Realistic New Year Goals After Divorce Drop the Guilt & Move Forward

Realistic New Year Goals After Divorce Drop the Guilt & Move Forward

Just turn it all off.  All the brand-new you New Year goals.  All the stuff that says this is the time for your total transformation.  All the stuff that begins January 2nd and fades away by March.  This new year is all about ditching the guilt and moving forward.  Tough to do when everyone is waving the answer in your face, with a deadline to begin.  For the first time, in maybe a long time, your future is in your own hands.  Time to get reacquainted with what you want.  No time like the present.  Shall we?

It’s All About You:  New Year Goals

There are no clever names for what comes next, because it’s personal.  What works for you may not be the right thing for everyone.  That’s your first step, realizing that you’re unique.  Too often we try to fit into the mold of whatever is the latest and greatest.  Be strong.  Be vulnerable.  Share.  Be silent.  In reality, you need to be you, and you need to embrace those things that work for you.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch yourself at times to try something new, but it’s okay if what you choose is in alignment with who you are.

Divorce itself is a huge change, and it can take time to adjust to your new normal.  It is self-defeating to heap unrealistic requirements on top of the resolution you’re already undertaking:  starting over.  Artificial timetables and deadlines don’t help.  What does?

Getting to Know You Again

Marriage changes everyone, and both parties learn to compromise and accommodate each other.  It’s often gradual, and you don’t even notice it’s happening, until one day you realize it’s been ages since you’ve… well, fill in the blank.  Take some time to try and remember those things you liked to do.  Things that maybe didn’t fit so well when you were married.  Maybe you liked to hike, or scuba dive or spend hours in vintage bookstores.  Maybe you liked history or playing an instrument.  Think about it, and try your hand at things you used to do.  Maybe it was cycling; you know what they say about riding a bike.  You never forget.

Do I Know You?

Part of a new life in a new year is new people.  Sure, you can explore any number of online dating services, but exploring new connections in the everyday takes off the pressure and allows you the freedom to just be you.  Chat with the vendors at the local farmers market.  Hold the door and smile at the person going through.  Make eye contact.  These small connections and kindnesses aren’t part of a grander plan to find a new life partner.  It’s part of a plan to make your life sweeter, to feel part of a community.

But what about…

Just stop.  Stop worrying about what other people think.  Truth be told, most folks have enough on their plates to wonder what’s on yours.  Just think about your everyday to-do list; some days it’s difficult to complete half of it, let alone worry about someone else’s.  Think of it like a yoga practice.  In yoga, your focus is turned inward as you seek to achieve the most benefit, and everyone progresses at their own pace.  Same deal here.

Slow Growth = Strong Roots

Slow is hard.  There’s no dramatic, instantaneous change.  And no catchy tagline.  But there are long-lasting benefits to moving one step at a time.  Slow growth and small changes turn into forever changes.  Can you run a marathon this weekend if you’ve never run before, or trained at all?  Maybe, but most likely it won’t be pretty, and you won’t feel great afterward.  Worse yet, you may injure yourself, or quit, and then it’s likely you’ll abandon the whole idea.  But what if you start with a 5K?  Walk it, run it, do anything to complete the 3.1 miles.  It may still be hard, but it’s doable, and your sense of accomplishment can push you to try the next level.

Try and look past the flashing lights to see what you’d like to accomplish.  It may look easier when someone else lays out a plan for you, but choosing a realistic plan, you develop yourself will promote those strong roots we all need to keep moving forward.

Just Do It.

Here’s the thing:  you need to decide what it is.  Yes, there’s a lot of thought that goes into creating a new, single life.  And you need to invest the time, but then you need to do something.  It doesn’t need to be a huge, life-changing event.  It needs to be a small win that puts you on the path to success.  Tired of ready made meals and takeout?  Maybe try a cooking class.  Too big?  Get a cookbook and get cooking.  But do something.  Humans are lifelong students.  We change and grow constantly, and learning something new, albeit small, stimulates the brain.  It makes you feel better and gives your confidence a boost.  What’s not to like?  Naming and pursuing small new year goals as part of the bigger picture is far more attainable than lofty, vague goals that are unmanageable.  Small goal:  I’d like to take a cooking class so that I could make my own meals and ditch takeout.  It’s defined and doable.  Lofty goal:  I want to eat healthily.  Where do I begin?  What defines healthy?  Will I eat at certain restaurants, or research the internet?  Maybe I should try one of the popular diets?  Maybe I should eliminate gluten.  Not defined and difficult to start.  Don’t sabotage your success by being too open-ended to begin.  Small successes add up.

