be yourself. everyone else is taken.

At the end of my marriage, after Bryce and I had decided to divorce but before I had moved out of the house, we had a conversation standing in our sun-soaked kitchen that might prove to be the crowning achievement of our marriage.  We agreed that we had had a conventional marriage.  We had done everything we were “supposed” to do.  We had lived up to everyone’s expectations.  Except our own.  We vowed that our divorced relationship would be different.  We would make it what we wanted it to be, not what others thought was “right” or “appropriate” or, God forbid, “normal.”  We would craft something that worked for us and our children and everyone else could just deal with it — or not.  They weren’t our problem, and we’d spent too much of our lives living a relationship that had made everyone else comfortable and us eventually miserable.

To our credit — and my astonishment — we have kept that word to each other and ourselves.  Some people in our wide circle are uncomfortable with our situation.  How do we get along so well?  Why do we sit together — with our partners, even! — at school functions for our children?  Are we actually — gasp! — friends??? But fortunately those individuals are pretty rare.  Most of the people in our wide circle applaud us for fashioning something that is different from the standard divorced relationship paradigm.  I think they can see that it’s good for our children, but I also think that they can see that it’s good for us, too.  We are still, in many ways, a family, even though we are most definitely not a couple.  This makes us happy, and that’s really all that matters.

It has not always been an easy task — this concept of carving out a new relationship through the jungle of established habits, familial expectations, and emotional scars.  There have been times of post-divorce conflict, when one of us has had to remind the other of our shared vision for a healthy divorced relationship that works for all of us.  But those reminders have always successfully steered us back on course, which is, in and of itself, amazing.

It has been my experience that most of the dramatic change we experience in ourselves does not last.  We try on a new version of ourselves, wear it for a while, and then it loses its novelty and fades away.  And pretty soon we’re back to basically the same person we always were.  It’s as if our essential nature is some kind of homeostasis to which we return after a short disruption.  I am so very glad and very grateful that Bryce and I have remained strongly committed to that vision we shared that day in the kitchen.  And it has taught me that I am capable of making something different than what is the norm in our circle, and having that work for me. That lesson has been rolling around in my mind this week as I have unpacked the emotional shifts and “aha!” moments that occurred within me during my short visit back East.

And let’s just say, it’s been a busy week.

I’ve settled back into my Colorado life, but with some new understandings of what I want this life to look like and who I want to be in it.  I keep coming back around to the idea that the relationship model that works for so many around me is not going to work for me, and it is entirely likely that the romantic relationship that makes me the happiest might not make sense to other people.  And that’s okay.  Other people don’t have to be comfortable with it.  As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, I just need to be happy being me.

When I was much younger, I knew this about myself.  Katrina and  I used to half-jokingly say that she would be the school-teacher with 2.3 children and a house in suburbs, and I would be the cool “aunt” who would jet in from some far-flung end of the globe, bearing wonderful gifts and fun stories.  There was no judgment inherent in either path; we loved each other too much and too purely to have judged each other harshly.  It was simply an acknowledgment of our different approaches to life.

As it turns out, I did far more of the white-picket-fence experience than anyone ever expected or could have predicted, including me.  And I don’t regret a second of it.  Truly.  But I also see now that the choices that I have been making since my divorce were subconsciously guided by my need to create something different.  Those choices have made sense to some of my friends but not to others, who have offered well-intentioned advice shared with love.  I think I felt disapproval and internalized that in a way that left me confused about my vision for what I wanted my life and romantic relationships to be.  My friends wanted me to be happy, and so they encouraged me to be happy in the things that make them happy.  This is logical and kind and I treasure their good intentions.  But in my post-divorce state, I think it only served to confuse me.  Unlike in my endeavor with Bryce, I felt alone in my journey and I lost my clear vision of who and what I am and want to be as an individual.

But now I remember.

I have lately felt that I am my truest self again.  I feel at home with who I am and what I want and the understanding that it might be different from what others want from me or for me.  But the honest truth is, what they ultimately want is for me to be myself, whether they fully know it or not.  Because when I am most myself is also when I am most sought after by my friends.  We all naturally gravitate to people who are truly comfortable with themselves, who are real and present and open to the world. Whatever version of ourselves places us squarely in that description is truly our best version of ourselves.

Each of us must steer our own ship.  Only we command the helm.  The waves of opinion and expectation may buffet us, but if we hold a true course, we will reach our destination safely and triumphantly.  That is our challenge, every single day.

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13 Comments

Filed under divorce, friendships, general musings, personal growth, relationships, single mom

13 responses to “be yourself. everyone else is taken.

  1. So beautifully written! I love it!

  2. This is actually a sticking point between my sister and her boyfriend- he thinks she and her ex communicate too much, especially since the oldest is in college and the other is a senior. I think what you’ve got going on should be the role model for others in simimlar situations.

    And without a doubt, to thine own self be true…….

