Archive for ‘November, 2013’

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After one of my last blog posts about cheaters and divorce, I had a discussion with one of my readers about narcissists. You see, both her and I think that our ex husbands are narcissists and could possibly suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Neither of us are psychologists (we may or may not play doctors on TV, however), but we’ve seen enough of the signs to know that each of them qualify in many ways. In hindsight, we are both very happy to have divorced our ex’s, because it is extremely difficult living with a narcissist. Both of them were cheaters, and both her and I have found good men that understand our stories.

This discussion led me to ponder if there was some sort of study about what percentage of cheaters suffer from narcissism (who am I kidding: they don’t suffer like those who are involved with them do!). So I began a search. I never found a true percentage or number to back up some of the thoughts I have about these types of individuals, but I did find out some interesting things that ring VERY true to me and my situation:

Narcissists  CAN’T sympathize with their spouse or children

Last week, wisegeek.org published an article titled “What is the Connection Between Narcissism and Cheating?” In the article, is states “Most psychologists agree that narcissism and cheating in relationships often occur together because the average narcissist is unable to sympathize with, or in some cases, even see, the emotions of others. People with narcissism don’t usually understand, or care about, the emotional turmoil that their cheating causes in their spouse. Nor are they usually concerned with the wider family and social ramifications of these acts in a relationship, such as the effects that such behavior may have on any children in the family.”

Wow!

When I confronted my ex husband about attending local college sporting events with his “other woman” or him going on dates to local establishments, I asked him if he had every once thought of our children. He flatly explained, “No.” As I plead with him to stop seeing her and to try to work through things (because he, too, was from a divorced family and knew how hard it would be on the kids) he would always reply, “Kids are resilient. They’ll be fine.” How truly clueless he was.

Narcissists like to maintain a “normal” appearance

The article goes on to say, “Experts believe narcissism and cheating in a relationship are inextricably interlinked. The symptoms of narcissism are often such that these individuals cheat repeatedly on their spouses or significant others, usually without understanding that they have done something wrong. The typical narcissist believes he is beyond reprisal and entitled to do as he pleases at all times. The narcissist may also feel obligated to maintain a “normal” appearance of married life, while still viewing his spouse as a hindrance and resenting the fidelity she requires of him. People with narcissism tend to use marriage for the social status and the appearance of normalcy it can bring them, rather than for intimacy or family, since they are typically incapable of real emotional closeness.”

I’ve always told friends that once I told my ex I wanted a divorce he treated me like I was the one who cheated. Angry emails, rude texts, swearing at me (he didn’t do this when we were married). The lightbulb went on one day when I realized that my asking for the divorce ruined his “image” he was putting out into the world. How true I was. Now that he’s remarried and his “normal” appearance is back in check, he’s not quite as abusive to me–yes, there are still times he lashes out with venom, but I’ve begun to heal and the affects aren’t as dominant in my life.

The effects of living with a narcissists take time to overcome

After I asked my ex to move out, it was like I could breathe again. Yes, I was mourning the loss of my family and my heart hurt for “failing” myself and my kids, but for me, Lori, I finally felt free. After counseling and many hours of reading about NPD, I realized why: living with a person suffering from NPD can slowly but surely erode your sense of self-worth till you are left feeling small, worthless, incomplete.

Some of you may remember my last post where I wrote about my overwhelming anxiety-filled moment with my now husband, Brandon. I was filled with fear and frustration when I couldn’t reach him by text or phone. The devastating issues from my first marriage clouded that moment for me, and I began to realize that the nearly 20 years of living with a narcissist may have an everlasting effect on me.

I found an article written a few weeks ago posted on Sanctuary for the Abused. The article goes into detail about how some Narcissists can cause PTSD for their victims. There was one point in the article where as I read, I stopped and wondered if I’d ever escape my ex husband’s controlling, bullying actions

Fear, horror, chronic anxiety, and panic attacks are triggered by any reminder of the experience, e.g.receiving threatening letters or email from the narcissist or psychopath or their friends, their family or attorneys. Additionally postings on online boards or sites about the victim by the abuser (often to try to make the victim look like the abusive one!) can add to these triggers and health related issues tremendously.

