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I Suck At Relationships. Will My Multiple Divorces Affect My Children?

I Suck at Relationships

For fun, I used to compose pretend dating profiles in my head, imagining what they would say if I were to go on dating apps. Providing more than just surface information like, “I’m witty. I’m creative. I’m outgoing! I like pizza!” my brutally candid profile would read something like, “Looking for a serious relationship, possibly marriage. Mid-forties. Two divorces. Two children, from two different fathers. Kids will always come first. Looking for a man to be with, but only when I feel like it. If we have sleepovers, you can not talk to or look at me for at least 45 minutes, after I wake up and until the caffeine sets in…or I’ll kill you. I can’t cook. I don’t plan to learn. I get a lot of parking tickets. There is always a smear of toothpaste on my bathroom mirror. I look at my phone about 134 times a day. I leave wet towels on the bed. I also snack in bed, so you’ll find crumbs during foreplay. I like to go to bed early, like retirement home early. I’m a writer, so I will likely use you as material, without your permission.”

Can’t you see the men just lining up? Dear Lord, am I bad on paper.

I suck in relationships because of my independence, thrown in with my selfishness, mixed in with being both overly impulsive and overly sensitive, plus the fact that I love alone time and am a creature of habit. And I’m a bit hedonistic. When I used to say to friends that I suck at relationships, I was always met with, “You’re going to find your soulmate! You’re awesome!” Or, “I know a separated guy who wants to meet you…” My friends may have been listening, but they weren’t hearing me! I wasn’t moaning about meeting a partner. I have no problem meeting men. I was simply stating a fact: I’m good at dating but suck at being in long term relationships.

When it came to my first common law marriage, in which my first ex-husband and I had a daughter, I was young, stupid, and really disliked the city my ex wanted to live in. So we broke up when our daughter was three. My second common-law marriage, in which we also had a baby, ended when my son was about five-years-old, for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because we argued every single day. At present, I’ve been dating a man, exclusively for just over a year, and yes, we have discussed marriage. Which would make it my third…

I hope third time’s a charm because I really dig this guy. He’s great with my kids, I like his family, and he makes me happy. My parents like him so much, that a couple of months ago, my dad jokingly said, “You better not let this one go!” Even my parents recognize that I suck at marriage (and they’ve been happily married for more than 50 years.)

But, if it turns out that it’s more three strikes and you’re out than third time’s a charm, I think I’m done with relationships! I’ll just be happy dating, with no commitment, for the rest of my life. And I’m not kidding. When I asked a colleague what her secret to marriage is, she told me, “At the end of the day, he’s the only one I want to go to sleep with and the only one I want to wake up with.” I thought, “That’s sweet. So what planet are you from?” I think I’m a hopeless romantic, so when the mask comes off, for me, it’s fight or flight, and usually, I flight.

So, because I suck at marriage, I not only worry that I’ll somehow fuck this relationship up, but more importantly, I worry how my two children will view relationships as they get older. I’m their role model, after all. Have I already messed them up? Will my daughter have a skewed view of how one should be in a marriage? Will my son think that it’s normal to have multiple marriages? Will they both think it’s normal, in a marriage, to have screaming matches every day? Will they think, after an unhappy phase in a marriage, that it’s normal to say, “Fuck it. I’m out!” and pick up and leave, because they see that there are people who have been divorced two, three, even four times? Will one or both not get married at all?

The stats aren’t on my side, for this third, and hopefully, final relationship. The divorce rate for third marriages is estimated to be about 74%! I don’t like those odds, not only because I want this relationship to work, and also so my children don’t look at me as a multiple divorcee.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in my two divorces and the mistakes I made, and I’m self-aware enough to know what I needed to change to make this third serious relationship something that could potentially lead to a third marriage.

