When my mom was a teenager she faced what any child fears, divorce. And my mom’s parents had a nasty one. The kind that drives a wedge into your family. The kind that takes decades to overcome. The kind that haunts you into your own years of parenthood. I grew up learning the importance of finding true love before marriage and how devastating divorce can be.
For the majority of my dating years, divorced men and men with children were marked off my list. I figured I didn’t have the experience to relate nor emotionally support someone with that kind of baggage. I naively felt that men who were divorced couldn’t maintain a commitment and men with children were irresponsible or too fertile for me. (Naive being the operative word here.) It wasn’t until my last relationship ended that I decided I needed to review my ‘perfect’ formula for appropriate eligible bachelors. I was largely inspired by my devastating and unexpected breakup in what was a seemingly perfect relationship. More-so, I was inspired by his parents. They were two people on the 2nd and 3rd marriage, blended with children and different last names, but more love than I had ever felt from any family outside of my own. They adored each other and the kids were best friends. They were #beautifullyblended.
I knew I needed that kind of love for my life if I was ever going to fully commit myself to a man. (At the time I was married to my career, a large part of why my relationships seemed to fail.) I realized that maybe I needed to pay attention to emotional needs rather than punish a man for his mistakes.
Thanks to this epiphany, the first man I dated swept me off my feet and now we’re happily married. It wasn’t always easy (it never is). Getting to know his ex-wife, seeing his daughter breakdown as she struggled with feeling torn between two worlds, helping him let go of all the hurt that came before me…was not easy. I witnessed a version of what my mom went through as a child first hand with my (now) stepdaughter. I just couldn’t bear it. I had never experienced anything like it, but despite my fears I was equipped to handle it.
Our first year of dating I had a vision for our future. One of peace and harmony that included his ex-wife and her new family. He thought I was bat shit insane. This wasn’t prompted within me because I’m a good natured saint. I’m a genuinely good person, but I’m no Mother Theresa.
Reese and I had a day date shortly into Nathan and my relationship. We did hair, nails, and I gave her all sorts of fun beauty trinkets. Apparently she had so much fun with me, she couldn’t stop talking about me at her mom’s house. It made such an impression that the next time Nathan and I dropped Reese off, her mom wanted to meet me. I, being a total newb to all of this, shook her hand with sweaty palms and tried to force teeth through my nervous smile. I had a wave of emotions run through me, but more than anything, I felt good about the initiative she took and where we could head with this.
So I guess you could say she started it and because she did, I was able to help my (now) husband forgive and let go of the past so we could all grow together. I don’t want to be misleading here, it didn’t happen overnight. It started small with me giving them eggs from my parents’ chickens, to Nathan giving her vegetables from his dad’s garden, to Reese’s mom asking to see photos of all three of us from our wedding. Then once we got married, we all grew closer…way closer. We had dinner at their house for Reese’s birthday and had so much fun together we’d forgotten we were there for Reese. That was when I realized, you don’t just do this for the kids, you do it for yourself. When you have a genuine friendship with your ex, that transcends to your children far better than a forced relationship ever will. It wasn’t long before we were sharing a condo together over the summer and spending holidays together.
It’s not perfect, we still have our differences, but we’ve learned to choose our battles and support one another. I wouldn’t have it any other way.