As I read this I remembered that I am now in control. Not him. He may spread rumors about me being a “bad mother” or a “liar” and some people may believe them, but I know the truth. Now, I limit our communications to email or text, and when he writes demeaning or rude things, I quickly put him in check and tell him to stop harassing me. His poisonous words still make their way into my psyche occasionally, but I’ve learned that his words come from a sad, lonely, insecure place. Misery loves company, right? He’s trying to pull me down to the dirty swamp he lives in. And I won’t let him anymore.

For those of you who are dealing with a narcissist in your life, there is hope to moving away from the pain and control. My experiences are not as severe as some. For that, I am lucky, but they are real. Daily, my ex husband’s behavior still affects my children–this is something we are trying work through. It’s something that will be in my life forever, and it requires work. My suggestion: read, meditate, surround yourself with positive people who love you, build a support system. Realize that you are enough just by being you. As one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, says, “If we can’t stand up to ‘the never good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are’ we can’t move forward.”

*photo credit: Wikipedia

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I was sitting in my office yesterday, answering emails and sipping diet coke. It really was just like any other day, except for the small, almost-insignificant fact that it was the day that would have been my 20th wedding anniversary of my first marriage. I glanced at the clock on my computer screen and noticed that it was past noon. My heart skipped a beat a bit, because I realized that I hadn’t gotten my morning text from my husband that day. Ever since the day we started dating, Brandon has always either sent me a text or called me in the morning. The texts are brief most of the time, but they mean the world to me: a simple “I love you babe.” or “Have a beautiful day.” appears on my phone and I smile just knowing he’s thinking about me. But today, there was no text.

I had texted him something about bills earlier in the day and hadn’t heard from him, so I sent him a text asking him if there was anything wrong and asked him to text me back. It was his day off, and I knew he was meeting his ex to pick up our 2 year-old for the day. I waited 20-30 minutes and got no response. I began getting a bit nervous, not really sure what I was feeling. I sent him another text: Babe, what’s wrong? The longer I go without hearing from you, the more worried I get. Again, no response. I began to get restless–or was it agitated? I wasn’t sure. My mind raced. Was he okay? Where was he? Why wasn’t he texting me? I tried calling him.

His phone rang twice and went to voicemail. Now, we all know what happens when a phone rings a few times and then goes directly to voicemail–He SENT me to voicemail! My stomach dropped I began to go to this place that I haven’t seen in quite awhile: the place where I felt like I was being lied to, humiliated, ignored, cast aside. The place I was during the last year of my first marriage. I immediately started wondering what I did wrong and conjured up all sorts of thoughts and ideas in my head as to where he was and what he was doing. I was so sick to my stomach I couldn’t concentrate. I started breathing heavy and I felt light headed. I couldn’t think. I wanted to throw up. I immediately grabbed my purse and drove the 4 miles to our home where I hoped he would be with our son.

The closer I got to our home, the more scared/angry I became. Who was he with? What if he’s hurt somewhere? Maybe he’s with someone else? It was like Jekyll and Hyde were playing with my emotions. Feelings from my first marriage washed over me like a dark, heavy blanket. I replayed the scene in my head from nearly four years ago when I drove past the “other woman’s house and saw my then husband’s car parked 5 houses down from hers in the middle of the night. I prayed no one was at our home with Brandon. When I saw his car in the driveway and no one else was there I was somewhat relieved. I still didn’t understand why he was ignoring me, but at least I knew he was okay. I dashed inside and he was sitting on the couch watching TV while our toddler played.

He turned and saw my face. “Baby, what’s wrong?” he asked. I said, “You haven’t texted me, what’s going on?” He was surprised. My face was pale and I wanted to collapse and throw up at the same time. He proceeded to tell me he’d texted me and showed me his phone and said he was worried about me. He’d been texting me that morning as well and wasn’t receiving anything back. I immediately broke down in tears. He wrapped his arms around me, reminding me that I was safe. I completely fell apart (I’m sure there was an ugly crying face somewhere in there as well), and I explained how worried I was about him and about all the thoughts that went through my head on the way over. He held me and brushed my hair with his hand. That moment was so real and so raw for me.

