Yes, No, Maybe So? Want to Take a Second Look?

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Second chances. Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? As a divorced person, I believe in second chances. I believe in starting over. I believe in growing, change and learning from your mistakes.

But how do you honestly give someone a second chance especially if trust is an issue and what are some good reasons for doing so?

I recently read an article about some couples who broke up and then got back together after either realizing what they gave up, a lot of internal reflection, personal growth and some groveling.

I think if two people honestly want to give something another go, why not go for it? But the key word is “two.” Do both people truly want the other person or is just because someone is lonely or just craves company or attention?

I know couples who have divorced and remarried and made a successful go of it. I know couples who have been on the brink of divorce and worked things out. Many of these couples say the key to their success was a variety of things but open communication was consistently the common denominator.

There’s a ton of advice and articles written on the subject. Some say you should work out your problems. I think in some cases (especially in infidelity) that is certainly viable. But I think a lot of issues between couples come down to communication, trust and differing expectations or places in life.

No matter the problem, if both people are willing to put in the effort, and personally work on self-awareness and growth, it has the possibility to work. But if one person isn’t “all in” or isn’t willing to commit the effort, the possibility of success seems unlikely.

I went through an exercise of a pros and cons list to determine if I wanted to give someone a second chance. I wrote out all of his characteristics, values, habits, etc. and divided them into the two columns. It wasn’t as simple as adding up each side to see which was longer because sometimes, those things in the “con” column carry a lot of weight and are big deals.

We all make mistakes. I know I have. Sometimes I don’t communicate effectively. Sometimes I get emotional.

In the end, I determined I didn’t have sufficient information to make an informed decision.

But how do you build trust?

Truth About Deception gives some great tips on rebuilding trust:

  1. Create Understanding
  2. Apologize effectively
  3. Explain point of view
  4. Make promises
  5. Follow through on promises
  6. Discuss how promises are being kept

Pyschology Today has additional suggestions:

  1. Forgive yourself
  2. Forgive the other person
  3. Trust yourself
  4. Trust the other person

What I learned after my divorce is to trust myself and know my own truth. After the lies, deception, cheating, manipulation and gas lighting during my marriage, it’s been hard to figure out if I’m seeing something through that filter or if something is really off. Sadly, I know many women in that same boat. Experience with dating and talking to tons of people about their relationships has helped immensely.

I believe that a person’s actions speak louder than their words and if a person shows you they want another chance and puts in the effort, then it may be worth a second look especially if their plus column is pretty long.

I think in the end, we all want someone who can appreciate us for who we are, short-comings and all. Someone who can see our weaknesses and love us because of them not in spite of them. Someone we can grow with and do life with. Someone who challenges us to be better and explore the things we love. Someone who excites us and creates energy. Someone who has a similar or complimentary vibe.

I have a sign in my house that says “we do second chances.” Sometimes I ask my boys if they want to try something again or rephrase something especially when they get cheeky. We get do-overs because that’s how we learn and get better. It seems that applying that same mind-set to relationships would be beneficial. Extending grace to someone else who is equally imperfect but still lovable seems like a win-win in my book.

The Problem with Dating Advice

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After getting a divorce, I signed up for online dating sites, read tons of articles about dating and signed up for all kinds of newsletters on dating advice.

I’m approaching my second divorce anniversary (divorceary?), and I was cleaning out my junk email inbox. The many subject lines from these dating newsletters frustrated me.

  • “Top 3 mistakes women make that cause men to lose attraction”
  • “If you’d only known the right thing to say to him…”
  • “Can your clothes really help you attract the guy you want?”
  • “Playfully say this if you want him to ache for you all day long”
  • “A simple way to change his mind and his heart”

All I can say is, are you kidding me?

All of these emails imply that there is something wrong with women. That if we change just a bit, we can catch the man of our dreams.

Women (and probably men too) have enough criticism coming at them. I’m considered an attractive woman, and I do believe that, but there are days when I look in the mirror and all I see are flaws. Most people have those days. We don’t need someone giving us dating advice about how we need to change to attract the right man.

This advice gives the underlying message that men are perfect beings and we just need the right bait to attract that elusive fish. This advice is similar to what a girlfriend told me soon after my divorce. She said I needed to start listening to country music to catch a man, “Um, no.” (I have started listening again, but not to catch a man. I realized that, I do, in fact, like some country music after going to a few concerts with friends.)

But, I’m not going to change my clothes, my look, what kind of music I listen to, or who I am to attract any man. They would be attracted to an imposter anyway and what fun that would be?

