When I first started my adventures in dating (I use the term “adventures” because “Completely Mortifying, Awkward and at Some Moments, Traumatic and Heart-Crushing” seems juuuust a little wordy to be used as an adjective), it was fun to sit around with my girlfriends and try to characterize the type of guy I would/should/wanted to be with. Here was the checklist we came up with:
1. Tall (please lord…no girl likes feeling like a damn amazon woman next to a guy. If we are in a dangerous situation..ie a pack of rabid raccoons is chasing us up a tall tree, I would hope that my guy could scoop me up and come to my rescue and not the other way around.)
2. Handsome – but the cute/grow on you kind of handsome..not the “sexy and I know it” kind of handsome. Been there, done that, he got another girlfriend and forgot to mention it to me.
3. Older – maybe in his early thirties? We all agreed that a lot of single men our age were seriously immature and still trying to figure things out. Which is a nice way of saying that they are all idiots and their brains lie in an area of their anatomy not well-known for it’s good decision-making abilities.
4. Outgoing – I’m a pretty bubbly person. My mom says that when I was little, I had no problem making friends with complete strangers (I can see now, that this particular trait may have caused my parents some anxiety, but it’s served me well so far!) Basically, I like to be surrounded by friends and out doing things. I appreciate some alone time, but definitely need someone who won’t be afraid to meet new people or try new things. This was one reason why Chris (Mr. Fix-It) wasn’t really a perfect match. The guy was perfectly happy staying in on a Friday night, watching a documentary on YouTube about education reform. Yawn.
5. Kids – the girls all agreed. I need to be with someone who absolutely wants children and a few of the girls suggested that my perfect guy could be a young divorecee/widower with a kid/kids of his own. I honestly don’t have a problem with dating someone who has a child as long as there isn’t a whole lot of baby mama drama..and yes. I just said that. I teach 11th graders in a city school. Phrases like that are rapidly (and unfortunately) becoming a part of my vernacular.
And that was pretty much it. Now if only I could find a guy who fit all of those characteristics. Oh wait..I did..*cue big cheesy grin and sigh…Bennett 🙂 except for that whole kid thing, he checked off every one of those boxes.
So where was I before I left you hanging off the edge of the cliff?…oh yes. the “I have something that’s been bothering me” moment with Bennett. My heart simultaneously dropped into my stomach and sat there pounding out a anxious rhythm. I sat down on the couch to brace myself and heard him take a deep breath through the phone.
“So, I’ve told you about my last relationship. The one that lasted four years. Well, I didn’t tell you, but I was actually married before that. For nine years. And I have three kids..girls actually…I have three girls.”
At first, I thought it was a joke. I actually laughed at him. “Come on Bennett, that’s not funny.”
“No..really.” He said slowly. “I’ve been divorced since 2007 and the girls are 6, 12 and 14.”
I sat there..unmoving..taking shallow breaths..my head spinning. “I..I..um..wow. I don’t even know what to say right now. This is just a lot to take in.”
“I know. And that’s why I’m just now telling you. I was afraid of what you would say.” He admitted. “I’ve told women before and they’ve gone running for the hills. It’s been keeping me up at night and I just couldn’t not tell you. I understand if you never want to talk me again.”
I struggled to find the right words and tried to calm my pounding heart. “Look,” I began. “I can see why you wouldn’t have wanted to throw that out there right when we first started talking. I guess it’s just a lot for me to process right now and I want to make sure I figure out how I feel about everything.”
And truthfully, that’s how I felt. A little shell-shocked. A little as though Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out from behind my closet door, shouting that I just got punked. (Not that I would have ANY problem with Ashton Kutcher hiding in my closet..Whew. That man could have two ex wives, three kids and a partridge in a pear tree and I could NOT care less.)
We got off the phone and I couldn’t help but feel defeated. Of course something like this would happen. Silly me for thinking that I could manage to snag a relationship that sailed along this smoothly. Well, this ship just hit its first iceberg.
We didn’t talk for the rest of the day. He sent me a text message that night saying how sorry he was.
Bennett: Are you more upset that I have a past or because I didn’t tell you? I feel awful. My only goal is to make u happy and I am sorry I failed.
Me: I don’t care that you have a past. You can’t make it this far in life without being affected in some way. We all have baggage and past relationships that didn’t work out. I can’t be mad at you for that. But I had a person in my life who probably lied to me every day we were together. I don’t want to be with someone who can’t be honest with me. I really can’t do that again. Just feeling kind of sick about it right now. Sick and sad.
Bennett: I understand. I am sorry. U know that right? Do you need some time?
Me: To be honest, I don’t know what I need. I’m just feeling all mixed up.
Bennett: I’m so sorry. 😦
I took the next few days to think about everything that had just happened. I talked to some friends first and then, since my parents were in town from Georgia, I took the opportunity to talk to my mom and sister. My friends were like “Go for it Julia! Who cares?! So what, he had some kids..he is such a great guy. Are you really going to let him get away just because there are a few snags?” They could totally see why he wouldn’t have been super forthcoming with that information and truthfully, I could understand it too. On a few of my dates, when asked about my previous relationships, I didn’t want to lie and therefore, said that yes, actually I had been engaged before. *Cue the instant planning of my date’s exit strategy. It never failed. It got so bad, that I started avoiding the question all-together. The crazy part of all that, was the fact that I was only engaged. Never married. Never had any kids. I can’t even imagine how tough it is out there for people who have kids or have been married and divorced. I’m a pretty open-minded person and try my hardest not to judge people based on their past, but I do, every once in a while, wonder why the relationship didn’t work out. My friends made me feel better though. They made me not worry about all of these things, but instead, made me remember what a great guy Bennett was and that it would be hard to find someone like that..kids or no kids.
My family, on the other hand, is super protective of me and had some serious concerns about how hard a relationship could be when it meant having to deal with a crazy ex-wife, pretty significant child support payments, and wondering whether or not Bennett would want to get married again or even have any more kids. They were a little more realistic in their concerns and it definitely made me stop and think hard about what I wanted and what I was going to be willing to put up with, if it meant being with the love of my life (not sure that Bennett did indeed fit into this category, but it was something to consider). My sister’s best friend deals with one of these situations and she warned me of the issues that can come from having to deal with a crazy ex. It definitely put things into perspective for me, but in the end..I decided that Bennett just might be worth all the trouble. I was also hoping our trip would help to better define our feelings towards one another and help us decide if we could really make all this work despite the obstacles of distance and his responsibilities to his girls. It was a lot to overcome, but I was really keeping my fingers crossed on this one. It is so cheesy and I can’t believe I am admitting it to you all, but every time the clock would land on the same numbers example: 11:11.. I would make a wish. I wished that I could finally stop looking for my person..That the endless dating disappointments could end. I knew it was going to be tough, but love can do amazing things and I was hopeful. So..so..hopeful.