We talked about what I was feeling, he assured me he loved me and wasn’t going anywhere, then we tested his phone–it wasn’t receiving calls either. I trust Brandon with every ounce of my being. But for those 15 minutes, I was transported to another place. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever been through. I lost control of all rational thought and reason and feared I’d lost him.

The Mayo Clinic defines Post-traumatic stress disorder as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” The emotions I felt were very real. Perhaps what I felt was not true PTSD, but the anxiety and fear that rushed through me is something I’ve never felt before. After being married to my ex for 17 years, I’m bound to have some underlying issues to work through. I need to tell myself it’s okay if something sneaks up on me. I’m just thankful I’ve got Brandon who’s patient enough to work through it with me.

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It hit me a few days ago that this day was approaching. The day that would have been my 20th wedding anniversary. Years ago, this was a day I looked forward to. My then-husband and I spoke of how we would one day take a trip to Hawaii together: we hoped to go to Hawaii for our 10th anniversary, but we instead purchased our “dream home” and used saved-up funds to build the house–the house that would be sold 8 years later to another family who was starting their dreams just as mine were ending.

Today I’m in my office at work just as if it were any other day.

I’m not sure what I’m feeling.

Sadness.

Regret.

Pain.

Relief.

Free.

Those are a few words that come to mind.

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I’ve had a few readers contact me and tell me they’re inspired by my blog and my story gives them hope to find a light after the darkness of divorce. First, thank you for reaching out to me. I sincerely appreciate your comments and I’m happy my story helps you in some way. Second, I need to point out that I’m still very much a work in progress! The decision to jump on the marriage train wasn’t an easy one, that I can tell you for sure! So many things ran through my head, I was a mess!

If you’re contemplating letting him put a ring on it, let me share my list of top 5 things to think about before getting remarried:

1. You will be sharing your space again.

    I was talking with some friends this weekend: some were single, some remarried. It was hysterical to listen to these women chat about sharing their bed again. Or sharing closet space. They had real issues with both. I’ll admit that for me, it was different getting used to a new person in my home and my space and with my children all the time. After almost 20 years with my ex, and 2 alone, it was an adjustment to live with someone again. Be ready to practice patience with not only your new spouse, but his/her kids as well.

2. Someone else will be seeing you naked. Completely naked.

      Let’s face it, if you’re getting remarried, you’re probably into your thirties or forties and your body’s been getting its sag on while you were busy. After being pregnant 4 times and nursing all 4 babies, I was a bit freaked out thinking about someone new appreciating my body–battle wounds and all. Learning to love myself as I am

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    I met Brandon was an important step to moving forward.

3. Your game book from your previous relationships won’t help you get to the Super Bowl of marriages.

      You’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

Start over

    ! You’ve got to gather what works and what doesn’t along the way. Brandon and I have discussed and argued more in the last few months than we did in 10 months of dating. That’s because the work is just beginning. Everyone’s gotta come to the table with their ideas of what the game looks like and you hash through it together. Some plays may get tossed. Some plays will stay in the book. It’s a work in progress. You both wanna win the game, but you need to work together to keep everyone working towards the same goal!

4. There will be days you’re weirded out about your man/woman’s relationship with his/her ex.

    Remember: they developed their own language long before you came onto the scene. Some people can work well with an ex. Others can’t. You must remember at all times that he picked YOU to marry and to move forward with so you can’t be insecure or push your communication style onto him. The two of you need to work together now that it’s your life TOGETHER and if that means you hash over expectations on what is okay to communicate about, do it…from a loving place. And the times you may feel insecure need to be communicated to your spouse. Share when you think the relationship with the ex is foggy to you and ask for clarification. (This is no easy task when there’s an ex who goes further than the “communicate about the kids only” rule. That’s why you need to be clear how the mechanics work early on!)

5. The more work you’ve done on your own before the marriage, the more successful you’ll be.

    Don’t look to be rescued or saved. Don’t dictate when you meet someone about the “list” you have for your next spouse (and DEFINITELY don’t discount someone because they don’t meet everything on your list). And don’t walk away from your divorce blaming everything on your ex and think you didn’t in some way make things a little harder. Taking a good, honest look at yourself and working on you NOW (see #2) will help you be ready to meet the right one later!

