I learn so much about life (and myself) through my experiences with other people. My romantic relationships, especially, have helped shape my opinions, expose me to experiences and give me a chance to gain another perspective.
All relationships have value.
How can I call my previous marriage a failure when it brought me my beautiful son? I feel blessed to be co-parenting with good man who is a wonderful father. I appreciate the years we lived together in Pittsburgh, which gave me an opportunity to check out a new city and meet new friends. During that time my career took a jump up and we checked off so many “firsts”...first house, first baby, etc.
Although that was actually my second marriage, not my first.
My first marriage (and husband) taught me my own strength. I had a romanticized view of marriage: It was supposed to be forever. I never thought it could be so temporary. I didn’t consider divorce an option. I proudly believed that love conquered all and eventually, we’d find our happy ending.
I believed all this on the inside, while on the outside I had gained 60 pounds — a suit of armor to protect my decision to marry him, when others thought I shouldn’t.
The day he set me free with a divorce, I got myself back. I also got my body back and I gave back the rose colored glasses that blinded me to the reality that I, alone, create my future. I learned to invest in me, not him, and found it quite inspiring to be young and independent.
As difficult as that relationship was, it taught me that mutual respect is far more important than lust disguised as love. And reliability is definitely sexier than unpredictability.
Dating in my 30s, especially being a mom, is much more fun than dating in my 20s. This time around, I don’t believe that a marriage proposal equals validation. I don’t have the desire for motherhood (again) ticking away. I don’t need a combined income to buy a house. It would be impossible to lose myself in a man or a relationship because the number one spot in my life is now permanently held by my son.
I’ve also learned that lowering my expectations of others allows them the freedom to be themselves and gives the meet-up or relationship a more youthful, flirty feel. I tend not to ask a lot of personal questions at first. Instead I ask about an idea or talk about the here and now, like, “What should we play on that jukebox?”
Instead of looking at every man as a possible long-term soulmate, I’ve dialed it way back – my goal is simply to meet a new friend.
There are so many of us out there figuring out life 2.0. Balancing careers, kids, friendships and family, all while trying to fulfill our own personal needs. God help the man who imposes too many expectations on me, as I will disappear into thin air despite myself…as cowardly as it sounds.
I hold my free time just too sacred to carry on anything that’s not completely fulfilling.
So what does that leave for a man and a relationship with me?
Am I having fun? Are you having fun?
Do I feel sexy? Do you feel wanted?
Do you respect and support my point of view? Do I yours?
This is what I want out of a romantic relationship. What is it you want from yours?
Questions for our dating columnist? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.