Moving On (And In)

14 Nov

It’s been nearly a month since my last post.  I’m still around and reading other people’s blogs, but I’ve found that there’s not much left for me to add to my own.  This chapter of my life is closed.  I no longer have a burning need to write so that I can process.  I don’t have unspoken words and tumbling thoughts weighing me down anymore.  I don’t need to put my feelings on paper to sort through them.  I’m happy, but more than that, I’m content and secure.

I’ve been blogging here for over a year and a half.  I came to WordPress with no purpose or goal, no expectations, and no clue what I was doing.  Slowly I gathered followers and found other people writing about infidelity and its devastating effects.  Many of the people who started blogging at the same time as me have slowly disappeared.  Some said goodbyes, others vanished with no word, and a few are still around typing away.  I’ve decided that I’m now part of the first group: it’s time for me to close up shop and move on.

This blog will remain open.  I still get emails and comments from readers nearly daily, and I will continue responding.  My stats tell me that somewhere around 800 people are reading each day.  I have nearly 200,000 unique hits since my journey began.  I’m still amazed that many people would take the time to read even a portion of this little snapshot of my life.  I am honored and get a bit emotional when something I’ve written has actually helped someone come to a realization, make a decision, feel better about him or herself, feel understood, or otherwise be positively affected.

Thank you

You all have positively affected my life in many ways, too.  All 635 of my followers, in one way or another.  Some of you have been pillars of strength and reason and wisdom for me.  Many of you have shared deeply personal stories and experiences that helped me understand my own.  I’ve laughed along with you, been moved to tears by comments, and come to many realizations.  I found acceptance, validation, and hope through some of my darkest moments and times when there didn’t seem to be any good choices.  I learned that I wasn’t alone.  I made lifelong friends.  Every single “Like” and follow gave me confidence and a sense of belonging that I didn’t have before.

Maybe it sounds silly to get all of that from a blog.  And from virtual strangers from all over the world sitting behind a computer, on a phone, or otherwise connected to this great web of communication called the internet.  I did, though.  In a strange way that I can’t quite explain, writing this, telling my story, working through my feelings in the “open,” and relating to others through comments here and on other blogs caused me to know myself in a way I never had.  It crystalized my feelings about myself: who I am, what I need, and how I want to live my life.  For that, I can’t thank you all enough.

This blog has helped me discover myself and what I want so effectively that I no longer need it.  Instead of a required outlet it has become an afterthought.  Worse, it sometimes feels like a drain – I just don’t have the time or inclination to keep it up.  Rather than feel guilty or obligated (due to my people-pleasing nature) and limping along with half-hearted posts, I would like to make a graceful exit.  Well, as graceful as I can manage.  😉

I will, however, leave you with one final update.  This move away from my blog coincides with another move: in with Tony.  It will be a gradual process, but it has already started.  I’ve got (almost literally) mountains of things to sort through at my house – pictures, movies, nicknacks, household items, multiple dressers and closets (and part of a room) full of clothes that have accumulated for decades, and more.  Thankfully, things can move at a leisurely pace because I will be renting some space in my house to my sister.  Rather than worry about getting rid of old furniture, moving in one weekend, or having to sell, I can focus on the warm fuzzies and enjoy the process.  I’ve already got my own closet and towel rack, all of my necessities, and I’m filtering things in as I have the time, inclination, and desire.  More importantly, I’ve got a warm bed to sleep in every night with an amazing man who I love (and who loves me) very, very much.  What more could a girl want?

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Learning to Be Vulnerable

20 Oct

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Last Friday morning I was in my car, parked on the street around the corner from work, trying to get my emotions under control.  I had tears streaking down my cheeks, runny mascara, and a splotchy face.  I wasn’t crying because something horrible happened.  Those tears weren’t bad at all.  However, I’ve been conditioned to feel embarrassed by tears and to put on a happy face all of the time.  That’s part of the reason I was crying.  They were tears I’ve been holding back for who knows how long.  Maybe most of my life, in one way or another.

Every so often I get a comment from someone telling me that I should drop the “mess” part of my blog title.  I have extracted myself from the most apparent mess in my life, but there’s still a lot left.  Besides the fact that I’m a horrible housekeeper (as Tony can attest), I’m a mess in other ways as well.  Crying alone in the car before work is one of those ways.  Actually, isolated somewhere behind a closed door is just about the only way I let myself cry.

My upbringing and personality and the circumstances of my life have left me with a very thick outer wall.  I’m incredibly sensitive and emotional and sentimental, but I’ve trained myself not to be.  I’m the oldest child.  A woman in a man’s industry.  The daughter of a father with no empathy and grandmothers with no filter, tact, or “warm fuzzies.” I am the product of a household that was full of countless rules, one of which was something like “suck it up.”

My youngest sister was deemed “the sensitive one.”  I was the smart one, the tough one, the tomboy, or “the mouth.”  I was instructed to hold my tongue, stay in line, and do what I was told without question.  I was constantly reminded when I failed at those tasks. Disappointing my parents felt like the end of the world, yet I seemed to do it often. A large part of that was my own perception and pressure from inside to be perfect, a goal that I now know is impossible to reach.  87629344_XS In an effort to fix myself and hide my “flaws,” I made myself be the strong one, the positive one, the rational one. I tried to always be in control of my emotions whether it was with my family, at work, or just in general.

Those are difficult patterns to unlearn, and hard roles to break free from. I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had with a wonderful man.  He loves and accepts and understands me.  He makes me laugh, he surprises me every day with his intellect and creativity, and he’s very caring.  We talk about all sorts of things.  Subjects or conversations that would have been awkward or caused jealousy or fear in the past are comfortable and natural.  Still, I find myself falling into negative patterns of holding back, putting up a front, or concealing my feelings.

I have managed to share this blog with Tony, although it was a very scary thing to do.  The first few moments after I gave him the link I felt cracked open, exposed, and incredibly vulnerable. Those are emotions I don’t handle well. But I wanted to give him this important piece of myself. Writing is very cathartic, and I can express myself so more fully with time to consider (in fact, I’ve been working on this post for more than a week now).  Things also come out that I didn’t realize or understand before I put them into words.

After my last post about meeting his parents, Tony texted me that I don’t have to hide what’s going on in my head or be afraid or embarrassed of telling him how I feel.  At first I wasn’t even sure what he meant. Internalizing is so routine that I don’t recognize how much I do it.  I have a filter inside that automatically blocks off emotions, tells me that I’m wrong or silly to feel the things I feel, and covers those perceived flaws with a mask of confidence and happiness. After a moment of considering his comment, I realized how incredibly true it was.

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That mask, which I’m not even aware of wearing because it has become so comfortable and commonplace, slipped. I was driving to the office after visiting a new store location, and I had to pull over. As we continued to text, tears were silently falling from my eyes. He told me that I don’t have to worry about packaging my thoughts. I expressed how that goes against basically everything I was taught as a kid and years of punishments for saying things that I shouldn’t have (by someone else’s standards).

I texted that I’m working on worrying less and opening up more, but when I’m a complete mess it feels safer to pretend I’m more confident than I am in the hopes that I’ll convince myself it’s the truth. It feels weird to be vulnerable and expose my insecurities because I’m still halfway convinced that he’s way too good for me and he’s going to realize that any day. He told me to unconvince myself, and to talk to him when I feel that way. I said that I try to be the person I want to be and that he deserves instead of the ugly dork with no social skills that no one liked, which is what I was growing up and how I still feel a lot of the time.

