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Dating=Bad. Marriage=Good.

I re-entered the dating world at 34, as a single mom of four children, having been with my ex-husband since I was 17. I had never had a different lover. Ever. He was the only one I had slept with to be quite frank about it. We got together so young and I was a good little Christian girl who kept it in my pants, so to speak. I was terrified of being with another dude. I was also too sick to work full time due to autoimmune issues and the stress of all that had taken place. Not to mention, I still had an actual baby that hadn’t even turned one yet.

I knew the marriage was over. It had been over for years, and I had to face reality. But was this really my reality? I beat myself up over it. I should have left sooner. I shouldn’t have gotten this many kids involved. I should be further along in my career so I can better support myself. I shouldn’t be this sick, I had to figure something out.

Let me say again that my family and my people rallied around me and kept me going. I clung to them, cried to them, leaned on my parents and my homies. They were everything to me and my kids during that time. I’ll never forget the day I went to my parents house to tell them what was actually going on, to finally let someone safe into my world and what I had been privately battling for years. I broke down and cried. They broke down and cried with me. My mom held me in the kitchen and told me she had seen me fight long and hard for this marriage, this relationship, this family and that she knew I was done. She was concerned it was part of the reason my health had declined so much, and she supported me 100% by getting out. They offered me babysitting, love, prayers, support and even money. Of course they did, they’re my parents.

I carried so much relief in telling them, in finally coming clean and being open. It was like a rush of healing washed over me that day. I had made the decision. I was no longer floundering. This was my direction and I had to find a way even if it meant me clawing and crawling my way forward.

Even in the midst of that relief, though, there was a tremendous amount of shame. Some of it was due to the fact that I thought dicorce was just so wrong, so unthinkable. It was hard for me to reconcile that something so wrong was right. Was it right? It took me a long time to get to peace with the fact that it was actually best for me and the kids. I also had shame for having all of these little kids by myself now. What would people think of me? Most people already thought I was crazy for having four kids. It often made people so uncomfortable that they would say weird things like “wow, you’re fertile!” and “wow you guys must do it like rabbits!”

Yes, thank you for commenting on my fertility and my sex life, very much appreciated and not at all in bad taste.

I knew I was only asking for more comments like this if I was now doing it on my own. People would think I was crazy, that I had lost my damn mind. I felt like an idiot. I got married to the first man I loved, then busted out a bunch of kids, and then decided to make peace out?? I knew that wasn’t the full story. But I also knew most people would never know the full story and I’d have to live with that.

Not to mention that divorce is bad and a sin. God hates divorce, according to the bible and biblical counseling. Is it really that simple? No, it never is. And is it even true? What about in situations of physical abuse, addiction, lying, cheating, stealing?

I spent that first year after the divorce just healing. No dating. Barely working. Healing. Lots of therapy. Healing. Lots of yoga. Healing. Lots of crying to friends. Healing. Lots of cuddles and conversations and movie nights with the kids. Healing. Lots of meditation and prayer. Healing.

I started seeing a naturopath to help my body heal, when all of my regular doctors couldn’t find answers. Slowly I got stronger. I changed my diet. I started working out and getting strong again. I dyed my hair blonde. I bought a bunch of rompers because my ex hated them. I got some tattoos. I redecorated my house. I started working again and ramped up my photography business. Day by day, I turned the tide and mustered through. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been 4 years. I went on some dating apps.

The best dating advice came from a therapist friend of mine who told me that my list of what I didn’t want was equally as important as what I did want. Now, keep in mind that I am basically a little baby fawn learning to walk again and that my confidence was taken down close to zero. I was skeptical any man anywhere on the planet would ever want to date a single mom with four young kids. I had guy friends and girl friends tell me I was a catch and that the right person would come along. I didn’t believe them. I decided I’d write off love and just date. For fun. Get to know myself and others. Take all the pressure off. I had a lot of self-discovery to do and maybe this was my time to do it. And if what I had learned about marriage was not quite right or the full story then maybe dating was the same way.

See, I was taught about dating back in church culture in the 90s and those old baptist roots die hard. I was told dating was only to figure out if you should get married. In fact, things like “serial daters” were shamed. You shouldn’t date just to date, you should have the purpose of lifelong commitment in mind. In fact, courting would be a better term because it shows the mindset of intention behind the dating. On top of that, my little teenage self read books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris, where the author talks about how he wasn’t going to date or kiss until he was married. Huh? How does one even do that? Basically he rolls out some ideas in the book about group dates, and waiting to kiss until the alter. No one was getting anywhere near Harris’ pants and same was the case with little Megan Yenny.

Somehow, it all made sense to us teens at the time and the blunt summary to my 15-year-old self was dating=bad. marriage=good.

Ok, got it.

Therefore, in a nutshell, I got married to the first man I dated and was married promptly after turning 21. Was he a good match? Were we good for each other? Were we compatible? Did we have enough money to live on?

Such questions were hogwash! We loved God and that was enough. I was told by the church folk that it was good to get married young: 1. I could have sex, and 2. I could now start my life.

Life starts when you’re married and in love, right? Of course I didn't want to wait. I had basically been waiting for this day my entire life because the culture I was in groomed this idea that marriage was the goal. Not traveling, not careers, not finding oneself. Just marriage. Marriage was all I needed. Afterall, the Apostle Paul said it was better to get married and have sex than to burn with lust for one another.

So there I was at 34 years old, trying to reconcile these old 1997 Christian roots that told me I was doing it all wrong.

Well, part of me figured that if I had done everything I was supposed to do and played by all of the Christian rules I was supposed to, and yet my marriage STILL didn’t work out, then I might as well try this dating thing my own way. What did that mean exactly? I didn't know. But I started with those 2 lists: what I wanted and what I didn’t.

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