Most importantly, remember that it takes time, patience, and love to love again. The first place to start is with yourself. Don’t put a ring on anything until you can learn to stand and look in the mirror and feel like you know the person in front of you!

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I’ve debated many times over the past few years what I would say to the woman who got involved with my ex husband during the end of our 17 year marriage. There were so many emotions wrapped up behind the feelings I felt for her, because she knew our family. Our girls played together. Our two oldest girls were best friends and played soccer on the same team together. She stood in my driveway and told me she’d be happy to help entertain the girls during the summer while I worked and she acted like a friend. She confided in me about her divorce she was going through after finding out her husband of 10 years was doing drugs. I listened and consoled her, as any friend would. She did all this while she was secretly texting and meeting with my husband. If I ran into her today, I wouldn’t have anything to say. I’ve moved on, and I’m happy. But for closure purposes, I wanted to write this letter to her today.

(Please note: I know it takes two to play the game of infidelity. My ex has just as much blame–if not more–in this as she does. But this moment is for her and her only.)

To the woman who tried to steal a husband and father to “fix” her family:

After realizing you were failing in your own marriage, you found a friend in a man who was, himself, going through his own personal failure. What you saw in him was a sad, broken man who told you he was unhappy in his marriage and sleeping in his basement. What you didn’t realize is that he was sleeping in the basement because he was carrying on an emotional/sexting affair with a woman who lived across the country. You reached out to him at a time where he was seeing his world fall apart. I, his wife, had found out about this 6 month long-distance affair and identified that he was depressed and angry and screaming out for help. I urged him to seek counseling and get on medication. At first, he denied he was in such a hole. But soon, he told me he hardly ever laughed anymore, he didn’t have any friends, and he was lost. I told him to seek help for his anger and depression and if he did not, I would divorce him. I had tried for years to help “make him happy” and I couldn’t help him–he had to help himself. That’s when you came into the picture.

You rode onto the scene on your “white horse” and he saw you as someone who could fix his problems. Your “fake” happiness, your 24/7 ability to plan activities and escapes, and your books on “how to find your life passion” and self improvement made him think that you were the woman for him. When I found out that your “friendship” had pushed the boundaries of our marriage, I told my husband to immediately stop speaking to you, and he complied. But you couldn’t let go of the image of this new man/father to your girls. You were told to stay away from my family, yet you drove up in your suburban in your swimsuit and found him outside and asked if you could take my daughter swimming. You kept pushing and pushing back into his life, and he gladly accepted you there because he was hopeless and didn’t want to admit he was depressed in his life.

You got what you came after: a man who left his marriage and children for you. But, you couldn’t keep him. What made you think you could? He used you for two years. You had no clue. That trip he took you on to San Francisco for your birthday? That was our 17 year wedding anniversary trip I organized! I booked the hotel, bought the tickets to the 49ers game, all of it. My kids told me their father told them not to tell you it was MY trip. November 20th may have been close to your birthday, but it was the day we got married. You didn’t know you were thrown in as a “substitute” did you?!

My children figured out the affair on their own. You two were instantly together after we separated. Did you think they were stupid? Your photos all over, your “instant” family. These were all clues to my children. I would never have told them what their father did: they simply knew that “daddy made some bad choices and we are getting divorced.”  Now they know the shattered truth about their dad. I despise you for that. Their dad is supposed to be their hero. But the two of you, equally, can chew on that bone until you have to answer to God in heaven about your life. You may have lied to everyone about your relationship, but I know the truth. Your religious beliefs didn’t get in the way of you having a physical relationship with a married man. How you could go to church every week and act like a wonderful, faithful person is beyond me.