Although the stigma of divorce has practically evaporated, the stigma of having multiple divorces has not. Most likely, this is because we are all living longer, and a few generations ago, marriage was a 20-year commitment, but now people who live to 100 years could technically be married to the same person for 73 years! I really, really, want to make the relationship I’m in work, not because I feel like a two-time loser in marriage, but because I want my kids to grow up seeing there are happy couples out there, willing to put in the work needed for a successful and long happy marriage, and that I could be one of those people.

I recently typed the saddest question I’ve ever asked Google; “How will multiple divorces affect my children?” It was a mistake. On article says, “Parents who marry and divorce more than once can cause problems for their children because the more divorces and remarriages a child lives through, the more likely he or she is to divorce as an adult.” And, “Children of multiple divorced families often find it difficult to maintain lasting intimate relationships. People whose parents cycled through multiple divorces are more likely to marry young, divorce, remarry and experience long-term difficulty with relationships. Some experts believe this marriage-divorce patchwork may interfere during a child’s critical developmental.” WTF? And, also, F**K OFF!

So how do I teach my children to be in a long, loving, happy and possibly 73-year long marriage, especially when Mommy can’t seem to make a relationship last longer than ice cubes melting in a glass on a hot day?

I know my daughter had a skewed view of marriage after my second divorce. In this article, researchers asked children to answer how they could tell a couple was married. “If they are arguing, then they are probably married,” one kid answered. I would laugh at this answer from a kid – they can be so honest – if it wasn’t so true. “I just thought the arguing was normal,” my daughter told me when I asked if she still believed in a happily ever after. Her answer was like a knife to my heart. “But then I saw there were a lot of happy couples out there,” she added. So, yes, the relationship affected her, but not to the point she doesn’t believe in love and marriage. In fact, she is completely optimistic about love and marriage! When it comes to my son, I think it’s a tad too early to ask a 7-year-old if he still believes in marriage, considering my son asked me to marry him a few months ago.

Also, he grew up watching his sisters go off to their “other” parent’s houses, so to him, having two homes, and divorce is perfectly normal. Both his father and I are on third relationships.

“Parents who divorce repeatedly tend to be impulsive, choose bad partners and lack the ability to sustain relationships. So the children of these parents tend to grow up with a built-in role-model disadvantage in addition to multiple divorce handicap,” I also read. But I don’t necessarily believe these so-called experts, because no kid is the same and no parent is the same.

It’s not all dire. In fact, there is sort of a positive argument of children who live through multiple divorces, or at least it may not be something to be overly worried about. “These children also develop some special skills…they learn how to get along in diverse situations…how to problem solve, they learn independence. For many children of divorce – including multiple divorces – their resilience means that they will move forward like other kids,” said one researcher in this article.

Since people are realizing that our life spans are so much longer, we’re moving into another stage of modern parenting which includes multiple marriages, which I believe are going to happen more and more. I adored this article, “13 Things I’ve Learned From Being Married 3 Times,” where the writer shares lessons she learned. One is, “People will Judge You,” to which her response was, “Fuck those guys. Their opinion of your life is not your business.” Another was, “People wonder what is ‘wrong with you,'” to which her lesson is, “Sometimes, they will even be rude enough to ask what is wrong with you.” If anyone had asked me a year ago, ‘what is wrong with you?’ I’d probably say, “I just suck at relationships!”

I don’t buy into the theory that all children of multiple divorced families often find it difficult to maintain lasting intimate relationships. But that doesn’t mean that it sometimes still nags at me. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that perhaps my children can learn from my mistakes in relationships, just as I have done myself, after a lot of self-reflection on what I could have done better in my first two common-law marriages, some of which includes, but is not to limited to, showing more appreciation, speaking highly of him, not shutting down when we disagree, giving compliments, and even making sure there is a Pepsi for him in my fridge, because he loves Pepsi. I’m also way more optimistic, because we haven’t been impulsive, we’re moving slowly, and yes we have discussed what our future, together, would look like.

Maybe it took multiple divorces to know what a happy relationship looks like, not just for me, but for my children as well.

 

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