The end of single motherhood is almost scarier than the beginning of it


Every major holiday offers the opportunity to look back and see how far I’ve come over the past year. Facebook’s “on this day” feature makes this easy, and, finally, the memories I see pop up are ones of security, peace, and optimism, rather than the of turmoil, confusion, and heartbreak of previous years.

That is not to say that my parenting life currently is all roses. Previous Mother’s Days have shown disintegrations – broken relationships, broken spirits, uncertainty, and overwhelm – but this Mother’s Day trip down memory lane reveals that my hardest parental challenge to date took place this year.

I’m referring to my transition out of single motherhood.

At the time when it happened, I thought becoming a single mother would be the most difficult experience of my life. That transition brought with it an all-encompassing fear and heavy emotion on which I surfed for my daughter’s first two years of life. Survival mode is a powerful thing. It keeps you moving, but robs you of the ability to be present and savor certain parts of your parenting experiences. I was only a single mother for two-ish years, but in this case, that was my child’s entire life.

Parenting as a single parent was all I really ever knew. I was the breadwinner, the housekeeper, the caregiver, and everything else that encompasses parenting, both working and stay-at-home. People who know me know my story of carting my infant child to and from work every day for two-plus years, an experience which embedded autonomy and independence into my very DNA.

In a lot of ways, specifically those with regard to our safety and our future, becoming a single mother was largely about taking control. But transitioning out of single motherhood is about relinquishing it, and that feels infinitely harder.

I spent the first full year of my relationship with Jordan slowly acclimating Molly to him. Eventually, we decided to move in together, but still maintained strict boundaries around parenting. A while back, I explored this dynamic in a post called My Boyfriend Is Not A Babysitter. It was important to me that those lines did not become blurred, and that I continued to be Molly’s one and only parent in our home. The duty to provide for her, the responsibility of disciplining her, and the weight of nurturing her lay squarely on my shoulders, and mine alone.

Through the natural course of events, as our relationship has become more established, he has stepped into much more of a coparent role. This seems to have been a pretty natural transition for him and Molly, but very often it has been a difficult and frightening one for me.

The first time Jordan put Molly in time out, even though he had my full permission and support to do so, I went to the other room and cried. He was gentle with her, never raised his voice, and made sure to reconnect with her after her sentence was over, but still, allowing him to step into the role of disciplinarian was terrifying.

We’ve had many conversations about how Molly will be raised. Some things – like not spanking, for example – were decided long before Jordan came onto the scene, and the only choice for him was to agree to those terms or choose to not coparent. Other things, like hiring a babysitter or buying her new clothes have become joint efforts. 

Jordan and Molly have a healthy, stable relationship. He is nurturing, strong, and loves that little girl with his whole heart. He prioritizes harmony with her father, and he always defers to me on big decisions and situations. 

But despite these good things, after knowing for her entire life that I was the one who kept her safe, that I was the one who made decisions about her future, that I was the one raising her has made relinquishing any amount of control over her life excruciating.

I suspect this transition will go on for a while longer. I have hope that one day soon I will watch Jordan parent Molly on the same level as I always have without the twinge of fear or a need for control. In the meantime, we continue to talk about it, and he continues to offer me patience and grace.

Happy Mother’s Day, all. 

Gaslighting, isolation, and assault: my story of narcissistic abuse.

Content warnings: sexual assualt, rape, isolation abuse, financial abuse

I was married for six years to a man I had been with for two years prior to our wedding. That marriage had a ton of issues, created a ton of trauma, and involved a lot of damage. For reasons that I will save for another post, my ex-husband and I were basically set up for failure, and while leaving that relationship was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, it was also one of the most necessary.

But the next man to walk into my life following my divorce would manage to do more damage in one year than my previous relationship had done in eight.

This is the story, not of my broken marriage, but of the devastating relationship that immediately followed it.

