FYI: You’re Not A Single Mom If You’re Married

I read yet another blog piece about how difficult it is to be a “married-but-single-mom”.

You know the ones.

The ones crying about how difficult their life is because they signed up to be a stay at home mom and now their husband’s work 60 hours a week…so they can be a stay at home mom… and the husbands don’t feel like changing diapers, or they don’t clean up their own dirty underwear, or perhaps the husbands literally don’t lift a finger in the house. The moms that complain that their lives are so painfully lonely because they got everything they ever wanted and now realize how hard it is to be a mom and a caregiver to all of the humans in the house and they think they’re living the same life as a single mom…

Listen. Just stop with this.

Ladies, (and yes, I’m singling out the moms here since that’s who I see debating this subject time and again), if you are married you cannot be a single mom. It is virtually impossible.

Simply put, “single” and “married” are antonyms. They have opposite meanings. You cannot be married and single at the same time.

When can you call yourself a single-mom? When you’re single and unmarried, raising children. Full stop.

Husband gone 5 out of 7 nights a week for work? Not a single mom.
Husband works nights and you work days? Not a single mom.
Husband doesn’t lift a finger around the house to cook, clean, or care for the kids? Not a single mom.
Husband is included in any of your vernacular when describing your relationship status? Not.a.single.mom.

I understand that your husband might put in long work weeks and expect dinner on the table and the laundry to be done and that yes, you are the primary caregiver for everyone in your household. I get that. I get that is nothing short of the most incredibly difficult job on the face of the planet. Because it is. Parenthood is hard. And yes, husbands are like having an additional child. Absolutely.

But you know what you have that single-moms don’t, in case it isn’t obvious? A partner. Of some sort.

If you’re a stay at home mom, you have a person providing financial means. Emotional support. An adult human that lives with you at least some of the time, even if he works long hours or even if he travels for work. Someone to talk to about something other than MineCraft and 3rd grade math. You have a person.

And I’m not willing to give those a pass, who do not actually know this struggle, to share a title with any single mom. Just…no.

Call me an asshole. Call me bitter, (because a divorce that I didn’t want has made me both of those things), but that title isn’t suited for you as a stay at home mom who has a partner. Sorry.

I’m not saying your situation isn’t difficult. I’m sure that when you’re comparing yourselves to other married moms whose husbands come home at 5pm and immediately chip in with the kids, help with dinner, bathe the kids or whatever, I’m certain you have it more difficult. But you’re still married. Maybe it looks different than the fantasy you created in your mind about how it would be, but you’re married.

When I was married, I worked a typical 8-4 job and my husband worked nights as a restaurant manager. When my daughter was a baby and a toddler, six nights a week after 4pm- the caregiving and on weekends? All me. And I do remember making comments to friends like, “Man, sometimes I feel like a single parent!”, because I had no clue what that actually meant.

Now I do.

I am divorced. I have my daughter 5 nights every week, including every weekend. I run two businesses, so I put in about 50-55 hours of work a week, and I provide about 90% of my child’s financial well being.

I certainly could have it more difficult. Obviously, there are moms (and dads) who have their children 100% of the time without any help, some working more than one job. The real single parents. The toughest of the tough shit. I’m sure some reading might be in this category and believe that even I shouldn’t be using the term single mom, and I can respect that to some degree. I will happily accept an alternative title of “bitter asshole, divorced mom”.

But what we both don’t have is a person.

That person that promised me for better or for worse, the one that said “I do” in that thing called marriage? He’s no longer here with me because life had other plans. No more confidant, no more equal contributor to finances, no one to fight over the remote with, no more 30 minute timeouts so I can walk the dogs if I’ve had enough of being a mom in a given moment on a weekend. Because I am single. And a mom. And I’m on my own.

I know we all live in our reality. And all of our realities are hard. That’s the truth. I don’t think any of us as parents believe our lives to be easy. We can all find solidarity in the struggles of raising small humans. This shit is difficult no matter how perfect it looks on paper. All of it is hard. Marriage certainly isn’t a romance novel and raising children isn’t puppies and rainbows like we dreamed these things to be before we had them.

We know mom life is hard. We know.

But, please. Please reserve the title of “Single Mom” to those who actually live it.