Then he said something that really made the waterworks flow. He told me that I don’t have to try to be anything with him… To just be. That it’s the whole point. I was nearly sobbing by then. I put a lot of pressure on myself and hold back my emotions most of the time. It was like a valve releasing those pent up feelings, and they rushed out at once, with great force. It was also astounding to be accepted and loved exactly as I am. That is something I’ve rarely experienced, partly because haven’t allowed myself to expose the things that I dislike. To be encouraged to show my perceived flaws and have someone love those things, which I can’t even do for myself, was overwhelming. Knowing I have someone to reassure and build me up, even at my worst, gave me permission to let go and be a sap, even for just a few minutes.

It also scared me because I wondered if I even know how to do that. The next several hours the question kept rolling around in my head, “Do I even know who I am if I’m not trying to be something else?” At first, I panicked a little because I wasn’t sure. I could think of a few words to describe myself: loving, honest, funny, sexual, genuine, intelligent, talented, and definitely insecure.   Those seemed generic and flat as a descriptor of who I am because they are just a little portion of who I am.  So many other things began coming to mind… I snort when I laugh, forget names, and talk way too much.  I’m a people-pleaser with a deviant streak, and a stubborn, emotional mess.

All of that and more makes me who I am. As Tony pointed out, those less than perfect parts are what make me human. And interesting. And he loves me for them. Despite my efforts to put on a mask and polish over the rough spots and pretend to have it all together, he sees me. The real me. Sometimes maybe better than I see myself. It’s my job to let him, and I’m going to keep practicing.

Meeting the Parents

10 Oct

Last night I got to meet Tony’s parents.  He’s met mine.   We did dinner out with my Mom and step-Dad followed by a night at the fair (and a rodeo) a bit later, and dinner with my Dad and step-Mom.  He met my grandma when my band was playing at the State Fair last weekend.  I’ve met his sister (twice), her boyfriend, and a cousin during a very fun day/ evening.  His parents were on vacation during some of that time, but this week we set a time for dinner.  At their house.  Where Tony and I would cook.

I was really excited and glad to get to meet them.  I was also kind of a nervous wreck.  I left work early so that I could swing by my place, pick up more clothes (not content with the original selection I brought), and go to Tony’s house to shower and get ready.  By the time he got there after swinging by to pick up the steaks for dinner, I was mostly done.  I was freshly scrubbed and plucked with minty breath. My hair was dried and straightened with a big round brush.  I had on the perfect amount of make-up that made me look fresh, rosy, and bright-eyed.  I had on a touch of jewelry (earrings and my watch).  I had my shoes and jacket picked out and standing by to be put on. I appeared fairly calm and confident.  For all he could tell I only changed once before we left (just switching for a different shirt).

What to wear

In reality, I had already tried on what seems like 100 outfits.  It wasn’t quite that many, but I got started at lunch.  I was having a hard time finding something that was not too casual, not too dressy, not too formal, etc. that I could cook in without looking awkward or like a sloppy mess.  It’s funny how on days when I don’t try or even care I can put together a killer outfit, but when it’s something important I can’t seem to find a damn thing that looks halfway decent.  I tried on several dresses (which I discarded as not practical with three dogs in the house and cooking to do), jeans (which I decided weren’t quite right), countless tops and bottoms, and something like 5 different pair of shoes before settling on an outfit that was comfortable but probably still a little too much (dress slacks, a printed top with 3/4 length sleeves, and boots).

Outside I looked okay.  Not spectacular, but definitely passable.  I think I even did a pretty good job of hiding my nerves.  In theory.  I actually reached out to several friends and my Mom throughout the day for reassurance.  In fact, there was a whole pep-talk going on in my head.  It went something like this:  “I’m sure that they’ll like me just fine.  I’m sweet and smart and kinda funny. I know how to talk to people, I’m pretty engaging, and I don’t think I’ll say anything offensive. Plus, I really love their son.”

In my heart, I didn’t think that they would hate me or anything.  But he’s a really special guy, and he’s close to his parents. I knew they’d be evaluating me to see if I’m good enough for their baby, at least on some level.  I’ve also never done the whole “meet the parents” thing.  It was completely new to me, so I had nothing to base it on.  The real reason I was nervous, though, is that he’s very important to me, and I wanted to make a good first impression.

In the end, I don’t think I did anything stupid. I met his parents, who are incredibly sweet, their adorable dogs, and his youngest brother. We cooked an amazing dinner, had good conversations, and it was very comfortable. I didn’t feel awkward in the least. It actually felt more like it could have been the 100th time I’d been over there, and I was just part of the gang. It was wonderful, and I’m still floating a little.

When I found this picture today, I had to laugh, though. I had something similar float through my mind (not about his nipples). And I did much more than that when we got home. 😉

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The Wait is Over

7 Oct

There are at least 10 other things I should be doing right now, but I wanted to post a quick update.  I have heard from my lawyer and confirmed with the court that my divorce has officially been granted.  Yay!  I still haven’t gotten my decree in the mail, but just knowing it’s done is fantastic!  I even took a screen shot of the website in the meantime:

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As you can see, I’ve actually been totally free since September 25th!  It took almost a year, which I still find ridiculous given that it was supposed to be only 6 months.  The separation/ divorce process was actually 1/3 of our total time being married.  It was also the best part of the whole thing.  I take that back – having it completely over and being able to move on is the best part.

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When You “Just Know”

29 Sep

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My last post included the tidbit that I’m in love with Tony.  I spoke the words out loud just shy of two weeks after meeting him.  That would have felt fast to me before.  This time I could barely hold out that long.  There was no doubt in my mind when I said it, either.  I was, and am, certain.

It’s hard to explain how I can be so sure so fast, especially to people who have known me for a while. I’ve fallen in love before, or at least felt romantic love for someone, but it was a gradual process – not like “falling” at all. I now know what that phrase means for the first time.

If you had asked me six months ago if it was possible to truly be in love after two weeks, I probably would have laughed, or at least said it wasn’t likely. I always thought that love had to develop slowly over time. I wasn’t shy about sharing that belief, either. Anything else, in my mind, was just lust. Or delusion. Or infatuation.

I told my sister, more than once if I recall correctly, that she couldn’t possibly be “in love” yet. I made fun of Taylor Swift and her new “love” every 5 seconds. I still believe that real love is rare, not something you can find with every stray guy who crosses your path. I have also discovered that love is powerful, though. It can grab you in an instant, overpower you, and bury itself deep.

I understand a lot of things now that I didn’t before. I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché that you “just know” when you find the person you’re supposed to be with.  That “knowing” feeling is something I never believed in, either. How could you know something like that? There’s no way to predict the future. I thought that maybe, as time passed, it was possible to make an educated guess about whether a relationship could work out long-term. But I had never experienced certainty, “knowing,” or an overwhelming feeling that another person was “it.” I denied that existed because I couldn’t fathom it.

All of those beliefs have been blown out of the water. It is possible to feel love – real, deep, consuming, mature, developed love – in a relatively short amount of time. There is an accelerated process that hardens and cures love, like a kiln, and the heat between two people can set it in motion. The “knowing” is a quiet certainty that you don’t want to let the other person out of your life. It’s being sure that you’ve found something exceptional and right that must be held tight.

I’ve got that with Tony. Even in the hours before met him, there was an easiness to our jokes that was exciting. I was hit by the thought that this could be very special as I was sitting across from him the first time.  In the days that followed, even before I saw him again, I found myself opening up and sharing all sorts of things. There was electricity in the air on our second date. Every touch was charged, while feeling familiar at the same time.  It wasn’t just that I was comfortable with him.  It was something more.  Something deeper. I had the sense that there was no need to pretend or put up a front about anything with him.