Serial abusers have a pattern to how they acquire their new victims. Each new relationship is generally preceded by a dramatic life overhaul on the part of the abuser, which involves burning any bridges of people who know them “too well,” isolating the new victim, and conditioning them to 1. never interact with anyone who could give them an unflattering perspective on the abuser, and 2. feed them enough lies about those people that if the current victim and the previous one ever had the option to interact, the current victim would truly believe the previous victim to be crazy, evil, or some combination of the two.

The setup was textbook. My abuser built our relationship upon a number of factors: the number of years we have been out of contact and out of each other’s lives following our initial meeting a decade before, and the loyalty that came from our newly reestablished friendship, the fact that both of our marriages imploded at roughly the same time, the reality that I was a brand-new mother, sleep deprived and overwhelmed, and the financial and physical dependence I had on him and members of his family. I was fragile from new motherhood (my daughter was only three weeks old when we left my ex-husband), broken from my divorce, and isolated from friends and family. The only support I had I met through him – again, specifically chosen people he knew would only speak positively about him.

He told me what I would later discover to be outlandish lies about his ex-wife, and, at the same time, lied to her about me, to be sure we were thoroughly pitted against each other and kept apart. Even now, as I have had the privilege of reconnecting with her and sorting through our mutual manipulation, it is devastating to realize the extent to which he deceived us in order to preserve his facade. 

I struggled during that time to determine what I wanted from my faith, and engaged with the church community that he had been a part of for many years. The people there welcomed me, offered me love, financial support, and relationship, but they neglected to warn me about the ugly facts of this man’s past. Mark (a name I have deliberately chosen to avoid giving him any notoriety or future ammunition against me), had committed multiple acts of sexual violence in his previous marriage, and thoroughly manipulated, controlled, and abused his wife until she had no choice but to flee. The handful of the new friends I had in this church community knew the reality of the situation. They had heard confessions of this abuse directly from Mark’s own mouth. 

But the Christian teachings of unconditional acceptance and forgiveness were manipulated by this man, who knew exactly what to say and how to present himself in order to seem remorseful and changed. In the spirit of forgiveness, they welcomed him with open arms, offering him shelter under their roofs and places among their families. They trusted him, and I felt that if they trusted him, there was no reason for me not to.

There were people who might have been willing to tell the truth about what they knew of him, but Mark went well out of his way to be sure that I thought so little of those people that I would never take them seriously should their opinions find their way to me. In the time that we were together, he turned me into a weapon against his ex, selling me his version of an evil, manipulative woman who would do anything to hurt him, and then using my loyalty as a tool to hurt her. She was the enemy, and since she had fled to the opposite end of the state, unable to share her story, I had little reason to believe otherwise. I took up arms on his behalf, and he had no need to personally defame her while he had such a willing foot soldier who would do that dirty work for him. It makes me sick to think about the dishonest gossip I spread about a woman who has not only been gracious to me in our reconciliation, but did in fact try to warn me ahead of time about what he was capable of doing.

The first time he assaulted me, we were in the middle of an intimate encounter when he decided to ask me for something specific. I told him no – that act made me emotionally uncomfortable and caused me physical pain. He used the dramatic difference in our sizes to his advantage and forced me to perform it anyway.

The second time, we began an evening of hanging out with me stating clearly to him that I did not want to be physically intimate. Within an hour he had manipulated and coerced me into “changing my mind” by using his own sadness and needs to make me feel guilty for saying no.

Following both of these encounters, he apologized, putting on a very convincing show of remorse and shame, admitting that what he had done was wrong and disgusting, and asking for my forgiveness.

But in between the acts of physical violence, there was a much more subtle abuse taking place.

Mark had dramatic financial issues, often running himself into a huge amount of debt over frivolous purchases. He was the classic cautionary tale of retail therapy gone wrong. But even in instances of generosity, he had convinced me that gifts were the only language his heart understood.

During this time I was in job training, and had no regular income of my own. I could not reciprocate the lavish gifts he would bestow upon me after he had done something that hurt me. One evening, he made a terribly cutting remark and left me in tears, and I was so terrified of losing him by “reacting badly” to verbal abuse he had committed against me that I actually spent a ridiculous amount of money from my tax return on a gift for him as an apology.

