Posts from the ‘dating’ category

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Here you are, healed, strong, and feeling ready for what life has to bring to you post-divorce. What a long road it’s been! You’ve spent some time in the dating pool, some days were more of a struggle than others, and now, after kissing multiple frogs, (perhaps a few toads, even) you’ve finally found your Mr. or Mrs. Right. The two of you are head-over-heels in love, ready to get married, join your families together, and say your I dos. Well, as a girl who’s marched along that road before, let me be the first to tell you, don’t ever be married again!

From the day my husband, Brandon, and I began dating seriously, I would explain to him that I didn’t want to be the “wife” or a “mother” to a husband ever again. “I want to be the sexy girlfriend!” I’d exclaim. What that means is that I want Brandon and I to put as much effort into our relationship, every day, as we did in the early-days of our dating. Back then we both had four kids (each!), full-time jobs, jam-packed schedules, and we bent over backwards to see each other. Each of us came into this partnership as individual people with confidence, strengths and responsibilities, and we want each of us to keep those areas intact throughout our marriage.

When you’re first dating, you’re wrapped up in blankets of love, lust, and there are butterflies in your stomach. You send sweet texts: I miss you baby! xoxo. At the grocery store, you stop in your tracks when you see his favorite snack food, and you pick it up for the Giants game on Sunday, because what’s a good football game without his favorite snacks? You shave your legs and rub on scented lotion after your shower because you want to feel beautiful when he sees you. He brings you flowers just because he wants to see your face light up when he walks in the door with something–just because. But then, after months and months of being married, the texts are fewer and fewer and you become just another family member to one another.

We humans have this terrible habit of getting “comfortable” once the rings are placed on our fingers. In first marriages, after saying “I do,” mortgages and kids come along, and couples tend to start living a parallel existence together. That’s definitely what my first marriage looked like in the later years. The same is true in second marriages; those mortgages and kids are usually still there, you end up discussing Jimmy’s practice schedule or Jane’s doctors appointments, and you leave little time for any real conversation. Add to that issues with ex wives or husbands, child support responsibilities, and various schedules for various family members, and it’s a wonder if you have money to go out or lie down in bed at the same time!

If a wedding ceremony is something the two of you want, great! Get married! But do your best to avoid “being married” to your partner. Instead, keep dating him or her, every day.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to avoid “being married” and keep your relationship on the top of your list:

  1. Keep laughing! Near the end of my first marriage, I swear I hadn’t seen my first husband laugh in 5 years. He became so serious! I should have known there were bigger problems on the horizon. In my relationship with Brandon, he and I giggle over the stupidest things, constantly. With or without the kids involved. When I notice we are beginning to take life too seriously, and we aren’t snickering at something stupid, that’s when I know we need more “us” time on our schedule.
  2. Keep your grooming habits the same as when you first got together. Men, you didn’t look like Sasquatch’s relative when you lovingly kissed us goodnight at the doorstep on our third date (well, perhaps some of you did, because your women are into the disheveled, bearded look, but not me). And ladies, Alec Baldwin’s character may have been into a woman “going native” in the movie It’s Complicated, but it’s highly-unlinkely your man will appreciate the “forest” (men, this goes for you too–if you manscaped before, keep that shit up!).
  3. Dress to impress, still. Yoga pants are for working out…period. And sweats? Well, they’re for days when you’ve got the flu and can’t make it out of bed. Otherwise, they stay in the closet.
  4. Let the small things go. You didn’t snap his head off when he didn’t change the toilet paper roll when you were first together. And he overlooked your 50 bottles of lotion, scented lotion, deodorant, gel, mouuse, hairspray etc. you’d leave on the bathroom counter when you left for work, so don’t bicker about it now. Keep the respect levels high–always!
  5. Keep the affection coming. (Pun definitely intended here!) Keep up the heat! Sex should be a priority, but more than that, keep up the touchy-feeling things you did when you were first together: hold hands while you’re in the car, give him a hug and a kiss when he gets home from work, kiss her neck when she’s cooking dinner. When the sweet, contagious touches go away in a marriage, you may as well move into separate homes next door to each other and Skype about the kids and schedules at that point.

There’s this strange spin-doctoring and creative marketing that goes on out there, that we all buy into, that makes us think that marriage will solve all of our problems. Being married isn’t an answer to anything–the work still needs to take place. In life, we want someone to show love to and someone who shows us love. We want to know we’re special. We want to know that the person we’re with is proud they spend their nights with us. The best way to do that is to not be married at all. Be dating. Be in love. Be giving love. Always.

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Sometimes I wonder: What would my life look like had I not followed the “right thing” and instead, looked within and chosen things for myself? What if I would have paid close attention to the red flags along the way during my courtship and marriage rather than view and disregard them–as if only gazing quickly at them from a window in a speeding car. What if I would have pursued photography and art in high school as I had dreamed of? Then continued that passion in college? What if I would have realized, at 22, the possessiveness and control was real in my soon-to-be-husband and had stood strong after I tried to break up with him and moved on, alone?

What if I would have shut out my mother’s critiques of the things I expressed I liked or her judgements of my artistic father? I wouldn’t have been so scared to choose for myself. I wouldn’t have thought art was a waste of time and pursuing photography would have been something I did, like my father.

