Learning How To Date When You’re A Divorced Mother

DateShadows-300x199I’ll be upfront and say that this whole dating thing is really weird for me. I got married at 20 to my college boyfriend and split up 16 years later, now with two kids. The dating I did in my teens couldn’t really be called dating. And my marriage was a dysfunctional mess that started off with bad dynamics that only got worse. As my therapist reminded me, by the time I was 36 I needed to spend a lot of time learning about myself, the kind of life I wanted and what kind of partner I wanted to go with that. That’s been easier said than done.

Since the split I’ve made plenty of time for sex but not really for dating. I figured out pretty early on that I needed sex on a sort of maintenance level to offset the stresses of my job and raising two preteens. It took a while for me to open that door but once I did I had no problem finding willing partners, mostly men I’d already known. But in order to do so, they had to accept the the terms of my relationship: You take what little time I can squirrel away from work and kids, and you never meet my children.

About year two I started dating an old friend on the weekends that my kids were with their father. It was my first real experience dating a grownup. He is an accomplished man in his late forties, never married, no kids. There were gifts and trips and great dinners out. And also lots of plans (on his end) for what our lives would look like after my kids were in college. And lots of little jokes wondering how soon could we pack them away whenever I had to say no to some plans because of the kids. Now, even though I had set the rules and made it really clear I wasn’t looking to ever get remarried or have a stepparent situation with my kids, the fact that my kids didn’t figure into his plans for us (beyond getting them into good colleges far away) really bothered me. We would break up (messily) because I realized I didn’t love him the way he loved me and I thought it was unfair to keep him hanging on, but I know that his view of my kids—or lack thereof—has something to do with it.

I’ve recently started dating a man unlike anyone else I’ve ever gravitated to. At 50, he’s 11 years older than me. And he’s a quiet steady sort. He’ll never be the center of attention at a party and there won’t be extravagant gestures of affection. But he is both physically and verbally affectionate, as well as smart and funny, with a good steady job, and a very good clear sense of himself and what he wants. And he has a 10-year-old daughter he adores and co-parents with his ex. From our first date, he was head over heels for me. And I can’t front, I love having someone in love with me. That adoration is intoxicating. But I’ve also found that I just enjoy his company. We have a wonderfully comfortable time together. And then when we actually had sex, turns out the quiet guy is quite the freak in bed. And that’s a really good thing.

But he’s also a planner. Less than a month in and he’s already asked me if I’d ever consider co-habitating in a space that accommodated all the kids. He is a nester and wants more time with me than I can give him. Things have changed with my ex and now my kids are with me all the time. There are no free weekends to get away or stay snuggled up in bed together. But  instead of cutting and running away from new guy, I’m discussing the situation and talking to him about tempering his expectations. He says that he will take me however/whenever he can get me but I have a sneaking suspicion that this will become an unsustainable setup for one or both of us at some point. I keep cautioning him (and myself) to be in the moment, to enjoy the good feelings we’re giving each other and try to make too many plans. I’m just okay committing to going to see a play at the end of the month. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

I don’t know where this is all going. I don’t like not knowing but I also know this is the path my life must take and with each passing relationship I’m finding my voice and getting closer to where I need to be.