I had my own share of screw ups and questionable choices in the relationship realm.
I was first engaged years ago in college. I wouldn’t have been able to legally drink at my wedding. I did study abroad and really getting out of my bubble for the first time awakened me. I realized I was making a mistake and called the wedding off. I made another big, stupid, mistake right before I called the wedding off and cheated on my fiance at the time. I didn’t have the best dating track record after that and there were some questionable relationships or “relationships” in some cases. I didn’t have healthy boundaries. I kept selling myself short and I wasn’t pursuing healthy relationships. While I tried to keep a façade that I was “good girl” I wasn’t doing a very good job actually living that out.
The turning point in my life was when I found out I was pregnant. I was in an international, long distance relationship and a baby came waaaaaay too quickly, we had only been together for 2 months. It was not what I wanted. I was raised that it was supposed to be find a man, marry and then have kids. Now I had the reality to face that I wasn’t married and a baby was coming. I was the “good Christian girl” that this wasn’t supposed to happen to. I had broken the cardinal Christian rule of purity and now everyone would know. There was no way to hide a growing baby bump or the baby after the fact. My dreams and aspirations for my life were over as far as I was concerned.
Telling my parents was the hardest thing I’ve done. I remember praying in the car ride on the way to break the news and thinking “God, I’ve messed up. I know I don’t deserve it but it’d be really great if my parents told me that they still loved me and that they’ll do what they can to help.” God answered my prayer. God blessed with me amazing parents that let me move back in with them. Grandma provided childcare for the first year while I worked and then started grad school on top of that. My friends were supportive of me as well. I don’t know where we’d be if my parents in particular hadn’t supported me in the way they did.
I had to own my choices and face the consequences, good and bad, of my own actions. I knew the disappointment that my news would bring. I knew it’d be a hard road ahead of me. I couldn’t blame it on anyone else. This was my own doing. In my head I still tried to blame shift where I could but it was futile and short-lived. Owning my choices took some time, it wasn’t an overnight process. I still complained and used the “woe is me” card on multiple occasions. Owning my choices meant my rags of shame were falling off.
Part of owning my choices was that I had to be honest with myself in that I was questioning the budding relationship when I found out I was pregnant. But I felt like I owed it to some moral code somewhere to stick it out to see if it would work. I stuck it out for a year and a half, international long distance and I wish I would have just ended it the first time around. It wasn’t fair to anyone involved to prolong the inevitable, deny my own voice/agency and continue pretending like I didn’t know deep down that I needed to end it. I had a kid and I was with her dad still. My choices were to end the relationship, be a single mom and figure that out, or continue on my current path which meant starting the fiance visa process so I could marry a man that was a good man, but I honestly didn’t want to be with him. I owned my agency and chose the path of single motherhood.
That led me to online dating on eharmony. I had done a free trial of eharmony in college and their personality test was the best match I’ve ever seen in personality tests. I was working full time, in grad school full time and a single mother. There was no way it would logistically work to meet people in person at social gatherings. I tried eharmony in 2012 and like DM being open with his divorce, I had to post on my profile that I had a kid, knowing full well that that would significantly clear out the fish in the sea for me to pick from. I dated someone for 9 months who lived 3 hours away. My lot in my dating life seemed to be long distance relationships but compared to different countries, 3 hrs away wasn’t that bad.
He wasn’t scared away that I had a kid (or so I thought). I felt needed to pull my half of the weight in the relationship so every other weekend, sometimes more frequently, I loaded up my toddler in the car and we made an 8-10hr round trip road trip out of state for the weekend (3hrs away means 4-5 hrs with a toddler in the car). While the relationship seemed like it was alright, as the months went on it was turning sour. I knew that if it stayed the way it was going I would need to exit, but my thinking was that I had already invested so much time and effort into the relationship that I would stick it out a little longer. It was a phase, it would pass. He ended it over the phone one weekend shortly after that. I was pissed. As much as I knew I couldn’t argue that it needed to be over I was mad because it wasn’t in my control. I felt hopeless with dating, like I had tried it with a kid and it failed so my chances of ever succeeding were zero.