When Are We Going to Hold Fathers to Higher Standards?

You know that Clorox commercial that shows the mom coming home from the grocery store or the gym, walking into a chaotic scene, with the dad unable to handle the simple task of watching his own son while mom is simply out for what appears to be a short amount of time? The one where the dad has managed to completely fail, with the kitchen disheveled and the baby is sitting bare-assed on the counter, while the dad proclaims, “everything is fine!”, when everything clearly isn’t? Where mom has to come in and clean up?

After seeing that commercial dozens of times, today, it struck a nerve.

Just curious, why is the father portrayed as entirely incompetent of watching his own child?

Why is this a thing in 2017?

I know I’m picking apart fiction here but it truly annoys me that we don’t hold fathers to higher standards. Still.

Before I dive in here, I will admit- I’m guilty of holding far lower standards for fathers than I do for mothers.

It’s true.

I see a dad alone in Panera with his well behaved children, eating their mac&cheese and talking about the grocery shopping they’re about to do and my nonexistent ovaries jump while my brain simultaneously goes into some ridiculous narrative of, “Awwww. What a good dad he must be!”.

Whaaaaattt? Why does this happen?

He’s eating lunch and going food shopping with the children that he actively agreed to raise into decent humans. There’s no big fucking deal, no bravery, nothing terribly challenging, there’s literally nothing to see here.

When I see a mom with her children in the same scenario, my brain registers very little emotion, except perhaps a little empathy.

Both examples are that of parenting. Both are capable. Both are competent. But perhaps because one birthed the children and carries a label of “nurturing by nature” more than the other, the scene plays differently in my head? I’m not sure.

So many of us do this. Why are our standards so different for each parental role?

And this literally starts happening in pregnancy.

A father accompanies his wife or girlfriend to prenatal doctor appointments and he’s praised as if he’s done some magnificent thing. When the truth is, he is just sitting there, scrolling Instagram and texting his buddies about how awesome it must be to be elbow deep in vag all day long as a gynecologist. Meanwhile, mama has a fist in her birth canal, checking to see if he cervix has started opening yet so she can push a watermelon out of the opening of a straw. You know, the actual work that goes into birthing a human.

But he’s the one everyone oooohs and ahhhs over. She’s just…the mom. The expectations are just beginning for her.

When the baby is new and everything is so fresh, forget it. The second the father does something we as mom’s do on an daily basis, the red carpet is rolled out.

He straps the kid into the car seat, heads to the mall for some new onesies and every passer-by is commenting about how “you just don’t see that often!”. And some women even look on in envy that someone else’s husband is so involved.

Meanwhile, mom is probably home doing one of the 50 loads of laundry that has piled up, trying desperately to get the shit stains out of the few onesies that have survived the body fluid explosion, or perhaps she’s actually taking her first shower in three days.

Is that really a break? And even if it is, doesn’t she deserve it?

When my (now ex) husband and I had our daughter, I cannot tell you how many people praised her dad. Because he fed her in the middle of the night. Because he took her to the grocery store. Because he changed her diaper. Oh, how he was held in such a high regard.

Well. Yeah. That’s kind of what he signed up for, isn’t it? We kind of both expected to raise this child. I sure as hell didn’t sign up to do it all alone.

Why do men get free passes in parenting, held to little expectation of actually participating in everyday tasks and responsibilities? Why does the double standard still exist?

Women have been equal financial contributors to many households for decades. We aren’t in Leave it to Beaver land anymore, yet, women are still expected to carry all of the weight.

I get it, some families have traditional roles, and that’s fantastic if that’s the agreement and that’s the expectation within the family, but as a whole, why are we still so shocked when that isn’t the case?

As a mom who traveled for work when my daughter was an infant and a toddler, I was time and again questioned, and almost ridiculed, for being away from my child while on business trips.

“How can you possibly stand that?!”, was said more times than I can count.

And now, as a single mom, when I get into a conversation with someone who asks if “the father is involved”, and I respond with “yes, he has her two nights a week”, I am met with, “oh, that’s great! At least he sees her!”

Um. Well. Yes? I suppose that’s great that he is a parent…some of the time?

