In the last blog, I talked about the rough start I had with James. My PTSD was showing up in full force.
For example, once I was getting ready for work, James said “You look really cute in those yoga pants.” Simple enough right? Most women would’ve thought it was sweet.
But not my brain. I went into a tailspin. I had a 40-minute commute to work at the radio station, and I cried the whole way.
Here’s why - when he said that, this is what my brain told me. It told me, with certainty, that his comment was just a clue into the real James. He was a professor at a big university that was full of hot co-eds walking around in their tight little yoga pants with tight little asses.
And at that time, I was 52. And my brain told me that even when I was 20 my ass didn’t look that great, and now at 52, forget it!!
I imagined that he just stood in the hallway between classes and checked out all the hot co-eds. I was convinced that he was just telling me, in his own way, that he was just another perv. Another cheater. I felt sick. I felt unsafe.
It may sound funny, but it truly sucked at the time.
Even now, I notice that my brain still tries to convince me that all men are lying assholes who are weak and can’t say “no.”
And to make things worse, during the first year we were dating, I had a bomb dropped on me.
I was on the air one day and got a FB message from a woman. I didn’t know her, but I did know who she was. My second husband Randy’s ex-fiance. The one he always called a psycho.
Her message said, “I think we were sleeping with the same man at the same time.”
I responded that no, I didn’t start to date Randy until after they had broken their engagement and she’d moved out.
But then, she told me that they were sleeping together for the first six months of our relationship.
You know, back when he was professing his undying love for me. Back when he was pressuring me to get engaged.
And it’s not like I just took her word for it.
I believed her because she had lots of info that she wouldn’t have had unless they were still in contact and still spending time alone.
Apparently, he would tell me he was headed to the airport for an out-of-the-country work trip.
He failed to mention the part where he stopped at her place for a quick bang.
And it turns out he sent her flowers while we were on our honeymoon.
So, why did she contact me? Because she felt guilty and wanted to apologize. And it sounds like Randy also lied to her. She didn’t even know he’d gotten married!
Anyway, I still remember the day she contacted me. I kept it together long enough to finish my on-air shift, but I fell apart over the next few days. I was dumbfounded.
The day after I found out, I drove out to Randy’s house with a dozen eggs. I wanted to egg his precious car.
But he was out of town, so I thought I’d just egg his house.
So I sat in my car and sobbed. And I didn’t do it at first, because I knew that I’d probably get caught doing it on camera and then end up in jail.
And wouldn’t Randy be thrilled if he knew I was so upset?
So I drove away. I got a few blocks away and turned around and drove back. But I still couldn’t do it.
So, I drove back to my townhouse and put the eggs out on the back porch. I let it be a reminder that I didn’t succumb to my rage. And not long after I set them outside, some type of vermin ate the eggs, so good for them.
Anyway, that little fiasco also set me back a bit in my relationship with James. Let’s just say I had a lot to work out regarding my PTSD. I had to do a load of work to trust myself again.
And to trust men.
So fast forward a bit. James told me he’d marry me whenever I was ready. He knew I wasn’t ready. In fact, when I first met him, I told him I’d never remarry.
Well, about 3 years into the relationship I decided I was ready. So we got hitched by a local mayor. My middle daughter was the witness. We celebrated by having breakfast at a local place that’s famous for pancakes.
But, for me, getting married was rough.
We had to get a marriage license, and I had so much mental drama around that. I noticed I wasn’t excited about something I should’ve been excited about - a marriage license.
Again, my mind came up with a horrible story. It went like this: I imagined going into the license office and filling out the paperwork. And I’d have to check the box that said I’d been divorced not once, but twice. And I imagined a middle-aged woman behind the counter.
I imagined she’d see my paperwork and grimace. I imagined she’d be thinking “Oh, okay, let’s get married for the third time lady. Good luck with that.” And when I imagined what would happen at the license office, I felt so much shame.
So, since I’m a coach I let myself process that shame. And it worked.
By the time I got to that office, I felt excited. And of course, the story my brain tried to convince me was gonna happen, did not happen.
There was no judgemental, middle-aged woman behind the counter.
Instead, it was a 20-something guy. And he had Elton John albums hanging above his desk which led to a great chat about the movie “Rocketman.”
So like I said, we got married by a mayor and then post-Covid, we had an official church blessing and reception.
We have five kids between us. I have three and he has two. They range in age from almost 30 to 15.
And for the first few years of our marriage, James’ mom lived with us. She has since moved to an apartment for folks with dementia. But, we still see her often.
But here’s the real story.
I went from a debacle of a second marriage - to dating stops and starts - to a real-life happily ever after.
We often joke that it took James three weeks to find me on Match.com, but it took me 11 years and a second divorce to find him! So unfair!
I’m kidding. I’m so grateful.
We’re almost six years into our relationship and we often say how grateful we are that we stuck it out through the rough patches.
I look at my second marriage and divorce as just part of my journey to James.
So I’d like to tell you what my happily ever after looks like now.
It looks like a partner who treats me very well. He’s a great listener.
He may not always agree with me, but he never discounts what I say.
And when we disagreed about certain things in the beginning - things that were dealbreakers for me - he always stepped up to the plate.
I knew I wouldn’t stay if he didn’t trust me. Or if he tried to change the way I expressed myself.
I knew I wouldn’t stay if he didn’t answer any question I asked him. No subject was off-limits.
I knew I’d never stay with a man who was addicted to anything. Ok, we’re both addicted to sugar, but besides that, no addictions that would alter his personality.
