IMG_4375 (1)Today is 8/14/2017. 12 Years ago today, I said “I do”. I have now been officially divorced for nearly 9 months and was separated for about 6 months prior to the divorce. In the 15 months that I’ve been an independent woman, I’ve both experienced some of the worst and best times of my life. Through it, I’ve allowed myself to feel every single emotion, which has helped me significantly in the healing process. As is evidenced by the number of views on my post Face of Divorce, which was probably the most raw post I’ve written, I think people appreciate these emotions. I have had 492 views on that post, and I only have 485 friends on Facebook (perhaps I’ve lost some since posting?). I realize that while I had a lot of raw difficult emotions and struggles to post about during my divorce, I’ve posted a lot less after the divorce was final. This is not evidence of a perfect life after my divorce. My struggles have simply shifted. I am now navigating the waters of being a single woman co-parenting 2 children with someone I have a difficult time having conversations with, working full time, and in a relatively new relationship. I want very much to share these struggles. Part of parenting is to make decisions like, for instance, to keep my children’s privacy as a priority so they can decide for themselves in the future if they want to live an open-to-the-public type of life. I could post about the struggles I face surrounding my work-life balance and my desire to continue pursuing further education and simply trying to navigate the delicacy of that. Perhaps I will find more reason to post on that later. I’ve also been learning what it’s like to be in a new relationship again, as I’ve been seeing someone for several months. I’ve struggled through understanding my emotions and how my past has affected the way I react to situations within this relationship. However, the man I’m seeing isn’t one to post much on social media, so I have decided to also respect his privacy when I blog. I also feel that keeping our relationship between us (not posting relationship status updates or posting on each others social media, etc.) has helped keep our communication open between us and not a public event. I personally find relationship posts to be a bit overwhelming and have even un-followed individuals on social media that have too many posts by or about their significant others eating precious space and time on my social media feed. When I say relationship posts, I’m specifically talking about posts that could simply be messages to one another or said to the significant other directly, rather than posting publicly.

For now, I want to follow up on some of the subjects I’ve discussed before. Some of the struggles I’ve faced and how it feels to be on the other side of them. The other side isn’t always roses and rainbows. There are times I am having a conversation with someone feeling good about life, and I will suddenly wonder why my ex-husband and I couldn’t make things work. I still wonder why I wasn’t good enough. I have to take time to walk out of that train of thought. There are many reasons my marriage didn’t work and I cannot blame it all on my ex, and I cannot take all of the blame. The reality is it takes 2. It takes two individuals to actively work on showing each other love and grace and forgiveness for a relationship to work and somewhere along the way, that was lost in the marriage with my ex.

During my divorce, I had hardened myself to the idea of getting involved in another relationship, ever, and posted The Single Life about my feelings on it. I thought that I would never find someone with similar interests academically and professionally who would be interested in me because I am not a standard type of beauty. I thought if anybody was interested in me, that I perhaps wouldn’t be interested in them. It was a humbling experience to meet a man that I was genuinely interested in and realize I WAS open to dating again. I realized I was stronger than I thought when I opened myself up to the idea, knowing there was a possibility of getting hurt. The mere thought of telling someone that I was interested in them after having not dated in over a decade was terrifying. Waiting for his response felt like an eternity of falling – waiting to hit the pavement. All of this, those feelings, the struggle of opening up in a way I told myself I never would again, led to a moment where I found out he shared the interest in getting to know me, and the feeling of falling switched to a feeling that I was walking on clouds. Nothing could bring me down at that point. As we’ve gotten to know one another I’ve frequently doubted myself and he gives me reassurance and I’m learning how to communicate effectively within a relationship. He’s helped me see my value again, and has been very encouraging of my professional goals. I waited a few months before introducing him to my parents and children, partially because I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation and frankly I was a little scared having come out of a divorce, because clearly I know how things can get bad. Learning and growing in a relationship with someone that has similar passions, convictions, and goals has opened my eyes to why my marriage  to my ex could have never worked. Because of the marriage I had with my ex, I have such a deep appreciation for how important it is to be in a relationship with someone I am aligned with on all of the important things in life and I can be open with. Once again, it is because of my struggles that I’ve grown and found the happiness I didn’t know was available for me. I now realize that for not a single moment of a day should anybody settle when it comes to happiness. It is out there and everybody deserves it.

I still struggle with societal and religious norms. I have always been a bit different than traditional. Growing up, many girls picture their wedding days and plan for them for years. I, on the other hand, had no interest in imagining my wedding day and into my teenage years assumed I would never get married. Not because I actively wanted to be different than traditional, but because I didn’t see the value in marriage. I saw my parents go through a divorce when I was quite young and didn’t understand why in a society where half of marriages end in divorce, marriage meant anything anymore. People rush into marriage at a young age, or without taking the time to really get to know the other person with the assumption that because they feel love early in a relationship they’ll continue to feel love “forever”. As an adult in retrospect, I do see a value in marriage for people who value marriage. I see how it gives people stability. I, on the other hand, like to believe that if I am in a relationship where I fully trust someone like I would want to in a marriage, that I should be able to fully trust them in a committed relationship without a marriage. I don’t believe that means I’m any less committed.

My idea on relationships is something that most people who share the same faith basis I have find difficulty in understanding. The Bible is very clear about relationships and “living in sin” outside of marriage, etc. While my boyfriend and I have not moved in together (because despite what some people think 7 months is WAY TOO EARLY for that) and are not “living in sin”, I will always live with the fact that I am a sinner. I have sinned. I left a marriage. We were both believers. I have come to terms with this and know that there is nothing I can do to earn my place in heaven, because it is only through Jesus that I could possibly get there. Perhaps one could say my desire to not be married again is because my heart has been hardened, and maybe that is right. I would offer, though, that perhaps we’re not all meant to live within a specific box. Perhaps the world is made with different people and different life styles because we all have different things to learn while we’re here. Maybe there is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a committed relationship that does not lead to marriage. I’ve learned that I am personally OK with my decisions and my sins and my life style. I am proud of the struggles I’ve conquered and the person I am today. I am not ashamed of who I am or the choices I make, and I don’t have to apologize to anybody or the church because of it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I will go to Hell. I guess that’s between me and God.

All of that said, I think it is important to be with someone who has the same values as you. If you, like me, don’t want to get married for instance, and you’re in a relationship with someone that does, someone will eventually get hurt. I believe that when it comes to big things like marriage and children, if there are large differences in opinion between the 2 in a relationship, one of you will give in to make the other happy (the only way to compromise in a situation where you do something or don’t) and you will either lose yourself, or resent the other person. That is the last thing anybody should want for themselves or for someone they love. Instead, I think it is important that people be willing to walk away. If you care about someone, you should want them to be with someone who has their same values. If you allow yourself to walk away, you will allow yourself a chance to find someone whose values align with yours. I don’t think it’s fair to try to change somebody’s values or to change your values to make someone else happy. I do sacrifice for those I love. I am not saying I refuse to compromise. What I am saying, though, is I would rather be alone than be in a relationship where I’ve sacrificed my values or opinions. I’ve been in that situation before. It doesn’t feel good. It leads to great suffering within the relationship and internally. It is important to value yourself enough to know you are worth everything you want out of a relationship, and it is worth it to wait for somebody who can give that to you. This is my opinion. I realize many people may have differing opinions and I can appreciate that. Let’s just say, I’d probably rather be alone than marry them.

This was a very long relationship-centered follow up to some of my prior posts on the day that would have been my wedding anniversary. My struggles will continue, which is a blessing because that means I will continue to learn.

~Struggling Bonnie