Divorce, Dating and Co-Dependency: My Story
There is a reason why experts do not recommend dating during a divorce and a myriad of articles that prove the overall disadvantages. One of my favorite articles is on a website called womansdivorce.com written by Tracy Achen, the founder of the website. Her article “Dating During Divorce: Should You Consider It?” covers all of the reasons why you should not date during a divorce from a legal standpoint, to emotional. What I experienced is purely emotional and these two paragraphs of the authors sums up pretty much everything that I went through:
“A new relationship at this time is not going to be based on the real you. Imagine how differently you will act when you are not under extreme stress and when your life is more stable. You need time to discover that you can make it on your own without a man to support you emotionally or financially.”
“When you are going through a divorce, you’re usually not in a mental state to make permanent choices. Studies have shown that the first relationship that a person enters into after a divorce has little chance of long-term survival and will rarely end in marriage.”
Of course I read this article after I started dating and even if I read it beforehand, I might not have heeded the warnings signs. I knew that going out in the field so soon after filing for divorce might not be the healthiest choice but I did it anyway, and I’m here to finally talk about the end of my dating journey. But as a recap, let’s start from the beginning…
Divorce is such a painful and lonely experience. From the moment I filed the paperwork I began several months of an extreme emotional roller coaster ride that nearly killed the person inside of me and I so badly needed different distractions to keep me focused on simply getting through it all. I took on a second job, volunteered for a high volume position at my kids’ school and I began dating.
At first it was online dating and I found absolutely no problem meeting willing participants to take me out. I was straight forward with all who asked why I was online “I’m going through a divorce and I wanted a friend and that was it.” Looking back I didn’t really want a friend, I have plenty of friends both men and women, I was confused and lying to myself. What I wanted was attention. I wanted to feel beautiful, loved and I wanted to feed into my co-dependency.
A true breakthrough I had over the summer was understanding I am a codependent person. According to goodtherapy.org:
Codependency is characterized by sacrificing one’s personal needs in order to try to meet the needs of others and is associated with passivity and feelings of shame, low self-worth, or insecurity. The term codependency was originally coined to describe a person’s dependence on the addictive behaviors of a partner or family member, usually with regards to drugs and alcohol. Today it is more broadly associated with the behaviors of someone whose actions and thoughts revolve around another person or thing.
From my first boyfriend to my failing marriage, I’d always been a codependent person who needed a man’s approval for my own self worth. Until my children were born, life revolved around the fairy tale notion that one day someone would come to rescue me and give me the love that I rarely summoned for myself.
On a good note, I found happiness in helping others through a career in non profit organizations as self fulfillness in assisting a community was a much healthier trait of a co-dependent person and enabled me to grow in gratitude. I’d also discovered that my love for my children thrusted me into a sort of supermom type of codependency. Though it really wasn’t such a bad thing to be ready and attentive to my precious boys who need me during the younger years of their lives, I knew it would become problematic in the future as they start to establish their independence. Being a great mother also made me a terrible wife and when I had transfered my codependent traits from one person to another, I completely lost sight of myself for approximately ten years and am now having to build up the loss of self love as I struggle to gain stability with my emotions.
I can go on and on about codependency but a classic example is best told in the form of a story and my most recent relationship. Out of respect I won’t mention his name but I’m sure you know who I’m going to talk about- my crush…
You can read about him in an earlier blog of mine titled “A Letter To My Crush” where the beginning of it all was absolutely innocent and unintentional.
True to the end of the story he will always be endearing to my heart because he made me feel like there was hope after divorce. He did, however, cause the most turbulence because he re-met me at a pivotal high in my life and became intimate with me during a time when I was a complete disaster.
At first I balked at the thought of dating him due to the obvious — not only was he my neighbor but he was too young (10 years younger to be exact) and if I did start seeing him, parting ways would be very difficult as it proved to be. But I underestimated my feelings and the codependency trait that never went away. I realize now that I had given him a chance because I fell in love with the idea of falling in love again.
My crush is a really nice guy, he’s a beautiful person, innocent, completely opposite from my soon to be ex husband. The first month we started to talk to each other I was at a great place in my life and thought things were finally coming together. I was flying high with my new job, enjoying the possibility of complete and total financial freedom. I was the epitome of a strong, single mother and no one could penetrate that shield of confidence I exuded in public. My crush was just a friend at the time, someone to talk to, a good listener who treated me with respect. He would help me barbecue or put up lights and understood the situation with my children since he had dated a woman with two kids before.
Then, surprisingly, through his personality and perhaps his persistence, I became attracted to him. At first we’d just spend some time having dinner in my backyard, watching television after hours or sitting in my front porch drinking wine and beer, talking and getting to know each other. Then came our first kiss and daily communication. My head was in the clouds and I became completely distracted from the issues in my life that were causing me pain. I didn’t know why I liked him so quickly since he was not my type, and with a very boring lifestyle to boot, but I think all in all I was lonely and vulnerable.