My Friends Liked the Old Me

This can be a tough one.  If you begin pursuing new interests and new year goals that aren’t in alignment with the old you, that’s okay.  Just like we tell our children, your true friends are with you for the long haul.  And again, as we tell the kiddos, we aren’t always going to like the same things.  And that’s okay.  Some will stay, and some will go, and there will be new ones along the way.  Think about what our mothers used to ask us.  “If your friend jumps off a cliff, are you going to follow him?”  Now is the time to choose what’s right for you.  It’s not a committee decision.

A Work-in-Progress

Yes, you’re divorced, and life is certainly different.  But in many respects, you’re just like everyone else.  A work-in-progress.  You may not see it in other folks, but it’s there in everyone, whether we admit it or not.  You are certainly not alone; everyone struggles from time to time with the question of who am I now, and it changes.  Married, single, divorced, widowed, new babies and empty nests.  Everyone.  The only thing that’s different is the choices we make to address the changes in life.  It’s never one-and-done.  It is a process, one that we each define for ourselves.

So, take a deep breath.  Maybe two.  You can do this.  Once you accept the process and the pace and experience success with small wins, change happens.  If you don’t like the change, you can always alter the path again.  It’s the beautiful part of being master of your own destiny.  The choice is always yours.

 


(c) Can Stock Photo / PixelsAway

A Dad’s Guide to Dealing with Sick Kids How to Go From Fun Dad to Superman

A Dad’s Guide to Dealing with Sick Kids How to Go From Fun Dad to Superman

Editor’s note: This article is for general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical condition for sick kids or adults.

You’ve got the kids, and you’ve got the plan.  Dad time is fun time, and you’ve checked the movie schedule and planned for pizza afterward.  And then your kid said something that totally knocked you off your game.

“Dad, I don’t feel so good.”  And just like that, you’ve got a sick kid.

If your first instinct is to call your ex, hang on.  Even if Mom was always the go-to parent when your child was sick, things are different now.  Each parent has to be on their own for both the good and the not-so-good.  While team efforts are definitely called for at times – Sara broke her leg, and we’re at the hospital – stomach bugs and fevers are completely doable.  You just need a little how-to coaching to tackle the job.  Ready?  It’s time to go from Fun Dad to Superman.

Abandon the Current Plan

First off, everyone needs to be okay with the change in plans.  As the adult, it’s your job to absorb any disappointment first, even if you’re both missing something amazing.  No one wants to be sick, and your kiddo feels even worse if you’re disappointed.  Let your child know that this is no big deal, and you can handle it.  Reassure them there will be other opportunities another day; today is just about making them feel better.

Finding Out What’s Wrong

It sounds simple, but it’s not.  I just don’t feel good encompasses a multitude of ailments.  Be patient and start a conversation.  Often children can’t really pinpoint exactly what’s wrong, but you can sometimes narrow the choices by talking to your sick kids.  Ask a few questions:

  • Does your stomach hurt?
  • Is your head bothering you?
  • Do you feel like you might throw up?
  • Did you do anything earlier that might be making you feel bad now?
  • Have the kids been sick at school?
  • Can you point to, or show me, what hurts?

Keep calm, don’t be in a rush and give this a little time.  Dads are good at evaluating problems, finding solutions and moving on.  This isn’t about that.  This is about listening first, action later.

Give Me Comfort

Think back to when you were a child.  More specifically, try to remember when you were sick.  You might remember the things that made you feel better were comfort-based.  A stomach bug or a cold or any number of minor maladies don’t have a quick cure.  It’s usually 48 hours of comfort and rest, with an occasional pain reliever thrown in.  So, what comfort necessities should you keep on hand?  Fear not, Boy-Scout this list, and you’ll be good to go when you have a sick kid.

Ginger ale.  A must-have for upset stomachs, used by parents for years.  Keep a six-pack in your cupboard, and make it one of the first things you offer.  No ice, keep it at room temperature. Icy liquid on an upset stomach will literally come back to haunt you.

Saltine Crackers.  Bland, salty and wonderful, these squares can work magic on an upset stomach.

Extra Blankets & Pillows.  Keep a few extra soft blankets and pillows to make a nest for your sick kiddo on the sofa or in their bed.  Let them choose.  It can sometimes be scary for kids when they feel sick.  If they want to be near you, set them up on the sofa.

