Tag Archive for: marriage

When my kids began to date, I might have given more consideration to the topic than the average well-rounded, successful, happily married person. I was many things, but I was not that. My emphasis on dating was the expectations of each person, to maintain their integrity and to remain true to one’s self. My dating philosophy sounds easy enough. But so does resisting that last piece of fried chicken. We all know that a simple concept doesn’t necessarily translate to an easy execution. But if we can approach dating, or at least, our reaction to dating, with a few basic practices, I think we can better manage our grief now, and save ourselves from more grief later.

Coming from a divorced woman who has dated very little in the last eleven years, I understand why someone might disregard my opinion. Most people who read this are probably married or have dated much more than I. But what I possess that you may not, are a couple of things. One, I have learned a lot from my mistakes. And two, because of my divorce, I had the opportunity to discover myself, in a space of aloneness. Can I use that word? Is it a word? Dr. Seuss would use it, so I’m leaving it.

Time to reflect on my mistakes and emerge from a place of struggle and autonomy has equipped me for many things.  It’s the source of lots of opinions, based on personal experience. Additionally, I have had three dates since January, one of which lasted for three months. See? I am qualified.

At the beginning of my online dating experience, when it was fun and novel, I thought it would be relatively easy to share my experience. That was until I met someone I liked. Someone worth exploring. I wondered if he would be “the one.” I know, “the one” sounds ambitious. But I am hoping to find a guy who wants to share the rest of his life with me. Real-time documentation suddenly didn’t feel right. Reality TV is not in my future.

Writing about one’s dating life is super intimate. With good friends, transparency is my middle name. However, my middle name changes when we’re talking about going public. Being able to reflect and work through this has been a great luxury, and now I have some things I can share, that won’t read like you’ve broken the lock on my personal diary.

HERE GOES. A whole book could be written on this topic, so understand this is a snapshot of my dating philosophy.

I value the dating process. . .

I went into this relationship with the same mentality I had developed several years back when my kids began to date. If respected, the dating process is an awesome opportunity of discovery, before we make a permanent decision. I say, “if respected,” because often people don’t treat dating like a temporary experience. Instead, subconsciously they commit to the relationship in a permanent sense before there’s a mutual agreement of where the relationship is headed.

Unless both parties have agreed to marriage, I believe either party can call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. I understand that there is more to this when a couple has been dating for a long time. This point could have its own chapter. But let’s assume we’re talking about six months or less (but I’m inclined to have the same philosophy for longer periods of time as well). Regardless if one person feels the relationship going in a good direction, it is either person’s right to call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. This frees both people to continue in their search.

Breaking up (reverting to my junior high vernacular) is especially hard when you’re focused on marriage, you’re old(er), or it appears that a target has come into view. I had to remind myself of my own dating philosophy. That as much as I liked what I was experiencing, it would not serve either of us well to manipulate or maneuver it. Understanding that dating is a time of exploration, we both have the right to end the discovery.

The best and least we can give one another is kindness. We can’t and shouldn’t attempt to force virtues on another person. We have no right to demand any more than what they want to give us. If they have asked to end the relationship, I believe we should honor their request with very little contest.

Does that mean we were just handed a crappy day, that seeps into a few weeks? Probably. But that doesn’t change that explanations are not owed to either party. The breakup experience is still part of your story, individually and within your relationship. It’s the whole process that refines both of you. It is beautiful, valuable, and sometimes, difficult and painful.

Frequently couples “stick it out”, because the thought of hurting another person is so troublesome. Breaking up seems unkind. As hard as it is to be the breakee (new word), for me, it is more difficult to be the breaker (another new word), unless you don’t mind kicking dogs. OK, I’m joking, but for many people, the anticipation of hurting another person is something to avoid at all cost.  At times truth, authenticity, and sincerity may be uncomfortable and hurt. But almost always, it is the right thing.

If we grant each other this liberty, we can avoid the darts that get thrown and save us wasted time attempting to force relationships that result in bad outcomes.

Remember, we are D A T I N G.

Why it hurts so bad when it ends. . .

After just three months, with Stay at Home orders, and a long-distance relationship, it was still really sad to break up with Bill (Not his real name. Poor guy; he dated someone who blogs!). I think there are two main reasons breakups hurt. One is because we give someone our heart. The other is because we begin to establish a culture that becomes comfortable and familiar, which is where I love to sit. But for this post, I’m going to focus mostly on our hearts.