    • I think it’s a shame that it would ever be a sticking point in new relationships, but I can see how easily it could be. Bryce has had some of those challenges, but the men I’ve dated don’t seem suspicious of our relationship at all. I’m sure some of them haven’t been thrilled about sharing a lot of time with my ex-husband, but that’s more because they are often very different men, rather than because one is my boyfriend and one my ex-husband.

  3. Pete

    I just want to say from my perspective that TPG and Bryce’s relationship after divorce is refreshing and not something I see in other divorcee’s relationships with their exes. Before TPG and I went from soccer sideline acquaintences to, well, something more, I considered Bryce a friend. I still do. Not a best friend or anything like that, but enough to be invited for his famous milkshake and french fry get-togethers. After TPG and I became more than friends, there was a lot of worry about how he’d react. But, surprisingly, and probably much to the credit of the relationship that TPG and Bryce have, he has been really cool about it. I think TPG and Bryce have found a way to become friends, and I can see that it does benefits everyone around them. They are truly happy for each other when good things happen to the other. I try, but I still have problems being truly happy for my ex. We have quite a different relationship than Bryce and TPG to say the least. Not exactly adversarial, but I can feel the jealously from her when something good happens for me.

    Another thing I find amazing as TPG and I exchange stories about our past, is how her and Bryce have never talked badly about the other. Now, TPG and I have talked at length about our exes and she has told me many stories about things that Bryce did during their marriage that aren’t good. But by the time she’s done with the story, it always…always ends on a good note, many times with her expressing how glad she is that Bryce has learned about the consequences of his actions and has made changes to better his relationships.

  4. My 1st husband and I stayed friends for years after we split and would have remained friends if the woman he ended up living with hadn’t been so insecure and jealous. He had to stop any friendship with me to keep peace in the house. I understood but thought it was childish of her, if we wanted to be together we would have been.
    My 2nd husband had 4 kids with 2 different wives. one was a real bitch and tried to make our lives hell every chance she got the other one we sat together at sports events, school functions and even had Christmas drinks at each others homes. I ran a daycare and cared for her new born baby. It made life so much easier to be able to discuss change of plans, behavior issues, Christmas gifts and scheduling etc. It is easier on the kids , they never feel put in the middle or that they have to choose one parentt over the other.

    • That’s so interesting, Lady, because my last boyfriend had two ex-wives and they were very different. One was very neutral and pleasant and fine about me; the other stalked me and accused me of sleeping with my BF’s friend in order to break-up the friend’s marriage. It was creepy, and I felt really bad for my then-BF, because it was so embarrassing for him to have such a psycho ex when Bryce was so cordial to him.

      • His first wife was a real sweetheart, he had actually left her for the 2nd wife. I told him more than once he traded down in a big way!! His 2nd wife was the definition of “psycho bitch” every man should have to deal with her before he gets married and then he appreciate his wife alot more!! I remember one time I planned to have all the kids for their dad’s birthday. The two oldest were 11 and 12 and my son was 12. The little ones were expected im about 15 minutes and I remembered I forgot to buy my lottery ticket (i played the same numbers every week) It wAs 4 in the afternoon and the corner store was a block away so I left the 3 kids home while I went to the store. I pulled in the driveway the exact same time as her and she proceeded to rip a strip off me about being an unfit mother. her little girl was clinging to my leg, the older ones were starting to cry. I just ushered the kids into the house and closed the door in her bright red face. The real kicker was; she was a nurse at the local federal prison (there criminals who have done a serious enough crime they are doing over 2 yrs time; so the bad guys) she got fired for getting involved with one of the inmates. She had him in her car when she dropped the kids off; he was on a weekend release. Aafter he got released she had him move in, within the first month the police called her and told her to get the kids out of the house because they were coming to arrest her b/f and were afraid there might be trouble and didn’t want the kids getting hurt in cross fire.
        But as far as she was concerned I was an unfit

      • His first wife was a real sweetheart, he had actually left her for the 2nd wife. I told him more than once he traded down in a big way!! His 2nd wife was the definition of “psycho bitch” every man should have to deal with her before he gets married and then he appreciate his wife alot more!! I remember one time I planned to have all the kids for their dad’s birthday. The two oldest were 11 and 12 and my son was 12. The little ones were expected im about 15 minutes and I remembered I forgot to buy my lottery ticket (i played the same numbers every week) It wAs 4 in the afternoon and the corner store was a block away so I left the 3 kids home while I went to the store. I pulled in the driveway the exact same time as her and she proceeded to rip a strip off me about being an unfit mother. her little girl was clinging to my leg, the older ones were starting to cry. I just ushered the kids into the house and closed the door in her bright red face. The real kicker was; she was a nurse at the local federal prison (there criminals who have done a serious enough crime they are doing over 2 yrs time; so the bad guys) she got fired for getting involved with one of the inmates. She had him in her car when she dropped the kids off; he was on a weekend release. Aafter he got released she had him move in, within the first month the police called her and told her to get the kids out of the house because they were coming to arrest her b/f and were afraid there might be trouble and didn’t want the kids getting hurt in cross fire.
        But as far as she was concerned I was an unfit mother!! oh she was a piece of work.

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