Almost since the moment he held me in his arms, he has felt like home. Every new thing I discovered about him has clicked into place – like he was made for me and vice versa.  We just fit. He accepts who I am now, and I accept and love him just the way he is. At the same time, he challenges me to be better with his mere presence in my life. Like the song below, this new love feels like something I’ve known forever, and I’m sure he will keep surprising me. That’s how I know.

One Month Has Flown By

25 Sep

Sunday marked four weeks since I first met Tony.  Today it is “officially” a month since our first date on August 25th.  What an amazing month it has been!  Since our first and second date, which I recounted in detail, every day has been filled with something wonderful.  Discovering him is the best journey I’ve ever been on. I can’t even begin to describe all of the dates we’ve had since.  I will do my best to hit a few highlights, though.

One of the most spectacular dates happened on a Saturday.  It started in the morning/ early afternoon.  We went out shopping together to pick up ingredients for his family’s gumbo recipe.   Even grocery shopping with him was a treat – it was comfortable yet oddly thrilling.  We went back to his place, where he put on music and we literally danced around the kitchen drinking wine and cooking together for 4 hours (or so).   We talked and laughed, and I wasn’t bored for a single second.  I sang along to the music I knew, and discovered new artists and songs, which always happens with Tony.  Cooking with him was such a pleasure, and it was a very relaxed, fun atmosphere.   Life should always have a soundtrack of phenomenal music and laughter layered over delicious smells and sweet kisses.

I had shared this blog by that point, and had always been up-front about my marriage, even on my dating profile.  I was concerned about being able to trust again, and I wasn’t sure that I could open myself up to being vulnerable with someone.  It was nearly effortless with him, though.  There’s something – really everything – about him that fits me in a way I’ve never felt before.  That evening  I remember having my arms around his neck as we danced, looking into those beautiful eyes, and telling him that I was scared.  He asked why.  I told him because I was falling in love with him, and it scared me just how much he could break my heart.  He kissed me, smiled, and told me that he won’t break my heart.  There was a sincerity in his voice that brought tears to my eyes.  I believed him then, I believe him now, and I think it’s something I will always believe.

That night I drank too much (two bottles of wine for two people, plus a beer, and some scotch was more than I could handle).  I got sick, which wasn’t very becoming.  However, he was so sweet and tender with me that it was almost worth it.  He took care of me, and held me, and made me feel better.  When I had gone to sleep, and he thought I couldn’t hear, he whispered “I love you.”  Snoring or not, that registered, and I responded in kind.   I told him the next day that a woman always hears those words.  I also made sure to repeat them in a completely sober state, the following morning and every day since.  I am more sure of my feelings for him than I’ve been about nearly anything in my life, but that’s another post.

Since that magical night, we’ve had many others.  We went see a band that does bluegrass covers of 80’s hits.  That was a blast.  The band was entertaining to watch, the music was fun, and there was good food and bourbon.  I also got to meet his sister, who is beautiful and sweet.  At one point in our conversation she said something about their dad, then looked at me and said, “You’ll see.”  I know that she’s right, but hearing it from her made me feel warm, happy and accepted.  Tony has briefly met my sister, too, and tomorrow he will get to meet my Mom and step-dad.  I know that my Dad and step-mom have been virtually dying to meet him, so that will likely happen soon as well.  I’ve been surprised that my Dad hasn’t just come by one day when Tony’s truck was out front since he is my neighbor.

We’ve gone to a field day of the past event where we watched lawn mower pulls and saw a wood chopper powered by a horse on a treadmill. We’ve been out to dinner numerous times, cooked together quite a bit since the gumbo experience, gone for ice cream, been to a local brewery, and more. We have been spending as much time together as possible, and it’s been wonderful.

I am absolutely riding the high of this new relationship.  I am always one to overthink and over-analyze. This time I’m savoring each moment. I don’t have to worry. I’m very excited about what’s yet to come, but I’m making sure to enjoy the journey.

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Self-Esteem Problems Surface

24 Sep

I admittedly have self-esteem issues.  They have been more of a problem in the past, but tonight I was reminded that they’re still there, just under the surface.  I had dinner with my Mom and stepdad.  It was partly just a fun visit and partly for a school assignment.  My stepdad is an exceptionally clever, accomplished man who is mentoring me for my leadership class.  We meet every week to discuss topics for my class, which I then turn into a paper and submit.  This was one of those meetings.

While I was there, we also planned a time for Tony to meet them both this week.  My Mom has been pretty good about not asking a ridiculous amount of questions so far, although I have told her a bit.  Tonight she asked more.  Mostly it was basic stuff like how often we see each other now, what I like the most about him, and a general checklist of things Moms find important (how does he treat me, is he responsible and kind, does he have kids or drug problems or major issues, etc.).  My stepdad chimed in to tell her to stop prying when she started her normal 20 questions routine (who’s house do we go to the most, who usually initiates communication, does he have pets, how does Buddy like him, blah, blah, blah… you get the picture).

It was a nice conversation.  We were smiling, and I’m sure I was a little giddy.  Never one to turn down an opportunity to gush, I told her how intelligent and funny and sweet and all-around amazing he is.  I bragged about him.  She did a little summary of the things I told her about how incredible he is.  Then she asked what he likes about me.  It wasn’t a mean question.  She was genuinely interested, and I’m sure she was probably looking for me to list some things that he has said are attractive about me.  She didn’t say it like, “What could someone that great possibly see in you?”

That’s what it felt like, though.   That’s how my distorted brain heard it.  My horrible self-esteem was yelling in my head, “What do you really bring to the table compared to all of that amazingness?”  I managed not to burst into tears or yell “I don’t know” and bury my face in my hands.  Instead, I smiled, cocked my head to the side, and confidently said “Everything.”  They laughed.  I did, too.  I tried to believe my own bravado.  It stuck with me, though.  I couldn’t shake it.  The voice in my head was really stumped.  At a loss.  Perplexed.  What the hell does someone that fantastic like about me?  In the moment, I honestly couldn’t have given another answer.

I left my Mom’s house still shaken up inside, though I tried not to show it.  I delivered Tony cold and flu medicine (which he said I was silly for going out of my way to bring him).  He’s been feeling feverish and sick all day, and I’m pretty sure I gave him that lovely illness.  He also went out of his way to come see me on his lunch a few weeks ago when I was out sick to make me feel better.   This evening we had a much needed snuggle on the couch.   Then I headed home to submit a paper and write up my mentorship meeting for school.

On my drive, an answer to the question my Mom asked, other than sheer panic and blankness, finally began to form in my mind.  I think he really appreciates my sense of humor and honesty.  My genuineness, flaws and all, is probably endearing.  I know that we are compatible intellectually, sexually, and with our belief system.  He has said that he thinks I’m beautiful.  I have a pretty good job, I’m furthering my education, I can sing and play instruments, I’m open and fun, I try to be self-aware and positive, and I’m a giving and compassionate person.  I’m independent and self-sufficient while also wanting to share my life and happiness with someone special.  I guess that I’m probably a bit of a catch.

I need to take my advice from last post, and believe in my worth.  Tonight proved that as far as I’ve come, I’ve still got more ground to cover to overcome my insecurities.  The fact that I’ve abstained from listing a host of my shortcomings to “balance out” the positive traits above is a baby step.  The next step might be to not let those negative perceptions distort my view of myself so much that it takes nearly two hours to think of a single good thing that someone would like about me.

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We Attract Who We Think We’re Worth

20 Sep

I read a blog post yesterday that said, when it comes to dating, we attract who we think we are worth.  That’s definitely true.  As I read, I was nodding along.  The title is Who You Date Is a Function of Your Self-Esteem.  Absolutely correct.