Personal Growth

I do believe in personal growth. We can all become a better version of ourselves. And I do take time to reflect on how I could’ve handled a difficult situation better whether that’s a conversation with one of my children, a coworker, friend or a someone I’m dating. But that is just life and what you should do to become a better, happier person.

I want to become a more effective communicator, a more giving person who can stand firm on my boundaries and on how I should be treated. But I want to communicate that in a firm but kind way.

And I know there are things I’ve done to push someone away and there are things men have done to push me away. But that is part of the learning process.

One guy barely communicated in a passive and passive-aggressive way and pushed me away, and another over communicated and pushed me away. It’s different for everyone. There’s no magic bullet, no secret sequence of words on how to catch a woman or man.

Heck, I can’t even tell you what the magic amount of communication is for me.
What I can say is that open, direct, assertive (not aggressive) communication with me is key. Being able to say what you want and need is critical because otherwise how can the other person know if it will ever work or if they can deliver?

Be You

In the movie Field of Dreams the voice says, “build it and they will come.” So, here’s my dating advice: Be the best version of you and the right person will come. Make yourself happy.

The right person will be attracted to you for being you. And I can tell you from experience that I don’t want to date someone who is trying to be someone else. That mask falls off eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later).

I believe in being the most authentic and genuine person you can be. That is how you attract the person of your dreams not by clicking through an email to learn exactly what to say and when. Or to try and guilt you into thinking if you had only known a few key words to capture their heart you wouldn’t have lost them.

When you show up and are vulnerable with the person you are talking to, you are giving your all, and that’s all any of us can hope for. Sometimes it’s a good match and sometimes, not so much.

Learning From the Fall

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“If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.” Brene Brown

When we were kids, we fell, we got up and we tried again. It is what we were taught… I had some pretty serious falls growing up and learned lessons from each of them. What I’ve realized as an adult is that I was more fearless as a child than I am as an adult.

Around the time I started elementary school, I decided that I would roller skate up a steep asphalt incline that was probably way steeper than I should have attempted. I got a couple of strides in before I fell, my knees and elbows hit first, but then I hit my chin and I bit thru my tongue. Blood went everywhere, I skated the rest of the way home for my mother to bandage me up and ask what in the world I was thinking. I learned not to roller-skate up hill, that there are better ways to fall than elbows and knees first and that some scars never go away. While the scars may remain, I also learned that you can and must learn to forget about them.

Another time, I was at my grandparents’ lake house with my cousins. We were jumping off a couch even though we’d been told numerous times not to. All of the adults were outside and we thought we could jump further if we gained enough height. I landed on the coffee table chin first and put a hole through my mentolabial sulcus (that indented part between your lower lip and chin). I still have that scar and learned a practical lesson: if you’re going to jump, the area should be clear.

Before my grandfather passed away, he decided (after much pestering on my part) to let me learn to ride a moped. I was in 4th or 5th grade. I knew how to balance and drive down the road fairly well, so I tried to turn in the street. I didn’t have the feel for giving it enough gas and turning part.

The first time, I turned too sharply and dumped the moped on top of me. That didn’t work, so the next time, I tried taking a wider turn but let off the gas too much and dumped the moped again. Take three: I took a wider turn and gave it more gas. I almost made it, but then didn’t turn sharp enough and gave it too much gas. I aimed straight for the curb and flipped over the moped. It was the first time I actually saw stars (like in the cartoons). It knocked the breath out of me and scared my grandfather to pieces. The third time was not a charm for me, but I got back up and did it right the next time.

Each of those falls taught me something. In elementary school I was more pragmatic, willing to learn and let my ego go than I am as an adult.

For whatever reason, as we age, many of us say that falling hurts more. It bruises our ego when we feel we should’ve learned a particular lesson earlier in life. The past several times I went skiing, I kept saying I wanted to learn how to snowboard, but I backed down because I didn’t know if I had it in me to repeatedly fall (fail) and get back up and do it again. I lacked the bravery I had when I was a kid. Sometimes, we don’t allow ourselves to get into situations where we are likely to fail whether it’s learning something new, going for a job or promotion we want or just making ourselves vulnerable to another human being.

In the last couple of years, I’ve learned that falling isn’t so bad after all. I still carry the scars and the lessons learned from my many falls, but the wisdom and experience gained from each one is invaluable. My friends have seen me at my most vulnerable and still love me anyway. I earned a great deal of respect from my children seeing me fall and get back up. In fact, my connections with those people in my life are even stronger.