Apologizing and feeling guilty for things that were done to me became a regular occurrence. If I stood up for myself, he would compare me to his ex-wife, who he claimed was “vindictive and emotionally manipulative.” I would apologize. If I called him out on abusive behavior, he would tell me that I was being “unforgiving and unchristian.” I would apologize. If I expressed fear that he was harming me or using me in any way, he would act betrayed by the insinuation, and blame my previous marriage for trauma that he claimed I was “projecting onto him.” I would apologize.

We quickly and easily fell into a pattern that was dramatically one-sided: me running to keep up and anticipate his every whim, making him food, bringing him coffee at work, doing his laundry, bending over backwards to make him happy and walking on eggshells to prevent him from being unsatisfied with me. Him using every fear I had against me in order to keep me in line and trotting along at his heels.

And all the while, we lied.

My church community knew that I had some major issues with the Bible and its rules, and that certain things commonly accepted in Christianity – like extramarital sex being a sin, for example – were not moral hangups for me. They knew we disagreed on those topics, but they loved and accepted me anyway.

Mark, on the other hand, went to great pains to hide where his opinions differed from those of his church. He reframed this dishonesty in terms of “privacy.” I would try to communicate how uncomfortable it made me that I felt like I was being hidden. Privately, beyond closed doors he would tell me that he loved me, that he intended to marry me and be with me forever, that he hoped one day to adopt my daughter. Publicly, he asserted that we were “just friends” and, I would later discover, that I was unstable and attention-seeking, and his friendship with me was one of pity.

For six months we carried out this ruse, him hiding the reality of his life from his church, me dutifully and loyally protecting his reputation and his privacy. It would ruin his life, he said to me, if people in the church knew that we had been sleeping together. He claimed his ex-wife would maliciously use it against him and find ways to punish him if she knew the truth. He claimed his church would tell him he could no longer lead worship or participate in the small groups if they thought he was sinning. His entire life, he insisted, hung on me keeping his privacy intact.

And so I did. Of course I did.

I wouldn’t see until much, much later how this disguise of our “friendship” actually enabled him to play the field behind my back. He once made the mistake of allowing me to see his phone being messaged over and over by a girl from his gym who he had never mentioned to me. When I pressed him, he insisted that they were only friends, but upon further questioning he admitted that they had gone on a date the week before and he had intentionally hidden that fact from me. Months later I would discover they had been sleeping together behind my back. To this day I honestly don’t even know if she realized he was in a relationship.

Around the six month mark, a dramatic shift occurred in our relationship. He pulled away suddenly, distancing himself from me emotionally, refusing to talk to me, and ignoring my pleas for any sort of communication. The only time we would interact was late at night when he would text to ask if he could come over. I would beg him for some sort of explanation, or at the very least, an ultimatum or definition of our relationship. He flat-out refused to give me either. Finally, I asked him for one thing: that when he decided he was done with me, he should say so. “Don’t just let me hang here,” I begged. “Just be direct with me when you have decided that this relationship is over. Have enough respect for me to at least break up with me.” He said he could promise that much. He couldn’t, and in the months that followed I finally grew so devastated and hurt by his neglect of me that, eventually, I was the one to break things off.

My daughter and I, since leaving my ex-husband, had been graciously and generously sheltered by Mark’s mother. She could tell a dramatic change had happened, although she didn’t at the time know the full extent of our relationship. He insisted we keep her in the dark as well, threatening that if she discovered he and I had a romantic relationship, she might evict me and my infant. This sweet woman who had become like a second mother to me and a grandmother to my daughter found me crying in the bathroom one evening. I finally confessed to her, leaving out particular details that Mark had been adamant she should never learn, that not long ago he had been making promises about forever, and now he had abandoned me with no explaination. That night she confessed to me that she knew he was a monster, and sometimes wished that he had never been born. 

