remembered different points in the story, and feeling good about reliving the start of their relationship.
As their story unfolded, Lisa mentioned a prior relationship in which she was involved, and how different it was to what she found when she met Dave. I asked her what she meant. Her answer was profound. I immediately grabbed a napkin off the table and wrote it down. Lisa said, “I want and need a real relationship, not a fairy tale. He wanted a fairy tale, and that won’t last.”
Lisa went on to say that many people would have considered her last relationship to be “perfect.” That was the problem. It was “too perfect.” He insisted on sending her hand-written cards and fresh flowers weekly. He bought her presents. He liked her to dress and look a certain way. He took her to the best restaurants where it was good to be seen.
What starts off as amazing, romantic, and loving can quickly become overwhelming, controlling and suffocating. When you can’t be as comfortable with each other hanging out in your old pajama bottoms watching a movie as you are getting all gussied up and eating at the best table in the best restaurant, there’s a problem! At least Lisa thought so, and so she called off the relationship. She said, “That kind of fairy tale – wanting things to be perfect all of the time – can’t be maintained forever. At some point, you have to do life with all of its imperfections, and people who want to control perfection can’t deal with that.”
Her comment reminded me of a song I love by John Legend,. The chorus starts like this: Cause all of me, loves all of you; Love your curves and all your edges, All your perfect imperfections.
Isn’t that a great mental image? When we are truly in harmony with someone, we do love their perfect imperfections. Things which might bother or annoy us in others become tolerable. We are willing to forgive or overlook these “imperfections” because their “perfections,” the good they bring to us, and the good they bring out in us, are so much more powerful.
Some people might have been surprised when Lisa ended the relationship. Others knew she absolutely made the right decision. People want real. They don’t want perfect. There is a difference.
What about you? Are you looking for perfect, or striving for real?
My latest for Huffington Post … May 2014 … Lose a Woman!
How do you lose a woman in 90 minutes?
When I was dating my husband, I recall telling him (and this was before he met my children), “I am falling in love with you, but if my kids don’t like you, we’re going to have a problem.” Harsh? Yes. But true!
As much as I was falling for this amazing man, my first allegiance was to my children who had already survived the divorce between their dad and me. Since my kids were still in elementary school, I didn’t want any issues between anyone I was dating and my kids, and certainly not with anyone I was going to marry.
Dating someone who has children (especially if you don’t!) can be very tough. I can only speak from the mom angle. Don’t mess with Mama Bear! We can be very protective of our children. Dating a single mom means you may sometimes feel that you are taking second seat, as opposed to being her first priority. You have to be OK with that. Dating a single mom means you may sometimes feel that she is choosing them, over choosing you. You have to be okay with that. Dating a single mom may mean that your wishes, interests or needs are sometimes put in the back of the line behind the wishes, interests or needs of her kids. And, you have to be okay with that! It’s not that single moms want to put their kids on a pedestal and idolize them, but rather that most moms are going to be protective of their kids and attentive to their needs. That’s just a fact of life! That’s Mama Bear 101. Speaking as a single mom who was dating, and is now married, I can honestly say I still sometimes feel as if I am being pulled between my kids and my husband. It’s the normal push and pull of all relationships. Am I doing enough here? Should I be giving more there?
But the quickest way to lose a woman is to have an issue with her kids. Guys, you want a quick way to get out of a relationship with someone you are dating who has kids? Say something rude about her kids. Disrespect her kids. Act jealous of her kids. Don’t show tolerance of her kids. That will get you kicked out of the relationship faster than almost anything else. It’s an easy way out if you are looking for one.
My two dogs have this uncanny ability to be sleeping quietly on the floor at my feet until I get on a phone call for work, and then they immediately become needy and whiny, scratching at my chair, barking, wanting to go outside, etc. One friend shared that her boyfriend acted the same way. He would be as sweet as could be and laid back/low-key, but as soon as her kids needed her for something like help with their homework, or to drive them to an event, he would suddenly become needy and demand her attention. It began to drive her crazy. She didn’t have the time or energy to deal with this kind of jealousy, so she said adios to him.