But let’s switch that up for a moment. What if that was me that saw her two nights a week and her dad had her for five? Would that be acceptable? I am quite certain that I would be side-eyed and deemed a questionable mother. I’m sure people would speculate that I must be unfit.

Not to mention, single moms are often viewed as having “baggage” or deemed “complicated, while single dads are “such a good catch!”.

Why?

Just the other day, I was listening to this talk radio show with two male hosts and one was planning a Disney World trip with just him and his two children. The second host was losing his mind over this, praising him, telling him how lucky his wife is and how single moms will be hitting on him, swooning over him left and right. Like, literally making a hero out of him for taking his own children away for a 3 day getaway.

Why? Why is this hero status?

I’m full of questions about all of this.

Men put in mediocre effort into fatherhood and that’s sufficient. Women attempt to self care and we are guilted, mostly by our own conscience, into thinking this isn’t ok.

We have to work to change this narrative. We have to make it equal in our brains.

When we continually praise fathers for putting in equal, or often times less than, towards parenthood, we are suggesting that women should, and will, do it all.

And listen: we can’t do it all. Nor should we be expected to when there are two capable parents.

Perhaps some of you already have the proper equality in mind, and if so, kudos. But for the rest of us, let’s practice the thoughts in our minds that yes, dads are just as capable and competent in parenthood as moms. They are equal. They are able.

And, Clorox, please make a commercial reversing the roles because guess what? Parenthood can be difficult for moms, too. I know we appear to be superheroes, as we often are, but sometimes our kitchen is disheveled with our bare-assed kids on the counter and ain’t no one coming in to clean up after us!

Let’s continue to work towards changing the narrative and perception of what expectations we should put on fathers. Let’s reprogram our brains.

If moms can do it, so can dads.

The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

Being On Both Sides of Infidelity

There are so many shared theories on infidelity. I’ve read them all, been lured into clicking on all of the articles. How a woman’s reasons for cheating are different from a man’s. How women seek attention, wanting to fill voids and how men look for the physical. I’ve analyzed it all with the best of them.

I don’t know there’s any merit to these theories, really. Everyone’s reasons for cheating are different. Everyone’s path to cheating is different. Some couples’ willingness to work through cheating and stay together are all different.

There’s no formula to cheating, as much as we’d like there to be so we could avoid it. No matter how many articles are written that analyze or predict it, no matter how many red flags there are in a relationship, no matter how many lists we read about the signs of cheating, no matter how much justifying is done, it happens and it will continue to happen. It’s terrible but it happens.

I do believe there is a constant truth about infidelity and it’s quite simple: we are selfish beings that want and crave attention. Period. And most times, we don’t want to do the real work with our partners to get to a healthier place. We take the path of least resistance. Cheating on a partner is an act of selfishness and cowardliness that begs to be judged, (and trust me, I do still judge when I hear stories of cheating spouses), but few realize, or will admit, that it could be any one of us on either side of infidelity. We want to believe it would never be us, or happen to us, yet it is and it does.

I’ve been married twice. I’m now twice divorced. I choke on typing that in solid print. It’s embarrassing to me that I failed at marriage twice.

Many people in my life might not even know about my first marriage. I even tend to forget. I was 24 and was in a rush to be in love, to be loved, to be married, to do what all of my friends were doing.

I was set up with a guy on a blind date. He was kind-hearted, funny, and he adored me. Our relationship moved much too fast. We moved in together after only 4 weeks of dating and we were engaged within months.

If I’m being totally honest, I never loved him. I knew that from the start and I ignored it. I wanted the wedding, I wanted the adoration. I was really good at pretending. We had very little in common but in retrospect, I didn’t even know myself well enough to know what my needs and wants were at the time. He was a good person and he deserved more. I was on a rebound from a long-term love when I met him and he paid the price. It’s unfair and it was shitty but it was the reality.

I made a conscience decision to cheat on him only 3 months into our marriage. Not to be confused with a premeditated plan to cheat. I don’t know that anyone actually does that. Not many look to outwardly and blatantly lie and live a double life. How many times have you heard, “It just…happened”? And it does, just happen. This is not a dismissive or an excusable fact but it is the truth. Cheating is really about trying something on for size, seeing how it fits.