Mark’s mother knew – and knows – the truth about him. Unbeknownst to me at the beginning of our relationship, she had sat across from Mark’s ex-wife and heard all the abuses that had been inflicted upon her. Like the other members of our church community, she knew that he had a history of abuse, and she knew that he and I had a close intimate friendship, but she chose to use the excuse of forgiveness not to warn me. My heart breaks when I think of how trapped and controlled she is by him.

At the end of the summer, after my daughter and I left his mother’s house and found our own apartment, I confided to a mutual friend of ours that if Mark were to knock on my door and asked to date me properly – openly, honestly, and without fascade – that I would tell him no. I had finally seen him for the sort of person he was, and I didn’t want to be with him anymore. I felt very free.

Several months later, I began to date Jordan and experience my first truly healthy relationship. All the while, Mark remained on the edges of my social circle, and we ran into each other more than once. We still engaged in the same church community, and I still kept his secrets. Periodically he would text me to “chat” about his new life, his new girlfriends, his promotion, etc. I kept a careful distance, knowing that this behavior was intended to elicit jealous or insecure reactions from me. Then in January, a little more than a year since we first got together, he texted me to ask if we could meet for coffee. Hesitantly, I agreed.

He led the conversation, as he usually does, and unsurprisingly the topic revolved around his romantic life. He wanted me to know how many women he had been with since me, how many relationships he had started and ended since we broke ties six months before. But he made a crucial error in telling his story, and accidentally admitted to me that had been with a number of these women long before our break up. All of the hurt and anger came flooding back as I realized that he had cheated on me.

After a year of suffering in silence and isolation, I finally made the decision to come clean to the leaders of our church. These dear friends, who had shown me so much love, made time in their day to allow me to tell my story and bring the deceit, manipulation, and double life Mark had led to the surface. When he was finally confronted by our pastor about his lies, he chose to abandon the community entirely, yet again burning bridges and severing ties with anyone who knew the truth about him.

The wheel turned. Nothing changed.

I carefully separated myself from him, changing my phone number, and blocking him on social media. I created a safe buffer between us, so that if he or his new significant other wanted to interact with me they would struggle to find a medium through which to do so. I created new space in my life, went back to therapy, and began to heal.

Since his departure from that community and most of the people who now know the extent of his deceit, he has created a brand-new social group. It has been more than a year since the last time I had to speak to him. He has surrounded himself with people who have little or no knowledge of his past, found a new significant other, and weaponized her against me in the exact same way he weaponized me against his previous ex. She fights his battles for him, and recently did hunt me down online to attack me for sharing (what he has undoubtedly told her are) lies about him. To my knowledge, she has no one to tell her the truth. In reality, I can’t even be angry at her. I did much the same to his ex, and if their relationship one day ends, his next victim will do the same to her.

This past Easter, nearly a year ago, he went to his mother and “told her the facts of our relationship.” To this day I have no idea what he could have said to her, but immediately following that conversation she pulled the chute, blocking me on social media, blocking my phone number, and refusing to answer any of my emails. He severed my relationship with a woman who held such an important place in my heart, and I will likely never get the opportunity to tell her my side of the story.

The devastating reality of this story is that it is not an original one, and while the signs are clear and textbook, it is almost impossible to see them while you are in the maelstrom. My hope is that by sharing this tale, I will shed light on the common abusive practices of isolation, forced silence, casual assault, and dramatically lopsided relationship that defines abuse. I know Mark would rather this story never be told. I know his significant other has been conditioned to disbelieve it, and I know the people who are still loyal to him have a desire to discredit it. But I will not be bullied into hiding my story. After a year of psychological, physical, and emotional abuse, he does not have the power to control me anymore.

Pride is a sucky sucky thing


The world has been handing me one humility pill after another, but I’m finding that the more I’m willing to swallow them, the easier it gets.