We hand another person the most tender, powerful part of us. The part that stores our emotions, desires, aspirations, hopes, dreams, feels pain, loss, and grief. We do this, because we care about something. Most likely, it is this other person. Although it’s not always just that, but this snapshot prevents me from elaborating.

This is no different than many things we put our heart into. On a team, you play to win. When you’re not on the field, you think about the game. You prepare off the field and execute on the field. You don’t hesitate. You move forward with ambition, desire, and determination. You dodge bullets, endure discomfort, and subject yourself to pain. On fourth downs you deliberate and make strategic decisions. Your heart is all in.

I think dating well looks the same. Of course, there are stages and circumstances vary. Some relationships require more effort and experience more challenges. They’re all different. Our hearts attach to the unique personality of the relationship. You keep at it because along the way you’ve decided this person is worth the efforts, sacrifice, or emotions you’re handing over. You’re in it to win it.

This is the beauty of life. You expose your talents, skills, personality, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. A lot is going right. Then you mess up a little, but so what? We all do it. It’s a fumble! You get back up and recover. You keep at it. But then the game clock ends, and you’re left standing there, wondering why you’re stuck in the middle of a play that can’t be finished. Nobody asked you, and the game is over. You didn’t win, and it hurts.

But here’s the thing: unless you cheated, lied, or stole, you played a fair game. If you gave it all you could, you played well. That’s all we can do when we’re looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. My objective is to find a person who wants to play with me for the rest of my life. After a few sucky weeks, things begin to turn around. We recognize how much we’ve gained, and we’re ready to play again.

When in doubt, stand still. . .

This is an old saying, even before my time! If we aren’t sure about something, then we’re unsure, which means we’re in doubt. Right after a break-up, we are pretty unsure about a lot of things. The relationship, the sincerity of it, the person, our judgment, the list goes on.

I think the hardest thing to do at this time, is to stand still. We desperately want comfort and instinctually want to grab at the most convenient thing. Most often, we think we’ll find comfort in answers. We’re tempted to demand them in an effort to finish the play. What? I wasn’t done! You said this, and what about that? When we don’t get answers, we consider another relationship. We want to be assured that we’re okay. We are, aren’t we?  We’re desperate to compensate for the new loneliness and the abrupt change in culture that has us looking around like Marty McFly in 1955. If we’re not careful, we could find ourselves twirling, into the arms of a tragic country song.

In that moment, our vision is so blurred and our motives so self-serving, that really, the best thing we can do is to be still, be sad, cry, and pray. Even when it doesn’t make sense, we need to accept that we lost this one. There are a million ways we can interfere with God’s plan. I think we have the advantage of seeing his plan, if when in doubt, we stand still.

Trust God (when you’ve asked Him to guide you). . .

After the breakup, I kept coming back to this. We both prayed, together and separately, that God would bless us individually and as a couple. My prayers are a sincere conversation with God. When Bill broke it off with me, I wanted explanations as we all do. But thankfully, Bill was spared the tears when I chose to trust God and honor the dating process that I so much respect.

I mostly stood still.

I don’t think I can write this post without addressing two things. Yes, the hundred miles between us was a challenge. The Stay at Home orders were executed a few weeks into our relationship. That was an even bigger challenge. But I don’t consider either of those obstacles an explanation of why things didn’t work out for us. Because, if both of us wanted our relationship we would have overcome the obstacles that stood in our way.

When we date well, it will hurt when we lose (meaning the relationship ends). When we date well and lose, we will recover and continue. When we date well, and lose, and recover, and continue,  one day we’ll find our team, and win the game.

Whew… this was a long one. Happy D A T I N G . . . whatever that looks like during a pandemic!

In Each Day a New Cup, I referred to a conversation I had with a fellow mom at the club a few days ago.  Going through a divorce, she commented that she is hopeful, because of people like me, who have blazed the trail before her. I thought a lot about our conversation and her perception of how things have evolved for me, and I want to share some things in my life that made the difference of where I am, versus where I could be.

Here are my Five Top Things that I believe will get you from being the trail on which you’re trampled to being the one leading the trail:  In theory, they’re not hard. But they take resolution. They’re behavior and attitudes that can kill us if we don’t pursue them with intention in our most desperate days.