I met a guy at work, a much younger guy, that I had a ridiculous amount of chemistry with. Because he was so much younger, I didn’t notice the chemistry immediately but when I finally acknowledged what was happening, it was over. I was involved. I was emotionally cheating from that moment on and physical cheating wasn’t far behind.

Once the physical relationship began, I became a different person, one I didn’t recognize and one I absolutely couldn’t face in the mirror. I hated myself but not enough to stop the affair. I knew I was in love with the person I chose to cheat with. I knew I had to leave my husband, and I did, after only 5 months of marriage, 2 months into the affair.

It was awful, being on that side of infidelity. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t an adventure, and it didn’t feel good. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and the lies felt like razors punishing my lips each and every time I had to tell a lie. It wasn’t in my DNA to pull this off, nor did I want to. I was too consumed with how people viewed me to be honest with myself, and with him, about not being in love, about not wanting to get married, and about what I needed from a relationship.

Love and lust stole all logic from me. That’s not an excuse but it’s what happened. I allowed that to happen. I should have stopped the affair, been honest with my husband, left him, knowing I wasn’t in love, and stayed on my own until I gained complete clarity. But, I didn’t. I was too afraid to lose love.

I left my husband for another man.

I’ve never outwardly admitted this to anyone before. Not to my then husband, not to my friends or family, and not to myself. But that’s the truth. I live with guilt about this every single day, still. I never forgave myself completely. I broke someone’s heart in the worst imaginable way and it was unforgivable.

I married the “other” man in this story. And infidelity came full circle 5 years into our marriage, 12 years into our relationship. It was me on the receiving end of betrayal.

I’ve never been convinced about the concept of karma. We all talk about it as though it’s real but I’ve, more often than not, thought of it as a coping mechanism, something to make us feel better when we’re wronged. However, my second husband’s infidelity sure did feel like karma. It completely broke me as a person. I allowed it to completely break me and it felt awful. I wasn’t just broken, I was shattered. I hated myself. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My self esteem wouldn’t let me. And I felt like I totally and completely deserved it.

It felt eerily familiar.

As much as I wanted to play the victim, and at times I did, it was undeniable that this happened for a reason.

My darkest moments lie within both sides of these infidelities, within these betrayals. And within dark moments lie truth and learning. I learned what I am capable of. I learned what rock bottom looks like. I learned what complete loneliness feels like.  I learned what self hatred is. On both sides, all of these same lessons took place and looked very similar.

Oddly, or perhaps not odd at all, this all brought me to a path of self acceptance. It was all within the learning. I just needed to pay attention. Cheating is simply a symptom of much deeper issues and if it happens to you, no matter which side you’re on, you just need to try to pay attention to the message. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but you.must.listen.

If you listen closely, it should peel back every single layer of your soul and teach you what you need from a partner. It should teach you to rebuild your heart. It should teach you how to love yourself.

These lessons are so very costly, though. No one comes out of betrayal unscathed.

I forgive myself. I forgive him. But. The scars are brutal.

IMG_1958

 

The Shedding of Things

I recently cut my hair. Most people I interact with on a daily didn’t even notice, even though it was a drastic change for me. But that was ok. It felt amazing to shed the weight and to feel a change. A friend quoted Coco Chanel to me after learning of my hair cut and said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”. And I did.

Soon after that, within days,  I decided to sell my furniture. The furniture that I had for the duration of my relationship with my ex husband. Just, shedding… things.

Soon after that, within days, I decided to shed my addiction.

I firmly believe, the older that I get and the more I learn, that we are all addicted to something. Addiction is a frightening word but if you really analyze your life, really dig deep, I can almost guarantee there is a vice. There’s the obvious: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling, sex, caffeine. Then there’s the less obvious: maybe sports, exercise, behaviors, and maybe, just maybe…even people.

I am addicted to a person. I am addicted to the person who has betrayed me time and time again. I am addicted to the love, the hate, the chaos, the bad, the good, the ugly, the borderline emotional abuse, the lust, the hope, the everything. I just recently, within the last year, have admitted this is an actual thing. Being addicted to a person and codependency is very real.