I learn a great deal from my falls, they make me wiser and stronger. I’ve become that same pragmatic little girl who picked the asphalt out of her knees and said, “Well that didn’t work” and tried it a different way.

We just have to remember that if we fall, we shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed about it. It just means we are trying. We are putting ourselves through growth to become a better version of ourselves. So whether you’ve recently gone through a divorce and are putting your dating stilettos back on, or learning how to parent your child on your own, or are just feeling stuck, remember that falling doesn’t mean failure. It just means that that way didn’t work. Being brave doesn’t mean doing it right the first time. Being brave is falling repeatedly and getting back up again, stronger and wiser.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day Solo: I Love Me

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I don’t have a significant other this Valentine’s Day, I have something better: I have two incredible boys and a ton of friends and family who are simply irreplaceable. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. Yes, it’s a silly made-up holiday to sell a bunch of stuff that will either die (flowers), make you fat (sweets) or just reduce the size of your bank account (jewelry).

But what I love about it is that people everywhere celebrate love. So for the first time ever, I’m making myself my Valentine this year. I love me. I love that I sing loud and off-key in the car and at HEB and really just wherever the mood strikes me. I love that I dance in the open and dance in the rain. I love that I am often unintentionally funny because I do really silly things. I love that I don’t take myself seriously. I love that I’m generous, kind and forgiving. I love that I treat my body like a temple and sometimes like an amusement park. I love that I love amusement parks.

I love that I have courage to keep my boys’ lives steady even when it would be so much easier to move home or just anywhere else and start over. I love that I let myself be vulnerable when it would be easier to say that relationships are for the birds. I love that I have values and boundaries and that my favorite word is one you don’t hear in polite company.

So for all you single peeps celebrating today solo, cheers to you! I hope you remember to love and celebrate yourself today.

What’s the Difference Between a Date and Hanging Out?

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One of the biggest issues in dating and relationships is failed expectations and the answer to the above question differs greatly from woman to woman as do her expectations.

For me, if I’m going to give up one of my two kid-free nights per month to go on a date with you, you need to have planned something and asked in advance: not the day of, not the day before, but at least a week before.

To me, a date is something that a guy has put his time and effort into. Hanging out is just like, “Hey, are you free? Because I really don’t care enough about you to make any plans.” If a guy isn’t willing to put any time or effort into seeing me, then I have no reason to put any time into seeing him, like at all, ever, so that’s a “no” to hanging out.

I was recently part of a discussion on this topic and someone brought up coffee “dates.” I don’t think coffee constitutes a date, but I have met someone for coffee or drinks just for an initial meeting to see if we click and make sure everyone looks like they say they do. I will say though that most of the time, those coffee dates have turned into nothing for me. I’m much more likely to want to go on a second date if the first meeting goes well.

This isn’t about money. I don’t expect a guy to drop a percentage of his paycheck on our date. In fact, I’ve been a little put off from those who have.

A date to watch my Cowboys play at a sports bar with some yummy food can be just as much fun as an expensive date out on the town or to an event. So would a date exploring Austin. A date planned while my Cowboys are playing at some place that doesn’t have a TV, not so much. You’ve clearly not done your homework. It’s about time and effort and research.

I’m not a hanging out person. I’m a date person. Show me you’re interested in putting in some effort, otherwise I won’t either. Despite the success of Bumble, this is still a guy chases woman culture, and that’s what most of us expect.

My thought is if you aren’t going to put in the time and effort into pursuing me, then things are really going to go south once we’re committed and that will be a serious case of failed expectations.

Ladies? Thoughts?

Erecting Boundaries, Not Walls, To Protect Myself

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I’m a sensitive person. So far, I’ve lost my younger sister followed quickly by my mother and then my grandfather who helped raise me. As a result, I built walls, really thick, tall walls, to protect myself from being hurt.

Growing up, I was friendly to most people, but only let a few people get close. I tended to be more of a relationship person, preferring to develop close relationships with a few rather than date around. All of this was a way to protect myself from being hurt.

I wasn’t aware of the concept of boundaries until after my divorce when I learned what to look for when someone crosses my boundaries. Up until then, I just built walls to keep people out.

I had set boundaries with my kids, but I didn’t think of them that way. When they whined, I loving looked at them and let them know when they could speak where I could understand them, we could talk. I held firm. I was able to do that with my children because of the way I had been raised and modeled my parenting that way.