1. Get out of bed.

That’s not to say we don’t all deserve a day to rest.  But the simple act of removing one’s self from the seemingly safe respite of a bed can be an act of God when there’s so much we feel we’re not equipped to face.  I remember a day that seemed even an act of God wasn’t enough for me.  My children, then 10 and 12, got themselves up, fed, and off to school without the nurturing routine in which they’d been accustom.  As I think about that moment, I recall the despondency that prevented me from doing my mom job. Sure, they survived. But that morning is part of their story, too.  A page I wish I could have avoided.  They were hurting, and this mom let them.  I don’t raise my kids to “survive.”  I raise them in the hopes that they will thrive.  There was no thriving that day.

It was one day, fortunately.  The regret I had when I considered the direction my life would take if I let those days accrue was more than I could stand. It didn’t happen again.  That’s not to say that getting out of bed was easy. It was hard. But getting out of bed was worth it.

2. When the phone or the doorbell rings, answer it, no matter what.

It’s hard to believe that life goes on when ours has seemingly stopped.  I recall feeling like the sun was mocking me as it shined high and bright on a summer day. How can it be, while I sobbed in my car on my way to a commitment I didn’t want to keep?  Contradictions to my state of being were all around me. The world did not care.  That reality is harsh and good.  If the world accommodated my emotions, the sun didn’t shine, if strangers shared my same agony, the potential for me to remain in that same state would be great.

On the other side of your door is a boy scout who’s fundraising for his annual fee, and a mother who’s doing her best to do her part to contribute. Everywhere we go we’re engaging with people who need us as much as you need them.  In your crisis, your home can be a sanctuary or a prison.  Create the sanctuary, where you don’t turn others away, but embrace them as Jesus’ hands and feet. If they aren’t, you will know, and will gain wisdom in the effort.

Going through a crisis brings out the best in people. It also brings out other things in people that can be hard to sift through. You will discover who is calling to gather information. Those calls, you can avoid, once you identify their objective. That can change your friendships if you’re not able to entertain those people.  But it’s okay. You’ll discover quickly the people who are a support, not just a cheerleader.

On the day that I couldn’t get out of bed a friend with whom I’d regularly gone to bible study for a couple of years called. I’d forgotten that we were to ride together that day.  Everything in me didn’t want to pick up that phone. Ring, Ring, Ring.  How would I explain the inadequacy of the my morning?  I don’t recall my exact words when I picked up, but she skipped bible study and came to help. She’d assumed I’d been having a hard time, this day she lived it with me.  There were many times it seemed crazy that I would answer the door.  I wasn’t fit to be a friend.  But I remember vividly those moments when a friend or a good acquaintance knocked on the door.  It might be a bible study partner, or a mom with whom I’d volunteered side by side over the years, arriving when I needed that person, in that moment.

3. When someone asks if they can help, say YES.

It seems common practice to answer a request for help with something close to a “No, it will be fine.”  Is “fine” what we want? If we want to move beyond “fine,” be bold in your answer, and honor your friend’s effort.

Try something like this: “Yes, that would be awesome.”  The word “awesome” dates me. I know. I over use that word.  Dig to find out what type of offer they’re making.  Try, “What would you like to do?” or “Would you mind picking up Esmerelda from dance this week? She goes two times to Dancing with the Stars dance studio.”

One of my favorite gifts was cleaned and cut vegetables. In a zombie state, I remember throwing a meal together at the last minute.  Noodles and parmesan cheese (a long time toddler favorite, but at 10 and 12 my kids had graduated to something more), bagels and cream cheese, cereal, spaghetti, potatoes. Carbs, carbs, carbs.  Receiving the nutritious part of the meal relieved me of the guilt that I wasn’t providing the nutrition my kids needed.  And, they weren’t subject to watching me stand over carrots as I peeled them with tears running down my face, imagining the inevitable, that the very kitchen I prepared in, would be someone else’s later.

So many things go undone as a single person without a family to help.  Unlike wisdom teeth being pulled or an ACL tear, a divorce and change in the family as you knew it, a change in your forever plans, is a perpetual state of loss.  If you remain a single parent, wholeness doesn’t come in a few weeks or months. Take the help when it’s offered, because when the newness of the crisis wears off, you will be in a position to ask (which is hard) because the offers will stop.

4. Read the Psalms.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Imagine reading this in a time of despair.  God’s word, and in particular, the Psalms was the water that quenched my aching thirst.  I had a chair in my family room where I sat, as soon as the kids were off to school.  I wanted to remain there all day long. I was desperate for the healing words to soothe me, and I hungered for them to stop the hurt.  I wanted to live in the pages of God’s word.  I didn’t want to face the world as it stood before me.  Grief was my companion, but God was my friend, and I can’t imagine living without his wisdom, compassion, and hope. I carried his words with me with every errand and every commitment I couldn’t escape.