Clean Bucket.  They won’t make it to the bathroom if they’re sick and vomiting; they never do.  Keep a clean bucket stashed in the cupboard and line it with a disposable plastic bag.  Toss a few paper towels in the bottom for absorption.  Don’t go running to the garage for the bucket you use to wash the car.  Time spent searching for the bucket and washing it out is time you probably won’t have.

Dad’s Doctor Kit

Sometimes you’ll need a little extra help, and modern medicine can step in to fill the gap.  Some folks can detect the presence of fever with a hand to the forehead.  For the rest of us mere mortals, a digital thermometer works just fine.  There are a variety of high-tech options out there, but a simple digital device is adequate.  An average temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but a little variance, plus or minus a degree, is perfectly normal. If your child has special health concerns, that may be different.  Check with your doctor’s office if you have any questions about how high is too high for their temperature.

Make certain you have the doctor’s contact information on hand before you need it.

If your child does have fever and discomfort, you can give them acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring the fever down and make them feel more comfortable.  Remember, no adult-sized medications, unless your child is old enough to meet the guidelines on the label.  Be careful with liquid medications; always check the dosage and use the dropper or medicine cup that came with the medicine.  Set a timer, or write down doses given so that you can keep to a schedule.

Let Me Entertain You

While adults may choose to try and sleep their way through a nuisance illness, children don’t.  They feel terrible, but they’re bored and cranky.  What’s a parent to do?  Yes, there’s always television and movies and video games, and they can distract quite well.  But you might want to have an old-school backup in your pocket:  a book.  Reading aloud to your child relaxes both of you.  A story brings you into the same moment together and is a great chance for some conversations that usually don’t happen when we’re busy doing-all-the-things.  Skip the graphic novels and pull out something classic.  A little Treasure Island or perhaps Journey to the Center of the Earth?  There may be a bit of grumbling to begin, but once the story captures the imagination, the adventure takes off.  Remember Peter Falk in The Princess Bride?

Feeling Better Takes Time

If we had our choice, we would never be sick, and neither would our children.  But realizing that this whole thing is a process, not an instant fix, makes you better prepared to deal with your sick kids.  You aren’t Superman because you cured the problem in a flash; you’re Superman because you guided your child through the process doing everything you could to make them feel better.  You are Superman because you took the time, told them everything would be fine, and followed through.

Sick Kids Silver Linings

Yes, your original weekend plans were trashed.  Yes, you did way too much laundry.  Yes, you desperately need a shower.  All true.

You also had the time for some conversations that you may not normally have.  Win. You kiddo also had the chance to see Dad drop everything, pull out all the stops and make them feel better.  Win.  You watched a favorite movie together, or played a favorite game or maybe even read a story together.  Win.  And, believe it or not, years from now, your son or daughter won’t remember how bad they felt that day.  They will remember the time spent reading together, or talking, or playing that game.  Sometimes we forget it’s the small memories that stick with us forever.

Superman indeed!


(c) Can Stock Photo / michaeljung

Advice for Divorced Dads:  Just Hush How Being Quiet Can Get Your Teen to Talk

Advice for Divorced Dads: Just Hush How Being Quiet Can Get Your Teen to Talk

As divorced dads, finding spontaneous moments to connect with your teen may seem few and far between.  But you may be overthinking what you need to do.  Take a deep breath.  Divorced fathers and teens may share something in common; you both need a little time and understanding.  Read on to find out how to better communicate with your teenager.  It’s easier than you think.

The Way We Were

As a parent, it’s easy to remember those days when little girls and little boys couldn’t wait to share absolutely everything, asking permission via repeated calls of “Dad, Dad, Dad, are you listening to me?” followed by a detailed rundown of their day.  Even though we all wished for a moment’s peace, the dramatic shift from elementary to high school is disconcertingly quiet and unexpected.

It’s a natural progression for children to make.  For divorced dads with shared custody, the change can seem to happen suddenly.  Oftentimes you don’t have the familiar camaraderie of mom to blunt the edge; you’re each on your own.

Do I Know You?

First off, recognize that this new behavior is a normal stage in any teen’s development.  During the teenage years, your child will have a desire to be more independent and self-controlled, and sometimes that means conversations are not easily initiated or shared.  This isn’t to say that your teen is unpleasant, but realize they are experimenting with their identities and trying to see for themselves what fits best.  Peers take on new importance, as does the desire to fit in.

Shhh.  Hang on a Second.