About the time we began to get intimate was when things started to go downhill for me, personally. There were legal matters to tend to, the knowledge for the P&C exam was proving to be nearly impossible to retain and the excessive amount of change in the household heightened my stress level. My soon to be ex moved and could no longer take the kids as he had arranged during the week. To top it off he had asked me to take them for a nearly a month because he had to work for most of the weekends. So I was left alone to study for a new job, navigate the kids’ schedule, and help wrap up end of the school year activities. I also had to deal with the kids’ emotions at not having seen their dad for so long. I began to rely on the presence of my crush to be happy and instead of focusing on everything else that was going on, I turned my attention to him because the distraction was a much better alternative to the stress I was enduring.
My crush was the first person I’d been intimate with since my soon to be ex husband, and he was absolutely wonderful to me but sleeping with him got me more attached. I don’t know if it was my instability he sensed or simply because he did not like me, but after we slept together he began communicating less which added to my anxiety. He still sent me text messages but they were simple, one line text messages and his visits became infrequent and shorter. I had no idea what was going on with him and the security I felt with him started to slip. It added to an already stressful situation in my life, I began to panic.
The day I got fired I had never felt so lonely and ashamed. I was mortified to admit my failure and for the first time became fearful for my situation. I wasn’t myself at all and found it extremely difficult to communicate the truth to my crush. I was disconcerted that I actually had to initiate a talk between us with absolutely no idea how to begin. I had been out of the dating scene for so long, focused solely on being a mother for 9 years. I was in a terrible place in my life and in some ways I felt I needed him, but in other ways I knew he was the last person I should run to. I was in a classic state of co-dependence and didn’t even know it.
What I actually knew was that I wasn’t ready for a relationship because of my emotional state of mind. Thankfully 15 years of dancing, chasing and catching my dreams reminded me of something that I had already known — self love and time to heal were the perfect remedies for what I was going through not only in my divorce but in those crucial events of my life. A part of me also didn’t fully trust him.
When my soon to be ex husband and I first started dating we spent hours talking and getting to know each other. It took 3 months for us to even share a first kiss. My crush and I communicated briefly in person but mostly through text messaging, with a few dates in between before we slept with each other. It went a little faster than I was used to. I didn’t think he was sleeping with other women, he rarely leaves his house, what I didn’t trust was his emotional maturity level. Sure he was a great listener but he sucked at communicating and instead of being forthright with me, he chose to remain aloof.
To be fair he did as much as he could for whatever experiences he had with women, so this was not at all entirely his fault. He didn’t take advantage of me, he took me out to dinner and insisted on paying and we spent most of our time together talking. I also believe he really did like me. He was there for me during very important times in my life, especially when I asked him to. He always paid attention to the little things about me that made me happy, and divulged his life stories including important memories of both happiness and regret. He’d even asked me to hang out with him at his brother’s house and invited me to be with him and his friends. He was nice to my kids and respected my time with them. So I didn’t believe that all he wanted from me was just sex. But to say that it’s entirely my fault isn’t necessarily true either.
After my trip to Mexico he completely blew me off and stopped all communication. At first I was hurt and very upset. I kept wondering what I did wrong, asking people what they think could have happened and pouring over my memories of the last time we talked. It took a while for me to realize that I did nothing wrong and I sure didn’t deserve his silence. I know I could have confronted him, but I didn’t want to act on emotions. Eventually as time went on his silence spoke for itself and I took this opportunity to focus on what really mattered in my life, which was clearly not him.
My priorities will always be the two little men I was raising but I also have an obligation to take care of myself. Part of the reason why I filed for divorce is because I did not want to be an example of a woman who would allow a man to disrespect me in front of my own children. But what kind of example was I leading if I didn’t break my own self destructive pattern of co-dependence? How could I let happiness and self worth be based on the approval of a man who doesn’t respect me enough to communicate at all. It’s no different from a man who communicates in anger.
I’m not mad at my crush and nor at myself either. I refuse to blame myself for having a trusting and giving nature. I don’t blame myself for acting like a maniac during extremely stressful moments, as divorce and termination of a job are difficult life changes to process. It’s who I am and I’m going to continue to have these tough experiences and bad choices. Anyone who wants to be with me will need to learn how to deal with both the good and the bad parts of my life.
What’s difficult is accepting and admitting that I have a co-dependency issue when it comes to men. I’m still talking to and meeting men but I’m also continuing forward with my own plans, regardless. My children, my career, my self worth, dreams and goals — everything I love about my life takes precedence.
Since running into him is inevitable, I truly look forward to the day I see him and genuinely smile at his handsome face for giving me such sweet memories I would have never had if I didn’t follow my heart. All co-depedence set aside, I actually do like who he is and think the world of him. If I see him tomorrow I would give him my friendship and maybe even his letter. For now I wish him nothing but the best and hope he finds love, happiness and the life he is looking for.