I’d never stay with a man I didn’t feel intimately connected to. I was looking for my best friend, and luckily, I found him.
So let me tell you why I love him so much.
First, is the way he talks to me. I know he truly loves me. He always tells me how important I am to him as he lists the things he appreciates about me.
He calls me “remarkable.” I don’t always feel that way about myself, but it’s nice to know he does.
He’s the most supportive person I’ve ever met. I quit my job in radio to coach full-time, and he’s been cheering me on the whole way. He never complained about the lack of money I made in the beginning.
There are lots of stories I could tell about what my happily ever looks like, but I’ll just tell you a few.
This past summer, we visited my family in the midwest. And before the trip, I’d decided I wanted to bring some stuff back to our house in Pennsylvania.
So, James, three of our kids, and I flew out to my mom’s.
But at the end of the trip, I flew home with the kids and he drove home, 15 hours across the country, in a very uncomfortable UHaul. No complaints from him. He just loaded it up and drove.
And recently, one of my daughters decided she didn’t want to continue living where she was. So, I remember telling James that I wanted to move her back here to live with us.
He didn’t flinch. He cleared a very busy schedule without much notice, then the two of us flew one way to Denver. And when we got there, nothing was packed.
So 30 boxes later, there he was, taking a million trips down a long hallway, into a small elevator, and down a long path leading to yet another UHaul.
And then it was a three-day trip driving back home. He drove the UHaul, and my daughter, her two cats, and I drove her car.
But you know what. He was great. The trip was great. We stopped along the way to see friends and relatives in Kansas City. We stopped to have lunch near St. Louis with my family.
We stayed one night in Indiana with some of James’ friends, and then made it home late that third day of driving. He drove faster than I did, so by the time my daughter and I arrived, the UHaul had been completely unloaded.
My first husband and my son helped unload too.
If you remember, a few blogs ago, I said I was going to tell you something interesting about my husband James as it relates to my ex-boyfriend Steve.
Steve is the ex-boyfriend that my second husband, Randy, was obsessed with.
Here’s the story:
When I first met James, we talked about our past relationships and all that jazz. He knew I was still on good terms with many of my ex-boyfriends, even though I rarely saw them or communicated with them.
So, one day I was on Facebook, and Steve, the ex-boyfriend, posted a video of himself brandishing a sword. And as I watched it, I remembered that Steve did a weekly sword and staff training.
My husband James was sitting next to me, so I showed him the video. His response “Wow! That’s so cool. I wonder if Steve would let me train with him?” So, I texted Steve and he said, “Of course!”
So now, James and Steve practice sword fighting every weekend, along with a few other men and women. James admires Steve. They’re both great guys.
And prior to that, I had not seen Steve for a few years, and he invited James and me over for dinner. And it was great. No drama.
It’s just so funny. Life has come full circle.
My husband is gleefully hanging out with my ex-boyfriend, Steve. Whereas my ex-husband Randy felt nothing but obsession and insecurity regarding Steve.
I got what I wanted. A secure man who believes me when I tell him he’s the only one for me.
And in another full-circle moment, do you remember the story from the beginning of this series about the pediatrician who ghosted me?
He’s the one I blamed for my heart attack. Well, dig this. The house where “Dr. Mike” used to live is just a few blocks from where I live now. While driving to Dr. Mike’s house all those years ago, I passed the street I live on now.
And all those years ago, I never would’ve believed you if you’d said, “One day you’ll be living in a fancy house on that street, with your third husband.”
I would’ve shit myself.
Because at that time I was in the middle of my first divorce. What? Third husband? Moving?
But yes, this is how things have worked out for me. I’m with a great guy and I live in a beautiful house with one of my kids. His kids are here three nights a week. And in general, life is grand.
But here’s why I originally called this series “The Tale of Two Doors.”
Remember at the beginning of this series, I described being at an Al Anon meeting at a local church, behind door 324? Then, when I got home, my second husband left me?
Well, a few years ago, after I started dating James, I remember sitting in church - that church - an Episcopal church.
And it was so odd. I was sitting there with James and remembering how two years prior, I’d been at that church at an Al Anon meeting.
And again, I thought about how, if you would’ve told me back then that in a few years I’d be there for Mass with a man who would become my third husband, I would’ve said you were insane.
But here’s the “door” part. Just recently I started an in-person support group for women that is also called Love After Divorce. I help women figure out what skills they need to get their own happily ever after. Their own do-over.
And guess what? It’s at that same church, in room 330. When I walked into the room the church had set aside for me I almost shit myself. It’s next to where I used to go to Al-Anon meetings.
In 2014, I was in room 324 at an Al-Anon meeting that preceded the demise of my second marriage, a PTSD diagnosis, loads of mind-numbing pain, devastation, and loss.
And now I’m in room 330 leading a group of women in a group called Love After Divorce. Oh boy, did I not see that coming.
And I’m so grateful. For all of it.
And let me end this blog series with another funny story.
Right now, James has an old Chevy Blazer and car parts taking up all the space in the garage. So both of us park in the driveway. Once again, I’m back to scraping ice and snow off my car. But now I don’t curse. I laugh. And then I give him a hard time about the Blazer, of course.
So that’s my story of love lost and then found. My do-over.
My journey took 11 years. And if I would’ve had a coach, things would’ve been so much different. Much easier. And faster.
And if you’d like help with your do-over, just head to the home page and schedule a free introductory chat with me.
We can talk about what’s going on now versus where you wanna go.