This is something I don't quite know how to explain. Do other people feel this way? I think not. It would seem not, anyway, when you look at all the people getting divorced and seeming to be thrilled about it. These are the people with blended families, who date previously marrieds without any visible signs of distress. Like it is totally normal.
Now don't get me wrong- there were many layers of reasons in my fight to avoid divorce. I 'fought' for my marriage for a lot of what I thought were 'noble' reasons; mainly to keep my children's family intact. I had many other, more practical reasons that will unfold during the course of this blogging journey. However, I knew that there was something else about me. This something actually made staying in a roller coaster marriage (see my bio) a lot more palatable. During the marriage and the divorce process, I didn't even realize how this was affecting me. Even when I finally did I couldn't really articulate it. Perhaps that's why I've never heard or read of anyone who has shared this.
I like to be first.
I'm competitive. I'm more competitive than you are.
There, I said it. I knew, that if X and I ended up divorced, someday I might date again. At my age there would be very few men who had not been married or in a long term relationship. An on again off again marriage with a partner who didn't love me was actually a more attractive option than ending up as a second round draft pick on somebody else's team. I told you it was weird. Believe me, now that I've really thought about this, I agree.
X hadn't dated much in high school. He'd dated a girl in college, but that was after we'd already become friends. I already knew X liked me and I liked X. We both thought we were meant for one another, although we never would admit it at that point. Each of us was kind of waiting for the right time. When X found out that my nearly two year relationship was over, he actually offered to break up with his girlfriend. I counseled against that, but pretty soon, the stars aligned and there we were off to the altar.
All the happy dating memories were ours, all the shared friends, all the fun inside jokes. His past was my past, pretty much. Never mind the subsequent years of garbage- 30 years ago it was great, dammit.
Does anyone else have feelings like this? If so, please comment! I've never heard or read about anyone attributing part of their divorce reluctance to an extreme case of 'me first.' I was an only child, so that might be part of it. I was the ONLY focus of my parent's lives, and obviously that was my normal. Also, by romanticizing the first phase of our relationship, I was unable/unwilling to shine a light on what the current phase was really like.
Since I moved into a committed relationship pretty quickly with a man who has been around the dating block a few times, I was surprised when a couple months into the relationship, I realized that the terrible "fear of number 2" had ever even surfaced. Everything I thought would be a constant bummer for me was nonexistent. I then realized that once you are truly and selflessly loved for who you are, your batting order doesn't really matter.
The reason I'm telling this part of the story is not because I think there might be others with my same insane competitive drive. However, I do think that people have countless other ways that they hold themselves back from making any positive change in life. When we romanticize the past, moving forward without attachment doesn't happen easily.
Finally, something clicked for me that I hope will help others- especially if there are any others in a strange, one person boat like mine. Or, just people like me who might have to over think every every every thing.
Ironically, I learned this thing from the man who is now my fiancé: the only thing truly real that we can do anything about is the present moment.
I wish I'd known this as the divorce process was unfolding for me. I could have spared myself a lot of agony. I was already caught up in a lot of other worry and drama, and could have completely avoided even more pointless stress about a future as someone's second choice. Ridiculous. Besides, my cousin was a major league baseball second round draft pick and everything was still pretty amazing for him. Once you're on the team, apparently, you're on it. Period.
Once I realized I had a serious aversion to being second, it was freeing. I could see that I had a lot of fears tied up around my imagined future role. Now I see that rather than living like a Tang Dynasty concubine, the reality is that I'm a celebrated and loved true partner and soul mate. It really is better the second time around- or whatever time you might happen to find yourself on- provided you choose to celebrate and live in your present moment of course.
Your inner strength is a NOW, present moment power. It is new each moment. It is ever ready to spring forth and carry you safely through anything. You just have to know it is there. Embracing the present moment doesn't mean the past goes away, (and certainly not someone else's past) Being in touch with it just means you are efficaciously getting through your NOW (which, hello? never goes away either...)
I wanted to share something earth shatteringly helpful for you, something that would give you a system to snap your little self right into the now. So I checked out the Google and got things like "Six Steps To Living In the Present" and "Eight Ways To Return To the Present Moment." Wow. So. Many. Steps. There are even apps to get you back to the present moment. I didn't think it was supposed to be rocket science. Basically the instructions boil down to just remembering to do it. So how about this?
1) Check in and ask yourself where you are. Feel whatever feeling you are having. Is the feeling about now or about 10 years ago or about next week?
2) The only thing real is the present moment, so go back there. How does the feeling feel here?
I don't mean by this that you should stuff emotions/not examine the past. I certainly don't advocate not thinking about your future. The past can't be changed, so agonizing over it is not all that helpful. Examine your feeling, honor it, cry, yell, own your part, whatever, but then release it.. Finally, approach the future without fear; you get a new one everyday anyway.