However, I hadn’t really seen examples of that in the context of romantic relationships. The only thing I truly understood about boundaries had to do with sex. But what about boundaries when it comes to how you’re treated?

I tend to learn through reading, processing and then discussing with others. One of the best books I’ve read on boundaries is “Boundaries in Dating” by Cloud and Townsend.

There were a lot of “a-ha” moments for me and situations where I found I had been on the receiving end and guilty of some things.

Some of it you read, and think, “Well, duh,” but I’ve never honestly focused on it and processed it in terms of a relationship. I haven’t analyzed relationships and what I’m feeling. I’ve had some key takeaways in forming my boundaries for future relationships. Here are some quotes that rang true with me.

  • “Loss of Freedom to Be Oneself.” My relationships with people are the most important thing to me. I’m happiest when I put effort into maintaining those. I’m happiest when I’m free to be me. If I’m alienated from my family, friends, church or the things I love, it makes me vulnerable.
  • “Many people with boundary problems overstep their bounds and don’t know when to stop giving of themselves.” Ding, ding, ding. I’m soo guilty of this.
  • “Good boundaries help you know how much to give, and when to stop giving.”
  • “Truthfulness is everything.”
  • “Where there is deception there is no relationship.”
  • “The real problem is that when you are with someone who is deceptive, you never know what reality is.”
  • “It is one thing to have loved and lost. It is another thing to have loved and been lied to.”
  • “There is nothing wrong with dating someone, enjoying their company, and finding out where a relationship is going to go. That is almost a definition of the dating circumstance. But as soon as someone is sure that dating is not going where another person thinks or hopes that it is, that person has a responsibility to tell the other one clearly and honestly. Anything less is deceitful and harmful.”
  • “Compliant people have a habit of attracting controlling, self-centered people anyway, and you do not want to do that.”
  • “If you are dating someone, and there is a problem in some way that he or she has treated you or some hurt that you have suffered, you must be honest. Being honest resolves the hurt or the conflict. When you are honest, how the other person responds, tells you whether a real, long-term, satisfactory relationship is possible.”
  • “A lot is lost…if both people are not facing hurt and conflict directly. In reality, a conflict-free relationship is probably a shallow relationship.”
  • “People who can handle confrontation and feedback are the ones who can make relationships work. If you get serious with someone who cannot take feedback about hurt or conflict, then you are headed for a lifetime of aloneness, resentment and perhaps even abuse.”
  • “Two Types of Liars. There are liars who lie out of shame, guilt, fear of conflict or loss of love, and other fears. They are the ones who lie when it would be a lot easier to tell the truth. They fear the other person’s anger or loss of love. The second category are liars who lie as a way of operating and deceive others for their own selfish ends. Just plain old lying for love of self.”
  • “Lying destroys.”
  • “Probably every human being is growing in his or her ability to be direct and completely vulnerable with feelings and deeper things of the heart.”
  • “I have to be with someone who is honest with me about what they are thinking and feeling.”
  • Don’t become attracted to someone’s attraction to you. I’m summarizing here. You want to make sure you’re attracted to someone’s character and values.
  • Don’t be hampered by your insecurities. Be with the kind of person you truly want to be with, not just someone who is safe.
  • Reflect on long-term patterns of someone.
  • “Fear of the Unknown.” By minimizing differences, you keep your relationship pleasant, superficial and covertly dishonest. Indirectness is a problem and limits how close you can be to someone.
  • “Destructive Personal Traits such as “is defensive instead of open to feedback. Is self-righteous instead of humble. Demands trust instead of proving himself trustworthy. Avoids closeness. Things only about himself instead of the relationship and the other person. Is controlling and resists freedom. Condemns. Plays “one up” or acts parental. Is a negative influence. Gossips. Is overly jealous or suspicious. Negates pain. Is overly angry.”
  • “Love satisfies. It does not leave you romantically pining.”
  • “Say no to letting your heart get involved with a person whom you would not choose as a friend.”
  • “Deal with each relationship on its own merit so that it will not interfere with others.”
  • “Romance is great. Sexuality is great. Attraction is great. But here is the key: If all of those are not built upon lasting friendship and respect of that person’s character, something is wrong.”
  • The difference between a healthy romance and a romanticized friendship.
  • “Pay attention to things like openness, freedom, mutuality and the like.”
  • Being afraid to deal with our deficits and looking for someone else to fulfill those. “It is about using another person to avoid dealing with our own souls. When we decide to stop piggybacking on someone else’s strengths, they are not the problem. We are. And growth can begin.”
  • “When you depend on another person for what you should be developing, you no longer have control or freedom in that aspect of your life.”
  • The difference between taking in “love, comfort and instruction of others in order to grow spiritually and emotionally,” and a relationship that has dependency but no growth.
  • “Dependency that does not lead to growth ultimately creates more immaturity in the person.”
  • “Opposites often depend on each other. That is not the problem as long as that dependency spurs each member on to maturity and completeness.”
  • “Attraction based on values is much more mature than attraction based on what you don’t have inside.”
  • “Set boundaries on your tendencies to rescue each other from your character deficits.”
  • “Be agents of growth, healing, and change for each other, specifically in these issues.”
  • “Don’t be someone you are not just to gain someone’s love. As soon as she had begun to be a real person with needs and desires of her own, he was unable to deal with the equality. It was his way or the highway.”
  • “Be yourself from the beginning. A relationship like that has mutuality and partnership. It has give and take. It has equality. It has sharing and mutual self-sacrifice. You will quickly find out if you are with someone who is able to share, or someone who has to have his or her own way all the time.”
  • “Don’t Be Kidnapped. He just had subtly negated most of the people and things that were important to her.”
  • “It is interesting sometimes to see how the people who love someone often express the anger that the person is unable to express themselves.”
  • “She was being separated from her friends, support systems, and everything that was important to her, even her values.”
  • While dating, don’t allow yourself to be separated. Our support systems: “gives us emotional support, truth and wisdom, courage to take strong stands and values or morals, take strong stands with hurtful people, comfort and strength to let go and grieve difficult situations and people, the knowledge and skills that we do not possess.”
  • “Faith, hope and love remain. If someone can keep hope going, then through faith and love, great things can be accomplished. it is not false hope.”
  • “False hope makes the heart sick. When we hope and hope and yet nothing happens and there is no reason to keep hoping other than hope itself, then despair settles in.
  • It’s detail and wishful thinking.”
  • “You cannot blame another person if you are not treating her righteously. We must get the log out of our own eye first (Matthew 7:3-5).”
  • “God accepts reality about the person, grieves his expectations and forgives. he faces the reality of who a person is, forgives that person, and then works with the reality of who he or she is.”
  • “God gives change a chance. God waits for the change process to work.”
  • “God is longsuffering, not eternal suffering. it ends at some point when it is clear that the person is not using what is being given to grow. God withdraws effort. Not because he is mean, but because it is clear that waiting would not make any more difference.”
  • “Principles like honesty, kindness, firm boundaries, forgiveness, responsibility, faithfulness and the like will protect you.”
  • “Silence, coldness, distance and sarcasm can do the same damage as words do.”
  • “If the good is not worth the bad, you can leave.”