Here are five tips for dating a woman with kids:
1. Accept that you may come in second place. It’s pretty easy to pick up on this, and only the most confident of men can deal with this successfully. No one wants to feel as if they are being trumped by others, but the reality is that when the babysitter doesn’t show up or the baseball team makes it to the playoffs (on the night of your planned special date), you are just going to have to go with the flow. If your response is positive… and something to the effect of “I can’t wait to watch Junior play outfield in the playoff game,” you will win lots of extra points!
2. Be patient. It may take longer than you are accustomed to before she invites you to her home or to meet her kids. Taking this step will make her feel vulnerable, and it also exposes you to her kids. Chances are she is the kind of mom who doesn’t want her kids to see a revolving door of men so she will be very choosy about who gets to come in. I dated my boyfriend/now husband for several months before finally inviting him to meet my kids.
3. Learn that spontaneity is not always an option! Moms with kids have to plan things out. Not only is she managing her schedule, but also that of her kids. Someone always needs to be somewhere! And, if the kids are young, mom is not going anywhere without someone to watch the kids. You can’t always count on finding a spontaneous babysitter. From personal experience, I can tell you that once my need for a babysitter passed, then my need to be available to play chauffeur increased exponentially!
4. Be comfortable with direct and assertive! Many single moms have taken the time to look in the mirror post divorce and have dissected what worked and didn’t work in their past relationship. They become really good and figuring out what they want “next time around” and become even better at articulating this. They aren’t necessarily going to spend the time “hoping he will change” this time around. They know better. I became very comfortable articulating what I wanted and didn’t want in my relationship.
5. If you think her kids are brats, if you think they lack manners, if you think they are spoiled, if you think they are little terrors who need to be sent to military school, leave now! They very well may be all of those things, but the reality is that they aren’t going anywhere. Your differing opinion on the subject of her children will lead to ongoing frustration and heartache.
So, back to my initial query: How do you lose a woman in 90 minutes? Here’s how. A friend shared that her boyfriend proposed over a romantic walk at the beach one evening, following by a beautiful dinner outside watching the sunset. As you would expect, over dinner they began to talk about the proposal and plans for the wedding. During the course of the conversation, her fiancée gave her a card from each of his four grown children welcoming her to the family (“If you are reading this card, then we know you said yes! Congrats! Welcome!). Very sweet and thoughtful, right? But… she realized that her own three adult children hadn’t provided cards like his did. She asked about that. His response blew her away. Even though he knew her three kids, and saw them regularly, he said, “I never asked what they thought, or told them I was going to ask you. I didn’t think it mattered.” What she heard was, “I didn’t think they mattered.” Within 90 minutes of proposal, she called off the wedding saying, “You obviously don’t get me or know what’s important to me.” That is how you lose a woman in 90 minutes!
What about you? What other tips should be added for dating a woman with kids?
My latest for Huffington Post … (March 31, 2014):
“The most comfortable prison is still a lonely place.” Kenneth Kolb
“Should we go out to dinner and go dancing with the gang, or stay in, cook-out and watch a movie together?”
“Should we invite our neighborhood social group to join us on a hike, or should we disappear ourselves to wander in the mountains alone, holding hands, hiking, and sharing our adventure?”
“Should we organize a trip to Cancun for all the couples, or should we plan a romantic get-away for just the two of us?”
When faced with these kinds of questions which do you more often choose? The group activity, or time spent alone with your spouse? One answer is not all right or all wrong, but when your time as a couple is constantly spent with others, warning bells should start to go off.
As I speak with couples, and I ask about how they spend their “free time,” I’m no longer surprised by the number of people who say they have a very active social life together. They get along great! They have a fabulous time. They have tons of friends always ready to go somewhere with them.
But, when we start to peel back the layers of the onion, it’s always interesting to see how frequently this great social life — robust, active, talkative, fun, adventurous — is really hiding that fact that these couples don’t want to spend any time alone together. The conversation ceases, the laughter ceases, the fun ceases and the adventures ceases. Frankly, it becomes very lonely. When forced to be a couple, without any outside interaction, these couples find it difficult. They would rather not confront their loneliness. Two isn’t supposed to be a lonely number.