We’ve been divorced for over a year and separated for over two. People get divorced everyday and move on. But with addiction, it’s not that simple. I never completely quit him. I never allowed myself time. I never kicked the habit. I never gave up the high. It’s an addiction that lives in my soul. An addiction to the person I once saw as my second heart. The grieving became too much, and the loneliness became even more. I would dive right back into text messages and calls and obsessive thoughts, just wanting my fix of him. I just wanted to feel better. I could not handle being dope sick. It’s a weakness. And he certainly knows this.

No, I never planned on a complete reconciliation. I never wanted another marriage to him or cohabitation. I just wanted him in some form. I wanted him to love me or just want me. I wanted some semblance of a family. I wanted to force that. I wanted him to be different than he was and change old behaviors, shed addictions of his own. With or without change on his part, I just wanted him. I wanted the safety net of him and the support. I wanted the late night texts and the random intimacy. I wanted to dismiss all of the betrayal and pretend that this hybrid of a relationship we had was ok. It was unconventional but it was ok and it was good for me and therefore good for my daughter. He said he wanted me, too, as he always has, but his actions prove otherwise, as they always do.

I fooled myself into believing that I had control, as most addicts do. I made my rules, as most addicts do. If I only saw him a couple times as week and we only vacationed together, it wouldn’t become dangerous to me. Heartbreak wouldn’t be eminent if I just followed my own rules. But then the rules are stretched and a bigger dosage becomes the new rule.

And then there’s an event, an overdose of sorts, as there always is with addiction. A rock bottom moment where I have some self reflection and wonder what the fuck I’m doing. The danger is clear and the denial subsides. This is the moment to take advantage of and bail. For good. Some of us in addiction have had several of these rock bottom moments and we just hope that this time will be the one that will stick. I will make it stick this time. I have to. I have to be ready to do the work. I have to actually do the work.

I’m detoxing. I’m shedding.

The first hours were strong and full force, cold turkey. There’s a fierce confidence within those initial hours and a certainty that I will never look back. I was empowered by my independence and my courage to move on.

As the hours passed, the pain set in. Gut wrenching, real pain. That realization that the void is sneaking back in. The fear is sneaking back in. The reality is there staring me in the face. I am alone and I have to find a way to be ok. In reality, I have been alone for a very long time and my drug of choice has only been there to lie to me, pretending to ease my pain and fill my void. It’s a pseudo effect, a pacifier.

I have to break habits and that’s what it’s about. That’s the simplest answer to addiction: it’s just a habit that must be broken. Because with most habits that lead to addiction, it can literally or metaphorically kill you.  Being addicted to this person, I am giving myself away piece by piece. I am killing my spirit. I become unrecognizable to myself in the throes of addiction, as many of us do. How can we not if we’re giving so much of ourselves to someone or something else? It dims our light. It prevents us from being our truest form.

Every time I use again, I am saying it’s ok. It’s ok to allow myself the betrayals, the lies, the empty promises. I am saying it’s ok to settle for someone that cannot and will not give their all to me. I am saying this is good enough for me but above all, I’m saying it’s good enough for my daughter. I’m teaching her that a person who should be a partner, but is too caught up in self desires, is acceptable on his part-time schedule. No. No, this is not what I am willing to allow her to settle for in life.

It’s not about winning over this addiction. No one wins. No one gets a medal. It’s just about surviving it and finding a greater version of myself through the process. I know I’m here somewhere, whole and complete. We are all complete on our own if we allow it. This ideology of having a “better half”, or just an “other half”, is complete and utter bullshit. We are not all halves walking around in need of someone else. Getting out of that mindset is crucial. I have to allow it; trust the healing process.

They say that 21 days kicks a habit. Day 6. Dope sick and still in pain. But it is better than the alternative of self destruction. Freeing my heart of this will allow for so much more on the other side of the pain. It will be cleansing, this shedding.

I will not give myself away anymore.

 

 

How I Failed My Marriage

I have written a couple of deeply personal posts about my divorce and all that surrounded those circumstances. My divorce was the one reason I came back to writing, to connect with my emotions about the whole situation, to help grieve the loss. Right or wrong, I laid it all out there.

Here’s one notion that I didn’t touch on about my divorce: I do not blame my ex for our failed marriage. I failed him just as much as he failed me.

