On the 4th of July, Michael and I celebrated three months together. Nearly a month ago we took our first little one-day getaway trip together, and things have been so busy that it’s taken me this long to get a blog post up about it! While reflecting on the trip, I’ve thought a lot about our relationship as well. Both of us have been married and divorced — my divorce being over 10 years ago now and his just at the end of last year. For me, this relationship has been a very long time coming. For him, however, it came much more quickly than he was anticipating. But regardless of the timing, we both have entered this relationship with an entirely different mindset than we had in past relationships.
A positive that comes from divorce is that, if faced and handled properly, it teaches you all of the important lessons about relationships that you didn’t know before. Every failure in life doubles as a teachable moment, and few are more teachable than divorce. We learn that relationships are more than just warm and fuzzy feelings; more than physical attraction and fun; more than dreams of wedding days and playing house and having kids (which are a lot more work and a lot more stress than most people realize before they become parents, and can wreak havoc on a marriage…just a reality that people don’t talk about enough). There are very important, fundamental parts of a relationship that make up the foundation upon which all of those things are built. And in my experience, it is so often not until divorce, or at least not until a relationship is deep in the throes of troubled waters, that we start to realize what those things are.
In the next relationship, first and foremost, we are able to choose a partner who is better suited for us, because we now know what we need in a relationship for it to last the long haul, as well as what our personal needs and our deal breakers are. You can choose a better partner for the right reasons, and you can enter that relationship with your eyes open and have realistic expectations of what’s to come. The feelings of infatuation are going to fade, that’s just the psychology of love whether we like it or not. What matters for the long term is the foundation you’ve built, the understanding that a relationship absolutely will take work by both people, and your commitment and dedication to the relationship.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that love and relationships require some amount of selflessness. A lot of selflessness, actually. Both people in the relationship have to be willing to give as much as they receive. They have to be willing to communicate openly, listen without criticizing, and give understanding without resentment and anger. Each person needs to feel safe sharing their needs and concerns, without fear of a hostile or disinterested reaction. For me, at least, that is true.
That is where I feel so incredibly blessed to have found Michael. I told him early on when I met him that I wanted a real partner. Someone who will communicate, make equal effort in sustaining the relationship, and share the responsibilities of taking care of a home in the long term since I work full time. I explained that in my last relationship I had to do it all when we lived together and it felt like I had a third child rather than a partner, and that isn’t a role I want to be in again. I also lived in a hostile, short-tempered environment in the past, where I felt that I was constantly in “self defense mode”. That is something I am not experiencing with Michael, whose personality is incredibly patient, empathetic, and slow to anger.
Not only have we done well at sharing responsibilities and meeting each others’ needs so far, but we have been proactive about the future. With both of us having been married and divorced, we understand that the new relationship warm and fuzzies won’t last forever, and we’ve been preparing ourselves for how to handle things long term. We talked about our love languages (we both share a close second-place with physical touch, but my number one is quality time and his is words of affirmation), and he even requested a list of things that I consider quality time so that he can fulfill my needs since that is not his love language and he wanted specifics about what I need so he can get it right.
We’ve talked about the importance of communication, and feeling safe to speak up. We’ve talked about budgets and finances. We’ve shared dreams and talked about our personal values and future goals. We’ve talked about responsibilities and sharing the load. “Teamwork, baby”, is something I’ve been saying often. I just finished reading a book about relationships that a counselor recommended a while back called The Truth About Love: The Highs, The Lows, and How You Can Make it Last Forever (I definitely recommend it, by the way). He has a book at home of his own that he’s been reading as well.
Even though we are still in the early stages of our relationship, because we’ve both had the experience of failed relationships, we are being proactive so we can make sure this one survives the challenges that we know will eventually come — because they do in every relationship. He is exactly the man I have been looking for in character and values, and have spent years holding out for in my refusal to settle. He has all of the qualities I needed in a partner, and none of the qualities that I consider deal breakers.
I’ve never been treated so kindly, so thoughtfully, or with so much respect as I am with him. He is a great fit for me. And because of that I am both committed, and dedicated to our relationship. As independent as I am, I have gladly handed over some of that independence in order for us to work as a unit. Because that is really what a relationship is — the union of two people. A relationship is essentially a separate entity that you create together, and it needs nurturing and care to grow, much like a child or a pet.