I likely would have said that Tony was “out of my league” ten years, five years, one year, or even six months ago.  He’s intelligent, handsome, sweet, attentive, successful, amazing in bed, responsible, wonderfully quirky, hilarious, gentlemanly, quick-witted, and more.  He has a way with words, he’s in touch with himself and his emotions, and he’s genuine.  He is the true definition of “the total package.”  He’s got everything a girl could ever dream of and then some.  Seriously.

The old version of me would have been intimidated by that.  I probably wouldn’t have given the five star “nudge” because I would have been positive that he couldn’t possibly be into me.   I would have been shocked and maybe even skeptical when/if I got a message from him.  I certainly wouldn’t have had the confidence to engage and interact with him the way that I did.

That’s not to say that my personality or taste have changed lately.  I’ve always been the person I am, for the most part.  Certainly, I have grown over the years, especially emotionally.  However, my sense of humor, natural intelligence, honesty, caring nature, talents, and even body haven’t changed that much in the last decade.  I’m pretty much the same me I’ve always been, with added maturity, insight, and confidence.

I have also always been attracted to the qualities that Tony possesses.  Who wouldn’t be?  I just never thought I would get someone like that.  Or that I deserved to.

Reading that, even after coming to the realization on my own, is painful.  I knew great people existed with all of the qualities I admired and desired.  I simply thought none of them would ever want me.  I was sure that I would have to make concessions when it came to a partner.

woman-low-self-esteemSo certain, in fact, that I didn’t even let myself desire someone who had it all.  A man like that might catch my eye for a second, then I’d mentally move right by.  If he happened to be married or with a girlfriend, I would compare myself to that woman and confirm in my head all the ways I fell short: I wasn’t as pretty, thin, interesting, social, charming, graceful, etc.

If a man like that appeared to be single, or I heard he was through the grapevine somehow, I convinced myself there was no possibility that he could ever be attracted to someone like me.  It was often a self-fulfilling prophesy.  If we did get a chance to interact, my reserved, insecure communication and failure to show any interest would ensure I wasn’t noticed or he was discouraged from making a move.

Even if a “total package” man engaged me in a way that could be construed as flirting, I was positive that he was just being nice to pass the time until someone better, more interesting, or more attractive came along.  A man like that rarely pursues someone with no self-confidence, especially someone who doesn’t seem interested.  So my behavior reinforced my beliefs.

As I matured and became more comfortable with myself, I did let my personality out to play more. I learned to be a pretend extrovert and engage with a variety of people. I was always far more confident and comfortable with people who were “less than” in some way, though. I would rather be a big fish in a little pond than feel like a small one in a big pond. The same concept applied to my relationships… I was drawn to “projects.”  Those were the type of people that I felt confident being myself around.

That’s not what I really needed, though.  Not that I ever sat down to consider what that was.  I was more concerned about being everything my partner needed.  I rarely stopped to ask myself what I was getting or if I was fulfilled.  After all, if you’ve already decided that you’ll have to settle, it’s not surprising or even that disappointing when you do.  I told myself that things were good enough, or as good as I could expect. I thought that I was happy enough, or even if I wasn’t that I could get there if I just worked a little harder at fixing things.

When I finally realized that it WASN’T good enough, I WASN’T happy, I DIDN’T have to settle, and I SHOULD think about my needs, it was a revolutionary shift in perspective.  It changed the way I carried myself.  It changed the way I interacted with people. It changed the way I thought about dating and men.

During my Librarian Bob phase, I went out with eight men, if I recall correctly. Two got to date #2. None got past that point.  I went on dates with a loser, an asshole, and a liar.  I went on a date with a fireman who posed for a smoking hot calendar picture, which I saved to drool over even after I declined a second date (for several reasons).  I went on dates with men who were nice enough, seemed to have a lot going for them, and were into me.  Any of those men might have been someone I ended up in a relationship with before, when my self-esteem was virtually non-existent.  My realization left me asking if any of them were what I wanted.  The answer was no.

Those “no’s” helped me define what a “yes” would look like.  I actually sat down and contemplated my needs.   I also began to realize the things that I had to bring to the table.  The eight men I went on dates with were a small portion of the number of interested candidates.  While that was surprising at first, I began to step back and look at myself through other people’s eyes.  I was selling myself short and limiting my own happiness.

I’m not doing that anymore, and happiness is fantastic.  So is attracting the kind of person who is really worthy of me.

Soaring

20 Sep

Here is something that I wrote to a friend on September 5th about Tony:

“I’m seeing someone who I’m so into that I can hardly breathe when I think about him.

This thing is honest and open.  It’s dangerously sweet and sweetly dangerous, mixed with shots of sheer wonder and unadulterated pleasure.

I feel like I’m soaring.

If I put specs into a machine of everything I could ever need or want in a partner, it would spit him out, just the way he is.

I couldn’t even find the words to describe it if I wanted to.”

Fifteen days later, I still feel that way every time I’m with him.   I’m very excited to spend another weekend together.

I swear at some point I’ll get around to finishing and publishing the various drafts I have sitting around in my WordPress Dashboard.  I’m just too caught up in enjoying myself, working, and school to have time to do much else.

I was just away on a race car driving experience at the beginning of the week.  The speeds and g-force were amazing.  I had a blast!  Being with Tony is more fun than that.

I’m going to keep riding the high.

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Best Second Date Ever

18 Sep

As promised, I am finally getting around to sharing about my wonderful second date with Tony.

Tony arranged to come pick me up because it’s the gentlemanly thing to do. I thought that touch was perfect for a second date, especially given that we had interacted enough since the first date for me to feel comfortable and safe with him. Tony planned for us to have dinner at a new restaurant in a part of the city known for cute, trendy shops and great independent restaurants. It is also quite crowded on Friday nights, and parking is notoriously difficult to find.

As I mentioned in my last post, we texted back and forth beforehand, and joked about who was more excited about the date. At one point in the day he texted me this: “I bought a smaller car so I can park you closer to the restaurant. It should be delivered today.” I knew he was giddy, too, but that warranted an incredulous “What?” His reply made me literally laugh out loud: “Well, ok. It’s for one of my salesmen. But I am going to hang on to it for a day so I don’t have to park my truck. :P”

man-opening-door-for-lady-tmProblems with the car ended up delaying delivery, so he had to bring his Ford F-150 Raptor. I told him that I have no complaints because I love big trucks. I did offer to let him drive my car, since a Chevy Cruze would be significantly more likely to fit in the little street parking spaces. He said that wouldn’t work because he wanted to pull up to the walk and open the car door for me. In fact, he said that’s something he does whether it is date 1 or 100. As self-sufficient as I am, that is refreshing, sweet, and makes me feel very womanly in a wonderful way.

Tony arrived at my house promptly at 7 pm, to the minute, which was incredibly impressive. True to his word, he opened the truck door, and helped me up. Our conversation on the way to the restaurant was easy and full of laughter. When we reached our destination, his fear of the area being too crowded to find parking was realized. After meandering up and down through several side streets in an ever-widening radius, we accepted that parking anywhere remotely close to the restaurant was not likely. He suggested a nearby place where we could park across the street in a lot. I had been there once before, and enjoyed it, so we changed locations.

It was a good choice. We didn’t have far to walk, but we did cross Broad Street, a fairly busy multi-lane road. When he reached down and took my hand, my heart jumped. I still get butterflies in my stomach recalling that moment. That simple gesture was electrifying. When he opened the restaurant door and put his hand on the small of my back to usher me in ahead of him, I think I stopped breathing. Nothing existed except the nerve endings under his fingertips.

He gave his name to the hostess at the front, which for some reason made my heart leap again (probably at the prospect of being called for dinner using his last name- there is something so delicious about that). She said it would be a few minutes for a table, so we found seats at the end of the bar. He pulled the chair out for me, never missing an opportunity to be a gentleman.