You were always watching me and inspecting my life after my divorce from him. I know you were jealous of me and my happiness. You thought I wanted him back and you became over-protective and paranoid. You hated it when we could co-parent and let the past go. That is sad! My children told me they heard you tell my ex husband that he had to choose you before his children. What a pathetic woman you turned out to be. His anger and depression weren’t “fixable” were they? You couldn’t turn him into the man you needed so you could stay home, not work, and not be accountable for your life. He used you and threw you away after he realized you were controlling and jealous. My children heard you begging him to take you back. They saw you become a beaten-down, pathetic person. That’s the person I always knew you were. You’re not strong. You are sad, insecure, and desperate. I feel bad for you.

My ex husband has since met a very sweet woman and married her only after 2 months of knowing her. You had him for two years and planned a marriage and threatened and it didn’t work out for you. Did you learn anything? Did you understand that karma comes back to you and all the lies you told about me and stealing things from my home wouldn’t catch up to you? I always held my head high and was nice to you, because I thought you might be a step-mother to my children one day. But that isn’t the case any more. I don’t have to be nice to you. I don’t have to like you. I don’t have to deal with you. And I’m glad.

I hope you learn to love yourself. Because when you truly love yourself, you know how to make good decisions. You don’t do things that involve lying, cheating, sneaking around, and justifying. When you can live an honest, open life is when you succeed.

One last thing. I will never forgive you for breaking up my children’s family. But I want to thank you. Thank you for helping me to see my ex husband’s true colors. I am happier now than I’ve ever been. I live my life full of love, honesty, integrity and I always have. But now I also have authenticity and power, because I know how to stand up for myself and take what I deserve. My path is much different than yours. I don’t know what you were going through those years ago, but perhaps you finally learned a lesson.

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I remember many of the days that lead up to asking my ex husband for a divorce. It’s funny how lots of people go through the same cycle pre-divorce. It starts out with tears and confusion once you realize your marriage isn’t going to last much longer. Then you move into the desperation stage where you try to fix everything to get the other person to realize what they’re losing. Finally, after much head-banging, you get to the point where you see your worth and see what you deserve, and you get the cojones to move on. I got to that point a few weeks before I deemed the marriage over. My ex and I were standing at the front door of our home (well, it was my home at the time, because he was living with his mother in her downtown condo). I was telling him good-bye after a quick visit with the kids. I looked him straight in the eye and and said something that I will always remember–and he probably will to.

I said, “Remember, one day there will be a man who loves me and adores me and he’ll raise these kids, every day, in this house, and you’ll get to see them every-other weekend. That’s the choice YOU made!”

He looked me and replied with a somber, “I know.”

That day has come. It’s been just-over a year that this wonderful man has been in our lives. He’s crazy about me. And I’m crazy about him and so are my kids. He doesn’t have to connect with my kids. There’s no rule in the step-parent handbook that says you MUST participate with your step-children. I know people who have actually chosen to keep two separate houses so when the husband has his kids, he LEAVES and goes to “his house” with his kids. Yep, crazy! But we are parents who love each others’ kids like our own. We are making a conscious effort.

This past weekend, Brandon and I were at my daughter’s first out-of-town softball tournament in St. George. She was super-excited to go and put in a special request to go alone with the two of us. Brandon was engaged with my daughter’s playing and her performance. He worked with her between games on blocking the balls as they were delivered to her at catcher. He gave her calm, positive instruction on how to be better and how to believe in herself. I watched and my heart swelled as I saw this. To see a man love in this capacity is everything I’d hoped for (and let’s face it–that’s just sexy as hell!). He also told every girl on the team that if they could make it through the first round of the batting order with no strike-outs, he’d take all of them out for Blizzards. And, guess what? They did it! And he delivered! Ellie had a great tournament, and her team ended up taking 3rd place! And Brandon was right by my side screaming and yelling through every home run and every time she threw out a runner at 2nd base. And her dad missed it.

My ex husband once told me, “I’m just sick of the same-old, same-old shit with life and these four kids. It’s time for me.” I couldn’t understand why someone would say such a thing. But he obviously envisioned his life differently than it was looking to turn out. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t come to their out-of-town tournaments. I’m not sure why, but that’s not my concern. As for me? After getting remarried, learning to trust again, and opening up my heart to something wonderful, I see the family I’d always wanted. It may look a bit different than my original vision, but it’s all mine.

