Going through divorce, especially when you have children is a total nightmare and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. You think you’re never going to find love or a healthy relationship again, but here I am.
It’s taken years to rebuild my shattered self confidence and to “find myself” again. It required a huge amount of effort, courage and alcohol (dutch courage?) to work out who and what I wanted to take with me on the journey and whilst I certainly didn’t have a masterplan or a clear vision, I did manage to stuff myself full to the brim with all the things I loved that kept me buoyant and focused:- my kids, my family, my friends, my cat, my houseplants, my job, my Pilates, my courses, my writing and after a decade (yes, sorry, that long – they say it takes half the time you were married to get over it), I finally reached a point where I felt happy and fulfilled.
I used to hate my own company, so I never thought I would be happy being single, but I truly was.
But guess what happened next?
Yup. That’s right.
I met someone.
What a cliché.
There I was, sitting comfortably in the new life I’d created for myself and my children, the one that allowed me to make all my own decisions, choose my own activities, hang out with all my own friends and then unexpectedly, in walked someone with similar values, who made me laugh. It hasn’t been easy finding ways to fit each other into our respective lives and if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure how much I was prepared to give up.
Then lockdown happened and we all retreated into our respective caves, protecting our loved ones and grieving for the planet as we got on with whatever resilience techniques we required to get us through it. In my house it consisted of a lot of drinking, reading, games and baking. So, a year down the line, as we all slowly and tentatively step out, it’s quite a surprise to find that despite being a stone heavier, he’s still around. We barely saw each other during that time, but we talked a lot on the phone and did a lot of crosswords (yes I know!). It’s a scary thing to open yourself up to vulnerability and potential hurt again, but when you’re faced with the destruction of the human race, you somehow start looking at your own life situation in a “life’s too short” kind of way.
It was our respective daughters who initiated our first meet up and it didn’t go well – the two girls had to do all the talking, whilst we sat there like awkward teenagers feeling underwhelmed and wishing we were somewhere else. With their cunning plan almost foiled, they decided to conjure up a “Parent Trap,” whereby my daughter told me he thought I was beautiful and really wanted to go out with me for a drink (entirely not true) and his daughter told him I was really “keeeeen” and wrote a number of text messages to me about going out for a drink that I thought were from him. It wasn’t until six weeks later that we discovered their sneaky Cyrano de Bergerac style manoeuvrings, but thankfully by then we quite liked each other and could laugh about it.
He’s a kind, gentle, thoughtful, intelligent, single father, with a big heart and an acceptable amount of baggage for someone of our age and stage who seems to be brave enough to take me on! “A keeper” as several of my friends said. We can talk for hours and whilst it’s clear he’s not always listening (can you blame him?), we have the required chemistry (he smells right), a lot in common and the fact that our children have given us their blessing is a huge bonus. As single parents, we both know that time management isn’t easy and that we clearly don’t have the freedom to pack our bags and head off on a gap year any time soon, even if borders were open again.
To be honest, starting a new relationship in my 50’s hasn’t felt any different to starting any new relationship – I don’t think age has much to do with it. You still have all the anxiety and insecurities about it, but you also have the excitement and passion that comes with a new relationship. I’d like to think that as an older (not necessarily wiser), more wrinkly woman, it’s all slightly easier to navigate, because you can finally be yourself and not give much of a shit about lots of things you used to take seriously. There are no games to be played because there is not much at stake here beyond our mutual happiness – we don’t have to worry about whether we want kids or not for instance. OK, so we don’t have as much time, or a shared history, but there’s an obvious desire to understand each other and an honesty about what we both want. We both know that communication is key and so we keep on talking and arguing until we’ve found a solution. You just have to talk at twice the speed to catch up on all the missing background, share lots of sepia coloured photos of our old lives, whilst trying not to get jealous about the fact they had a life or two before you and relax about all your wobbly bits, because f**k it – who cares? If someone makes you feel good, then it really doesn’t matter.
The pandemic has helped me decide that rather than worry about getting hurt, I’m going to jump in and allow myself to be open to new beginnings and new experiences. After all, there’s a school of thought that contends that learning how to love (again) and care for someone other than yourself is what it means to be human and so whilst my three children will always come first, I know that they are hugely relieved that someone has come along to keep me busy, just as they’re ready to step away in order to follow their own life path.
So who knows where this is all heading, but in all the fear and worry that the world has been dealing with, that old cliché about life not being a dress rehearsal is at the forefront of my mind, so I’m looking forward to dancing badly around the kitchen with someone other than myself and maybe we’ll be dancing out in the streets on the 21st June if we’re lucky.