Some days I’m convinced divorce has ruined me. Me, the person. Altered me for the worse, leaving me bitter. Other days, I’m certain divorce has changed me for the better, making me a more compassionate, more determined, and more focused individual. And if bitterness visits occasionally, it does not own my heart.
Naturally, my truth lies somewhere in the middle. Any significant life event tests our mettle and changes us. Some change we deem positive – keener judgment, greater independence, appreciation for the essentials – and some we recognize as anything but; perhaps we become excessively self-protective, scared of taking emotional risks, or cynical.
But here is one thing I know for sure: I am not among the emotionally needy. I know this as I observe other adults and compare my habits to theirs, as I examine my past, and also, as I imagine my future.
I realize this by the amount of time I spend alone – of necessity, and to some degree by choice.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have needs.
With parenting duties soon to shift, I begin reconfiguring my schedule and my attitude, taking a close look at my nature, my evolving preferences, my constraints (we all have them), and what I really want out of a relationship.
I need a man, I want a man (I need a woman, I want a woman)
Do you know your wants versus needs? Are you clear on the distinction between wanting and needing a man or woman in your life?
In a strange way, I’ve always needed a good man – and I have no problems saying so. But it isn’t necessarily in the way that a man might think. And that’s part of the dilemma – men and women use the same words, but our intentions are slightly different, as is our understanding. After all, we come at issues and language with the viewpoint of our gender-based nature and experience.
In another way, I’ve always wanted a good man – the pleasure of our varying perspectives, the exuberant exchange of sexual energy, the presence of a partner to count on.
And if a man were to enter my life and expect me to enter his? What might that look like? How would I have to compromise the routine that has kept me going? Would it be an improvement? A distraction? Detrimental? Would I have enough “self” to give to him?
Or has divorce made me into a loner?
Time and timing
When you’re busy raising children and earning a living, a lack of time to socialize means it’s harder to meet people, and if you do encounter someone of interest, it’s harder to sustain a relationship which, of course, takes time.
As I get older, I realize that I am quite comfortable being alone – and always have been. I crave a certain sort of “alone time” – a break from juggling single parenting and work. But it’s something more; I don’t need the reassurance of other opinions to validate me, though I value the input of those whom I respect.
Yet when you are alone, there’s no one to help out when you’re feeling ill, when the hot water heater floods the basement, when the tire is flat – and only the kindness of a stranger (or your credit cards, again) can get you out of a jam.
And what about when you’re feeling loving, when you have good news to share, when you want to celebrate the beauty of a spring afternoon? Is picking up the phone to talk to a friend sufficiently satisfying?
Assessing relationship options
As I assess my relationship options – given my age, where I live, the inherent isolation in the way I make my living, the ages of my children – I recognize that I don’t need another person to be content. But I want all the pleasures – and yes, dilemmas – of sharing my world with someone special.
I consider it a sign of my own mental health that I’ve steered clear of both friends and lovers whose emotions would consume me – those who need constant communication, my full attention, or require my reassurance. These traits would have been incompatible with the realities of my post-divorce life.
I am fine with my own company and counsel; I see this as the way I’ve always been, reinforced by my past 10 years. No doubt, my upbringing is also a factor – an upbringing in which I learned to build protective walls. Yet I would willingly welcome another adult into my world, and hope for the capacity to compromise in order to make it work for both of us.
- Has divorce changed you?
- Have other events affected what you want in a romantic relationship?
- Is your self-esteem dependent on the opinions of others?
- Is there such a thing as “too” independent?
- Are you emotionally needy?
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