What’s going on here? I see this in couples who have simply grown apart. It’s not that one or the other is having an affair (yet!) or engaging in some other marriage-destroying behavior, but rather simply that these couples drifted apart in their marriage. In most cases, the intimacy is all but gone. One or the other may simply be satisfied “living as roommates.” Often times divorce isn’t considered a viable option for any one of several reasons. Either they really are completely OK being roommates, and not lovers. They don’t want to suffer the financial hit that a divorce inevitably brings. They want to stay married “for the kids.” And, they do have a great life together … as friends in a larger friend circle.
Ask these same couples what happens when the party is over and they are driving home, and they will tell you that it gets really quiet. The energy that fueled such a fun night has dissipated. Instead of talking all the way home about what they did, and flirting about what’s to come, they instead sit quietly in the car, get home, and climb into their respective sides of the bed, turn over, and go to sleep.
Ultimately, many of these couples do inevitably call it quits and bring in the divorce lawyers. At some point, the idea of living the rest of your life as roommates leaves you wondering if there isn’t something more to life. I hear, “I’m not sure I can do this for the second half of my life.” I hear, “It’s not like I’m going to be lonely by myself … I’m already lonely and by myself in my marriage,” or they say, “I’d rather feel lonely than feel alone when I’m with somebody.”
It’s these same couples, who if they ultimately decide to call it quits on their marriage, are the ones whose friends exclaim in surprise, “But why? You guys get along so well? We have so much fun together!”
If as a couple, you are okay with this “social relationship,” then no one should judge you. If however, you long for a relationship where two isn’t a lonely number, and if you truly do want to stay away from considering divorce as an option, then perhaps you should start to focus on how to rebuild your lives and your schedules such that you are okay being alone with just each other.
In fact, couples in really healthy marriages crave that together time. The idea of spending time “just the two of us” gives them incentive to frequently turn down social invitations. No one says you need to become an asocial hermit, but you do become aware of whether time spent in groups is trumping time spent as a couple.
Is being along the worst thing in life? Or is being in a relationship with someone who makes you feel alone the worst? What do you think?
My latest for HuffPost!
“No kids tonight … Is it wrong that we high-fived in the kitchen this morning?” - Facebook post
“Absolutely not,” I wanted to scream at my laptop, “Enjoy your night – just the two of you — alone! No guilt!”
An old friend (one of those people that you knew in high school, haven’t talked to in decades, and reconnected with on Facebook) posted the above status on her Facebook page last week. While we haven’t spoken in decades, it’s clear that we share a similar story. She married, she had children, she divorced, she fell in love again, she remarried, and now she is blissfully happy.
She and her new husband are the modern-day version of the Brady Bunch. They both brought kids to the marriage, and have a full house when they are all together. While they love their kids dearly, we can all relate to the excitement of having a “free” night to just enjoy each other. But, there is a bit of guilt that tends to creep in when we get a smile on our faces at the idea of a kid-free night. Enough of the guilt. No, it absolutely not wrong to high-five in the kitchen at the prospect of a kid-free night.
I love my kids with all my heart, and love being their mom with all the daily responsibilities that come along with being an engaged parent. And, I have learned to appreciate the times when they are at their dad’s house. I found it tough at first. I felt like something was missing. I didn’t appreciate the time away from them. I wasn’t sure what to do with that time. Boy, how things have changed!
I quickly realized that this time was a gift. When I was first married, I often wished for a quiet night (or weekend) to myself to do things that I needed to do, or wanted to do, just for me! Read a book and take a bath with a glass of wine – uninterrupted. Clean out my closet. Learn how to ballroom dance (OK – not really!). Restore old furniture. Go for really long walks. Have a “Breaking Bad” marathon – and watch an entire season in one sitting. Sleep in … ’til after noon. Go on a date … and another one after that. All things I had hoped to do, but never had the time when the kids were around. When they were little, I couldn’t leave them alone uninterrupted. As they got older, I needed to drive them to this or that sporting practice or extracurricular event. Sure, I could hire a babysitter, but that gets expensive.
