Friday, October 22, 2010

Dating - Or Not

I did something crazy this week.  I signed up at an online dating site. 

Within 12 hours I had received an email that some gentleman was asking for a photo of me. Once I got past my shock that my being a homeschooling mom of four didn't scare him off, I clicked on the link to see what kind of man this was.  To my surprise, this information was going to cost me.  The smallest amount of money I could pay right now to join and find out more about this gentleman was close to $50.

Uh, no.  I am not that desperate nor that curious.  And suddenly, I think maybe I don't want to do this online dating thing after all.

This whole experience was quite eye-opening.  There are apparently people out there who will spend large amounts of money (anywhere from $50 for one month to close to $300 for a 12-month membership) to find someone to spend time with and possibly marry.  I actually know three men who have used the same site that I signed up with.  Interestingly enough, not one of them is married as a result.

While I would like to think that online dating  is just another phenomenon brought about by our high-tech society,  I don't think this is the case.  For many years, people have paid matchmakers to find them a match.  This is just a new take on that old system.

Is this the best way to find someone to spend one's life with?  And will these matches made by a computer be more immune to divorce than other marriages?

I don't think so.  I think divorce is a direct outcome of our society's dating practices.

How so? 

Dating tends to lead to serial monogomy.  You date one person for a while, and when that person annoys you or the thrill has worn off, you move on.  Unfortunately, the attitude that "there are plenty more fish in the sea, and I have the right to find one that makes me happier" can carry over into marriage.  It may be deeply buried, but when this has become a person's way of thinking, it doesn't change the moment the wedding vows are exchanged.

Since I have teenagers, I need to figure out what the alternatives are to dating.  Right now, my 16-year-old is doing what we call "Family Dating."  She has a boyfriend, but the two of them only spend time together under the watchful eyes of their parents and siblings or at well-chaperoned church youth activities. 

We considered courtship, but without an involved father, the traditional models of courtship will not work well. 

I have joked with my kids for years that we would be doing arranged marriages, but I don't think they are going to go for that.

So what other alternatives are there, both for my kids and for me?  Is dating okay for a divorcee? 

What do you think?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Little Things

It's the little things that matter. 

Yesterday, a dear friend went to Lowe's with me and bought the supplies to do some much-needed repairs around my home.  Unfortunately, he had to go home before the repairs were made.

So this morning, I decided to tackle the toilet repair.  It has been leaking for the past month or more, at first just a little bit, but lately there has been a steady trickle of water in the tank.

It took me much longer than it would've taken my friend, but I did it!  I replaced the flapper valve all by myself.  Well, almost by myself.  My son watched and encouraged and handed me things.  There is still a minor glitch (I think I need to figure out how to shorten the chain), but no more leak!

The next project I tackeld was the bathroom door.  This door has been the bane of my existence for the past few years.  It keeps falling off its hinges.  I've made several attempts at repairing it.  Some of them have held for a month or two, but none have totally fixed it.  The last repair attempt ended in a burst of creativity:

"Hey kids, it doesn't matter if the door won't shut tightly!  Just push the magazine basket up against it to hold it shut while you are in there."

So for months, the magazine basket has acted as a doorstop when the door is shut.  Today I tackled the door again.  I haven't finished the repair, because my arms got tired trying to screw in screws over my head, and my patience with the child who was helping to hold the door while I made the repair was wearing thin, so I took a break.  But I think this time it may work.  At least the door will shut tightly now.

Little repairs like these are probably no big deal to some people, but to a single woman who doesn't really know anything about tools or how to use them, this is a major triumph.   It makes me want to sing "I am woman, hear me roar," or something like that.  At the very least, it convinces me that I can do this job of single mom for a little while longer.

It's the little things that matter!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Ending

I started dating someone a few months ago.  It was a long distance relationship, so much of our "dating" was done by phone. 

Tonight that relationship ended.

So now I am back in recovery mode. Sigh.  Sometimes it seems like I will always be in recovery from one relationship or another.  Sometimes it seems like all my relationships with the opposite sex are doomed to end, especially since I don't seem to know how to do relationships with men anymore.

Maybe I just need more time.  Or maybe I need lessons on dating. 

Honestly, I have come to realize lately that I enjoy my own company and the company of my children just fine.  I don't really need a man in my life.  Sometimes, though, I am lonely for male companionship.  The perspective men offer on life can be interesting and eye-opening, so I hate to shut off that possibility entirely.

