In the Summer of 2011, I was living in NYC and getting divorced, after 7 years of marriage.
I had baby who had just turned one. I had been with his father for 11 years. I was 30 years old, living in Brooklyn with a new job in Manhattan. I was terrified and lost.
A few months after, I was terrified and lost plus, I was looking forward to start dating.
When you haven't been single since the 1990's and you've never seen an online dating site - the dating world can seem incredibly intimidating.
I had no idea what I was doing when it comes to dating. I later learned, no one really does. It's not something you figure out with your head alone.
It would be nine years later - mid-pandemic on a first date that was mostly masked and socially distant - that I would reconnect with a friend and have that bloom into the committed partnership I have today. The one I had always wanted.
My dating journey was messy, heartbreaking, and at times sweet and fun. In hindsight I now see that it was also intuitively driven, even though it hardly ever felt that way.
I've always known I would have great love in my life.
I can't explain how I've known this. I've felt it in the truest parts of me since I was a little girl. This is where intuition comes in. I knew that this great love would be devoted, fun, joyful, deeply committed, and connected on a physical and spiritual level. I knew I would have a deep and true romantic partnership in this lifetime.
I got married when I was 23. My parents met as teenagers in Santo Domingo, and I was convinced I too was on the path of luckily stumbling upon my soulmate early in life. Mine was puppy love, and looking back I was playing house. I had no idea who I was, I had been very sheltered most of my life. I know he and I were meant to bring our child into this world; and that relationship will always have given me the greatest gift of my life. When we got divorced, I felt completely clueless on how to act, where to begin when it came to dating. After over a decade with my son's father - my identity had been so tied to him, I had no idea who I was outside of that relationship and the life we had built together.
To quote Don Draper talking to Joan on Mad Men:
"Congratulations...for getting divorced. Nobody realizes how bad it has to get for that to happen. "
And so begins almost a decade of dating.
Those nine years can be divided into three major phases:
Phase 1: "What is happening? This is fun."
I so wanted someone to see me, to feel wanted, to feel like a man wanted to spend even a little time with me. I sought out dating as another way to feel like a human again. I was also desperate to feel light and just have some fun again.
I do some dating in NYC and almost a year post-divorce my son and I move to Miami to be closer to my family and my support structure.
The first few years post-divorce I was incapable of emotional commitment. The idea of it terrified me. Ironically, that was something I was very comfortable sharing with anyone I dated and it led to relationships that were open and honest and real.
I had dear friends show up at my doorstep with a bottle of wine many weekday evenings. They held my son while I made dinner and helped me get him ready for bed. Then, they listened as I spoke and I cried, and I dreamed of a new day. They were a lifeline for me, and I will forever be grateful.
Those first few years I came back to life. I laughed again. I realized I would be OK. I realize that it's OK to be happy and have fun again. Those years feel like a deep exhale. I found pieces of myself I had lost for years. Those years were wild, fun, free and so very mine.
Phase 2: "The messy middle"
This was by far the messiest of my phases, and I know I had to live every minute of it. But damn.
In the midst of all the fun...inevitably, that longing for deep committed love slowly came back. I started to feel things and imagine futures with people.
This intuitive desire also came jumbled with expectations. Marriage was very much engrained in me as the only acceptable way to "be". I had lost a husband, and now I needed to replace him. This, without having done the work to heal, cry, get angry, process, move on from everything that had gone down in the past few years.
Between caring for the children we are often largely responsible for, putting back together the physical and financial pieces of our lives for ourselves and our children - our own healing takes a backseat, takes way longer and suffers many interruptions. Not to mention the frequent "pretend and smile" for the children's sake when you are with your co-parent - regardless of how you feel.
The dating continued.
Dating in Miami is every single stereotype come true. My mother used to always say:
"Mija, you only need one of them to be right for you."
This is quite true. However, there is a lot of filtering. A lot. The Peter Pans who never want to grow up. The many men whose self worth is tied to the gym and their cars. The search for depth and so often coming up short.
I got into a pattern of the following:
I was unable to express what I really wanted and was shocked when the expectations I never voiced weren't met.
I was so terrified of getting hurt again, I sabotaged so much in the effort of sparing my ego the bruising of being dumped. My trauma had me putting up walls and I was so deep into it, I didn't even recognize it as it was happening.
Then there were also moments that my heart reminded me of hope. I sometimes saw glimpses of what I wanted in a relationship in the men I met. They were like brief moments of magic that showed me what was possible and just as quickly went away.
I had real genuine moments of connection, I met and befriended wonderful people,
I also had many months of never going on a single date, thoroughly enjoying my single life with my friends and , diving into my business, my community, my time with my son, new hobbies, classes, and being able to completely put it out of my mind. It felt necessary for my own sanity.
When I was alone at night and the emotions on romantic partnership flooded me, I bounced between cynicism, faint hope, disappointment, and giving up.
Even in those darkest moments, my desire for this great love remained, like a light fighting to not be fully dimmed inside me.
Phase 3: Going inward
In 2018, I decide that I need to do something drastic.
I decided that it was time to heal, love and honor myself. That it was time to see everything that had been hidden and unexamined inside me. That's the energy with which I walked into Gratitude, a months-long transformational training program. My number one goal was to shake off what I knew was blocking me from a relationship. I didn't know what it was, but I knew it was something.
The ego deaths, the self awareness, the massive amounts of humble pie, the good crying, the screaming, the punching pillows, and the true friendship connections I lived there changed me forever.
There were so many moments I fought the process, I stumbled, I doubted it and me. My great love held me through it all. I got back up every time.
Through this process something major shifted: I finally saw myself. I honored my true desires. I started to fall in love with me. I know it sounds incredibly cliche. It was absolutely true. I stopped contextualizing relationship as fulfilling society's expectations or validating my worth and hung on to my desire for the kind of partnership I knew I desired.
I started to take care of myself, to not feel like if I didn't date enough I wouldn't meet "him." I listened to what I felt and acted on it.
I started an IG collection of the couples I knew and admired who seemed to genuinely love each other. I sought proof that this was not only possible, but that it was truly for me as well.
I made my list of non-negotiables:
And then, for the first time in my life - I began to truly believe that it would happen. Period. And I let it be in God's hands.
I started to believe that I couldn't fuck it up. That I didn't have to control or force it. Even in the moments I felt naive or ridiculous for continuing to believe it, I chose to believe it. I started to believe that I am love and I attract love and that just is. I barely dated at all for that whole period. I focused on me. I found my bliss. I had my peace. I put down the weight of this expectation and I focused on BEING me.
I could honestly finish phase three there - because although I am deeply in love and so happy with my partner - I don't believe that was the ultimate goal or the point.
It all happened in the way it needed to happen, in the time it needed to happen, so we could both be ready for one another. And I needed to let my journey be mine, and trust that my great love would carry me through it all.
I used to see happy couples and wonder what was wrong with me. Why couldn't I call this in for myself? I spent so long lamenting what I didn't have, and the pain and sadness of that did not fade until I started owning my worth and loving myself, and releasing the control or responsibility for creating this partnership myself.
It is a careful, heart-opening, and beautiful line to walk.
Wherever you're at on this path - I wish you stillness, the courage to recognize your truth, I wish you healing, and I wish you a great love to hold you always - starting right there with you.