After I remarried, I learned to relish the quiet time even more. Again, there was some guilt as I wanted to create new experiences as a family every weekend, not just every other weekend. We learned to adjust. We learned to schedule “adults only” social activities on the weekends when we didn’t have the kids, and keep weekends with the kids focused on doing activities as a family. And, we started to look forward to those “every-other-weekend-it’s-like-we-just-got-married-and-have-no-kids” weekends! You know what that means, right? When the cat’s away, the mice will play!
I have often said that I think more first marriages would survive if parents would continue to invest time in “their” relationship so that once the kids are grown and gone, they can enjoy spending time with each other vs. looking for a new partner.
Our lives are hectic and fast-paced – work and social activities overlap with kids’ school activities, community commitments, and more. We often feel pulled in different directions. Isn’t that true for most couples with active families? The nice thing is that we know that every other weekend we will be able to reconnect and focus on each other. We can have a romantic candle-lit dinner at home, we can make love in the middle of the day without worrying about anyone walking in, we can choose to go kayaking or antiquing all day, and not have to worry about getting home to shuttle anyone to an activity or prepare a meal. In fact, if it weren’t for our two dogs, we wouldn’t even need to go home!
To my Facebook friend in Michigan, I say, “Have fun! I hope you high-five your husband again next weekend too, and two weeks after that! Enjoy your time alone just as much as you enjoy your time with your kids. Give your full attention to both situations and learn to value and relish them for what they bring to you.”
What about you? Have you learned to get rid of the guilt and relish your kid-free time?
My latest for eHarmony … Feb 12, 2014
If this was ‘right,’ shouldn’t it be easier?”
I was asked that question the other day by a woman who has been dating a guy for several months now. During that time, they have had numerous “issues” and serious “discussions.”
“Shouldn’t this be easier,” she asked? “Yes, and no,” I replied.
Strong, good, productive, and successful relationships aren’t easy. They are hard work. They require constant nurturing and maintenance. They require a focus and a dedication. In that respect, relationships are not easy … at all! Anyone who thinks relationships are easy is in for a big surprise when life’s challenges appear. We all hit bumps in the road, and a strong foundation is necessary to navigate these potholes.
By the same token, when I first met and started dating the man who is now my husband, I do recall saying, “This is so easy! I feel like I have known him forever.” In retrospect, there were a lot of things that needed to be worked through. We affectionately called these the “hurdles.” Would we have children together? Where were we going to live? Where would we go to church? What baggage were we bringing from our prior marriages? We knew we needed to work on some things – some pretty major things – and we did. Was it easy? Not really, so maybe “easy” isn’t the right word, but it was “smooth” and was defined by mutual respect and collaboration and a willingness by both of us to clear those hurdles successfully.
So, what’s the difference? I strongly believe that all new relationships require that “hurdles” be identified, discussed and cleared. New relationships require that some “hard” discussions take place. By hard, I mean open, honest, and inquisitive. So many new relationships focus more on the new romance and love, and less on the practical elements of life, so that when the romance part wears off a bit, and the practical stuff comes into focus, they find they don’t agree on things like spending vs. saving patterns, having kids or not, disciplining kids, going to church, etc.
And, these “hard” discussions, of which I am such an advocate, don’t have to be “difficult.” My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I enjoyed wrestling these points, and the back and forth dialogue, as we shared our viewpoints on so many important areas in our lives. We would regularly ask, “Where are we at with the hurdles?” We discussed what we were willing to change or flex on, and where we weren’t! Certain things were non-negotiable. Others were open for new learning and new experiences.
Any of those could have been deal-breakers, and might constitute a “hard” discussion to some people. Unfortunately, many people also equate “hard” with “let’s try to avoid it at all costs.” “Hard” can also mean difficult. It can mean embarrassing. It can mean having to show your own cracks. It can mean your aura of perfection might get a little fuzzy. It can mean revisiting your past. It can mean being vulnerable. Skipping “hard” discussions and insisting that things are better when “easy” is an error in judgment!
Wouldn’t you rather know how tough some of this was going to be, and have those “hurdle” discussions when you are dating, rather than after you have walked down the aisle and said “I do”? I certainly would!