A break-up really has a way of fucking with your life, doesn’t it?
In case you missed my singledom announcement just before Christmas, or haven’t noticed my two-month absence from your newsfeed, or you’ve just been too busy with your own shenanigans/holiday craziness/family drama to realize, let me catch you up:
We are a blended family, no more.
OK, now that we’ve jumped that hurdle, let’s get down into the heart of it.
I’m not going to go through the explicit details of our breakup, so if you’re tuning in for juicy gossip, let me just go ahead and disappoint you now. I will say this: it was my choice and the break-up came at my (un)doing. The kids and I are both happy, healthy, and at peace with the “conscious uncoupling” that has taken place these last two months. As with every story, there are two sides here and I can only speak on behalf of mine.
No one enters into a relationship with the end in mine. And this isn’t the first time I’ve walked this road. But there were some pretty substantial differences this time around. See, when I decided to leave my marriage, there were infinite unknowns. The fear of being a single parent was damn near paralyzing. How would I manage the logistics? Would I be financially stable and able to provide the same lifestyle my kids had grown accustomed to? Would they be happy? Would I? The learning curve felt like an old, rickety, wooden roller coaster - the kind you need a chiropractic adjustment from immediately after. Every decision I made came with a side of whiplash and left me reeling, often questioning my reasoning. But over the course of three years, I learned to trust myself. I learned that I could do it alone, if I had to.
But the road was lonely. And I didn’t want to do it all alone. I wanted nothing more than to find a partner I could lean on - someone who could amplify our joy and lessen our hardships. So I dated until I found a person I thought would complete, what felt like, our broken family. Well, maybe not broken. You know when you go out to eat and you sit down at your table and the person across from you puts their elbows on top of it? And much to your dismay, it wobbles? And you spend the rest of your meal trying to get the table to stop wobbling - wadding up paper, napkins, and whatever else you can find to wedge underneath that one leg? Life kind of felt like that. We managed, we kept going, we were fine, but we felt a little off.
So when we decided to blend our two families, I was excited about the prospect of not only balancing out our table, but growing it, too. There were a lot of joy-filled moments over the last year and a half. We traveled, we celebrated birthdays and holidays, we supported each other on and off the fields, snuggled in for countless movie nights, and welcomed in our extended families.
But… there was a lot of stress, too. We faced job changes, combined households, fought custody battles, and faced the demons of our past. There were tears and hurtful remarks and so many things left unsaid for too long.
Before I left my marriage, my therapist at the time asked me to prioritize my “must haves” for any future relationship or partner. These tenets became my guiding light as I navigated the dating pool. And if I ever found myself straying from them, I had wonderful friends who’d smack me upside the head with the equivalent of a stone tablet of these commandments and remind me of the promises I made to myself.
In the last few months, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on that list. And the basic consensus I came to was this: if I stay in this relationship, I am not being true to myself, my needs, my desires, my boundaries.
Immediately I was met with old and familiar fears:
But you’ll be alone again. You’re getting older - no one will want you. What about the kids? How will they handle another split? Isn’t it easier just to stay and stick it out?
And this time, I had different answers. Because what took me years to figure out in my marriage, took months this time around.
Yes, I’ll be alone again. I’d rather do this alone than be in an unhappy and unfulfilling relationship.
It’s OK if no one wants me. I want me. I choose me. My happiness, my inner peace, my children, my passions, my hobbies, my home. That is enough.
The kids will be alright. And they are. When I sat them down to discuss our split, they were relieved. They, too, had been unhappy and had noticed a shift in the household. They wanted their inner peace back as much as I did.
When I divorced four years ago, I felt I was in relentless pursuit of a missing piece. But there was never a missing piece. We’re whole and complete just as we are - as a family of three. The first week of the split between Anthony and I, the kids and I grabbed hibachi. It was the first night we’d been out with just the three of us in at least a year. There was so much laughter and love and we felt lighter. When we got home that night, as I was putting them to bed, Avery leaned into me and said “I’m ready for it to just be the three of us again, Mom.”
And that’s when it clicked. I had made the right call. My kids don’t need to see me in a relationship for the sake of fulfilling some archaic family archetype. They need to see me happy, fulfilled, full of joy, chasing my dreams, taking risks, loving every second of this God-given life I’m gifted. They need to see me surrounded by healthy love. They need to see me have enough respect for myself and my boundaries to have the courage to leave when they’re crossed. They need to see that another person doesn’t control your happiness - you do! That you’re not less of a person just because you’re alone. Because while I might be very much alone, I’m not lonely at all.
I’d rather have my children see me alone and satisfied and in love with my life, than very much alone and coupled up. If I can show them these lessons now, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll fare a bit better in love and life.