Dating after divorce
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His face was so blanched it was as though he had doused it in flour. Had he been sleeping with her when that photo was taken? And then I wondered: What the f–k was I going to do with the 10 pads of personalized letterhead I had just ordered with all the members of our family cartooned across the top? That night, from my daughter’s window, I watched Phillip’s shadow slowly load each bag into his trunk. They say there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And why couldn’t I buy flowery crocheted dresses from Anthropologie anymore? My brother Daniel would pick up the phone at any time — during business meetings or in the middle of the night — to listen to me sob. She helped me realize very quickly that my kids needed a happy mother. My biceps became defined, my collarbones poked out of my skin, my ribs protruded. I was starting to feel like our separation was a blessing in disguise. I could walk in the heels my sister had insisted I buy. It was me who soothed them and cleaned their barf at 2 a.m.I had never felt so disappointed, diminished and humiliated. I wanted to pass through all the stages as quickly as I could — rush the whole process — and forget this had ever happened to me. My parents helped with the kids, reassured me that things would be okay and came with me to meet with lawyers. “It’s not divorce that harms a child; it’s the fighting between parents that can,” she said. Being tested for STDs led to a bad Pap test and a LEEP that possibly saved me from cervical cancer. I had taken up hot yoga, and as my appetite returned, I nourished my body. I juggled their activities and play dates; I took them on road trips, stopping to look at a litter of Labrador puppies just because.
When he was home, his eyes were trained on his Black Berry. Gone was the man who held my hand during my terrifying emergency C-section, the dad who changed our baby’s very first diaper. Songs I’d never noticed on the radio suddenly had meaning for me. In those first few weeks of single motherhood, my family rallied around me. We agreed that he would take them for dinner two nights a week and for a sleepover every Saturday night.
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He had felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities that came with kids and had realized he was more selfish than he’d imagined. I’d heard about a mom who committed suicide when she learned of her husband’s affair. You still have a mommy and a daddy, but we aren’t going to live together anymore. Once, the front wheel fell off our stroller during a walk. He was also an excellent dad, and listening to him sing “Happy Birthday” to his niece on the phone turned me to mush.
He said that he and his girlfriend had split and that he wanted to give our marriage a second shot. I never would have had the nerve to lead a double life, to constantly lie to the person who loved me most. I’d heard of divorces that were so bitter the children never recovered. No matter what it took or how hard it would be, I was going to get back on top. “Carrie,” I said as I crouched down so we were eye to eye. Some have a mommy and a daddy, and some have two mommies, or no parents and just grandparents. Another time, we ended up at the side of a country road with a flat tire. All the way home, we’d belt out “Roar” with Katy Perry: “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire / ’Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.” And just when I really truly accepted that my marriage was over, I met Steve. He was a single dad raising his daughter with his family but acted like my story was more devastating.
“Leave me alone.” I knew what my parents wanted to say. But I opened the door for my parents and saw the large white envelope in my dad’s hands.
But the days stretched into a confusing blur of weeks. His car was more expensive, so I’d be outside in the belly of winter scraping the ice off my windshield. Instead of coming home for dinner like he used to, now he missed the kids’ bath time every night. He wasn’t particularly interested in me, the kids or expanding our family like we had always planned. It is nearly impossible to describe the depth of pain you feel when you suffer a loss.When I opened that white envelope, the private investigator’s report inside revealed that Phillip was seeing someone else. I ripped our wedding photos off the walls, took down family photos. ” I’d howl the words to “Amnesia” as I drove along. “I should’ve bought you flowers and held your hand / Should’ve gave you all my hours when I had the chance.” I’d torture myself wondering what it was like for my husband and his girlfriend. I didn’t know a thing about running a house on my own. I hoped people would think I was just sweating from my eyes. That first Saturday night I had to give up my kids, I’d shuffle past their empty rooms. I’d completely lost myself in my marriage, and now I didn’t know what to do with my free time. Should I have let Phillip come home when he had asked to try again? How would I even meet someone, and would they ever know me as well as Phillip did? I was completely out of my comfort zone, but I had lost so much weight — 25 pounds in three months — that I needed new clothes anyway. After all, it was now me and me alone who took my kids to doctor’s appointments and held them when they got their booster shots.I will never forget his pasty complexion when he was forced to admit his year-long affair with a waitress. Suddenly I hated the big one of us kissing while our kids smiled, perched on our backs. I decided to leave just two photos of him — one for each of my kids — in the girls’ bedrooms. My sister came over and helped me put my kids to bed on days when I was too empty to do it myself. “You need to throw everything out and buy nice clothes for all the dates you’re going to go on.” I couldn’t even begin to think about dating. I started seeing a therapist, one who would not let me feel like a victim for long. “If you had to deal with the feelings I was dealing with, you’d punch this hard too,” I wanted to tell them. Sometimes, I’d work so hard that my lips turned blue. I was desperate to hear them breathing in their beds. I turned on the heating pad and crawled under my blankets. “Not bad,” I’d think to myself as I glanced over my appearance in the mirror. I survived on coffee, dark chocolate and plain crackers. It was me who carried them up to bed by myself when they fell asleep in the car. He was going to stay at a hotel for a few days to think. Though I couldn’t see it at the time, they also marked a new beginning. Two weeks earlier, Phillip, my husband of eight years — my high school sweetheart, best friend, father of my two toddlers, Carrie and Isabelle — had told me he was unhappy. The contents of that envelope marked the end of my marriage. to your female friends for company and support, but stay clear of "male bashing." Keep the conversations positive. Trying one new thing per month will give you confidence in yourself and you never know who you might meet. It is a short-lived ego boost for the hunted, but ultimately not attractive (you're too easy to get).