A few months later grad school was finally coming to a close and I had kicked aside the hopelessness of dating and decided to try eharmony again, it was now summer of 2013. DMs profile was matched to mine and he messaged me. Some of my first thoughts were “oh, great, he’s a pastor. I’m a single mom. I’m going to get a lecture,” and “hmmm, he’s divorced…I don’t know how I feel about that” and “he’s an hour away from me… Seriously?! Long distance again?! Come on, God, is it so hard to find someone 15 minutes away from me for a change?!” But after reading more of his profile I got the sense that we might actually really connect. I was right (and an hour drive was way better than 3 and better than different countries. I was moving up in the world!)
My journey had taught me a few things:
1) I needed core values upheld
2) I needed someone that would come to me, not the other way around. It was a poor decision on my part to haul my toddler around like I did trying to make a relationship work and I was not going to do that again
3) I needed someone that had grace and would see all the good I brought to the table
4) I didn’t want to play any games. I had a kid, I had grown up, I learned to assert myself and I needed someone ready to be a father from the get-go. I wasn’t going to follow some timeline that says you have to date for a year+ before taking the next step. I wasn’t going to try and compartmentalize my daughter out of my dating life and go on dates as if I wasn’t a mom. I could arrange for a babysitter a few times but he had to be okay with her presence, work around nap time and bed times and meet me where I was at
5) I needed a partner, someone that would fight with me and someone that was strong enough in themselves so that I wouldn’t feel like I was constantly plowing them over. I am strong woman, I developed a strong backbone. I needed a man who’s manhood wouldn’t be threatened by me and who wouldn’t expect me to be some quiet, passive, submissive wife
6) I learned how to set healthy boundaries and own my choices. I needed someone that also knew how to set healthy boundaries and owned their own choices
I had gotten to a place where I was a much healthier version of myself in many different respects. I wasn’t going to compromise that and I was looking for someone who was their own healthy, whole person.
DM met all of those points and more. For the first time in a relationship I felt truly valued, respected and supported. He met me right where I was at. I didn’t feel the pressure to carry my own weight to make the score cards even. His journey of pain had made him much more grace-filled than he had been before. We both agreed that we would not have been drawn to the other if we had met before all the bumps in our roads happened. While our stories were different, there was the same theme of knowing what it’s like to have lost dreams. Life hadn’t gone the way we thought it would. That allowed us to really have empathy and understand each other on a level that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
I held the status quo mentality towards divorce that the blog tries to break. DM broke my own misconceptions on the subject. I learned from him. He was open about how he contributed to function/dysfunction in his previous marriage and how he had learned and grown from his shortcomings. I was open with my shortcomings, didn’t blame shift or try to hide anything. He learned from me that trusting again was possible. I say what I’m thinking, I don’t lie well, I mean what I say and I’ll have his back. Neither of us would have married the other had we not demonstrated through our actions that we had owned our choices, learned from them and in turn, grown from them. We have a partner in the other.
I was glad that I avoided any game playing. We met and married within 7 months. The speed ruffled feathers as we didn’t play by traditional rules. But the way we saw it was that we’re adults, we have our own unique situation that isn’t traditional, we know what we want (and don’t want), we’ll make our own decisions in regards to what works for us (physical intimacy was really hard to hold back from for me. 7 months was more than enough time to wait in my book!).
We started dating in August 2013. I actually bought his ring in October (he didn’t know I had it until November), I knew it was going to happen. I knew at Thanksgiving that he’d bought mine (when he told me I could stop sending him hints on what I liked). December came and we were engaged, then married in March 2014. I have no regrets with how we did things.
I like the “Shield Maiden” name. It fits me well and it works having a partner that will fight as well. If it hasn’t been apparent enough yet I do not back down easily. My journey in life brought me to and through many barriers and I plow right through whatever is laid in front of me. God redeemed our stories and restored our lost dreams. Redemption wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t owned our roles, whether good or bad, in our own testimonies. I know my dreams and life look a bit different than I thought they would but it’s good and is being used for good.
DM family after Mrs. DM completed her second marathon on October 5th.