Honestly, this book is full of great advice. I highly recommend it for anyone who is dating or in a relationship and interested in making it better. Boundaries are about letting the right people in. Walls just keep everyone out. Boundaries allow you to have meaningful connections with healthy people; walls do not.

Defining and Finding Prince Charming

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So much is made about “the one.” But how I define my perfect mate probably differs from your perfect mate. That’s part of what makes dating so exciting.

Most people (including me) start out defining what characteristics they want in their potential mate (tall, dark, thin, curvy, etc.). But in my short year and a half of reentering the dating world, I’ve discovered that I’m doing myself and my date a much better favor by defining what I want by looking for values.

After a long marriage, I can tell you that having similar values is much more important than what a person does, how much money they have or what a person looks like. This seems like a no-brainer, but how often do you hear someone physically describe their perfect mate? And, I’m just as guilty when a friend asks me what I’m looking for.

Do we even know what we’re looking for? I had a friend recently (so refreshingly honest) tell me he had no idea what he was looking for in a woman. I think to know what you want, you have to know who you are.

While I took a shotgun approach to dating, it was really an exercise in figuring out what I wanted and defining what matters to me. It’s been a time of reflection and definition for myself. Because I took the time to do that, it’s given me the opportunity to define how I want my life to look like, how I want to live, who I want in a partner and yes, what I truly value in life.

A book that I love is called “50 Things That Really Matter.” It’s a great peak into my value system and what I think is important in life. This is what I want to impart on my children and what I want from a partner.

“Big homes. Luxury cars. Diamond bracelets. Digital TVs. Exotic vacations. Extravagant trips to the spa… These aren’t the things that really matter in life. Not by a long shot. What matters most is the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them; the plain values that define us as good people; the emotional connections with friends and family that fill our souls with a sense of purpose.”

