Words I Never Thought I’d Say
After I wrote the post where I talked about
what a horrible human being my ex is and why he will probably burn eternally in hell and how I don’t like him, I realized something when I said that The Guy I have been dating, stepped up and took care of my kids while I sat in bed and cried my eyes out.
I realized that I owe him a lot more on this blog than just the dramatic trilogy detailing his crazy female friend who hates me, and I think it’s time to rectify that. Because what you don’t know, is that he has been around for over a year, and has been personally dealing with all the crazy stuff that you have seen me going through. And I have to admit, he’s done a pretty swell job of holding me up every step of the way.
So why haven’t I told you that much about him?
Because it terrifies me to put myself out there and be vulnerable again.
I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life when it comes to men. My friends and the people around me have watched me fall, and it hasn’t been pretty, and it hasn’t felt good. In the same way, I feel embarrassed that I’ve come on here before, all excited about someone I have been dating, only to have to come back and explain why it didn’t work out and that guy is now gone. I didn’t want to solidify another man into the pages of my safe space within this blog, that I thought I might one day want to rip from my memory.
“Maybe,” I thought, “if I don’t really talk about it, it won’t be so real; because real hurts you know. When things get real, hearts get invested, and when that happens, you’ve just given someone the power to hurt you.”
I don’t know how much more hurt I can take.
So here, and “in real life,” I didn’t invest myself into him, not right away anyway. We dated, he asked me what we were, and I told him “humans.” The term “boyfriend,” well that’s too much pressure for me. You see labels create expectations and expectations turn into dreams and future plans and that was all just a little bit too much to handle. In my life, people leave, so let’s just not look at tomorrow, OK? Let’s just try to get through today.
He wasn’t thrilled, but he was willing to give me the time that I needed in the space that I required, and so off we went; day by day. But then suddenly all those days rolled into weeks which turned into months, and then a year, and now here we are.
And it wasn’t always easy, oh no there were rules, because not only was my heart at stake, but so were the two fragile hearts of my children; children that have already watched the man who was supposed to love them, leave them. And so there were rules, because there were little hopes that couldn’t afford to be raised, only to be broken later.
Do NOT tell them we are dating!
No touching me when they are around!
I need the kids to be around my other guy friends, sometimes without you, because I don’t want to limit all their manly interaction to just you in case our situation changes!
And he was a good sport about it.
He was even cool when the kids started asking him to marry me (as they often solicit RANDOM men, which never gets any less awkward, and also makes me wonder how desperate they think I must be).
He was understanding when I chose to spend Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without him, even though we had been together for quite a while at that point. He knew that I was not at a place in my life where I was able, or willing, to have a possibly temporary man become a permanent part of my kids most prominent memories, and he respected that I needed the space to make lasting holiday memories for my kids, that didn’t involve another man that might not be there next year.
But not long after that, after being scared to death that the kids would find out that I was seeing someone — even though The Guy was respecting every boundary I set with such perfection that the kids still didn’t know we were dating — I did finally sit The Girl Child down and tell her the truth.
The truth is, “that mommy is dating The Guy. This doesn’t mean that he is going to be your daddy, or that he will be here forever. You have to date a lot of people before you know which one you should be with forever, and sometimes that means you get really close to someone, only to find out that they are not the person you are supposed to marry. And I know you like The Guy, but I need you to understand that mommy has a lot of things to figure out, but I promise that I will always be honest with you about what I’m thinking or planning. And if he leaves, I’m not leaving. I will never leave you, but sometimes people do need to leave, and that does not mean that anything is wrong with you, or that you did anything wrong, it just means that mommy realized that I want something better for you.”
She seemed to understand, but did I say the right thing?
Hell if I know.
I’m walking a fine line between not wanting the kids to get too attached to someone who might leave, and allowing The Guy to get close enough to the kids to really know what he is getting himself into.
I’m scared to death that I’m doing it all wrong.
The Guy and I talk about this a lot, and the best that we can come up with is to model healthy dating, and hope that it’s enough. My son is still young, but my daughter is watching. She is watching me, learning from me, and what I do, I know she will do too.
This is a lot of pressure, and I’m terrified that I’m failing her.
So we are trying our best, to do the best that we can.
The Guy and I, as I’ve said before, we have set boundaries. He is involved in my kids lives, but for a really, really long time, he was not at all involved with their care. He wanted to help, and offered often, but I held tight to my “singular” parenting tactics (even when I could have REALLY used the help) because I didn’t want the kids to associate him as a father figure; my kids can’t stand to lose another “father” if things don’t work out.
