I woke up at my home one morning, where I still raise my 11-year-old child, to find a man’s shoes parked beside my bed.
My house is the sanctuary I have worked hard to create and keep safe since my husband died.
I made plans with the sitter to have my child for a night at her place. I am always grateful when she does that.
The man who proactively asked, “Can we see each other, and only each other?” spent the evening checking out my pad after weeks of me spending nights at his place. He has no children living with him, which made his place the designated location for getting intimate and getting to know one another.
I’m glad to see that we’ve evolved to the point where we no longer keep a low profile about displaying feelings for one another. It appears we got past having fears and reservations about getting to know each other more profoundly than just the physical connection.
We met online. It was my “somethingth” time in the online dating arena—by that time, I’d altered how I operate in the online dating world and what to expect. It’s been three years since my husband died. It took almost a year to start dating again, and I’ve had some practice since.
Since the get-go, I have chosen not to be a revolving door to men in front of my child. I’m still protective and care very much what their innocent eyes watch me do since Daddy died. I date outside my house. I don’t bring it home.
Don’t all single parents do the same thing? Don’t they date outside the house, have intimate relations out there, and not bring the relationship to the awareness of the child—unless it becomes serious?
As I was saying, dating while raising your children full-time as the sole parent can lead one to become quite flexible with timing and availability—down to a science! For example, you may choose not to date anyone who lives with small children, or anyone who doesn’t have children because “they don’t get it.” You may declare other conditions along the way, and those conditions can change as you go about your life trying to move on.
Then the sun rays peek through the clouds, and you meet someone.
And not just anyone. Things change, and suddenly, you see butterflies and rainbows, and the song of birds chirping fills the atmosphere, and you, with the utmost glee…
…and then the f*cking shoe drops and you’re right back to square one.
Or, maybe not. Maybe, finally, you can pay attention to the things that helped you drop your guard in the first place.
I stared at the side of my bed where he parked his shoes and took a picture. Here’s why.
He asked to date exclusively. He asked if he could be my boyfriend. He wanted full disclosure as to how we both were going to proceed, and we were honest about what we both ultimately wanted. He made sure there would be no mystery as to how we both felt about each other.
Most importantly, in the short time we have dated, I have no doubts as to how to label our relationship and what we are to each other. (This is something that doesn’t come around so often.)
Vague communication is annoying—it leaves far too much room for interpretation. More specifically, since my husband died, I’d dated guys for far longer than four months who were shocked when I thought they were my boyfriend, despite spending lots and lots of time together. True story!
I looked at the side of my bed and noticed his shoes parked there, and as I took that picture, I was suddenly reminded about the high standards I’d always kept with regards to dating, ones that had earned my husband check marks in essential ways. He, too, had wanted to date me exclusively. He also wanted to call me his girlfriend, and then ultimately, his wife—that realization hit me hard.
Falling in love with my husband was a no-brainer. How he felt about me was never a mystery.
It’s sad to say that in my two years of swimming the sea of singlehood, I’d lost my capacity to drop my guard and go with the flow. I have held back having feelings. After my loss, I began to date while having baggage, and I dated others who also had baggage—and we were each protective of our baggage.
Perhaps it’s the baggage we carry that keep us all so guarded, maybe even jaded.
So we lose faith. We expect the person to last for a few moments, and then to be left adrift again in the sea of, “Well, that was fun while it lasted.”
And while our baggage keeps us guarded, time can make us more lenient in our standards—after all, we have to coordinate dating with work and parenting and everything else. Perhaps we end up seeking the moments rather than the whole relationships. We expect things to come to an end.
But my husband hadn’t left me. He died. So how am I supposed to open up again after that experience?
I stared at the shoes parked beside my bed and realized why I’d invited this new man to spend the night at my house, inside the sacred, protected sanctuary I’ve built for my child and me.
I felt safe.
This man took off his baggage and showed me what I needed to see. I did the same for him. It’s been four months, and this is still true in our relationship.
It’s the first time I was able to let go of my guard.
I stared at the shoes parked beside the bed, and finally—I smiled.