We all have a difficult time accepting responsibility when anything goes awry in any situation, professionally or personally. At least I do. Blaming comes so much easier. Accepting responsibility requires a lot of energy and self-reflection. I’m certain we are all guilty of finger pointing. It’s natural. But how do we grow from placing blame and not going through the process of self-reflection?

When I got married, he was a perfect partner. He was my fairytale. He was the definition of who I needed by my side. We were together almost 6 years before we got married. 6 years of a wonderful relationship that people envied. I had never been more sure of anything in my entire life the day I married him.

But here’s the thing: I married someone 8 years my junior…And that’s on me.

I dare you to tell me that age doesn’t matter in a relationship. Relationships and marriages are difficult regardless of age, absolutely, but a sure fire way of having an additional mountain to climb- add a significant age difference, especially if you’re in your 20s.

He was 23 when we got married, I was 31. There was no ultimatum, there was no gun-to-the-head moment, there was no “well, I’m getting older and I need this to happen soon” discussion. Sure, I wanted to get married and I knew I wanted to marry him, but I was well aware of our age difference. Mostly because everyone continually reminded me about it, as though it never occurred to me. There were plenty of discussions about it but literally no red flags.

I thought we were different. I thought my immaturity and his maturity balanced out this numeric equation that didn’t add up for everyone else. I thought we beat the age difference odds, but here’s where age does matter and what I failed to ignore: he wasn’t ready.

Certainly there are many 23 year olds that make a life-long commitment to someone and they have a happily ever after outcome. He wasn’t one of them. But how was I supposed to know this if this man willingly proposed to me, married me and knocked me up on our honeymoon? How was I to know if he didn’t say a word about the fear of all of this? How was I to know that he proceeded with all of this because he thought it was the right thing to do and he was too afraid to lose me?  I gave him so many opportunities to walk away, to live a more independent life in his early 20s. How was I supposed to see through this bullshit he was feeding me about being ready for all of this?

The answer to all of this was so simple but too difficult for me to grapple with. The answer was this: I was significantly older than him and I should have let him go.

I remember watching an Uma Thurman movie, back when my ex and I were dating, called Prime, I believe. It was all encompassing of our situation. She was 37 and he 23, so a larger age gap, but they fell in love. I was rooting for them the entire movie thinking, “YEAH! This is me! This is exactly why age doesn’t matter!!!”… only for it to end super horribly with her realizing they’re on much different paths and ultimately…she let him go. Once the movie ended in such a way that didn’t match what I was hoping, I was dismissive of the plot because, after all, it was just a movie. Only, I should have applied the principles to my own situation.

I should have let him go experience what I was able to in my early 20s. I should have recognized that allowing him to figure out who he was without me was necessary for him to assess what he needed and wanted out of life. I should have looked at it on paper and saw that this person was with me from the age of barely 18 and that not much life experience came with him at that age.

I should have stopped being a control freak for two minutes to realize that life was laughing hysterically at my “plan”. “If he says he’s ready, he’s ready. Face value. Let’s move on with THE PLAN”. I always had to have a plan. We both had a semblance of a career, we both wanted to get married and have a baby? Then THAT’S what we were going to do right.that.moment. Maybe that’s why I chose someone so much younger, because I have a controlling personality and he was malleable? I’m sure that’s part of it, but I digress.

It wasn’t until our daughter was a little over the age of 2 that things started to unravel. Reality was setting in for him, while I remained in denial. He wasn’t ready to be a husband and a father. I saw, and felt, how he wanted less responsibilities in life instead of more. He didn’t make any of our family decisions, I did. He was barely participating in our relationship. I was suddenly parenting two people, navigating everything for all of us, watching my “plan” fall into this pile of disconnected fragments of a relationship. We were both more lonely by our third year of marriage than we are now as a divorced, co-parenting couple.

I ignored the obvious for a long time as our arguments increased and he started turning to drinking more and more and coming home less and less. I wanted to blame the symptom, not the actual disease. I’m not talking about alcoholism, I’m talking about denial. I was in denial. I wanted to blame him for the unraveling. I wanted to blame the drinking, the cheating, the lying, and yes, shame on him for any and all of those things that applied, and double shame on him for not being honest with me about so many things. However, this was a part of him that went undeveloped. He didn’t know how to be honest and true to himself, let alone to me, because he didn’t get to explore outside of his comfort zone and his comfort was me.

