In 2014 I became a single mother, living alone with my one year old daughter and attempting to rebuild my life.
When I was ready to date again I realised just how different that experience would be compared to when I met my first husband at 23. Going through a marriage, and the subsequent divorce, left me with far more expectations for any future partner than I'd had in the naivety of my youth, and far more emotional baggage to take along for the ride. Having a child added even more challenges. However, all of those complications I had anticipated to some degree.
What I didn't account for is that it can be even more complicated to get involved with someone whom is also fresh out of a marriage. Once you reach a certain age, the likelihood is anyone in your dating pool will have a marriage, or at least significant long term relationship, in their history. Whilst shared life experiences can be a huge advantage, it will also bring its own unique set of complications.
These are three complications that I have learned about being a divorcee dating a divorcee, and whether or not they truly matter.
1. FOR SOME PEOPLE, YOU'RE ALWAYS #2
He chose you, you chose him. The exes are both out of the picture and you expect family and friends to embrace this exciting new romance with you. Sadly, it won't always work that way. The ex will always be around having existing relationships with his family and raising the child they had together. She will be the face some people always wish they saw instead of your own. They'll hark back to the days of the marriage with sad smiles, never replace their old photos with photos of you, and generally make sure you know that, no matter how long you're around for, you're their second choice of partner.
Does it matter? Yes. I would like to say it doesn't but it does because it's unfair to you, unfair to your partner, and, if you let it, makes you feel inadequate. It builds resentments where they need not be, and can stop gatherings of family or friends being something to look forward to and, instead, turns them into something to endure.
Can you get over it? Yes. What matters is you, your loved one, and any children there are between you. If your little patchwork family unit is working then you can learn to drown out the negativity of other people. They expect your partner to live for them, be with someone for them, instead of living for themselves. You're both grown ups and it's time to start living to your own standards and not other people's. If you feel positive in your relationship, try not to let other people's disappointment bring you down.
2. SOME PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS SUSPECT THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS THE PRODUCT OF AN AFFAIR.
I discovered this one in a painful and humiliating way when I was publicly referred to as a "home wrecking slut". Whilst my partner and I went to the same school fifteen years ago, we had not been in each other's lives until long after both our marriages ended. Unfortunately, not everyone will believe that. Give all the reasons you need for ending your marriage, but to some people it will all be a lie. To some people, once you come out as a couple with a divorced person, they will see it as finally revealing the truth, however long after the split you got together.
Does it matter? Yes! It's okay to feel hurt and offended and devastated. People who are willing to say things like that without any evidence or justification are completely unreasonable. They're unwilling to accept that maybe, just maybe, you're a decent human being. That your relationship is valid and you both deserve a chance at happiness.
Can you get over it? Yes. They say that when you end a marriage you find out who your true friends are. The ones who bad mouth you, ignore you, and treat you like dirt are the ones you are better off without. It can make you feel miserable, but it's better to know who is worth keeping in your life. You can then enter your new relationship knowing the people you see as friends truly deserve that title.
3. YOU'LL DISCOVER NEW INSECURITIES
Suddenly you're confronted with another person, in my case woman, who is smart, funny, interesting and beautiful. Someone your partner was attracted to, loved, and was loyal to. A woman he loved enough to marry. A woman who gave him his first child. And, if they get on well like my partner and his ex wife do, she will be in your life a lot. They will be sharing the child they raised, sharing inside jokes you don't understand, and she will be the same lovely person she was when he met her and fell in love with her the first time.
Does it matter? No. Is it justified? Yes. It's okay to feel it, to feel insecure and anxious. It's okay to admit you feel that way.
Can you get over it? Yes. For him that relationship is over, but it's okay to address those insecurities together. Having her in your life might not always be simple, but when children are involved it can be a really positive experience. You just all need to understand and respect one another's feelings, and that starts by talking about what those feelings are.
And the most important thing I've learned? If you want it, if you're ready for it, a marriage ending means a new life starting. There IS life after divorce. There IS love after divorce. And there most definitely IS happiness after divorce. It won't be the same as the first time around, but it can be better.
You can check out all my contact info and links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I'm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There's also www.sirenstories.co.uk where you'll find other work from Siren Stories and extra information. My first novel, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, is out now and available on Amazon.