But, do I love those material things? Sure, I do. They make life more comfortable. But if I don’t have those connections in my everyday life, that big home, luxury car and all of the diamonds I can wear mean nothing. A luxury ski vacation doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t want to be with the person with you.

In addition to those values, I am looking for someone with certain characteristics, someone who has similar interests. But those things are more “wants” than “must-haves.” Someone with similar values is a must-have. Someone tall, dark, silly, responsible, warm and genuine is certainly someone who would catch my eye, but he has to have similar values to keep my attention.

Another girlfriend suggested that there has to be a happy medium. I agree. I doubt I will find someone who checks every single box. But I do expect to find someone who shares my values and wants to live the same kind of life that I do.

So the next time you’re asked what you’re looking for, tell a friend about what values you want and you’ll more likely find the person who you’d really like to date instead of just someone who meets those physical characteristics. As my grandmother always said, “Beauty is only skin deep and we all grow old eventually.”

6 Tips for Surviving Your First Holiday Season After Divorce

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Change can be hard. Depending on your arrangement, you may or may not have your kids for Thanksgiving or Christmas. No matter your situation, here are some tips on not only surviving the holiday season, but for thriving.

  1. Create New Traditions Look at this as a great opportunity to do things your way. Were there things you did during the holidays that didn’t bring you joy? Think about the traditions you had and want to keep. Think about traditions you loved that got dropped during your marriage. Find new traditions by talking to friends and searching online. I love being active and playing football (or some kind of sport) on Thanksgiving. My ex liked to sit on the couch so we never did those things. My boys loved spending our first Thanksgiving with my family and doing fun things like playing football and Twister.
  2. Practice Self Care Remember to go easy on yourself. The holidays are hectic. They can be stressful and busy for some and lonely and awkward for others. No matter where you are on that spectrum, remember to not isolate yourself. As human beings, we crave connections. We want to be around people who understand us and “get” us. So, whether that’s your family or your friends, make sure to spend time with them. That first season, I cut back on my social schedule. I spent more time with close friends and family where it felt like a warm blanket on a cold night and made sure I did things that brought me comfort.
  3. Make a Budget Too often, we try to recreate the gift giving we were able to do when there were two incomes. Accept that there is just one income. Remember when you were a kid? What do you remember most? The feeling of family or the gifts you received? My favorite holiday memories are when we went to my great grandparents house at the lake. Those times with all of my cousins, eating, playing games, having fun and watching football are some of my favorite. Trying to stretch your finances thin will just increase your stress.
  4. Answer Questions Factually If your children are small, they may not understand why their other parent isn’t there. Even older children may not truly understand that a divorce means you aren’t getting back together and what that first year truly looks like. Understand that they will be upset. It isn’t that they don’t want to be with you, it’s just that they miss their other parent too. Tell them that you understand their feelings and it’s okay that they miss them and that it’s normal. You can also explain (if this is the case) that they’ll get two Christmases – one with mom and one with dad.
  5. Help Others Helping others and seeing other people in different and sometimes worse circumstances can help give you perspective. Remember that to give is to receive. When you focus on making someone else’s day brighter, making someone else’s smile bigger, it takes the focus away from your pain and discomfort. It also gives your problems perspective.
  6. Be Patient Understand that the first year will be hard, not only on you, but also your children as you all adjust to a new normal. You may not get everything right all of the time. It’s okay because we’re all human and we all make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up over them. Learn from them and move on. This is my biggest hurdle. When there is a problem or something that hurts my children, I want to fix it.

We are a product of our environment and what we choose to focus on. When we focus on positive images and joyfulness, we can internalize that and spread joy. If we focus on what we don’t have and negative images, that is what we will spread. May your holidays be merry and bright!

Post Divorce: What I Learned on 30 First Dates

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After my divorce, I had little idea what kind of guy I wanted to end up with. I met my ex-husband when I was 19. Prior to that, I only had a handful of relationships, but always had lots of guy friends.

I decided to be open to dating the whole spectrum: guys from their mid-20s to early-60s with incomes ranging from hourly workers to men with enough personal wealth they don’t ever have to work another day in their life. It spanned professional athletes to desk jockeys. I thought I’d find some commonalities between age groups or income/education levels, but nope. Communications styles, levels of commitment, levels of energy, and the way they treated me all differed. It just boils down to the individual and what type of guy he is.