All of these “what ifs” are here because I was afraid of disappointing. My father didn’t graduate from college, and photography was his major, so of course I saw photography as a dead-end career. He and his mother painted and my mother critiqued both of them, and I certainly didn’t want to be critiqued. So, I did the “right thing” from childhood on. Got good grades. Skipped a grade. Graduated. Got a job and put myself through night school trying to earn a business management degree. All because it was the “right thing to do.” Never was I authentically happy. I was good at it, but not happy.

The problem with doing the “right thing” for so long is that as you grow older, and stronger, you reach a point where you don’t even know what it is you would choose. You’re so used to doing the things your husband likes and eating at the places he chooses and decorating the house the way he prefers that once you’re on your own you get lost in the forest of no identity.

After my divorce, I became close friends with a sweet, divorced art teacher at the school I worked for. We bonded quickly over divorce talks, photography, and had great outings together and with our girls. We were both evolving together and breathing in our newly court-ordered freedom.

I’ll never forget the day she first walked into my large, stuffy home where I had lived the last 8 years of my marriage and declared, “This place looks nothing like you–it’s so not what I imagined your house to look like!” I chuckled and said, “That’s because it’s him.”

I know that being married to a narcissist has a way of washing away your identity. Your life becomes all about them. That’s why I cut myself slack as I try to determine who I really am. I’ve come a long way. But there are dips and bumps in the road of self-discovery. I struggle with this a lot. It’s a lesson I guess I keep re-learning, because I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.

Now, I know, had I not lived the life I had, I wouldn’t have my four amazing children. I’m so thankful for them. Being a mother is my greatest fulfillment in life and my path has taught me many, many things.

But sometimes, I can’t help but dream about the Lori that could have been.

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A genuine fear I had after I divorced my husband of 17 years was being sure to NOT pick the same type of man again. You know how they always say, “Oh, she has a type!” or “He’s always picks the crazy ones.” I didn’t want those scenarios to be me! After all of the shit I dealt with during my first marriage, the last thing I wanted was someone who was ego-centered, negative or possessive and jealous.

This man, my man, is nothing like that.

I was still seeing my counselor occasionally when Brandon and I first started dating. I expressed my fears of choosing the same type of man–I was kind of afraid my “picker” was broken. I remember specifically stating to my therapist, “It’s not like there’s a book on guaranteeing second marriages.” She quickly replied, “Actually, Lori, there is proof that marriages that are real and vulnerable–the kind of vulnerable where you can show someone your darkest sides or deepest fears, work. And from what you’ve told me, you’ve already shared that side of you with Brandon.”

She was right.

Through all of the growing I had done on my own after my divorce, I had learned to be open and vulnerable with Brandon. Because he made me feel safe. He made me want to be a better person, and if I had to break down and cry and tell him how scared I was before I could be a better person, I would do it.

Brandon wouldn’t try to fix me. He still doesn’t. But he listens.

He looks at life as an experience–not a contest.

He has a relationship with his parents–this is important.

He has a relationship with his children–this is more important.

He wants to protect me and care for me. I’ve never had someone be that person for me.

He doesn’t expect anything from me.

He looks at my children as if they’re his own and he feels their pain and their happiness.

He supports my goals, my dreams, and is proud of who I am.

He is nothing like my ex.

 


If you’ve been in a relationship with a manipulator, it’s very common to choose the same type of person again. Very. So if you’ve been there, how do you help yourself and how do you recognize if you’re falling for the same routine?

  1. Stay connected to family and friends. Manipulators like to get you away from loved ones and friends. If they have you all to themselves, your self-image is tied directly to them. You begin to feel happy when you do for them and sad when they tell you you’ve missed the mark–then you over-do to try to make it up. If you have a support system, you have other people who will help you to see that everything isn’t always your fault.
  2. ALWAYS work on your self-esteem. When you feel good about yourself, you’re less-likely to fall for their tactics. You’re also less likely to blame yourself or let the manipulator “label” you or put you down. A manipulator will try to get you to give up the things you love or that make you feel good. Again, they’ve got you right where they want you if you aren’t happy.
  3. Recognize when you feel shame or anxiety. When you are in a relationship, you shouldn’t feel shamed or anxious around your partner. If you feel “not good enough” or your partner is always angry or explosive around you, your response is to try harder to do better or to keep the waters calm. This is how they get you to do what they want.

Are you in a manipulative relationship?

Take this quiz from lifeesteem.org

Answer the following questions with a True or False.

  1. I sometimes feel confused about what my partner really wants.
  2. I feel that my partner frequently takes advantage of my giving nature.
  3. Even when I do something that pleases my partner, the positive feelings never last long.
  4. With my partner I feel that it’s hard just to be myself or do what I really want.
  5. Around my partner, I feel taken for granted.
  6. I seem to work harder on this relationship than my partner does.
  7. My partner has a very strong impact on what I think and feel.
  8. I sometimes feel that I am trapped in my relationship and there is no way out.
  9. I don’t feel as good about myself in my relationship as I once did.
  10. I feel that I need my partner more than my partner needs me.
  11. No matter how much I have done, I feel that it’s not good enough for my partner.
  12. I feel that my partner does not understand who I really am.

There are twelve questions in this quiz. If you answered more than half of them with True, you might want to consider exploring whether you are in a manipulative relationship.

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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, Josh’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!

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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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