Dating as a Single Mother
This is supposed to be a humorous article narrating the dating life of a single mother, but if I'm being honest, my memories are mostly horror stories. It has been a jaunt in a repetitious cycle of emptiness and unrelenting disappointments with a sprinkle of desperation.
It was 2006, Valentines Day. I was was expecting a phone call or a text. I didn't get either from the man I had pinned my hopes and dreams unto at the time. I received messages from a few, but they felt empty because it wasn't from the right one. I finally broke down and cried. As I laid in bed, with my eyes closed and tears streaming down my face, I felt something wet and cold on my face, starkly different from the warm tears. My 2 year old daughter got tissue from the bathroom, and wet it, then she came to my bedroom and started wiping away the tears.
My husband and I separated right after our second anniversary. I was 31 and our daughter was only a year old. We never celebrated either of our anniversaries and it didn't occur to me to celebrate. I'm not big on anniversaries. We stopped being intimate after I became pregnant with our daughter. In my first trimester, I was sick all day, every day. I wasn't feeling sexy at all. I mean, it's definitely not sexy to vomit daily. After the baby, it didn't improve; it got worse. I imagined that our daughter would bring us closer together; I thought. He blurted out one day that he wasn't interested in being married, only in being a father. I beg to differ. From where I stood, he wasn't interested in being a father either. He never once took her to the playground or get down on the floor and play with her. "A child's place is with the mother", he would say. We slept under the same roof, but in separate bedrooms. I would often ask myself if I wanted to be in this marriage because it wasn't what I thought it would be. I did the unthinkable. I had an affair. He was a brain cancer survivor, and I, lonely.
New Beginnings, Old Wounds
Our beginning interactions went from disinterest to hostility to adoration. Our relationship began before I left my marriage, but it wasn’t the cause of my failed marriage or the reason I left my marriage. In retrospect, I think we both entered the relationship as a way of looking for comfort, an escape from the trauma of our external lives. He was a brain cancer survivor and was recovering from a long-term relationship that ended badly. I was in a dysfunctional marriage; a new mother and I was lonely. This person introduced me to a lot of things, but most notably, I learned about emotional unavailability. I convinced myself and tried to convince him I was emotionally available even though married with a child. What I knew for certain was that we liked each other. What we couldn’t do was to bridge the gap between liking each other and building the foundations of a solid relationship. When I was finally free to be with whoever I wanted, the relationship disintegrated. One of the biggest red flags was him not wanting to meet my daughter. This made me realize that he had no intention of making me a part of his life. I went in search of evidence of the dysfunction of our relationship, and that’s when I discovered the book ‘Emotionally Unavailable.’ by Bryn C. Collins. It was a eureka moment. I finally understood why this relationship couldn’t get off the ground and it also gave me clarity on why my marriage failed.
Too Close to Home
We met through a mutual friend. The mutual friend was among our circle of friends during my marriage. By this time, everyone knew that my husband, and I were no longer together, and I was free and single. My daughter became my plus one at almost all the events they invited me to, so anyone who I met, met her too. The feelings were mutual. We went out to dinner as a group and that’s how we got to know each other. We became instant friends. I recall one of our first phone conversations lasted about 8 hours. We stayed on the phone as we went about our day: running errands, grocery shopping, driving, etc. It felt so comfortable and easy because we were already so familiar with each other because of our similar social circles. There was none of the awkward getting to know each other stuff. Conversations were easy and there was no confusion about where each one of us stood. We didn’t live that close to each other, but he still came to visit us every weekend. I didn’t have any doubts about how he felt about me because he always showed up despite not having a car. We spoke several times a day and hardly had any arguments. I must admit that I took this relationship for granted. My own issues with commitment and superficiality came into play. He didn’t exactly fit the profile of an attractive and successful man. My family and friends disapproved of the relationship, thinking I wasn’t giving myself enough time to find someone better than my ex-husband. He had been in prison for a year due driving under the influence. Despite that, he was a great companion, but he had a lot of personal problems to work out. Deep down, I knew that there wasn't much he would've been able to do for us. I had to let him go.
Mixing Business with Pleasure
We worked together. I used to catch him staring at me in meetings, but I didn't think much about it. He was the supervisor in his department, and I was a project manager so I needed to interact with him frequently. Our conversations became more friendly. one day he invited out to lunch. We went to a local pizza place. I wasn't sure what to make of him, so we talked mostly about what was going on at work. After that, he would ask me to go to lunch now and then. Despite this, I still couldn't tell his level of interest in me. I assumed that he just wanted to be friends. I soon found out after a rare invitation for drinks after work. We went to a restaurant that hadn't realized was in his neighborhood. The conversation had gotten more personal, and we were talking about one of his failed relationships. It just so happens that it was with a person we both worked with in our office. After two drinks, he walked me to my car, then he made his move. He reached out and touched my breasts. I recall feeling weird about it because I had decidedly categorized him as a colleague/friend. My daughter called him the pizza man. The first time he came to our house, he showed up with a pizza box. She knew him only as the pizza man after that. As our relationship evolved, I started developing feelings for him. It would eventually become one of those non starter relationships. Started with promise, but had no chance of success. I eventually found out he was already in a serious relationship, and they had been together for a while. They had bought a house together after we started seeing each other. Once, he picked me up and took me to their house while she was out of town; we made love and watched TV. As he was driving me back home, he told me he planned to marry her and start a family. I closed my eyes and shook my head. In that moment, I realized that I was speeding towards a dead end and the only outcome was intense pain.
I tried online dating in my twenties, but it never resulted in any lasting relationships. It never felt right to me. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer meeting someone in person first, then getting to know them. I know instantly if I'm attracted to someone, not by what they say, but their presence. It's more of a feeling, an instinct, that you just can't sense over electronic devices. I once had a man try to force me into a relationship, even started me baby, after three conversations over the phone. I admit, the conversations were great, deep, and I felt an attraction. When we did finally meet, I couldn't imagine him touching me. As a result, the conversations ended. There wasn't anything to look forward to anymore, and I felt bad about wasting his time.
What I really lost
New relationships have always been exciting at the beginning because they're filled with potential. Hope gets you hooked and expectations trigger your cravings for more interaction. Permanence is the goal and when it's achieved, it loses its power. Similar to gambling, we don't place our bets hoping to lose, but the hope of winning is powerful. This makes it impossible to give up. None of these relationships were great losses, but my most devastating loss was my daughter's respect. My clear desperation disillusioned her and it was enough to make me feel worthless. In her opinion, I couldn't see what was right in front of me, only what I perceived to be missing from my life. In my mind, I wanted to undo the past; atone for my past mistakes.
I felt guilty about breaking up our family and leaving her without a father. I isolated myself from friends and family because of the shame I felt of being a single mother. If only I could fix this, then I can hold my head up and really believe that I'm valuable. I felt judged and perceived as incapable of keeping a man. In my desperation to fix that mistake, I compounded the crisis. She witnessed me devaluing myself for a man's attention; begging, pleading and bargaining to avoid feeling lonely. She witnessed nervous break downs and periods of insanity such as leaving in the middle of the night aft
er her pleads of 'don't go, don't leave me... he's using you.' It has been an uphill battle trying to regain that respect. Today, I'm no longer afraid of what people think. I would rather have people think of me as the crazy cat woman than compromise my dignity and the love and respect of my children.