Honestly, when I was going through my divorce, besides finances, getting back into the dating scene was one of the most terrifying thoughts of being single. But, it’s been enjoyable. Even the skirt chasers are entertaining. I’ve ended up staying friends with a few of my dates and we have enlightening conversations about the different sexes, dating, parenting and just life.

Buyer beware of these types

Bench warmer (still finding myself/still a boy): These guys are the most frustrating because some of them have potential. But if they aren’t going to get off the bench to chase you, you need to move on. They lurk. When you find yourself saying a guy has potential, no matter how many boxes he checks or that feeling you get, you need to move on. If and when he ever decides to step up to bat, then he can get in the game. Until then, you’re better off alone.

Emotionally unavailable: These are harder to spot. Sometimes you can get further down the road with someone and realize they are never going to be able to take a relationship to the next level. Something is holding them back. It may be an ex, or something else that has happened. My friend got mixed up with someone who was very unavailable. It didn’t stop him from pulling her close and then pushing her away. It’s not a good place to be.

Take a hard look at how you feel around him. Do you mostly feel anxiety or do you know where you stand? Even if there are brief periods of feeling amazing, but most of the time you’re just anxious, then they may be emotionally unavailable.

Skirt chaser: These guys are all about the chase. You will never be enough because you aren’t special to them, no one is. They just want a skirt to chase, doesn’t matter which skirt, so long as they are “in the game.” Once they feel they’ve caught you, they don’t know what to do with you and they’re on to the next one. This one is easier to spot quickly, just look at his Facebook friend list. TONS of single women? Yep, red flag.

The funniest example of this was when I went to a work conference. Some mutual friends introduced me to this guy (I’m assuming it was for the sole reason of us both being single, because as soon as he opened his mouth, I was like ‘no’.) He grabbed my phone and put in his number using the nickname “hot pants.” Classy. I bumped into him throughout the conference and he made no effort to be discreet when he’d check out a woman. I’m talking craned neck, walking backward. Total cheese. Subcategory: F-boy as in “send me a pic babe.” No Thanks!

I do kinda feel bad for them. There will always be someone prettier, funnier, sweeter, hotter, whatever-er. What they don’t understand is that there’s always someone “better” than them too – hotter, more successful, fitter, etc. What matters is that someone choses you for you and for all of your quirks.

The rescuer: These guys want someone to take care of, or rescue. They barely know you and they want to spoil you, take you on trips, fly you away and just overwhelm you with stuff. For me, this means strings and a cage. No thanks, I’m not a puppet. I’d rather be single and independent. This does not include someone who is just trying to do something nice for you or be there for you after you’ve gotten to know each other. That’s normal. Pampering is one thing, trying to rescue you or buy your love? No Thanks!

The narcissist or control freak: Worst date was with a guy who spent the entire brunch talking about himself. If that wasn’t bad enough, he proceeded to order for both of us without consulting me and then told me how the food should be eaten with the different sauces. There aren’t enough mimosas in the world to make that tolerable. RUN!

Stage 5 clinger: Please get off me because I can’t deal with this. I need space. You make me want to move to Mars.

The guy next door: Luckily, most guys seem to fall in this category. They’re just normal, run-of-the-mill nice guys.

You may see yourself a bit in each of those categories, but these guys take things to a whole different level. Here’s the big self-awareness thing I learned: I’ve been guilty of being in most of these categories while going through my divorce (yep, another reason not to date before your divorce is final or for the first year after).

Lessons learned

Dating different guys helped me create a list of characteristics for what I want, which is a helpful exercise. I’m not married to that list though. I’ve noticed that a guy can check all of the boxes, but it comes down to that connection. It’s either there or it isn’t.

The whole process of dating allowed me to figure out what dating process make me the most comfortable, and what it will look like for anyone to be successful with me.

We all have baggage. It boils down to which imperfections you can live with. Those who are self-aware, warm, genuine and empathetic are the ones who are easiest for me to be around. A guy who is a kid at heart while also being responsible and having his sh*t together would be awesome.

The key lesson for me? Finding someone who captures my imagination and lights me on fire is rare. Like “shooting star” rare. I didn’t find that shooting star until after my divorce. It’s like eating McDonalds all of your life and then tasting something from Odd Duck or Trulucks. You just can’t go back to McDonalds. Even if you’re starving, break down and go through the drive-through anyway, it’s never satisfying so you’re just back to square one and craving some crab cakes.