We sat at the bar, our arms barely brushing. He looked at me with those amazing blue eyes, and ran his fingers gently down my arm to rest his hand in mine. That moment may be my favorite among all of the phenomenal ones the evening had in store. It held so much intensity, tenderness, tension, and intimacy that it sent chills through my entire body. We lingered there, our eyes locked, both of us sporting huge grins, until the bartender broke our reverie.

Tony glanced at the beer list, and asked a question about what was on tap. He’s a beer connoisseur, while I know absolutely nothing. He ordered a beer for me to try, which was more on the light side, and something heartier and darker for himself. Our conversation continued, and drifted from topic to topic effortlessly, including family, work, hobbies, and more. He was engaging and funny, and found the perfect little ways to touch my arm when he leaned in to talk.

Once we moved to a table, things kept the same easiness. We had reserved a few interesting topics from our texting for dinner conversation. I found myself rambling on, and telling all sorts of stories. We shared and talked like we had known each other for ages, even while discovering each other. I never stopped laughing or being surprised by his wit.

After dinner, we held hands walking out of the restaurant and back to his truck. He drove me home, and I played him a song on the piano and a song on the guitar, just like I had promised. He had been wanting to hear me sing, and I had been wanting to knock his socks off. We both got our wish.

He stayed the night. There wasn’t much sleeping. An hour’s worth, maybe.

The next morning, when our bodies registered something other than our desire for one another, Tony took me to breakfast. At the restaurant, he opened the door for me and the woman behind me. She seemed surprised that he didn’t just do the standard “toss the door open a little bit more for the person behind you” move. As she walked in behind me, she told me that he’s a keeper. There’s no way she could have known we were still technically on our second date. I could already tell she was right, though.

Breakfast was great. So was getting back to my house and laying in bed together. We talked all day, and I was never bored. Again, we laughed and connected and exchanged stories. He showed me pictures, we shared messages from other people on the dating sites, and he kept surprising me with his intellect, honesty, humor, and amazing personality. When we got hungry again, we shared a shower and he took me to lunch. Then back home and back to snuggling and exploring each other – not just physically, though that certainly was part of it.

Quite a phenomenal part of it, in fact. Mind blowing doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’ve never experienced anything that amazing. I’ve had marathon sessions with one other partner, but nothing like that. In the fifteen or so hours we spent in bed together, I had countless orgasms. Literally. There is absolutely no way I could have kept track. He achieved an incredibly impressive eleven. My entire body was like jelly, and I was left with lots of laundry to do.

Approximately 26 hours after it began, our second date ended when Tony went home Saturday night. Around 10 pm he texted to say:

“That was the best second date I’ve ever had. I didn’t feel like I would ever get sick of lying there with you.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Prelude to a Second Date

12 Sep

You will have to excuse the sappiness of my next few posts, and maybe my entire blog from this point forward.  I’ve been told that happiness is rather boring to read about.  In that case, prepare to be very bored.

Lately, I’ve been keeping you updated on my foray back into the dating world.  After my first first date in a while (which you can read about here), I half-heartedly perused messages from other men on OkCupid.  They paled in comparison to the interactions with my date, who I will refer to as Tony (inspiration drawn from Iron Man) moving forward.

(Side note:  I agonized over what to call him on this blog.  Being a master over-thinker and an emphatically uncreative person, this was difficult.  I contemplated it unenthusiastically for days, which is one reason for the delay in my posts.  Finally, I put in a concerted effort and landed on that nickname for a variety of reasons that I find quite clever, but which may be painfully obvious.)

Tony and I continued talking and texting, quite frequently.  His wit and eloquence and humor left my head swimming in a delightful way.  I was a bit awe-struck.  Dazzled.  Fascinated.  Those words don’t seem quite right, but I can’t think of any more suitable.  He is quite possibly the smartest person I’d ever had the pleasure of talking to in such depth.  He kept me on my toes, and with a permanent smile on my face.

The most striking and surprising thing of all, though, was his honesty.  Truthfulness has been at the very top of my list of must-have’s for a long time.  Those that have followed my journey thus far know that honesty is something I value almost above anything else.  He went about showing me how much integrity he has from the beginning – not because I asked, but just because that’s who he is.  Our interactions were peppered with little nuggets of truth that I knew he didn’t have to give me, but that he did.  I discovered that we share a very similar set of values about dating, exclusivity, and chivalry that I had begun to think no longer existed in my generation.

Case in point:  He had three future dates already lined up, and he had gone on a few before he met me.  He joined the dating sites to meet a variety of people, and see if anything popped.  He was looking for a relationship, but not to just fall into one with the first person who came along.  He was very up-front about the other dates, but also about the fact that he really liked me.  The way he handled himself was extremely mature, and it was so refreshing that I didn’t have to wonder where I stood with him.

One date was scheduled for Monday evening, and another for Tuesday.  He texted me after each one.  In fact, I saved a text message that he sent me Tuesday night after his last date.  It said: “My feeling is that both last night and tonight, I found myself thinking I would rather have you sitting across from me.”  Getting that message made my stomach jump.  It wasn’t just a line.  His sincerity was palpable.

So was his level of transparency.  Both of those dates invited him back to her house.  One was very specific that she wanted to sleep with him.  He turned them down.  Mostly it was because he will not have a one night stand or sleep with anyone unless he’s exclusive.   It was also partly because he didn’t want to do anything that could negatively affect his chances with me.  Even before our second date, he was open and respectful.  I told him it was astonishing.  He showed me more regard and consideration after one date than my husband did in our entire relationship.

I also had a date scheduled, tentatively.  A man had gotten in touch who lived in Arlington and worked in Washington, D.C.  He seemed smart, he was nice, and he wasn’t bad-looking.  He proposed that we meet about half-way, in Fredericksburg, on Friday night.  I agreed, before I had any plans for a second date with Tony. This guy, who I called Politician Steve, was light on details and follow through. He didn’t pick a place or set a time.

As things progressed with Tony, we began discussing when we would have our second date. I had a previous engagement Wednesday and Thursday. He had another date pre-planned for Saturday. It was looking like it would be a week, and another Sunday night before we could see each other again. Even that was iffy because of family events and the Monday holiday.

Then, almost simultaneously, we made a choice to choose each other. I told him that I would like our second date to be on Friday – that I wasn’t worried about Politician Steve. He cancelled his date for Saturday. He said it wasn’t fair to her because he would be thinking of me the entire time, the way he was with the other two. He felt it was better to cancel than go with the thought that he would just “get through” so how could proceed with me.

The days leading up to that Friday night were tantalizing and filled with fascinating conversations. He told me that getting to know me was like the best class he’s ever taken. It was a sentiment I shared. I had never been more excited for a second date in my entire life.

Apparently my excitement level couldn’t compare to his, though. On Thursday night I told him that I could hardly wait for our date. He said that he believed me, but that he didn’t think I knew what real excitement was. One of the last messages I received from him that evening was, “There’s no way anyone else could be as excited for a second date as I am.”

The date wouldn’t be a disappointment for either of us.

Time, Time, Time

10 Sep

This last week has reminded me that I’m only human.  My days are packed with a demanding full-time job, a demanding full-time masters program, a new boyfriend, and playing and singing with a new band.  My workload has been steadily increasing because I’m out on the road more often, which crams more tasks into my office days.  My new class  requires a weekly mentorship meeting on top of two papers (one individual and one team), a test, daily posting, and 5-6 chapters of reading every week.  The band should be fun and exciting, which it is, but I feel a bit in over my head because they have me playing the keyboard, which I don’t do very well.   I’ve been appallingly slow at writing blog entries and keeping up with everyone in here blogland.