This past week I burned out, hard. I hit a dramatic wall and lost an entire evening that should have been full of productivity to lying in bed, binge-watching The Office on Netflix. I succumbed to a lot of emotional negativity, dwelling on and being owned by things in my past that should not be able to influence my present.

My ever patient and long-suffering boyfriend feels a little bit neglected. My daughter says “hello mommy!” and “bye mommy!” all in the same breath when I open her door in the morning. My grades are slipping. And I am making some really shitty decisions.

The first humility pill came when I had to register for next quarter’s classes, and rather than taking 18 credits, (which I did this past quarter, and of which I was unnecessarily proud) I registered for only  14. Cue instant feelings of failure.

It’s easy for me to believe that if I’m not pushing myself harder than everyone else, doing more than everyone else, and feeling more exhausted than everyone else, that I’m failing or not worthy. This is been a battle in my mind and heart for a very long time, and one I have obviously not won yet.

The second big pill came today, when I experienced the repercussions of allowing my anger to seep into my social media. 

Last night I posted something on Instagram: a humorous post calling out my ex-boyfriend – an admitted, widely-known abuser – for the harm that he had done to me. I could have covered both his first name and his last name in the image, but I opted to scribble over only his last name, knowing full well that some mutual friends of ours would still know who I was talking about.

It was a bad decision, born out of emotion and impulsivity. It was a fruitless and unproductive exercise in petty vengeance. Word got around of what I had posted and he manage to have it removed.

I am tired of having my story stifled. I am tired of the unspoken rule that you don’t “slander” other people, even when you have truth in your side. I am angry that this person, who has harmed so many people besides myself, is allowed to carry on, hanging out with people who had previously been my friends, running in circles that had previously been mine too.

But I’m discovering that there is a right way and a wrong way to tell my story, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think that was the wrong way. I will tell my story, as is my right, and I will probably tell it soon, but when I do I will do it the right way: thoughtfully, carefully, and with appropriate and important context.

I want to be better than this person I have become over the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to be the person who makes snap decisions from a place of anger. I don’t want to be the person who overloads my schedule because I feel like a failure if I’m not running myself into the ground. I don’t want to be an absent parent or a neglectful girlfriend. 

So I’m here to eat crow, in the hopes that I can learn to be a more transparent and hopefully more humble, thoughtful, slow-to-act, quick-to-think person in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Three ways being a single mother made me a badass and a pain in the ass all at the same time


Being a single mom has made me kind of a badass, as it has done for almost every single mother I’ve ever met. But in a lot of ways, being a single parent messes with your mind and causes you to be more than a little bit of a pain to the next person who steps into partnership with you. Here are three ways I’m learning that my badassery is also kind of a thorn in the side of the people I love.

1. If I’m not running myself into the ground I feel like a failure

To be fair, this little bit of my neuroses started decades before I had my child, but being a single mother certainly didn’t improve upon the situation. 

Single moms intimately understand the reality of being overworked, overbooked, and overwrought 99% of the time. We are the breadwinners and the homemakers. The stay at home parent and the working parent. The disciplinarian and the friend. The good cop and the bad cop. 

So on the occasions when I find rest and margin in my life, it’s pretty easy for me to feel like I’m dropping the ball. Remember when finals week ended and school went on break and for the next 48 hours you had random panic moments wondering what you were supposed to be doing? That’s my life every time I get a chance to take a breath.

This is not always a bad thing. My stamina is pretty high. I’m pretty productive most of the time. But at least three or four times a week my boyfriend asks me to turn off my phone, close my planner, and just relax with him, and shutting it all down for an hour feels like an impossibility. I’ll get there.

2. I have zero patience for people who can’t get the job done

“Failure is not an option” never feels so real as when you become a single parent. There are a number of plates that have to keep spinning, no matter what. Your kid has to eat, has to make it to doctors appointments, has to wear clothes that (mostly) fit. There are a handful of things that can be put on the back burner, but not many. Single moms know how to get shit done, because we don’t have any other option.

