"My wife Mary and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never."
I've been blessed with a couple of friends who are at about the same stage in the dating (or preparing to date) game as I am. It's always nice to have other women doing similar things that you can talk with- kind of like when we were all first moms and shared stories about pregnancy and caring for infants.
One of the things I've discovered in the past year is that I really do have an arrogant streak when it comes to dating. Dave and I spent eleven years as a couple. We were happily married for nine years when he- died. He didn't leave. I didn't get tired of him. We didn't "grow apart," or "fall out of love." We loved and appreciated each other more on the day he died than we did on the day we married. In other words- our marriage was a success. I'm not single because of choices that I made, or because of choices that Dave made.
Most single people in their thirties are divorced. There's a lot of divorce going on with our age group. Divorce doesn't mean you're a bad person. It doesn't mean that you don't have what it takes to be part of a successful relationship. It doesn't say anything about your character. The circumstances leading to your divorce- those say a lot about you.
It's almost taboo to bring up people's failed relationships. I realize that it may hurt to talk about what went wrong. So many people respond by saying that they don't want to look backwards- they're focused on the future- because it's the future that matters. That's an admirable outlook- in a way. But, no matter what led to the divorce, I don't think you're ready to date if you haven't analyzed the negative outcome and examined how your own choices and actions led you to where you are today.
As a new member of the dating pool, I want to know what people are going to do differently this time around. If you just never were a good match for you spouse, what are you looking for in a partner this time? What traits did you overlook that later on you couldn't live with? Even if your ex is psycho- how did you wind up choosing them? If you admit some blame in the failure of your relationship- how have you changed so that the same issues aren't going to haunt your next relationship?
My heart is delicate. My husband guarded and protected it. He placed my well being and protection above his own. I was spoiled, and in return I spoiled him. I would have walked through fire for that man. We laughed- a lot. We loved- a lot. We simply enjoyed spending our time with each other- a lot.
Before we got married, we spent two years dating. In the beginning we weren't looking for a life partner. We were just having a good time and enjoying each other's company. As the months passed we spent more and more time together. About six months after we started seeing each other I realized Dave had become one of my best friends. He thoroughly ticked me off one night and then hurt himself when he was out walking off his own case of mad (because I did a good job of ticking him off too). As I was pulling the goat heads out of his hands I realized that I loved the idiot (I was still a bit mad at him at the time).
Those two years of dating were sometimes a bit stressful. Once I realized I was most likely in love with Dave, well, I wanted to know how the story was going to play out. It was too early to think of marrying the man. I really do think two years is a good time frame. You learn so much during that two year time frame- and you have your own space so that you can think about whether the things you're learning are things you want to live with or if they're going to drive you to wish to commit murder.
The hardest times for us, as a couple, were probably in the year after I realized I REALLY cared for Dave. I didn't want to grow to care even more if he was going to wind up walking away in the end. There's such a fine line to walk between protecting yourself and being open enough to let love grow. It wasn't made easier when Dave refused to say he loved me- 15 months into our relationship. He told me that those were words he never planned on taking back and he was saving them for his wife. Over the next few months he admitted a few times that he probably did love me- but he still wouldn't say the words.
I hated feeling like I was vulnerable, but I trusted Dave to treat my heart gently. Finally, I had the opportunity to apply for a job in Moscow- which would put me about four hours farther away from Dave than I was while living in Gooding. I was only partially teasing when I told him one afternoon, "You should marry me or I'll be moving farther away." He said, "Okay." And then- then- after almost two whole years- then- he said...
I LOVE YOU!
and he kept repeating it for the rest of his life.
Our marriage was fairly smooth (we all have our arguments though), but our dating relationship was strained at times because I so badly wanted to know whether to stay and wait for him or whether to walk away and look for someone else. How do you navigate the dating pool? What questions do you ask? What experiences do you look for?
I know that my approach can seem arrogant, but really, my marriage was a success. If I ever marry again I want that marriage to be just as successful. The group of single men my age is so completely different than the group of single men was when I was in my early twenties. They're a scarred bunch. Battle wounds- divorce, addiction, strange personality quirks- the battle wounds are plentiful. We all have a LOT of baggage (hey, look! I have 3 kids!). How do you go about sorting through the possibilities? When you meet someone that you do care for- how do you know when it's time to move on or when it's time to fight for what you want? Heck, how did we know that the first time around?
Thank you, fellow single women in your thirties. Even though none of us have the answers, it's still helpful being able to talk among ourselves. It's really helpful to have validation that you're not crazy, that your questions are questions being asked by the entire group.