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There is absolutely nothing more daunting than the idea of being "back on the market" after a prolonged absence due to being betrothed to "the one" for a spell. After being married and with the same person for a long time, we tend to get very comfortable in the idea of who we are. The role of being a wife or a mother is actually a small part of who we actually are and it's easy to forget that we are more than just a title. Transitioning from these roles can be outright scary, especially when you factor in the way things have changed from when you were single at 18 to being single in your early 30s.
Times have changed so much from when men would ask women out on dates. Now we have too many men who fear being labelled as "that guy." The threat of sexual harassment gets tossed around casually adding to the fear of being "that guy" and too many women don't fully understand the greater damage being caused by being so flippant and nonchalant towards the intricacies of courtship and companionship. This is more to do with the continued blurred lines when it comes to the traditional gender roles.
The Adjustment Phase—Am I worthy of love?
After the divorce is finalised and the emotional dust begins to settle, we find ourselves wanting to find companionship. To be honest, when I was first aboard the divorce vessel, I was convinced that I would never ever be with someone else so intimately again. The waves of tumultuous emotions were extremely overwhelming at times, not to mention trying to balance this image of a positive happy mother for my children who were looking at me for stability, love and attention. Feeling worthy of love was furthest from my mind, in fact feeling worthy enough to be called an attractive woman was a stretch on most days. However, the only thing that is constant in life is change. With time and plenty of self love, introspection, non judgement, acceptance for my part in the devolution of our union and self forgiveness... I was finally able to make moves towards feeling worthy enough to be in a relationship again. With this renewed confidence in who I am, a woman, I felt ready to meet someone new. In all of this, I never even for a minute stopped to consider if my children were ready. They seemed happy enough as my main focus was providing a happy space for them to thrive and they were thriving.
This is why dating after divorce is important.
Not that long ago I was on the phone with a potential partner. My daughter (9 going on 15) started acting up after this conversation. It took me a few days of monitoring her behaviour after I'd get off the phone with this particular gentleman to realise that the trigger for her change in behaviour stemmed from these conversations. I asked her what was wrong and after a good 10 minutes of teeth pulling, we were finally able to get to the route of her momentary flashes of anxiety and agitation. "Mummy I know that you like Mr (insert name here) and that he could be your boyfriend, but I just don't want you to fight with him the same way you fight with Daddy. I want you to be happy, Mummy."
In this moment I realised that even though I had done the internal work that I needed to process my feelings and ultimately release them, my daughter only had this end of the marriage as a reference point for what relationships should look like. I pointed at the plaque on the wall and made her read it out loud. "This is our happy place," and then proceeded to give her the reassurance that even though I had no guarantees that any new partner would not come into our lives without a difference in opinion, it is human to be different and there is nothing wrong with a little bit of healthy disagreement from time to time. However, as "this is our happy place" it is my duty to ensure that these four walls remain a happy and safe place for us all and that fighting in an unhealthy manner is not an option, ever again!
Up to this point I was pretty adamant that I would not be introducing my children to any man because I didn't want to damage them any further. In my mind, it would make sense to introduce them to "the one" that way we could build this wonderful life and live together as one big happy family. Reality, however, is never that smooth sailing. Whilst it would be irresponsible of me to introduce my children to any and every stray dog that sniffs at my skirts, I realise that it's important for them to get a balanced and realistic view of what dating actually looks like. For my daughter not to have a prince complex, she needs to understand that men are just human beings in the same way women are. For my sons to understand that certain behaviours are not acceptable, they need to see their mother actively putting a stop and not tolerating it. Children do not learn by what we tell them to do, they learn by what they see us do.
To teach my children self love, I have to live in that way. To teach them kindness and humility, I must lead by example. So, it therefore goes without much saying, in order to raise emotionally intelligent children into emotionally intelligent adults, I need to give them the right tools that they need to be able to cope in an emotionally challenging environment. Dating after divorce is just as important for me as a woman, as it is for my children to readjust and integrate into our new "normal."