In fact, when the Daddy-Daughter Dance at The Girl Child’s school rolled around last February, even though he wanted to take her, he was fully supportive when she went with my Bestie’s husband; understanding that she needs to place her “fatherly” associations on people who are never going to leave her. But for now, within the boundaries that we have set, I’ll give him credit, because he has been the best supportive role caregiver I have ever met.
And then, as I tested the delicate transition from “supportive role” to “can you really hack this lifestyle,” when I had a nonprofit event to attend not long ago, he drove The Girl Child to dance class and kept The Boy Child entertained. He then made them a gluten and dairy free dinner, brushed their teeth, and put them to bed.
I then died laughing because he was basically living my single mom life.
But either way, he enjoys my kids, I can tell. Not just from what he tells me, but from the way he rushes over after work; hoping to see them before I put them to bed. He spends his weekends eagerly joining us to swim at the YMCA or visit the zoo, and he asks about them just as much as he asks how I am. When they cry, it really does upset him (in a totally manly way of course).
Trust me, my alerts are up, as would any mother’s be when she is letting a new man around her kids. As I said, strict boundaries have been set, and I’m watching. Just like I was watching when I was washing dishes one night and a SERIOUSLY disturbed Guy came into the kitchen and told me “The Boy Child was exposing himself” and it didn’t feel right to stay in the other room with him.
Upon further inspection, The Boy Child had merely unzipped his footie pajama’s down to his belly button, but hey, I’ll take his unequivocal discomfort because that’s how it should be! Now, a year later, he has seen The Boy Child run streaking naked through the house more times than I can count, but I’m happy to report that he is still just as uncomfortable with it as he was the first time he saw it.
Dating with kids is a whole new ballgame my friends, but kids aside, it’s also about us.
And we are good. We are so, very, good.
He has a job that he loves and I mostly just pretend to understand (engineer), with hours that have him working until only 4:30 every day, and never on the weekends. He is basically on the same diet that the kids and I are on, and that makes life SO much easier. Like me, he tries to make it to the gym every day, lives an organic lifestyle, and just as eagerly as I do, he awaits the release of every new scary movie. He has a very large extended family who have been quick to include me, and oddly enough, with the exception of his amazing teeth, he is not at all my typical physical type.
Yet I just can’t keep my hands off of him. And I really like his teeth.
Which ended up being way more than any two people could have possibly consumed.
But it was fun.
He makes me laugh when I want to cry, and when I do cry, he says all the right things; even if that means saying absolutely nothing and just giving me a hug.
He makes sure to text me as soon as he wakes up, and right before he goes to bed; never wanting me to think that I’m not always on his mind, because he knows how many years I have spent alone. He fixes things around the house that he sees need a little work, and opens all the tight jars in the world (eh hem… wine bottles).
He never, ever, pushes me to let him help me pay my bills or lend me money when I need things such as groceries, or provide things for my kids when I can’t, even though he knows that my underlying reason for that is because I don’t want to put myself in a position where I (literally) can’t afford to break up with him. When I was seeing a counselor, she reminded me all the time to never mix money with dating because money is a slippery slope, and I’m in a “desperate and vulnerable position” where I could once again become dependent on the wrong person, make poor dating decisions because of the financial security, and/or end up being unable to break-up with someone because of the financial dependence. So even though I still struggle financially and it’s hard for him to watch, he doesn’t help me with any of that, and he respects me enough to understand that sometimes I make decisions based on the understanding that I would like to keep the option of breaking up with him.
He does that, because as he always tells me, he trusts that it will all work out in the end.
He has met all my friends, and they more than approve. He fits right in, and not just because we are all short!!
I’ve enjoyed getting to know his family, and he has spent a good amount of time getting to know my surrogate parents. The first time Frisbee Boy’s Dad met The Guy, he told him point blank “You had better take care of her. She is very important to us, and you had better treat her right. Do you hear me?” He then proceeded to firmly shake The Guy’s hand until Frisbee Boy’s Mom instructed him to “let go of him, I think he got the point,” and The Guy answered “I have every intention of treating her better than you expect of me.” And a year later, Frisbee Boy’s Dad no longer tries to scare The Guy, but rather, both Frisbee parents have taken to asking when he is going to marry me, and his answer is always the same; “when she will let me.”
But marriage is forever, and forever is a scary thought, and the word alone is enough to trigger a panic attack, especially when forever has never meant anything more than the number of days in my past where people have failed me.
But I don’t know, because when I really sit down and think about it, I couldn’t tell you what feels scarier anymore. Am I more scared to let him in, and trust that he will never hurt me the way my ex did, or am I more scared to let my trust issues close off my heart, and cause me to lose him forever?