At times we feel rebuffed when we ask the simplest of questions.  “How was your day at school?” is the perfect opportunity for a one-word answer.  “Fine.”  The earbuds go in, and your teen moves on.  Don’t give up yet.  Better still?  Don’t rise to the bait.  Just hush, and wait.

You might be surprised to look up and find your teen at your side while you’re washing the car, or making dinner, or folding clothes.  While you may not think this is the perfect time for conversation, it is.  Your child has come to you, and while she may appear to be folding towels or chopping carrots, she’s providing you with the perfect opportunity to talk.  Now what?

No Big Gestures or Sudden Movements

Be cool.  While you may be most interested in her Civics grade, she may want to discuss what happened with her best friend.  Let her.  Put your ideas to the side and allow conversation to flow naturally.  Be open to what they say.  As parents, we may not like or agree with everything our children say, and that’s okay as long as we maintain respect for each other’s opinion.  When the kiddos are young, we tell them they can, and should, talk with us about anything.  Show them that rule still holds true. 

If our goal is to share conversation, we need to maintain our adult status.  No shouting, no recriminations.  We still need to be role models for our teenagers, and engaging in civil discourse is a skill they will use every single day.  If we show them how.

And I Will Talk In a Car, On a Boat, In the Rain

Believe it or not, one of the best places to tease conversation out of your teen is in the car.  There isn’t pressure to maintain continuous eye contact, and conversation can be a little more relaxed.  If it’s just the two of you, make a play to ditch the earbuds in favor of shared music or directions to your destination.  If you’ve got a teenager with a driver’s permit, conversation becomes even easier as your teen will ask about rules of the road.  These small conversations open the door to bigger, more important discussions by laying the groundwork and demonstrating your desire to listen.

Divorced Dads Will See Change 

While our little ones are growing into adulthood, learning to become their own young men and women, we’ve got some changing of our own to do.  Getting older and seeing the balance shift from total control to optional wisdom is sometimes difficult to take.  And sometimes that fear that we’re past our prime can cause us to try and resume that control.  Try to approach this change from another, more positive, angle.  Our ultimate goal as divorced dads in raising our children is to enable them to live fulfilling lives on their own.  As teenagers, they’re just learning how to use some of what we’ve spent years teaching them.  And that’s a good thing.

Learning to Adult

As a divorced dad, you can choose to engage by opening up a little space, by learning to accept quiet as the first step in conversation.  Learning to adult is not easy, and teenagers negotiate cautiously, taking very small steps.  Just as you did back when they were small, the important thing is to take it slow, offer encouragement and remember to smile.  Dad can still make things better.

Still Stuck?

Call in reinforcements.  Your ex is still part of the parenting team; try and put your heads together to find something that works for your child.  Maybe after football practice is the magic time.  Maybe an invitation to a sporting event you’d both enjoy.  The idea is to look for opportunity, for a time when neither is distracted nor in the hot seat.

You’ll Always Be Daddy

Sometimes it’s hard to see the little kid, and in truth, they really aren’t any longer.  That doesn’t matter.  Regardless of age, there is something in each of us that desires to connect.  While we think our children are getting ready to go it on their own, this is the time when parents are needed most, even when it’s hard.  To simply be there and available, you provide much-needed stability to your teenager when so many other things are changing.  You are constant.  And needed.

Find Yourself a Sounding Board

There are some days when nothing works.  It doesn’t matter if you do everything right.  If you find yourself stuck in one of these days, stay calm and work through it.  If you and your ex are on the same page, you’ve got a built-in sounding board, and you can bounce ideas off each other and vent frustrations.  But keep it between you two; no one, teenager or otherwise, wants to hear someone talking about them.  Not keen on commiserating with the ex?  Pick someone else, like a good friend or family member.  Most folks are more than willing to help if you just ask.

This Too Shall Pass

Don’t despair if conversation is difficult.  This developmental phase is a right of passage for both of you.  As frustrated as you may be, making an effort now paves the way for a stronger relationship with your teenager when they finally reach adulthood.

The Sound of Silence

One final note:  the sound of silence doesn’t have to be awkward.  Learning how to be quiet together is a valuable skill by itself.  Being comfortable together in a quiet place is how we all began as parents.  It’s been a while since we’ve been there, but revisiting that quiet place reinforces the message that you’re there and available.  In a rapidly changing world, that constancy brings comfort to both of you.