All in all, I feel like I’m barely sleeping while simultaneously seeming to get nothing done.  Certainly, I am not performing up to my normal standards.  At that pace, something was bound to give soon.

It seems like that something has been my health and a little bit of sanity.  I managed to lock myself out of both my house and my car (while it was running, no less) in just a week’s time.  I have a sinus infection, and I woke up this morning  with my left eye literally swollen shut.  After a second visit to the doctor in as many days, I still don’t know exactly what the problem is.  She isn’t sure if it is an allergic reaction or if the sinus infection got into my eye.  I’m on two antihistamines, an oral antibiotic, an antibacterial eye drop every 3 hours, plus cold compresses on my eye regularly.   It’s annoying and slightly uncomfortable, but at least it isn’t exceedingly painful.

Lest you think this is some sort of bitch session (which it does seem to be getting dangerously close to), there are plenty of positives in my life.  Things seem to be going amazingly well on the boyfriend front.  I now owe you an account of the best second date ever, and the most fun and interesting date thereafter (I’ve stopped counting them).  I’m sure my happiness is seeping from every pore in a sickeningly sweet way.  I’m certainly smiling constantly, listening to sappy love songs, singing (more than usual), and spending what little down time I do have with him.  I’m enjoying the giddiness rather than trying to control it.

Another great piece of news that I got today is that my divorce papers are officially being processed.  I got confirmation from my lawyer and the courthouse that they received the new original signed copy last week.  It was filed with the court Friday afternoon.  It is now scanned electronically into their system, which is back to running the way it should.  That means there will be no “got lost in a pile” issues.  The REAL 2-4 week wait is all I should have to be concerned with at this point.  They may even push it through the system a little faster because of the previous issues.  *Fingers crossed!*

That’s about all that I have time for now!  🙂  However, I will leave you with a fun song about time, love, and life.  I apologize for the weird video that goes along with it, but for some reason this particular Sugarland song is difficult to find on YouTube.

Online Dating: Take Two

6 Sep

I left you all hanging after my last post.  I had intentions of coming back and telling a few stories from my excursion into online dating in February and March.  I kept that close to the vest since the divorce process wasn’t officially started yet.  It’s not that I worried about it affecting anything, legally.  I just wanted to keep things civil, and hopefully get the divorce rolling with as little friction as possible.  Knowing he was still reading my blog, it seemed prudent to keep certain things to myself, or only share with close friends.  After the court system royally screwed me by losing the paperwork, my ability to keep even my virtual life on hold has completely dissipated.

When I decided to get back on the dating scene two weeks ago, I thought it would be a good opportunity to recap my old experiences while making new ones.  I envisioned writing witty, fun posts about the antics that come with online dating:  the barrage of messages, awkward first dates, men who look different than their pictures or can’t carry conversations, figuring out how to avoid an unwanted kiss, getting blindsided by an unsolicited penis picture…  You know, the standard stuff.  I was going to share how there were so many men interested last time around that I had to create a system to jog my memory about which one was contacting me using their occupation or other identifier – like Librarian Bob.    The posts were going to be comical and engaging and put an interesting new spin on my blog.

It turns out that I should have written about that stuff when it was happening to me.  Before I knew it, the Librarian Bob phase was over.

Last time I filled you in on the fact that I reactivated my dating profile late on a Saturday night after going out with a group of friends.  On Sunday morning I had the cutest, funniest, most well-written message from a very handsome guy.   Although I had over 100 messages when I woke up, my eye went straight to his.  I will admit that he had already caught my attention the night before.   His profile made me laugh and think, his pictures managed to be quirky and endearing while remaining extremely attractive, and his answers to the questions, especially his explanations, were intelligent and intriguing.  Beyond that, he also happened to be a 97% match according to the computer algorithm that OkCupid uses.  I had been hoping he would reach out, especially after I gave him the 5-star rating “nudge” Bennie recommended (a 4-star rating would have worked, too, but this guy was definite 5-star material).

He didn’t disappoint.  He remained captivating as we messaged back and forth.  He kept me on my toes, and left me laughing with his easy jokes and quick wit.  I felt slightly off-balance, in an especially good way.  He asked if I would meet him for dinner one night soon, and I didn’t hesitate for even a split second.  We compared schedules, and realized quickly that we were both rather booked.  We were either looking at later in the week or that very same night.  I told him I would get back to him.  I was on the last week of a demanding business law class.  My procrastinator tendencies were back in full force, so I had a final exam to take and two group legal briefs to edit.   After a string of setbacks that left me contemplating throwing my computer against a wall, I told him that I needed a break.

He picked a restaurant, which was so close to my house that I could have walked.  That prompted a scintillating exchange that could have been creepy in someone else’s hands, but instead was hilarious, cute, and charming.  He told me that I could come in my sweatpants without taking a shower if I wanted to – he didn’t care.  He said his attraction to someone is more dependent on how he connects intellectually (plus, he’d seen pictures and could tell I’m not a troll).  I did shower, but I didn’t get fancy.  I took him at his word, and wore yoga pants (our generation’s version of sweat pants, which I must say are quite a bit more flattering), a funny t-shirt, and Crocs.  He seemed surprised, and fairly impressed that I was true to my word.  I did apply a small amount of makeup and put a little clip in my hair, but I was casual – from my attire to my glasses to my attitude.

Dinner went very well.  We had great conversations with delicious little pauses where neither of us spoke, without the traditionally awkward feel of a first date.  There was tension, but not the nervous kind.  I was taken by his eyes and his smile and his obvious intelligence.  The restaurant basically kicked us out by making a show of turning off the “Open” sign in the window.  He held the door and walked me to my car, which happened to be parked just one spot over from his (it wasn’t a large parking lot).  I started my car, put my purse and leftovers in the passenger side of my vehicle, and went to take a look at his impressive truck (he was showing off his fancy keypad).  We stood there talking well past the 10 minute cut-off for my automatic start.  Our conversation is a blur of topics, laughter, and the mind numbing high of connecting with someone stimulating.

He is very stimulating.  On every level imaginable.  There was absolutely no hiding that I wanted a first kiss.  He knew it, not too far into our meal, when my eyes gave away my obvious attraction to him.  He knew, and he made me wait a bit, which was even more appealing.  We stood there, in an empty parking lot, talking past midnight.  When the kiss finally did come, it was electrifying.  Worth the wait.  And there was more than one, of course.  😉  When we finally broke apart, I made my way the 500 feet or so home (only a slight exaggeration).  I learned later that he was so disoriented that he drove the wrong way for 15 minutes.

I want to tell you more, but I’m running late for dinner, so the rest will have to wait.  I will add this…  My online dating profile is already disabled.  I’m very excited to see where this goes.  He is amazing.  He’s almost too good to be true, honestly.  Except that I’m pretty sure he’s the genuine article – an honest, sweet, incredibly intelligent, sexy, hilarious, sophisticated man who’s just as attracted to me as I am to him.  Boy, am I glad that I reactivated my profile when I did!

One Woman’s Online Dating Experience

27 Aug

My friends, including fellow blogger Bennie, have inspired me to try online dating again.   My experiences likely are far different from his, as the two of us recently discussed.  While I have come across many excellent dating blogs, I think my experiences may make for some interesting posts.

I went out with friends on Saturday evening.  It was just a fun girl’s night at a beach bar with a live band.  We discussed many things, dating included.  All three of them are currently dabbling in online dating.  I tried it for a month or so back in February/March, and found it overwhelming.  I wasn’t quite ready to be dating, honestly, and it required more of a time commitment than I was expecting.