Unfortunately, that shooting star didn’t work out, so I’ll just make a lot of friends in the meantime and hope another comes along. After all, there are a lot of stars and one of them will eventually shoot through the sky.

Because another thing I’ve learned is that there’s a TON of single people and guys are willing to drive and fly for miles just to go on a date with you.

Here’s to finding that shooting star!

Getting Back Into the Dating Game

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When you get injured, it can be a daunting task to put yourself back into a position to do it again. My oldest son plays hockey. In the first game of the first tournament last year, one of his teammates was checked from behind and broke his leg. We could hear his screams from the other side of the ice. After his teammate was stabilized and taken off the ice to the hospital, the game resumed. Every player on both teams played in a much more subdued manner. They just weren’t as aggressive. No one wanted to experience that, or hurt another player like that.

Getting back into the dating game can be just as daunting. After a 20-year relationship, it was scary to put myself back out there. Especially when my ex was joyfully recounting rape statistics on how often women are abused and extrapolating that to say that one out of four of my dates would be a rapist.

Just like the hockey players, I was tentative at first. Even though I couldn’t articulate what I had been feeling, I understood at a gut level that my weakness was that my boundaries had been crossed so many times during my marriage, separation and divorce that I didn’t know up from down. He even had me questioning my own truths and intuition.

So, just how you wouldn’t choose the toughest, biggest looking opponent, I chose dates who I knew wouldn’t push my boundaries. I needed time to rebuild and regain confidence in myself. A friend of mine said it really takes two years before you’re ready for a commitment. I think that’s a good rule of thumb. That first year after my divorce was filled with conflict, which I was still learning to deal with. This second year has been much better.

Women are conditioned to be people pleasers. We are the first to extend the olive branch in an argument and volunteer our time and money to important causes more frequently than men. When it comes to relationships, we tend to lead with our hearts and not our heads.​

I’ve heard from many women who have been in abusive or just really toxic relationships who are understandably gun shy. They feel that men are all bad. That hasn’t been my experience at all. There are many gentlemen out there. You just have to know what to look for and be aware of red flags.

Each date helps me refine what I want. Saying that you want someone nice isn’t exactly specific enough. You have to learn to define what behaviors are nice.

When I was 19, all I knew was that I wanted someone who would challenge me. Be careful what you wish for. I got that in spades with my ex. I still want that, but someone who will challenge me in a healthy way.

Whoever I end up choosing will have been through a long vetting process. My biggest question after my divorce was what red flags should I look for? How did I miss the signs in the beginning? Instead of beating up and judging my 19-year-old self, I started making a list. This was actually at the suggestion of my first date. He was an older guy and gently said I had that “deer-in-the-headlight” look. He gave me a lot of suggestions.

If you’re like me and got married young, you missed out on dating a wide variety of guys and didn’t learn to look for red flags.

Here’s some game-ejecting penalties to watch for (yes, some of these seem like no-brainers, but you would be surprised at how many excuses we make for men and all of the crazy things I’ve heard strong women (including myself) have put up with just because we fall head over heels for a guy).

If he cancels on you more than once, bye-bye. If he isn’t going to make you a priority when he’s chasing you, he sure as hell isn’t going to make you a priority once he’s caught you. Obviously, things occasionally come up, but there is a limit. If a guy really wants to be with you, he’ll move heaven and earth to keep his date with you and impress you.

  1. If he can’t commit to making plans well in advance, he doesn’t respect your time. Bye.
  2. If he repeatedly makes excuses about his behavior, next.
  3. If he gets angry when you say no, or set boundaries, bye Felicia.
  4. If he seems more interested in your money or what you can do for him, yeah, that’s a no.
  5. If he just wants to see you on the spur of the moment or late at night, that’s just a no.
  6. If he seems perpetually confused about what he wants/needs and only texts sporadically to keep stringing you along, NEXT!
  7. If he keeps telling you he loves you and talks about the future, but then pairs that with repeatedly cancelling your plans together, or sends any other type of mixed messages, you are better off alone.
  8. If he repeatedly encourages you to cross your boundaries or do something that makes you uncomfortable, run.
  9. If he acts jealous, possessive or controlling, NEXT!

Dating is a contact sport. But we don’t get back on the field (or ice) because we want to get hurt, we do it in pursuit of something greater. We don’t do it because we can’t be alone. We do it because a team can accomplish more than an individual. We do it because we want companionship and love. Humans are meant to be with other people and make connections. We are healthier and happier when we have companionship and a solid group of friends. So, have fun while you’re playing and don’t forget to wear your helmet.