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Loving After Divorce

After the Cinderella Story: Revisiting What It Means to Love After Divorce

Any day now, my divorce will be official, and ironically, one month from now, it would have been our six-year anniversary. It took us two separations and a little over one year to get to this point, but here we are. Yet even with all the anger, sadness, and heartache that came to this ending, I still remember that blushing bride who walked down the aisle with her handwritten vows ready to share with her husband-to be. My ex-husband is a shy and quiet man, so I was expecting his vows to be three words and done. He shocked me by having a well-thought-out reply of vows that he whispered to me while crying.

I still remember our first dance with him and the joy on his face when we danced with our friends like sillies and ate our heart out. I had heard other couples didn't stop to eat at their weddings, and so I refused to go the same way. I remember him carrying me into our hotel room over the "threshold." And I remember the Jacuzzi in our room and all of the moments that went along with it. And I won't ever forget those moments. I won't ever forget the love I had. If I forget, I might end up forgetting what it took to get me here as Laura, single divorced mom, and I don't want to do that.

I like who I have become . . . and what has happened to Cinderella, even though the ending didn't match my gown and slippers.

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But if you ask me today if that naive blonde who walked down the aisle is the same one as the mother who "stands" in her place, I would say no.

That eager girl had bought into the whole white picket fence dream. I was going to be a wife! Yes! Everything was awesome because someone else finally loved me . . . and I loved him. And how much did it matter that someone had finally said yes to me? Greatly. I was trodden down by low self-esteem that was just beginning to blossom into some confidence when I met my ex-husband, and I wanted to be loved, badly. Was there anything wrong with wanting that dream? That happily ever after? No. There wasn't.

That 32-year-old girl wanted to be saved by love. But today, this woman doesn't need to be saved. I don't need Prince Charming anymore. I don't need some man to come on down with his princely wand and zap me saying, "BAM! You're whole!"

I am whole and happy all on my own. Of course, it would be nice to have a partner in crime, but I don't want a man to come into my life to take care of me. I don't want a man to come into my life and try to "tidy me up" and change me. I want a man to come into my life and love me at face value. To come and join me for the ride, wherever it takes us. I don't care if he's perfect. I just want someone who makes this journey for me better. A person who when he walks into my life, instantly brightens it by being a part of my world.

I have said goodbye to the perfect ideas of marriage and relationships. I know now that relationships ebb and flow. That they require work and change. That a happy marriage is the kind of marriage in which two people invest time in not only each other, but also themselves as people. That each relationship and marriage is different. That harsh words cannot be unsaid. That distance does not make the heart grow fonder. That anger does not get anyone anywhere, besides on two separate seats in front of a mediator or a judge.

That I was lovely but flawed the way I was as I walked down the aisle to greet him . . . and that he should have loved me for me instead of trying to make me into his version of Laura.

Whether the next man I am involved with has three kids or none . . . whether he is an accountant or a teacher . . . 30 or 40 years old . . . I know exactly what I want from him. I'm not talking the vague stuff that everyone says like "have a job" and "be nice," but that today, I know who I am and what I want. That if a man is interested and wants to break out what he has to offer on the table . . . I've got just as much and then some to bring to the table too! I didn't believe that when I first met my ex-husband, but I believe it now.

When I think of my marriage vows, I know that I meant them then. Today? I think they were full of idealized love and romantic notions about marriage. Notions that I hope to have again. Those vows were vows that, at times, I did not always uphold in the marriage, but I did the best I could. Did he? Only he can answer that. I can't. But if I could redo my vows today, I would have asked my ex-husband, "Do you love me for me? Or who you want me to be? Do you need me in your life? Or are you just worried that if you don't get married today, you'll never get married at all?"

I don't know if I will ever love again or become someone's legal Mrs. I don't know if a fulfilling commitment has to look like a traditional marriage for me . . . ever again. Maybe it will. I have not shut myself off to any of the possibilities, and I'm not bitter. Although I wonder if someone is indeed out there for me, there is still that kernel of hope that grows stronger each day hoping that one day, I will find someone worth sharing my life with.

Until then, this tattered Cinderella is OK that she's been jettisoned out of her glass slippers and mansion with a child in tow. It's freeing to be on your own two threadbare feet.

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