In today’s post I’ll share some things I learned in my first relationship after my separation of 14 years of marriage. We both made some mistakes, and it only lasted about 9 months. In retrospect, I’ve gained a new awareness about who I am and what I want. Was it difficult to lose someone again? Absolutely. Was there some pain involved? Definitely. But am I scarred? Not even close. I made a conscious choice to let go at the right time, and it opened a new opportunity for exploring the relationship I’m currently in. And I can apply some knew knowledge.
The relationship began perfectly. We had immediate similar interests and really enjoyed each other’s company. Not only was there a big attraction, but we were best friends as well. After about seven months I moved her in. It seemed like the logical thing to do because I have a decent size house with plenty of extra room. I needed a roommate that I could trust with my kids and extra money was something I could use. I knew she was getting ready to look for a new place, so I pitched the idea to her. We both saw the benefits. After a month of discussion we decided to make the plunge.
A month and a half after moving in, she was packing her bags. It ended amicably, but we really haven’t spoken since other than a few texts.
What Changed When She Moved In?
Moving in together rapidly changed the dynamics of our relationship. Much faster than I could have imagined. In retrospect, it’s easy to see what happened, but when you’re in the midst of it, emotions cloud everything. On the surface, it would seem that circumstances led to our downfall, but in the end, the problem ran a lot deeper. I’ll explain…
We were both looking forward to enjoying the summer together. Since I’m a teacher, she moved in right as I was starting summer break. She worked nights, so we could both sleep in as late as we wanted everyday, and then spend time together doing the things we had talked about before she went to work in the evenings.
As soon as she moved in she was offered a promotion at work. She decided to take it. Not only did she have to train someone for her old position, but she was learning her new position as well. Suddenly, our time together went to zilch. She was so tired and stressed from making the transition that she wanted to sleep in even on the days she had off. In the midst of her transition period, she had a 4 day vacation. We had planned a beach trip together and she was so tired she decided to cancel with me.
During this process I learned how different we were. We went almost two weeks at one point with hardly any contact. This was a little difficult for me. A week was fine, and I was understanding of her work schedule. I just found other things to do to keep me busy. But by the second week she didn’t exhibit any signs that indicated she missed our time together. I waited until she had caught up on her sleep and seemed to be in a better mood. I tried to communicate that I needed some time with her, not just physically, but emotionally. It started a pretty big disagreement, besides the disagreement we had over her cancelling our getaway vacation together to spend four days at the beach. I realized then that something was wrong. This was not going to work out in the long run. During the argument it eventually came out that she never had kids or much responsibility and was used to doing what she wanted. Which was true. I had known that, but what I had not seen was how she handled herself under stress and pressure. She turned into a completely different person. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it was just her personality type. When things got busy and the pressure hit, she handled it by watching television and sleeping in. And instead of wanting to recharge with some getaway time together, she wanted to relax and be on her own. It took moving in together to actually see how important this was to her.
I’m not the kind of person to give up too easily, so I waited a few more weeks. Not much changed. I literally had to beg for affection or physical contact. We had a few more arguments and I finally said let’s just end it. It wasn’t going to work. Thankfully, she agreed. She found a new place for herself and was out after a week and a half although I told her she could take a few months to find something new if she needed it.
So what did I really learn through this process? Our problems had nothing to do with our circumstances. The fact that she got a new job wasn’t the problem. Mature couples can work around circumstances. It went deeper. The problem was just that we had completely different personality types.
A part of me wanted to drag it out. We had spoken the day before I ended it and both agreed to that we could probably be okay if we kept going. But the more I thought about it over the next twenty-four hours I knew I had to be true to myself.
The Advice I Had Received and Why I Know it was Dead Wrong
Before I told her it wasn’t going to work out, I got advice from some women at my work. Most of the advice I received told me to be patient. She was busy and I had to be more understanding. She would come around after things settled down at her work. But I finally decided this wasn’t the case. Intuitively, I had received some signs that she wasn’t as affectionate, emotionally or physically, before we moved in together. I didn’t take them too seriously at first because I was simply happy to be in a relationship with someone that had so many other good qualities. But someone’s true personality comes out when the stress and pressures of life hit. When I go through stress, I want to spend time with people in fun situations to make me forget it. I’m also the type that draws closer to my significant other, not further away.
So here’s my advice:
I discovered that my intuition was accurate. After losing someone you’re with for fourteen years, it’s easy to dismiss that intuition. Why? Because I was craving that feeling of having someone again. Someone that I knew had my back, and could work as a team with. Even though my ex wife and I had trouble at the end, it was the idea of us being together I was used to. And that clouded my judgment. It’s a natural human emotion to dismiss our intuitive suggestions. You have that intuitive side for a reason, so treat it with respect.
People Don’t Change
The old adage is true. People don’t change. When you first meet someone that seems perfect, we naturally focus on those qualities, and dismiss any of the negative traits that naturally come up when you spend more time together. If someone is displaying a personality trait that you find is going to be a problem over the long run, don’t think it will disappear with time. More than likely, it’s there to stay and you’re not going to change it. In fact, that trait is going to manifest more strongly over time.
Be Kind to Yourself: Let Go
If you’re unhappy more than you’re happy, it’s not going to work. Let go and jump back into the dating game. There’s always going to be someone else that does work. It’s hard to let go when you feel like you’ve got a relationship again, and the excitement of starting afresh and living with someone all over again can easily get the best of you. But remember, for whatever reason you and the ex separated or divorced, you have great worth.
Be True to Yourself
Ultimately, you know what you want and what you don’t want. If you focus on this, the details of life shouldn’t be overwhelming enough to let you lose sight of who you are and what you need. Of course no one is perfect and you’re always going to have to sacrifice something, but not the very important things. Your overall long-term happiness is too important. While I could have easily let a fear of not being able to find someone else better stand in my way, I refused to do so. Most of us have fears like this if we’re honest with ourselves. As a thirty-nine year old single dad of two children, it’s a lot harder finding someone to settle down that fits your criteria. But I’m not going to let that fact keep me in something that I’m not totally happy with.