Over dinner we had shared pretty amusing stories from the online dating scene.  Some were horrendous, but they had a few positive things to say.  At some point in the night, when we were moving from the first establishment to another due to the strong wind off of the ocean, I reactivated my OkCupid account.  The conversations from the evening sparked something in me, and I realized that I’m in a much different place now than I was even a few months back.

OkCupid was my favorite dating website when I was experimenting with them earlier this year.  Why?  Well, I personally like it for the neat matching algorithm and the nearly endless supply of random questions available.  I can get a pretty good idea of someone’s personality, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses by simply comparing answers and gauging the content and consistency of the responses.  I will admit that answering those questions can become a bit addicting.  I have answered more than 700.  See?  That tells people who look at my profile a great deal about me already – some good and some bad.

OkCupid also allows me to rate people on the site, take personality tests (including the MBTI!), bookmark people, and of course send messages.  Here is where my experience as a woman diverges from a man’s experience.  I reactivated my account Saturday evening.  By Sunday evening I had received somewhere around 183 messages.  Four times that amount or more had viewed my profile.  I stopped even keeping track after that point.  Each time you login it shows you the number of people who have viewed your profile since the last time you were online.  My numbers are consistently in the 90 to 100+ range, even after just a few hours of being away.  I know part of that is the “new profile syndrome,” as people flood over to check out the fresh meat.

The first time around I felt compelled to answer most messages (minus the clearly douchey ones).  No wonder I was overwhelmed.  As my therapist said, it’s good for the ego.  But boy can it be time consuming.  This time around, I’m being much more selective in who I choose to respond to.

I have felt guilty a time or two for not answering someone with a well-crafted or thought-out initial contact who I didn’t feel attraction toward.  However, I have rationalized that I am saving us time, effort, energy, and further hurt feelings by not leading anyone on.  The initial messages often include lists of questions, which I don’t want to spend time answering when I know that it’s not going to work for me.  Initially, I thought that was shallow.  After several unsuccessful dates with men I had already figured out I wasn’t compatible with (the first time around), I realized it’s just a sound policy not to try to force things.  This has given me a chance to face my people-pleaser nature head-on and practice saying “No,” even just to myself.

I intended to write more, and maybe share a particularly good experience that I just had, but I’m far too tired to at the moment.  Work has been especially hectic, brutal, and time consuming lately.  Too many meetings and all-day ride alongs and customer meet and greets leave this introvert spent.  Although I enjoy being busy, the level of social interaction and stress has left me wanting to just crawl in bed and do nothing as soon as I get home.  I haven’t been doing that, but I may as well be for as much use as I am when and as much as I get accomplished.  Especially after last week, which was the last week of my business law class and included a final exam and writing two papers.

I also have one other piece of news that probably deserves it’s own post.  I’m feeling entirely too lazy to do that, though.  So here it is:  The courthouse lost my divorce papers.  You heard that correctly.  Lost them.  So now we have to start again from the point where Chris signs the divorce decree because they need an original copy.  Lovely, isn’t it?  I just had to laugh because that is my life…

10 Excuses People Use to Stay with a Cheater

15 Aug

I wanted to post a follow-up to my last opinion piece.  I talked about reasons to leave a cheater (or, rather, reasons to kick them out).  This one will address what I believe are common excuses that people tell themselves to stay.

1.  “I owe it to him/her to see if this can work.”  No, you don’t.  You don’t owe the cheater anything.  You’ve already given things a chance to work, and they didn’t.  Your spouse threw that away.  They chose not to work on things (themselves or the marriage, if there were marital issues before they strayed).  Instead, they caused further destruction.  Face it, your relationship wasn’t great before or during the cheating.  Communication and intimacy have to be screwed up for something like that to be possible, and your partner obviously had no concern for your feelings or, often times, health.  Now that something this huge and damaging and hurtful is added on top, what was shitty before is not going to become magically wonderful.

2.  “But he/she loves me.”  That is not love.  Someone who cheats on you does not love you enough to stay faithful.  See this post for an elaboration on this point.  It was written by a wayward spouse, with my commentary added, and it really takes a hard look at the kind of “love” a cheating partner is showing.

3.  “But I love him/her.”  I’m sure you do.  You’re not getting that love back (see above, and just look at their actions).  Love isn’t always enough, especially if it isn’t returned in equal measure.  A relationship with a cheater is incredibly unbalanced because the faithful partner obviously cares much more than the unfaithful one.  Loving someone can be a good thing, but it can also cause you to devalue yourself if it gets to the point where your love leads you to accept treatment and behavior that is completely unacceptable.  Try loving yourself first, just as much or more than you love them.
screenshot952013-08-04-18-38-17-114. “What will happen to him/her if I leave? I can’t abandon him in such a vulnerable time. What if he commits suicide? Him, him, him, him, him, ad nauseum…”   I see this so much, and I just want to grab the person, shake them, and tell them to stop making it about the cheater.  Stop expending your energy and emotions over their feelings when they didn’t care one iota about yours.  Do you need to be cruel and mean and hurt them the way that they did you?  No, absolutely not.  In fact, I discourage it because it won’t help you.

However, you do NOT need to fuss over them, or worry about the ramifications that their choices will have on their lives (it was THEIR job to do that, and they obviously decided the risk was worth it).  Believe me, they are playing that sympathy card and working you like a fiddle.  They know the more they can put the attention on their poor, pitiful me act, the more you will be distracted and the less you will focus on how you’re feeling.

Don’t fall into the trap of comforting the cheater more than you comfort yourself or looking out for their interests more than your own.  You can give them the phone number to the crisis/ suicide hotline and the yellow pages for a psychologist with emergency appointments if they really are considering that route, because they need professional help anyway.  Other than that, take care of yourself, and let them deal with the fallout from their actions, whatever they may be.  The bottom line is that you cannot live for someone else.

5.  “He/she is so sorry!” Sure they are… sorry that they got caught.  No matter sorry they claim to be or how guilty they say it made them feel, they were able to get past that long enough to cheat.  If they are one of the rare few who actually confessed what they did, it was most likely for selfish reasons.  Furthermore, being sorry does not change anything about what they chose to do.

6.  “He/she never loved the affair partner.”  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If they didn’t, that’s actually worse.  Someone who can throw away fidelity and their spouse’s trust over a person who they have no feelings or attachments to is the scariest kind of cheater.  It reeks of sociopathy.  And if they were in love?  Then there are a whole new set of problems to consider.
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7.  “I don’t have any other options.”  There are always other options.  Don’t stay because you feel trapped.  Use the law to your advantage, reach out to family or friends, find an organization that helps people in situations like that, look into pro bono attorneys, think about taking a class, even a low-cost community one, and give yourself a fighting chance at happiness.  Unless you’re kidnapped, enslaved, or chained down, there are always ways to get out.

8.  “He/she is the best I’ll ever find.”  This one makes me sad.  People who tell themselves this have had their self-esteem beaten down to the point where they feel like the poor treatment they are getting is the best they deserve.  I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  There are millions of people in the world.  There is no “the one.”  Does that mean there aren’t some people out there who will stay single forever and not find another person to fall in love with?  No, I wouldn’t go that far.  However, I firmly believe that it is better to be happy on your own than be taken advantage of by someone just to have a “partner.”  I put that in quotes because anyone who behaves that way isn’t a real partner at all.  I’d rather be in a ship alone that in it with someone who keeps shooting holes in the bottom.  Plus, when you take care of yourself and learn to find fulfilment within yourself, you will start attracting people toward you without even meaning to.