I guess I really haven't.  One of my best friends is a guy who lives 4 or 5 hours away.  He is great to talk to, but he is too far away to hang out with.  I think I need a local friend like that, one who understands what I've been through, what it's like to be a single parent, and who is only interested in friendship, who can hang out with me occasionally.  I wonder if such a man exists?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Dream

If you are divorced, I have a quick exercise for you.  Without stopping to think deeply about it, list three things you miss most now that you aren't married anymore.

Now look at your list and ponder this:  Did you really have those things in your marriage?  If you are like me, the things on your list may have never been present in your marriage, or they may have gone missing long before you separated from your spouse.

Why is this?

My guess is that each of us harbors a Dream of what marriage is like when it works.  No matter how many years we are married, and no matter how unrealistic that Dream, we still want to believe that it exists.

Where does this Dream come from? 

I'm sure that the media has something to do with it.  Possibly our families of origin also contributed to it.  Did your parents read you fairy tales when you were young, where the prince and princess get married and live happily ever after?  Maybe you read the grown-up version of those fairy tales (occasionally known as romance novels) even now.  Did your parents shelter you from the anxious moments and friction in their marriage?

No matter where the Dream comes from, it is painful when it runs headlong into reality.  I think that maybe this is where some marriages survive and even thrive while others die.  The ones where reality is accepted and dealt with make it, but the ones where one or both partners reject reality and continue to demand that the Dream come true will fail.

Is this part of growing up, to learn to accept and even embrace reality when it doesn't line up with the Dream? 

I think it is.  What do you think?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Top Ten Times When It's Not Fun to Be a Single Parent

Being a single parent isn't easy.  But sometimes it's more difficult than others.  So today I think I will list the times when I don't enjoy being a single mom.

1.  When a child pukes.  I have never been able to handle barf.  My ex was in charge of that.  Fortunately, as the kids get older, they do much better at throwing up only where they are supposed to.

2.  When my oldest son needed to learn to shave.  I have plenty of experience with shaving legs, but that wasn't good enough for my son, and he banished me from the bathroom.  Somehow, though, his sister's less extensive leg-shaving experience impressed him, and he let her come in and advise him...well, for a while.  Then he kicked her out and figured it out on his own.

3.  When two or more of my kids have different activities in different places at the exact same time.  My ex got the cloning machine in the divorce, apparently, because I haven't beeen able to find it since he left.  Oh wait.  I couldn't find it when he was here, either.

4.  When my daughter wants to learn to drive.  I haven't tackled this one yet, but since she turned 16 this summer, it is coming.  I wonder how much longer I will be able to stay too busy to take her to get her permit? 

5.  When I have an opportunity to do something out of town without my kids.  Until recently, those opportunities have been a nightmare of trying to find babysitting, but lately, I have been blessed by ex-in-laws who are willing to have my four kids come stay with them for a few days or even a week at a time.

6.  When my teenaged son acts like, well, a teenaged boy.  It would be great not to have to remind my son that I am the alpha dog in the house.  For that matter, it would be nice not to be the alpha dog.

7.  When we attend family-style events.  This is especially true of homeschooling or church events, where most of the families attending are traditional two-parent families.  Even if dads aren't actually present, their presence is felt.  Moms tell their kids, "No, your dad wouldn't like you to do that," or "We have to hurry home to get dinner on the table before Dad arrives home."  I remember when I said those kinds of things.

8.  When we are at an event and it is time to leave.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to round up four very sociable kids on your own?  It's like herding cats!  I find three, realize one is missing, so the others go off to look for him, and then the missing child shows up with one of his siblings, but the other two are missing, and I don't want to send the two I have back out to hunt for those two....  Much easier with two parents!

9. When we go camping, although not so much on this one anymore.  But I have to admit, it's good to have friends camping nearby to help with minor glitches, like an awning that collapses in the night or the need to batten down the hatches for a storm.

10.  When it is late at night and all my kids are in bed and I am all alone.  It would be so nice to have an adult here to unwind with!

Honestly, though, I have been blessed with an amazing support group that makes being a single parent much easier than it could be.  God is good, and despite the minor inconveniences, He has made our family of five a joy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Real Men; Real Dads

I need to applaud a very special group of people today:  Single dads.

When I was 10, my parents divorced.  Within a few years my dad rarely took advantage of his visitation rights.  Unfortunately, that pattern seems to be repeating itself with my kids and my ex-husband, although he at least has the excuse that he lives six hours away.

However, in the past few years, I have become aware of some pretty amazing dads.  They are the dads who, although no longer married to their children's mothers, are still very involved with their kids. 