If you’re divorced, or you’re a single parent (or both), trust that there will be someone out there who will love your kids as his/her own. They can come in the forms of coaches, friends, or spouses. Those people are out there. And by being positive and living your life, you’re bound to find them.

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Today is the day.

Today is the day where I could answer an accusing email from my ex husband without anger or defensiveness. I felt relief to not feel a thing.

As the two of us met with our youngest daughter for her parent teacher conference, I was unaffected by his being in the room. For a moment, it was a strange out-of-body moment to walk through the hallways with him yet not feel on edge like I used to.

I wasn’t bothered to be sitting in the room with him or afraid to receive an email from him later that night asking me why wasn’t all of the homework turned in or why wasn’t her reading score higher. I didn’t really feel anything towards him. Today was a long time coming.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the past my ex had a way of making me feel invisible or “less than.” Today I could look at him and only feel sorry for him. Sorry for him because when my daughter’s teacher showed me her writings titled “My Family,” her writing was about her family of 10. It was about her mom and her step-dad, and all of her brothers and sisters in her new family. She didn’t mention her father or his family. For a brief moment my heart was hurting for him.

Today I look in the mirror and know without a doubt that I am a great mother! I’ve known this before, but when my ex would zap me an email criticizing my judgement or my lack of attention to everyone’s homework, it would make me feel small. Not today. Today I know that I am the one making a difference in my children’s lives. I have conversations with my son about his girlfriend–we included her in family dinner last week. I talk to my daughter about the goofy things in choir class. I laugh with my son about the vine videos he’s watching. I’m there. I’m present.

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I feel sad for my ex for giving up a wonderful life when he walked away. He’ll never know what it’s like to see my daughter’s crazy night time rituals. And he’ll never see the twitter pated boy running around my house experiencing his first love. He’ll never know this because his walls are too high and his stubbornness makes it so he can’t see over them. My children aren’t big enough to climb them, yet. I hope someday he can lower his walls and allow his children to see him and know him. Perhaps he will.

Today is the day when I realized that I don’t have to stand at the bottom of the walls feeling small and helpless any longer. Today is the day where I see that I can step back and finally just walk around his walls.

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There are days where I simply want to scream out and curse the world for pain, divorce, and issues that remain in people after they go through heartbreak. There are so many of us dealing with this.

Everyone has issues they’re dealing with. Everyone’s suffered pain. And through divorce, those things collide and erupt and scars and injuries remain. Do they remain forever?

My first marriage was so serious by the mid-point and continued that way up until the end. We were all “business”: keeping things under control and ensuring all the balls stayed in the air. There wasn’t much time for fun, or giggles, or sex or playing. We passed by each other in the kitchen and it was like we were strangers at a restaurant. We had gotten really good at working together. We had gotten really bad at playing together.

As I rediscovered myself after the divorce, I learned how to not be so damn serious all the time. To have more fun. To be a goofball and let my hair down. Holy cow, did it feel good. My kids saw their mom acting like life was a a drug you breathed in. I did cartwheels on the lawn, and I sang out loud. (They were embarrassed, this I know. But I don’t care.)

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As I was first dating my now husband, we laughed a lot. It felt so great to connect with someone like that again. There are a few times when he was thrown into an asthmatic fit from busting up about something stupid. (Nope, I’m not over exaggerating. I’m just glad he didn’t wet his pants at the time, he was laughing that hard.) I loved seeing him laugh with me.

Now that Brandon and I are married, I sometimes feel that “business” mentality creeps into our lives. When he doesn’t want to be playful with me I’m hurt by it…almost angry. I feel like I’m immediately rushed back to 5 years ago where I felt imprisoned by the anger in our house. The feeling of being invisible, ignored, unloved comes back like it was yesterday. Then I go to this insecure place that I rarely see anymore. But it’s there. It’s the place I lived in often with my ex.

I can’t stand that I can feel invisible in an instant still. I hate that I let someone treat me like I didn’t matter. And I hate even more that the feeling still comes through in my new marriage. I don’t want it to be there, but sometimes it is.