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The Secret to Starting Over Single Hint:  Don’t Act Your Age

The Secret to Starting Over Single Hint: Don’t Act Your Age

Want a little help now that you’re starting over single?  Not pie-in-the-sky advice, but something you can start today?  Stop acting your age and take this opportunity to try something new.  Give those preconceived notions the boot and learn to loosen up a little.  No, we’re not talking the swinging single stereotype, just open yourself to a different experience, something you may have never tried on your own. Sound difficult?  Don’t worry, we’re here to help, one step at a time.  You’ve got this.

The Escape Room

You’ve met someone new.  Met in person and had a few quasi-dates at the local coffee shop.  She has an idea.  “Don’t worry; you’ll love it!”  She leans in, hand around your arm, explaining the premise behind the new escape room in town.  “So we’re trapped in a room with ten other people, and we have to work together to figure out how to escape.”  She waits expectantly, knowing you’ll be as excited as she is. 

You aren’t.  Puzzles aren’t your thing.  Your idea was a day trip to a local winery, or maybe lunch along the coast.  But hold off before you tell her no.  Starting over means trying new things, and there’s no time like the present.  Just because you’ve never done something before doesn’t mean you can’t try it now.  Believe it or not, there’s room for new experiences and the winery tour.  It’s all about mindset.

Too often, our early life experiences peg us as a very specific type.  If you’ve ever taken a personality test, you may be thinking you fit neatly into a certain slot, and that’s not necessarily true.  People are complex. After a while, we grow comfortable with the label and forget that we can change it.  Everyone changes over time, but that doesn’t mean life needs to become predictable.  Let’s go back in time for a bit.  Here’s how to do it.

If you can dream it, you’re on the right track.

The first step to regaining that childlike wonder and desire to play (for real) is to think about it.  To remember what it was to be like a kid, without worries or concerns about what someone else might think.  Think back to how easy it was to jump in a lake, to fall when you were learning to skate.  Worry stimulates the production of cortisol in the brain; chronic worry can wear you down, and even lead to depression in some instances. 

Take a walk down memory lane and remember how wonderful it was as a child not to worry about everything you did.  Now, think about what you might like to do now. 

Michael was 55 years old with a teenage son keen on learning to snowboard.  Eager to spend time with his son, with a bad knee and no knowledge of snowboarding, Michael signed them both up for lessons.  It turns out the knee was okay, and both enjoyed the lessons.  Season passes all around.  “I thought I wasn’t going to like it, but I was completely wrong.  I feel like a kid again in the snow,” says Michael.  Opening himself to new experiences has provided a new way to connect.

How open are you?

We all carry preconceived notions of how we would handle certain situations.  Some are based in past experience, but others find their roots in how we think people expect us to act.  And then there’s the whole fear of the unknown thing.  Having active imaginations, it’s pretty easy for us to imagine worse case scenarios.   In reality, most of the things we fear will never come to pass.  In reality, most of the benefits gained won’t even be considered.  If you take the time to consider all the cons, do yourself a favor and try to name a few good results as well.  You may be surprised once you think about it. 

You’re never too old for starting over

John was widowed at age 72.  For years, he had invested virtually every hour working and rarely took a vacation.  When Grace died, he realized it was time for a change – for starting over.  His grandchildren were growing up and would soon head off to college.  Putting work aside, he jumped in with both feet.  Waterparks and water slides, learning how to sew, teaching his grand-daughter carpentry skills, road trips with his daughter.  There isn’t anything he won’t try.  The result?  He’s lighter and more accepting of the everyday.  A perfectionist, he’s learned to laugh at himself and enjoy the experience, realizing that perfection isn’t necessary.

Loosen Up & Laugh…At Yourself

You’ve got to be willing to laugh at yourself.  It may be difficult.  We all want to think of ourselves as exceptional or at least above average.  We can get it, and we can do anything, and do it well.  Not always, and that’s okay.  Learning to join in the laughter can be exhilarating and freeing.  It releases you from the stress of perfection and allows you to enjoy the ride, realizing we’re all in this together and no one is perfect.  Remember the laughter is not malicious, not meant to give offense.  It connects us as we’re all in the same boat; no one is gifted in everything.

