Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Divorce Part 7 - Finding Love Again


It’s been written in the scars on our hearts / That we’re not broken just bent / And we can learn to love again - Pink

I’ll never forget the reaction I got from one person who found out I was dating again after my divorce. She told me I should take some time for myself like she did. She told me she stayed single for a year to prove she could be on her own and support herself.

First, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Secondly, I have been on my own before and supported myself while single. Finally, I wasn’t looking for someone to support me and my kids. I had been doing that already. I was constantly saving our asses financially the best I could while dealing with Scott’s job losses and business failures. 

I wanted companionship. I felt like I had been single for two years or more already.

One month after I decided to get divorced I joined Match.com. I wasn't looking for a relationship. I wanted someone to talk to. Someone in a similar situation with whom I could be friends. I didn't want to go to bars. I didn't want to get involved with someone from work. I didn't have any single guy friends outside of work locally so . . . Match.com it was.

I spent a couple months just emailing with guys exchanging divorce stories. Occasionally, I would text with a few. I met a few for lunch or a drink. The funny thing was, I wasn't desperate and if they showed any trace of my Ex's personality or behaviors I stopped being friends with them. I wasn't about to even waste my time or energy.

Then, one night I got an email from Match with "potential matches" within my area. I took a look. On the side of the page were just other random people outside of my designated area. I clicked on one of them. I read his profile. Studied his only photo of himself - a selfie - and then sent a wink to him. He sent me an email via Match introducing himself. I replied back and then didn’t hear from him again.

I was intrigued by Ed based on what he wrote and his one single photo of himself. He obviously held the camera out in front of himself while grinning in a faded blue t-shirt with a tattered collar and one of his closet doors open behind him. It told me so much about him. Here was this guy who wrote about how he lived all over the world, retired from the Navy, was looking for someone to just get him out and have fun. But, his photo said I am not into image. Take me as I am. It made me chuckle.

Finally, I got an email from him saying he was on vacation. We texted for 2 hours the very first night. He just kept making me laugh. I loved it. He just seemed so genuine, quirky, funny, sincere.

We spent the next two weeks talking everyday on the phone and texting all day long. It was the most I had talked to anyone I met on Match. After two weeks, we finally decided to meet. We met at a restaurant and he instantly hugged me. We both agreed we were nervous. I was more nervous meeting him than anyone else I had previously met from Match. We had dinner and at one point I said, "Can I hold your hand?" I just felt like I needed to touch him. I loved his eyes, his smile, his skin color. His hands were so soft but he was shaking a little. It was when he started singing along (loudly) to the song "Time of my life" by Patrick Swayze that I looked at him, laughed and thought to myself “this guy is different”.

So began our relationship. At first it was mostly by phone. I didn't have a lot of free time and wasn't on the every-other-weekend schedule yet with the kids. I think it was 6 more weeks before we went out again.

I was amazed at how fearless he was about my situation. He was taking a huge risk. I wasn't divorced and was just at the beginning of the process. For all he knew I could have changed my mind and decided to go back to my ex. I once asked him why he took that chance and how he knew that I wouldn’t change my mind. He told me because there was a time he was with me when Scott was giving me hell via text and he said he could see the hurt in my eyes. He said he knew I was done with him.

There were many times that he saw that hurt. He held me up throughout the entire process. There were times I was crying and blubbering on the phone so hard that he had to tell me to slow down because he couldn’t understand me. There were times I showed up at his place in tears. I even had a telephone code setup with him too because divorces can cause people to get violent and unreasonable.  I sometimes feared that Scott would hurt me. So Ed knew if I dialed him two times in a row and didn’t say anything when he answered that he needed to come quick.

I look back at the early days and realize how much he took care of me. While I wasn’t looking for someone to take care of me and the kids and support us, I did find someone to take care of me emotionally. It was a life saver. I am not sure how I would have made it through the divorce like I did had he not been there to hold me up. 

My mom used to ask me what Ed said or thought about some of the crap that was going on during my divorce. The truth of the matter is he didn’t have a lot of opinions. Or should I say he didn’t share them with me unless I pressed him to do so. He left me to the decision making. He would occasionally offer things to consider or think about. However, when it came down to it, he left it all up to me. He stood there supporting me along the way and helping me move forward. And despite how badly Scott treated me, he rarely said nasty things about him.

During the early days, his goal was always to make me smile. He told me that too. He tried to make our time together as stress free and calm as possible. He wanted me to smile and relax. I remember a lot dinners out and lying on his couch watching movies. Sometimes I would just nap at his house. He would let me sleep because the stress would get to me more than I realized.

One time he said, “We need to get out of town.”  He let me pick. I wanted to go to the beach even though it was winter. I knew the beach would be relaxing. So he booked a weekend at Orange Beach. We talked and sang to the radio the whole drive there. When we got there we spent three days wandering around the shops, eating out, renting movies, playing multiple games of putt-putt and walking the beach. We did whatever we felt like. My favorite was the night I woke up in the middle of the night with a belly ache and asked him if we could just sit on the balcony. So there we sat wrapped in blankets on the balcony and talked while we looked out over the moon reflecting on the ocean.

It was so completely different from traveling anywhere with Scott. Ed was so calm. It was like night and day. In fact, I had to get used to not being on guard when I was out with Ed like I had to be with Scott. With Scott I was always worried something would set him off or go wrong that would cause an uproar – like u-turns or not so perfect service.

The thing that made me the most happy was that Ed insisted and preached to me that my kids always come first before him. That was probably the only thing he had a very strong opinion on and wouldn’t waver. I never had to feel like I had to make a choice between my kids and him. He made it for me. He always told me “You are worth waiting for.”.

It was almost a year before I introduced him to my kids. We had a plan that we followed. We would slowly introduce him. We went to extremes sometimes to make it happen. It was thought out and gradual. Now, almost 3 years later, the kids like him, he vacations with us and we still only see each other every other weekend. On the weekends I have the kids, he sometimes spends at least one day with us doing something but not always. It works for us and that is all that matters.

My brother told me one day that I went from one extreme to another in men. I have to agree with him. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. I have learned that the little things I thought I could live with in Scott when we were in our mid-twenties (job hopping, not valuing his family, not paying bills very well, his desire to be rich and his arrogant personality) became BIG issues as we got older.

So when I met Ed I saw the opposite. He once asked me what attracted me to his Match profile. I said it was because he actually accomplished something – a 20 year career in the Navy. I was serious. He also had taken care of himself all that time – like paying bills. He called him mom and twin sister every day! He adored his family and was close to them. He helped his mom care for his dad his last two years of battling cancer. He saved his money and didn’t care about status. Arrogant wasn’t a word I think anyone would ever use to describe Ed.

Most of all, Ed became my valiant protector. He protected me and my heart. He still does. I always thought I was this strong, independent person who didn’t need anyone to take care of me. What I didn’t realize is that every woman needs someone to take care of them emotionally, regardless of how well they can support themselves financially.

It wasn't always easy finding love again. I had a lot of bitterness and betrayal to deal with. Many times I took it out on Ed. He stood strong and was secure enough in himself to realize it wasn't him. He understood I needed to heal.

I often get asked if I would marry again. Maybe. I am not that bitter about marriage.  The next question is when will Ed and I get married. I can’t answer that. We joke it will be when both kids are graduated from college. We say until then we will continue living in our respective homes and seeing each other on every other weekend.

It works for us. We are both happy.  I often ask in return “What is the rush?”