I know my husband has issues of his own from his relationships in the past. And some of those carry forward into our relationship as well. That’s the funny thing about remarriage: it’s like there’s three of you, always–you, your spouse, and the past. The part I struggle with is accepting the fact that it’s always there. Aren’t there times when you wish you could wipe the scribbling that is your past away, just like you clean off a whiteboard?

I guess that’s why divorce rates are higher in subsequent marriages–the PTSD from surviving the battle (or World War III for some of you) can be extreme. The important thing is that you and your spouse communicate about the issues.

So instead of yelling to the world, I’ll continue to speak to Brandon about my past. We both need to unpack our past carefully. I’m learning to ask for time from him. I explain to him that I’m discovering how to enjoy marriage for the first time in a long time and it’s important to me. I admit I do worry sometimes he sees me as needy or as a sex-addict (ha!), but the root of it all comes from the need to be SEEN. I’m not going to be the invisible woman again.

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After bobbing around in the dating pool for some time (and for the most part, feeling like I was drowning or getting the life  sucked out of me), I learned a few things along the way. Most of the men out there just didn’t make the man-I-think-I-could-see-myself-with-cut. (Most didn’t even make the first-cut!)

There were men who expected their woman to dress like a playboy pinup daily so they can show her off. Ummm, thanks, no buh-bye! And men who liked pretending they weren’t fathers who only wanted to go play and spend money. Let me see…you say you can’t afford to pay your child support all the time, yet you want to take me to Las Vegas for the weekend? PASS! But once in a blue-moon (or maybe it’s only during the full-moon) you may come across a man who is worth your time. SCORE! Here are a few reasons to consider moving that man from the friend-zone to the end-zone:

1. He doesn’t expect perfection from you.

Let’s face it, most of us heading into a remarriage have baggage–kids, debt, exes, etc. It’s not easy to sweep all of those lumpy things under the dining room rug and pretend they aren’t part of the equation. (You can pretend they aren’t there, but what kind of a beginning is that, really?) If you’ve had a bad day because of an argument with an ex, or your teen isn’t listening to you and you’re frustrated, and your man listens intently as you sob and have liquid dripping from your eyes and nose, he’s a keeper.

2. He takes pride in your kids and in their activities.

I’ll never forget the moment I realized Brandon cared about my kids just as much as he cared about me. It was during my son’s football tournament in Nevada last year. Brandon was pacing up and down the sideline cheering for all of the boys on the team, and he was more stressed about the outcome than I was. That wonderful man was right there worrying about him when he held his arm after a hard hit, and he was by my side to celebrate the victory. Pride beamed from his face: all for my boy and the team. It was a weekend to remember!

3. He reminds you that you are amazing.

I did not want was hesitant to get married again! I won’t lie! I had “control” of my little life (finally!) when he and I began dating.  So the few times I had cold feet and broke things off with Brandon, he gave me space and told me he understood my concerns. However, he also told me to stop comparing my old life to my new life and often reminded me that I I could achieve whatever I wanted as long as I stopped being scared of making a mistake. That was refreshing to know he had my back. I don’t think I ever felt that in my last marriage.

4. He laughs at your kids’ quirks and poor manners.

The fact that Brandon giggled when one of my daughters passed gas as he threw her up-and-over his shoulder for the first time told me he could hang with my kids and enjoy their obnoxiousness I’ve grown to love. (And the fact that he still giggles when my girls “let one slip” to this day tells me I made a good choice!)

5. He takes the time to get to know you as a person.

You, the woman, not only as the mother you are (sure that’s part of you, but it doesn’t make up all of you). I see so many men looking for a “good mom for their kids” and they don’t really ponder if they marry this lady, she’ll be shackled to him for the next 30-40 years. When Brandon was getting to know me, he was surprised to learn that I worked for a scrapbook magazine and liked creating and crafting and taking photos. He’s happy I have things I enjoy, and he supports me in those things.

Remarriage isn’t easy. It’s not like throwing out old shoes and buying a new pair that fit just as well if not better. There are still sacrifices to be made. And some days I wonder if I was crazy to try this again. But ya know what? I’m living my life. Living! There are  memories being made. The love grows. Each day our new family is together, we create moments we’ll chuckle about around the Thanksgiving table in years to come. We laugh, we fight, we tease. It’s called living.