So when I encounter someone who thinks that working part time is a lot, or who complains about how exhausted they are as a mom, despite having free grandma daycare on a regular basis, my hackles automatically go up. 

That’s not cool. It’s not fair to other parents for me to judge them based on my own standards of productivity. It’s not fair for me to compare my life to someone else’s, because I truly don’t know what their life looks like from the inside. It sucks, and it’s something I’m working on killing in myself.

3. Transitioning out of being a single mother sometimes feels horrible

I was a single parent of my daughter for the first two years of her life. Even long after I started seriously dating my boyfriend, it took a while for me to make the transition from dating-single-mother to being someone’s partner again. Nowadays, I don’t identify as a single mother anymore, because I know my boyfriend is here to stay, and he does a great job of coparenting my daughter with me.

Our home dynamic has changed with the addition of my boyfriend. He is truly an equal partner with me in our home. He plays with Molly, keeps the house, cooks, does the grocery runs, and makes sure Molly is well socialized. All of this “should” make me feel really good and happy. But it doesn’t always.

When we bought a new car seat, he made the case that it should go in his car, because with me in school and working two jobs, she was more likely to be driven around in his car than in mine. The realization stopped me in my tracks. Relinquishing tight control of my daughter (and my status as her only full-time parent) was a much harder transition then I expected. 

I had built my identity so much on being independent and single that stepping back into a partnership almost felt wrong. Hilariously, I started to feel like less of a person for no longer being a single parent. 

There are a lot of things about my stint as a single parent that I am grateful for. It forced me to grow in areas like asking for help, speaking truthfully, and prioritizing my health. But it also instilled some not-so-great tendencies in me that I will continue to work through as my life evolves. It’s all a process. 

So here’s to patient partners and understanding children who put up with the badass pains-in-the-ass that are formerly single mothers. Cheers.

Dear Molly: Find A Partner You Don’t Have To Mother


Dear Molly,

I have a lot of hopes for you, sweet girl. I hope that you will find success in things you choose to pursue. I hope that you will be healthy – mentally, physically, and spiritually. I hope that you will be authentic, brave, and passionate.

Today, above all else, I hope you will find a partner who does not need you to be their mother, housekeeper, cook, and nanny.

I hope you find a partner who walks into the house after work, sees that the dishes need to be done, and just does them. I hope you find a partner who starts dinner without being asked, just because it’s dinner time. I hope you find a partner who stops by the store when they are out, because they know you’re out of milk, even if you didn’t ask them to do it.

I hope you find a partner who folds their own laundry, who doesn’t wait for a to-do list, who doesn’t let you do all the housework while they play games or watch tv.

I hope you find a partner who, should you choose to have children, parents them with the same level of responsibility and zeal that you will. I hope you find a partner who knows the names and office addresses of your childrens’ dentists. I hope you find a partner who interacts with your childrens’ teachers, who knows the date of your childrens’ last vaccinations, who takes your kids back to school shopping without needing their hand to be held in the process.

I hope you find a partner who recognizes that the hard work of maintaining a home and a family doesn’t stop when the workday ends.

Because you will do all those things. If you are anything like your mother, your grandmother, your great grandmother, and countless women in this world, you will end your workday knowing that the hard work of housekeeping has only begun. You will walk into your house after kicking ass in your career, and start the laundry, wash the dishes, make the dinner, check the homework, make the appointments, and update the grocery list.

You will do this without even thinking about it. You will have been taught, by your parents and by society, that this is what adults do.

You will, as countless other girls do, naturally maintain your space, naturally maintain yourself, naturally care for others. Because you will have learned that the stakes for a woman who does not keep a clean house, who does not cook good food, who does not maintain a fit and beautiful appearance, are just too high.

So I hope, my amazing girl, that you find a partner who is passionate and proactive about rowing with you. A partner who will take just as much pride in maintaining their space and themselves as you do. A partner who will not expect cookies and stickers and the title of “superhero” for doing what you do every single day.