One of my friends has 50/50 custody with his wife.  This limits where he can live, as he has to stay in his children's school district, and that in turn might place some limits on relationship or career choices for him.  But he does this cheerfully because his children matter more to him than anything else.

Another accquaintance has custody of his daughters.  I can't imagine that it is easy for a man to parent teenaged daughters on his own, but he is doing it, and doing a good job of it, from what I can see. 

My own brother is a divorced dad, and although for many years he was an "every-other-weekend" dad, he never missed an opportunity to be with his son.  He took my nephew on every one of his vacations, and often extended his weekends when they ended with a holiday.  When my nephew turned 16, he moved in with my brother, and I am impressed with the positive effect my brother has had in his son's life.

In my Divorce Care group last week I was thrilled to hear several of the dads, some of them with very young children, brainstorming ways that they can stay involved with their children now that they aren't living with them any longer.  These men are determined not to lose the precious relationships they have with their offspring, and they will go to great lengths to maintain those ties.

Being a single mom isn't easy, but people are quick to offer help.  I have to wonder, though, if single dads get this same type of support?  I hope they do.

These men are real men, real dads, and they have my admiration.  Hats off to you, involved single dads!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Speaking the Truth

My counselor pinpointed one of my character traits one day in one of those blinding epiphanies that happen ever so rarely in a person's lifetime. 

She said, "You are a Truth-teller."

It was as if a bolt of lightning had hit me.  I knew that what she said was right, and that it defined the very core of who I am.  There is nothing that will make me more uncomfortable than a lie.

Being a truth-teller is a good thing.  Look at Ephesians 4:25

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body...

However, earlier in Ephesians 4, there is another verse about truth.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:15

This chapter is centered on the unity of the Body of Christ.  This verse refers to speaking the truth in love.

Uh oh.

I've always been great at speaking the truth, but doing it in love?  Well, not so much.  I can recall some pretty horrible things that I've said to my ex-husband in the past few years that, while true, were not said in a very loving way. 

To be very honest, I am just now learning how to love him enough to pray for him.  Well, that isn't entirely true.  I have been praying for him all along.  It's just that now my prayers aren't always based on those Psalms that call down tragedy on the heads of the enemy.  Now I am learning to pray that he will someday repent and draw close to God again.

And I am praying that I will continue to learn to speak the truth in love, even to my ex-husband. Maybe you could pray for me as I learn this hard lesson.

May God's grace and mercy always inform the truth that comes from my mouth!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Flipside

About a week ago, in my post called Forgiveness, I wrote about the danger of hating, or at least not trusting, everyone of the opposite sex as a result of a divorce.  Now I'll tell you about the flipside of that.

I have a friend who was divorced about the same time as I was, under circumstances that were similar to mine.  This friend is a wonderful Christian man, except for one thing. 

He keeps jumping into relationships with women.

To the casual observer, there would seem to be nothing wrong with his behavior.  After all, he is divorced on biblical grounds and has every right to move on with his life.

But to those who care about my friend, there is something wrong.  He hasn't given himself time to heal from his divorce, so he is vulnerable.  When he meets a woman and they seem to be attracted to one another, he allows his heart to get too involved too quickly.  Then when the relationship fizzles, my friend is hurt badly.

I know someone else who made this same mistake, only she ended up hurting more than herself.  That person is me.

At the time of my divorce, I was lonely and feeling pretty down about myself.  I had two single male friends from college days whom I had been spending time with, either online or in person.  One of these friends, it seemed, was everything my ex-husband was not, and without realizing it, I lost my heart to him.  Unfortunately for me, his understanding of what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage would not allow him to get involved with me. Fortunately, he was able to explain this to me very gently, and we are still friends.

The other friend, with whom I occasionally enjoyed dinner and a movie, was the unknowing victim of my double rebound from my divorce and the one-sided relationship with the man I had lost my heart to.  We started down the road to romance, but I figured out within a couple months that this relationship wasn't meant to be anything more than a friendship.  In the process, I hurt my friend.

I think the cure for this mistake is to guard one's heart during and after a divorce. 

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23.

The best way to guard one's heart is also found in scripture:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I think that the mistake we often make when we've been divorced is to let our anxiety about whether we will ever be loved again overwhelm our hearts.  Instead of resting in the peace of God, we decide to pursue what we think we need to be happy.  But if we are quiet and wait on Him, He will give us peace and the reassurance we need.

Friday, October 1, 2010

More Waiting

I sent off my query and proposal to the literary agent.  Why do I feel queasy?