May, 2006 - January, 2007: Crumbs (I imagine you have gathered by now that all names in this blog have been changed!) worked in the same office as I did. He was charming; I remember the first time I met him I thought to myself that he was the kind of person you could never really trust, because he was always "on". His voice was bright and cheery; his smile was toothy and engaging; and one never really felt that he was letting down his guard and being who he really was. I wondered what was underneath that facade; what made Crumbs tick?
|"Heyyy! Trust me!"|
I almost immediately got involved with Crumbs.
Lifescript.com offers these six tips on whether you are ready to date after divorce (and this is after divorce, mind you - a step that can take a long time after separation, which is the place I was at when Crumbs and I started seeing each other):
1. Have You Taken Time to Heal?
2. Do You Know the Single You?
3. Do You have a Solid Support Group?
4. Do You have a Healthy Self-Esteem?
5. Can You Stay Clear of Unhealthy Behaviors?
6. Are You Prepared?
Having a solid support group was a no-brainer - my family and friends were always there for me to lean on - but as for the other five things, I was nowhere near being able to answer Yes. Many websites I scoured for information on dating after divorce had the same refrain: You should not date anyone immediately following your separation. One book I read suggested that it would take one month for every year of the failed relationship before someone would be ready to begin a new one. In hindsight, now that I am six years past the separation, I know that I was not ready to begin a new relationship - and certainly would not be good for anyone - until about three years after my husband and I separated. And yet, I jumped into a relationship with Crumbs, hoping that he would take away the pain I was feeling, give me some reassurance that I was worthy of loving, and take care of me the way I longed to be taken care of.
Aside from my own unsuitability for a relationship, Crumbs had red flags coming out the wazoo (now there's a picture...). What attracted me to him initially was the fact that he appeared so financially stable: he owned his own house and a great car; he dressed well and exhibited signs of being well-off; he advised other people on what to do with their money. A huge part of me desperately wanted someone who was well-off and responsible, who would be able to look after me and had worked hard to get where he was. He appeared to me, at that time - and in my admittedly extremely foggy emotional state - to be that person.
However, Crumbs was not someone I could count on, and I discovered that very shortly after the relationship began. Soon after we started dating, I found myself waiting and waiting for him to come by when he had said he would. We would have huge screaming fights on the phone because he was hours late and I had been just sitting there hoping he would show up. He began to miss work, and I would drive over to his house on my lunch hour and find him in bed, exhausted and depressed. For whatever reason, I decided to move in to his spare room - crazy, yes; and absolutely nonsensical, but at the time I could not think straight. I thought that maybe we could be together like a "normal" couple, and I could help him with his problems (he was obviously depressed - the house was in a state of disaster and he could barely get up in the mornings to get to work), and maybe he would straighten up and be the man I needed.
It did not happen. Eventually I realized that he was gambling online. He took a leave of absence from work and took out a second mortgage on his house. Some nights he would say he was going out to walk the dog and wouldn't come home at all, all night. I was so desperate to help him that I would remove all the gambling programs from the computer, set child safety blocks on the Internet, whatever I could to stop him from wasting his life more. Soon it became obvious that he was also heavily alcoholic.
I was devastated. What in the world had caused me to put all my eggs in this crumbling basket? I knew that I had wasted much of the very important first year after separation on a man who was not willing to accept my help. I recognized that I was spending all my time trying to save him when my children were grieving the end of their family as they knew it, and I hadn't done any work on myself to get through my emotions surrounding the separation. I put all my focus on a man who I had thought would be my "savior", and I ended up being caretaker to a man who didn't even want it.
After eight months in tumultuous relationship with Crumbs (two of them spent living in his home), I finally decided to move out and ended it with him. I later discovered that he was severely addicted to cocaine and alcohol. Crumbs has since lost his house, his job, his vehicle, and his relationships with everyone but his mother. Looking back, it's difficult to believe that I was in a space where I allowed his problems to completely overshadow my own. I did absolutely no work on myself and was hardly any help to my babies during those first important months after separation. Talk about a recipe for disaster.
What I learned: After any relationship ending, a grieving period is necessary. After a marriage ends, the first priority is the children - get over yourself for whatever time it takes to be there for them...you can cry and wail when you are alone, but be strong for your kids. Don't get into a relationship with someone thinking that they can support you financially - make a living and support yourself. Never move in with someone you hardly know. Never try to be in relationship with someone for their own good and ignore what you need; you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. And lastly - and these two things took me a lot longer to learn, but I got my first inkling of it here - no man can help you get over another man, and PAY ATTENTION TO THE WARNING SIGNS. Don't just think that those little niggly things will just go away, or that you can overcome the negative things about the man or the relationship. With some things, you can't.
I look back on my relationship with Crumbs and I'm regretful and sad. However, I need to remind myself that even in our mistakes, we learn valuable lessons. That's why I've determined to take what I can from each of the "stupid" things I've done, in order to make a better future for myself and my kids.