I hope you find a partner who recognizes you as an equal, and, just as importantly, recognizes their own obligations in life as being equal to yours.

I hope you don’t settle.

Love, Mom

The High Bar

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The first time I talked to my dad after I left my husband, he said I had relational PTSD. He’s right. It’s been almost two years since that day and I still see it sometimes: little flaming flashes of anger or panic when something goes wrong in a relationship. Self-Sabotage. Fear. Recoil. A tendency to assume people are angry with me/disappointed in me/leaving me, even when everyone is just trying to reassure and love me.

Recently, I was browsing the Spokane Humane Society’s website in search of veterinary services for my cat and fell down the black hole of animals in need of a forever home. They mostly seemed very adoptable – praised as family-friendly or sweet-tempered. But once every five or  six animals there would be one with a gently-worded warning. “Fluffy has a complicated history with people, and prefers a quiet home without children or other pets.” I understand Fluffy.

Maybe people should come with those same warnings. “Mandy has a complicated past and needs a forever home where people don’t raise their voices. She prefers companions who hold her with a loose hand, as she is ferociously independent. She is occasionally known to see threats where they do not exist and engage in unnecessarily sharp verbal combat.”

I’m a handful, and I’m not the only one. The more I watch myself (almost in an out-of-body experience) becoming, and then recovering from, this fiercely self-protective and frantically independent person, I realize how many of my friends and loved ones operate the same way. It’s a predictable byproduct of abuse. Wounded animals snap at their rescuers too.

The only solution, I decided in the year following my escape from a marriage I couldn’t survive, was to set the bar very high for the future. People in my life, from that point forward, would have to have to work for it if they wanted me. I stopped putting up with things that stung. I stopped letting people make my decisions for me. I started calling people out for harmful behaviors, no matter how mild, and I played it fast and loose with the “unfriend” button.

Maybe subconsciously I assumed these changes would result in my being alone forever. Maybe I secretly thought no one would meet my ridiculous standards. Maybe it didn’t cross my mind that anyone would try.

Early  – very early – in our relationship, I outlined all of this for my boyfriend.

“You can’t tell me what to do. I have to be able to make my decisions.”

“At least for now, you get no say in how I raise Molly. None.”

“If you yell at me, I’ll end the conversation.”

“If you throw things, we’re done.”

“When I say stop, you stop immediately. Doesn’t matter what we’re doing.”

“I want to sleep in separate beds.”

“I’m not your housekeeper. We row together or you get out.”

“I’ll support you but I’m not going to drag you through life. I move fast. Keep up.”

He didn’t even flinch. “That’s a high bar you’ve set,” I remember him saying, with that infuriating little smile that I’ve since learned means he loves me despite my neuroses.

“It is.” I looked him dead in the eye, and I know he saw that I was serious. “And if you want to be a part of this family, clear it.”

He has.

6 Things Women Do When Their Marriage Ends

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She begins obsessing about her space.

Every item of furniture, every picture on the wall, every throw pillow becomes important. Every piece feels like a huge part of her identity, and the home she builds from the aftermath becomes a self-portrait.

She always has fresh flowers.

It’s inexplicable, but they become a crucial part of her existence. Sometimes they fill vases, sometimes they just exist on her Instagram feed, but living flowers become a new fascination, and life feels weird without them.

She spends time examining her closet and redefining her fashion sense.

Maybe not a lot of time, and maybe nothing changes, but she starts to wonder how much of her fashion was chosen by her and how much was a product of her marriage.

She reads a lot more nonfiction, particularly memoirs of other women.

Self-help isn’t where it stops, but the genre suddenly doesn’t seem so pointless. Reading the writings of other women feels like an anchor point in the chaos.

She adopts a scorched earth policy when it comes to friends, both real and virtual.

A liberal and unapologetic use of the “unfriend” button becomes a surprising stress-reliever.

She sets her standards for life and relationships extremely high.

For better or for ill, she now knows what she deserves and what she will not put up with. Future relationships are held to a high bar.