It was my responsibility to him, as the woman who loved him, the older woman that loved him, to have seen the forest through the trees, or whatever the hell that saying is. He needed more than a plan derived by me and me alone. He needed independence and self worth and he needed to find that on his own. I failed him by not giving this to him. I failed my marriage by being too controlling and not taking a step back to realize that one of us was just along for the ride. That was my portion of the responsibility. That was how I failed.

So, what’s the point? The beautiful, amazing, self righteous point is that I’ve grown and I’ve learned. I’ve learned that relationships and life do not thrive on a plan. I’ve learned that by attempting to control any and all situations in a relationship, you’re setting yourself and your partner up for failure. I’ve learned that age does matter but it’s not a deal breaker, it’s a challenge that cannot be ignored. I’ve learned that independence, even within a relationship, is so important. I’ve learned that letting go is truly necessary so many times throughout life.

I can only apply all of this knowledge in the future, obviously. My marriage failed and that is what it is. This was a priceless education and I don’t regret any of it for one single moment. Failures are far more beneficial than successes sometimes, aren’t they?

Co-parenting is an art, not a science.

As a human race, we are inherently nosy beings. We love to know things about others’ lives. We thrive a little, or maybe a lot, on gossip. We love to be voyeurs, watching and judging, saying how we would do things different, or maybe even admire a lifestyle.

Some would argue that this is not true for everyone, but I will be bold and say it is the truth for most. If you watch any reality TV or have any social media page active in your name, you’re nosy. And hey, even if you don’t scroll Instagram or watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I guarantee that if you heard word-of-mouth of a friend getting a divorce, your first thought would most likely be, “Hmm, I wonder what happened?!”.

Some call it curiosity or concern but I’ll call a spade a spade and say nosy. I’m so very guilty of it myself and being nosy can be a terrible characteristic but for the most part, I do believe it’s harmless. Plus, many of us invite the nosiness and even the judgement by putting ourselves out there on social media or ::ahem:: a very personal blog. It goes both ways.

Lately, I have received a lot of blunt questions about how my ex-husband and I co-parent, questions such as, “Do you share 50/50?, do you get child support from him?, do you pay him alimony?, do you still spend time together as a family since neither of you are in a relationship?”. Even strangers will ask me these questions.

I truly do not mind answering at all. Those that know me know that I’m a pretty open book. However, I’m throwing caution out there to those that ask these questions to any recent divorcee with children: these are deeply personal questions that might make some people uncomfortable answering. That goes for questions about divorce, too. The whole “what happened with you and your ex?” question? Yeah, that’s complex as hell to answer when I run into you at Target, but again, I don’t mind answering. In my mind, it’s better to ask than to assume. Ask me anything, it’s totally ok. I’m giving you permission.

But let’s talk about judging the way people co-parent, or better yet, the way they judge how divorced couples should act.

It’s so interesting to me how people react when I tell them that my ex and I are still close, that we still host birthday parties together for our child, that he is still very involved in my daughter’s life, that him and I still care about each other and even spend time together as a family. And, we are even going on a summer vacation together as a family :::gasp:::

The look of shock or the words of “REALLY?! Wow. That’s great but isn’t that weird?!”. Um, no, it isn’t. I married this person, I had a child with this person, I lived with this person for twelve years. Perhaps it might be a bit odd if him or I had a significant other in our lives but even then, you hear about close ex relationships even in those circumstances. Because, well, children kind of deserve to have two parents that can stand one another.

The thing is, co-parenting and living as a divorced couple means something different for everyone. Everyone has to find what works for their family because like it or not, you are still a family. That could be, no, that WILL BE ever changing, what works and what doesn’t, but there aren’t any rules. Not all divorced dads are deadbeats and just because it’s on record that there was infidelity or addiction or whatever it was that resulted in the demise, it doesn’t always equate to hatred or punishing the other party.

As a matter of a fact, my ex and I have have not gotten along this well in about three years, no joke. This is not a coincidence. This is a result of hard work on both of our parts to make Lily our focus. Relationships are complicated, parenting is complicated, marriage is complicated, divorce is complicated. Kids feel all of this and at the end of the day, they just want everyone they love to be happy. It’s that simple for them.