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Lori_NestEggI feel completely naked: the kind of naked where you feel ashamed, exposed, and vulnerable. My nest egg is gone. In a strange way, I feel like I have nothing.

Flash back five years ago.

After 10-12 years of marriage, my ex husband and I were putting most of our extra money into his 401k account as part of our planning for our future: his job had a direct 100% match. We had begun making plans for our future. After years of diapers, preschools, building our family and settling in our “forever” home, we hoped to save enough money to give the kids a bit of cash to help out with college and for the two of us to retire someday in a warmer climate.

Fast forward 5-or-so years when a long-distance and a too-close-to-home situation occurred when my then husband conveniently forgot he was married, and all of those dreams were shattered (and flushed down the toilet right along with the marriage).

To my ex husband, money really is a security blanket. I get that now. That’s just part of who he is. Me? I’m not really molded that way, but having enough money makes me feel secure (who likes to be broke, really?). Throughout our marriage, we were debt-free for the most part. It was important to us. But he took it a step further and we lived like we had to live paycheck to paycheck, always. I felt broke, always. We didn’t need to live that way. He prided himself on paying extra on our mortgage and contributing extra to our 401k. That’s both a blessing and a curse.

We were lucky we had a retirement account—most people aren’t so lucky. I’m thankful we had the money built up. But really, what good is a nest egg when it’s cracked in half and rotting day-by-day once you get divorced? Let me explain:

Part of the divorce process involves the distribution of assets. Ours was a 50/50 split.  He believed in everything being “fair and equal”, so when he wanted 2 of the 4 extension cords, 5 of the 10 plastic bins in the basement (and so on!) it was also decided we split the 401k.

Now, one of the joys (insert sarcasm) of divorce is that if you and your soon-to-be-ex argue about anything, then you each get a lawyer and you hash it out and pretty much pay for the lawyer’s children to go to college instead of your own. I wanted to walk away from the house, the furniture, everything. I just wanted to get away! But I had people telling me to think of the kids and to stay and get half of what we had built. So I did.

The stance I took cost me nearly $13,000 dollars: $200 an hour, to be exact. When my ex husband decided to change his mind after paying for mediation and refused to sign ANYTHING we had agreed to, we went back and forth between our lawyers to agree on a settlement.  It took two months, and it got expensive—we didn’t even go to court! I was truly exhausted at that point and just called it over. I didn’t fight to have him pay all of the kids benefits like most ex’s do. Or all of the kids’ medical bills. Or for the entire mortgage. I pay 50% of the kids benefits and bills and paid 100% of the mortgage. I have always (and still do) paid for 100% of their activities and sports (although he’s supposed to pay half)! All of these payments add up to my debt.

Feeding children on a $9 an-hour salary when I worked at their school wasn’t possible. I was paying an $1800 per month mortgage! My only choice was to buy groceries on my credit card back then. Travels to out-of-town tournaments were a priority for my little family, because those activities are part of who my kids are (and I was not going to make them change because their father decided to skip out with a neighbor). Those, too, were put on credit cards. The feeling of being in debt is crippling!

Today, after dealing with lots of back-and-forth and lawyer bills to split our 401k in half, I finally am able to gain access to my half of the nest egg. Will that egg feed me in my old age? No. It will go to paying off a 3 year-old divorce and bills from surviving during the hardest 3 years of my life. I’m so blessed to be able to do this, as I know lots of people who don’t have this luxury.

Am I sad my nest egg will be gone? In a strange way, yes I am. But the two-ton weight that has settled on my back and continually squashed me into the ground every month when I pay payments to those credit cards will now be gone. The day I pay off those bills will be a day of freedom, and I’ll be able to breathe again. The past can be put behind me. The monthly reminders in the mail that whisper to me, “Lori, you might not be able to come up for air ever again.” will now disappear.

I have so much more than the comfort of that nest egg! I have my amazing kids, my own home, my husband, a job I love, and I will be debt free again. I may not have the security of a retirement account come tomorrow, but as my always understanding husband often repeats to me, “I can always make more money.”

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