Maybe this is your longest relationship or the best, healthiest one you’ve ever been in.  Even if it’s the best you’ve ever had, it’s still not good enough. If you can’t trust your partner, you can’t build a life together. Move on. It will be hard, it will hurt, and you will grieve. But it will allow you to find someone you can trust who will be all of those things you deserve

9.  “I’m ashamed.  What will we tell our friends/family/kids?”  You have nothing to be ashamed of.  You can’t make someone cheat.  That is a decision that they make all on their own, no matter how bad the marriage was to begin with.  There are always options – talking about it, therapy, marriage retreats, plainly stating that xyz needs aren’t being met and it’s making me think about xyz, asking for a divorce, going to a pastor or religious leader (if that’s your thing), and the list goes on.  They chose not to do that.  Instead, they cheated.  There is nothing shameful about walking away at that point.  Tell people whatever you want to tell them.  The truth, if you feel comfortable, or nothing if you don’t.  It’s not their business anyway.  Now for the kids part…

10. “I can’t leave because of the kids.” I don’t have children, so I’m obviously not a parent.  I’m not a child psychologist.  Surprisingly, I haven’t even dug up a lot of research on this subject to post here (although you know that sounds just like me to do, and I have read plenty of it in my journey through this mess because of my thirst for knowledge).  Instead, I’m going to tell you a story.

My family growing up looked perfect. From the outside. My parents didn’t really fight in front of us. They didn’t really have conflicts.  My Dad had some control issues and not very much patience, there wasn’t a lot of affection, and there was sometimes tension in my household, but no one from the outside knew anything was wrong.  As I child I couldn’t point to one thing and say – “that’s really messed up” or “because of THAT my parents aren’t a good match.”  However, I remember wishing, praying, and even once begging my Mom to get a divorce.  I think she was taken aback that time, because I truly believe she thought they hid things exceptionally well.

And they did, for the most part.  There was no cheating.  No abuse.  No horrible, terrible things happening in my house.  But there also wasn’t happiness, love, or open kisses and hugs between my parents.  I had a wonderful childhood in just about every sense – I had everything I needed and more.  I had support from both parents.  I was involved in sports and they both cheered me on, I had horses, went to shows, we ate dinner as a family together every single night, and more.  But I knew.  I just KNEW that they weren’t happy.

It was in the air.  I could sense it, even if I couldn’t put my finger on it.  The relationship I had modeled for me was not a healthy one.  The marriage I watched the entire time I was growing up is not what a real marriage should be.  It was like looking at something through the bottom of a thick glass.  Or looking at your reflection in a spoon.  It was warped.  Off.  The best word I can think of to use is unfulfilling.  It was unfulfilling.  Suffocating, even.  Except that everyone thought it was wonderful.  While I was envying my friends’ divorced parents, people were admiring how great it was that my parents were still together.  If only they knew what it was really like for us kids…  It’s horrible to know something isn’t right but to have everyone around you not acknowledge that fact.

My parents stayed married until I was 18 or 19.  It wasn’t long after I left the house.  My brother and sister lived there when they separated.  My brother went off to college a year or so after, but my sister was still there through the divorce.  I remember talking to my parents, really talking to them both, for the first time in years… maybe ever.  Especially my Dad.  The honesty was so refreshing it was like a revelation.  All of the pretend and make-believe, the façade that we put up as a family… I finally got confirmation that I wasn’t imagining it.

From my Mom, too.  We were always pretty close, and she recognized my intelligence and treated me accordingly from a fairly young age.  But from that point on it was different.  She told me stories and things about their early years together, about the conflicts and family struggles that brought them together.  She told me about things that I never, ever would have imagined happened.  She told me about the pain of losing her father and having my Dad’s father be in jail.  How she thought about leaving, even back then, but never could find the “right time.”  She told me how circumstances interceded, how she got swept up in it, how we children were the best things she got out of the marriage, and other things.

We all made it through just fine.  In fact, it was the best decision, by far, that they ever made.  Hell, I remember being as young as 7 or 8 when I would wish every night that my parents would split.   Ultimately, they did, and it was the best thing for both of them.  It was a little difficult for a year or two, more for them than for us children.  Honestly, we all got it.  My sister was the youngest… 13 I think.  Even she understood it was for the best.  I recall her saying something along the lines of how much it needed to happen, and how she was glad it did.

My parents are both remarried to spouses much better suited for them in every way.  Again, there was no great tragedy, no huge betrayal.  They were highschool sweethearts who came together during difficult times for both of them and fell into marriage.  It didn’t work.  They weren’t well matched.  They should have divorced well before they did.  I was the only one who spoke up and said it to their face, because that’s the kind of kid I was, but I wasn’t the only one who thought it.  We all did.

It didn’t irrevocably damage any of us.  In fact, the most damaging things of all were the years we lived with them pretending everything was fine when we could soooo tell it wasn’t.  I have a better relationship with my Dad now than I ever had.  My sister, who was maybe the most upset in the very beginning, now lives with my Dad.  We’re all close.  We love both of our parents completely.  We know that their failure to make a marriage work did not and does not reflect on us in the least.  We always knew that.  But living in the middle of the unhappiness was far, far, far more confusing than watching them let go.

The other thing?  Having parents who you can sense are unhappy, even as they pretend they aren’t, puts a lot of pressure on a kid.  I felt like I had to be perfect.  I couldn’t screw up because I couldn’t add any more stress to their lives.  I knew they already had plenty, even if they thought they were “protecting me” from that knowledge.  My brother was the super helper.  He would try extra hard to do all sorts of extra stuff.  That was his way of relieving the tension we could all feel.  My sister was the most sensitive of all.  She would try to be the peace-keeper, between my brother and I, between the animals, you name it.  We all knew something wasn’t right, and we all tried to be “better” to “fix it.”  We got to be great pretenders, too.

It took its toll.  I don’t think it’s by chance that my brother has never had a girlfriend, my sister has been involved in a string of relationships with losers, and I was married to someone who was never there for me emotionally or otherwise.  We learned from them.  We observed.  We were taught, whether we knew it or not, that relationships did not have emotional support.  Didn’t have affection.  My sister now craves that affection and grasps onto anyone who gives it.  My brother avoids connections, partly because he’s shy but I believe largely because he doesn’t know how to interact with a woman in a healthy way.  I’m a mess.

I can’t blame my parents completely.  I’ve made poor choices.  My issues are my own.  But I did learn from them.  I learned from watching.  They taught me excellent things separately.  My Dad taught me how to play softball, how to be financially responsible, what it means to be a hard worker, and so much more.  My Mom literally taught me logical thinking, empathy, how to show people respect, how to write a great paper, how to study, how to be a woman, and so many things I could never name.  But together… they weren’t a good couple.  They weren’t a good example of what a marriage or a relationship should be.  They’re all I had to model against, though… their relationship is the only one got to see, day in and day out.

I tell you that story to tell you this – I may not be a parent, but I was a kid of parents who should have divorced long before they did.  Children deserve an example of a healthy relationship.   I know some people with children think that holding onto something broken that makes them unhappy is somehow the best choice for their kids.  It’s not.  A situation that makes you miserable is not healthy for anyone, your kids especially.  It doesn’t set a good example.  Neither does sticking around after being betrayed and lied to, over and over.  Kids seek out the type of marriage that they see their parents display.  It’s a subconscious choice that takes a lot of hard work to fight against.  No matter what you SAY to them, it is what you DO that makes all of the difference.  When you have an unhealthy example, that’s what you gravitate towards, even if you think you know better.  How do I know?  I lived it.

What other excuses do you tell yourself to justify staying in a bad situation?  If you really looked at them, these excuses that you tell yourself, how valid would they be?  How many other people deal with the same circumstances and come out just fine?

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