Commitment seems to have lost its meaning in dating these days, but for a relationship to stand the tests of time, you have to be fully committed to working at it rather than bailing at the first sign of trouble or change (because people change over time, that is just a fact of life). It isn’t about a feeling, it’s about making a choice to be together and put the relationship and your partner first, and making that choice over and over again for years to come. Feelings come and go, but commitment will breed longevity. As for making that commitment after divorce — it’s all the more important after having first-hand experience with how relationships fail.
Now, on to our Columbia adventure!
The second week of June I took my vacation from work. That weekend Michael had to pick up his daughter for the next two-week visit with him. So he took the day off on Friday, we booked a hotel room for that night, and we made the trip to Columbia a day early so we could have a day away to spend together. We got a room with a Jacuzzi tub, I packed the bottle of wine my friends Zach and Jenny brought back to me from Italy for pet-sitting while they were gone, and we left without any other plans beyond doing some hiking.
We left Friday morning and made it to Columbia in early afternoon…just in time for a rain shower…imagine that this summer in Missouri! So we put hiking plans on the back burner and stopped at Starbucks to grab some coffee and so Michael could login to his work computer and send something a coworker was needing. Then we decided to grab a late lunch at Shakespeare’s Pizza, a classic staple in Columbia that I always hear about but have never been to…and it was pretty darn good!
By the time we left there the rain had passed, so we decided to go get checked in at the hotel a little early, then do some hiking. In the meantime he had asked Mia’s mom for some suggestions for dinner places, so I checked out her recommendations while he drove us to the hotel. We picked a place for dinner, we took our bags to our room, then went out for some hiking at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. It was getting late in the day thanks to the rain hijacking our plans, so we chose a short and easy trail that included a really cool cave.
That was right during the prime of when I was having tightness in a muscle in my hip/butt, and while I was bent over walking through a low spot in the cave, it cramped up on me. I got a straight Charlie horse to the butt, and Michael didn’t miss the opportunity to snap this gem of a photo (what he doesn’t know is that I retaliated by getting a video yesterday morning of him snoring!):
After the hike he drove me around a little and showed me where he lived while he was there for college. Then we went back to the hotel and changed clothes for dinner. We went to 44 Stone for dinner, where the food was delicious and surprisingly inexpensive! We each had a meal, a drink, and shared an appetizer and a salad all for $45!
After dinner we made a quick trip to Mia’s house so she could show me her room, since we were meeting her, her mom and her stepdad for lunch the next day so I wouldn’t get to see her room. Then we made a stop for a couple of bath bombs and headed back to the hotel to soak in the jacuzzi and drink some delicious Italian wine. I wish we could end every day in that same fashion, but time just isn’t that forgiving back in the real world!
The next morning we had breakfast downstairs — and the breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn, if you’ve never had it, is really yummy! We had a smorgasbord of just about any breakfast staple you could’ve asked for, plus we shared a custom-made omelette with spinach, bacon, cheese and jalapenos in it. Of course my favorite part was the biscuits and gravy…one of the least healthy breakfast foods around, but my favorite nonetheless.
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and went to hit some stores. He was needing a new suit for his sister’s wedding coming up in the fall, so we stopped and picked one out for him. While we were waiting on the stores to open we even made a pit stop at a little pop-up farmer’s market for some produce to take home. There was also a Father’s Day sale going on where I found a couple of new shirts for the boys. Then we went to get some coffee Lakota Coffee while we waited for Mia, Rachel and Trey to meet us for lunch.
We had a little more time to kill, so we stopped next door at Boone Olive Oil Co. Oh my goodness, that has to be my favorite discovery of the weekend! They had every flavor of olive oil and vinegar you could possibly imagine! I love to cook, so it was a special kind of Heaven for me. It was definitely a little pricey — the one small bottle of white balsamic vinegar I got was $14 — but it is so smooth and flavorful, and it was the perfect pairing for the tomato salad I made the next day for Father’s Day.
After that it was time to meet the others for lunch at International Cafe, a little Greek restaurant that was right on the other side of Lakota Coffee Company. The food definitely did not disappoint! Although I admit…while the Spanakopita at International Cafe was the winner, the Greek Salad at Zoi’s back home in Cape Girardeau is still the front runner for side dishes. After lunch we did a little shopping at a couple of boutiques, then it was time to hit the road back to Cape. We were equal parts exhausted and refreshed, and excited to get back and prep for our Father’s Day plans the next day.
It was short, but enjoyable and it left me feeling fulfilled for days afterwards. Memories were definitely made, and I can’t wait to explore more new things with my favorite sidekick. Until our next adventure….