Taking time to transition

woman sitting

My ex-husband and I divorced almost two years ago after 18 years together. We have three kids and share custody of them, although I’m with them about 70 percent of the time. These last couple years I’ve been dating and have met some wonderful men, some of whom put pressure on me to become more committed. I keep finding myself reluctant to put a label like boyfriend or girlfriend on any of these relationships. How can I explain this to them? And do you think there’s something wrong with me not wanting a serious relationship?

There is nothing wrong with you.

If you opt to be fancy-free indefinitely there is nothing wrong with you. If you opt to commit to the next wonderful fellow you meet there is nothing wrong with you. If you decide to become a nun and be celibate there is nothing wrong with you. If you decide to date a different person every month there is nothing wrong with you.

My point is there is no one right way to be in relationship. Everyone is different in what they need. Be the wise woman who knows and accepts where you’re at in life.

After almost two decades with a ball and chain, why wouldn’t you want to be free from those shackles? But seriously (and with all due respect to the institution of marriage) you are still in transition.

Eighteen years is a good chunk of time. Just as it took you and your “was-band” (ex-husband) time to assemble your life together, it will take time to disassemble all that history and reassemble your life.

You’ve got to adjust to the “new normal,” which may mean your needs and priorities are different this time.

As a parent — and all those years as a partner — you’ve been and continue to be a caregiver. You don’t mention how old your children are, but if you’re raising three kids on your own almost three-quarters of the time, you probably don’t have much left to give to a serious romantic relationship.

Keeping things light means you can focus on how your children are transitioning, what it’s like for you to be a single parent and what you want from a relationship in the future.

It can be common for people who’ve come out of a long-term relationship to want a little space, freedom and time to digest what happened. Depending on how the marriage ended, perhaps you’re working through some betrayal and question whether you can trust again.

Try to let go of comparing your new suitor to your ex. As humans, our fearful mind can overanalyze, compare and make assumptions, especially on the heels of something as emotional as a divorce.

Keep listening to your gut instinct on what you want and need right now, and then confidently and kindly be honest with them.

Tell these gentlemen that you enjoy their company but it isn’t fair to anyone if you move too fast. Explain that you don’t want to put a label on the relationship and limit it or cram it into some box that isn’t ever going to capture all the nuance and mystery of a budding relationship anyway.

At least you are coming from a place of integrity and honesty, which is essential to healthy relationships. And at least you’re not ghosting them — the slow or sudden disappearing act when you don’t have the guts to be honest, which has become more common in our modern dating era.

Being frank and standing up for yourself will probably make them want you all the more. Get it, girl!

Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to [email protected].