I purchased a pretty journal where still today I record my favorite verses.

DSC_0570

Treasures are in this book.

When I can’t remember where to find a particular verse, I go to my book, where I treasure the verse like a found precious object.

I received books that gave me insight and perspective. I loved those books, but my favorite one is called A Grace Disguised. It’s a story of huge loss through a car tragedy. The author is able to communicate so that someone going through loss in divorce can also find restoration.

There’s no question my faith grew stronger as a result of my divorce. As much as I’ve mourned the loss of a complete family, I wouldn’t give anything in exchange for the relationship I have with God today.

5.  It’s okay to medicate.

This was hard for me. My same friend who arrived on the morning I didn’t get out of bed, urged me to consider taking medication.  I recall one friend telling me over the phone that maybe I should consider medication, but somehow in that moment, the suggestion seemed more like I was over reacting about my loss, almost as if I should accept the broken vows and the betrayal of so many things.  On this particular morning, my friend offered that I should talk to a doctor and that it would be something to get me through the worst of it.  I recall not having the energy to navigate the appointment (I was using a teaching hospital and didn’t have a steady doctor at the time). She made the appointment for me, and we drove together a few days later. The diagnosis was “situational depression.” I could live with that.  I got the prescription filled, but for a couple of months it remained unopened in my medicine cabinet. I recall the day I recognized the value in taking it.  I wish I hadn’t taken so long.  I took the medication for about a year, and it was the right thing to do. It didn’t alter my grief, or my personality.  But it altered my perspective enough to manage things. I remember getting pneumonia during that time and running out of the medication. Getting my prescription refilled was problematic.  Abruptly discontinuing the medication was lethal and I had a couple of very hard days that I know scared a couple of friends (myself included).  Be cautious of discontinuing those drugs without the care of a physician.  A couple of months later a doctor helped wean me off without incident.

When I think of “Blazing the Trail,” I think of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.  I recall my former mother-in-law giving me advice in the beginning and telling me to just not “give a damn” and be like Scarlett O’Hara.  I remember thinking, as wonderful as Scarlett is, I always wished I could be like Melanie Hamilton.  She was angelic, full of strength and grace. I aspired to be more like her, but have missed that mark in so many ways.

I believe I wasn’t intended to be like Scarlett O’Hara or Melanie. I was intended to be myself, to work through my loss with God at the center. He instructed me, and I did my best to listen. Five things that you can do. The world is full of people who haven’t been able to.  When you see a child who has lost his way, or a man or woman on a street asking for money, chances are big that there was a parent who experienced a loss they couldn’t manage.

I’m grateful that I’m here, where I am, living this life. I can share Christmas decorations, celebrate victories and frustrations with my pooches, as well job searches, house moves, and basically the hard that happens at the same time as the wonderful.

There’s really been no “blazing.” It’s okay if it looks like that, as long as you know this: It’s one morning, one day, one Psalm, one friend, one YES, and maybe one pill, at a time.

I love podcasts. I love finding something uplifting to listen to while I’m walking the dogs, or working out or applying my make up. This morning I remembered that I’d missed church on Sunday, so I went to Beaverton Foursquare’s site and found:

Marriage: It’s Complicated.

One might think that the message would only benefit those who are married, or thinking of getting married. I’m neither of those. I still find the subject interesting, and I really love learning about God’s perspective on the most sacred relationship of all.

It wasn’t that long ago I would cry at the thought of a (my) failed marriage. Now, if I let myself think about it, my thoughts usually go to my kids, and that’s when my heart starts to hurt. But I refrain from going in that direction as much as possible, and listening to Pastor Randy’s sermon didn’t stir up tears, but rather, affirmed that my singleness is good, and my wholeness comes from God, not another person.

This sermon affects everyone because marriage is God’s plan, as Pastor Randy points out. That does sound cliche as Randy also points out, but Pastor Randy illustrates how marriage evolved in biblical times from something that was abused to something that is sacred.

For those who have been married and want so desperately to return to that state, this sermon reminds us that Jesus is the only source that can satisfy us, as illustrated when Jesus talks to a woman who has been married five times.

Note: The title of this blog is the title of Pastor Randy Remington’s sermon from Beaverton Foursquare Church in Beaverton, Oregon.