Act your shoe size, not your age

It’s an adage that can ring true, to some extent.  We can all most likely remember things we said or did at 10 or 11 that weren’t out proudest moments.  Skip those.  Instead, remember the thrill of discovering something new, the pride you felt when you learned a new skill.  You can still feel that way now, and your brain will thank you.  Sure, there are any number of websites that offer brain games designed to stimulate new pathways and give your brain a workout.  But consider going old school.  Get out and try something new.  Put that brain to work in an escape room.  Learn how to ballroom dance.  Or maybe give hip-hop a try.  Climb on a snowboard or give a longboard a try.  Want to start a little smaller?  Try poetry, or graphic novels or read the classics.  Be brave a little it at a time.

Broadening Your Horizons

Why bother?  That’s the wrong question, try this one instead.  Why not?  As children, we are eager to learn new things, to take on challenges in a fresh, exciting world.  As adults, we tend not to get as enthusiastic about change.  We project a “been there, done that” attitude because as adults we have responsibilities, and there’s work to be done.  And both of those things are true.  But learning something new and managing adult responsibilities are not mutually exclusive.  You can have both if you want.  It really is a choice.

Back to that Escape Room Date

It doesn’t have to be a date with a new companion, though that would be fun.  It can be with your kids, or your friends, or perhaps with a group of people you don’t know all that well.  Regardless, the idea is to stretch yourself to embrace new ideas, to ponder new puzzles, to expand your horizons.  You have the ultimate power to decide, to choose, how you want to live your life.  Divorce was only one chapter.  What’s next for you?


(c) Can Stock Photo / ollyy

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Getting Married Again and Again The Third Time Is The Charm for These Two Men

Getting Married Again and Again The Third Time Is The Charm for These Two Men

Once the divorce is over and two lives have been neatly divided, it’s difficult to comprehend saying “I do” ever again.  Just because it didn’t work out the first, or even second time, there’s still hope for happily ever after.  Take a listen to two gentlemen who are living proof that married again can be married for good.

John is in his late 60’s.  Reclining on the sofa with a black lab at his side, he points at his wife and says, “She doesn’t put up with any of my bullshit.”  Betsy laughs and continues about her business.  But she doesn’t disagree.  In a few months, the two will have been married 36 years.  Betsy is John’s third wife, and he’s her second husband.

According to Time magazine, 2016 heralded the lowest divorce rates in 40 years, while marriage rates are on the upswing.  Chances are, if you’re going out on a date, you may be dating someone that’s already gone through a divorce.  While statistics may indicate overall trends, what happens with you personally is up to you.  Here are two men that married again who are optimistic and realistic about their lives so far.

What’s different the third time around? 

Everything.  According to John, each marriage adds to the learning process. 

“My first wife and I got married the day we graduated from college.  Everyone was coming in for graduation; it seemed like a good idea at the time.”  What wasn’t a good idea was waiting until after the ceremony to have sexual relations.  “It turns out, in her mind, sex was for procreation.  Period.”  Following therapy and adoption, the marriage ended four years later.

Meet George.  Retired, he’s finally found a long lasting marriage with his third wife.  Like John, his first marriage was to someone his own age.  Carol was young and amenable to everything George proposed.  Years later, he admits she was a little too amenable.  “She never held me accountable for my behavior.  I never really appreciated her until years later.”

While some may point to multiple divorces and wag their fingers in disdain, others realize it’s simply a fact of life sometimes.  Deborah Gaines, divorced several times, had a different take in her article for The Huffington Post several years ago, “After all, what makes a life well lived? Taking chances. Making mistakes. Loving others. And maybe even marrying the wrong person.”

Undaunted by their lack of success, both men married again for the second time, certain that their next marriages would be successful.  John thought it was perfect.  “I thought everything was going along just fine, but three years into the marriage she just left.  I heard she had met a woman, but I was never sure.”

George went on to marry a much younger woman, blond and energetic, she loved the idea of an older man.  Two children later, as he embraced a more settled existence, she opted to return to someone closer to her own age.

Both men point to changes and growth they experienced through trial and error.  By his third marriage back in 1981, John says, “I had no clue what to expect in marriage.  The whole gender thing and no sex before marriage was all a bad idea.”

Not so fast.

John and George were a bit more cautious when it came to their third and final marriages.  Each chose mates that could be described as strong, self-sufficient and most certainly independent.

 “You need to spend time apart before you can commit to spending time together,” explains John.  In his case, a random meeting at a bank re-introduced the two who had met years earlier in previous relationships.  They began to spend time together, but took it slowly.  “I’d babysit her kids if she had to travel for work.  And I had my own kids in another state.  Our first official date was when I piled everyone in a van to go to the drive-in together.  We dated for a few years before deciding to get married.”

George followed a similar path.  Established as a local businessman, he was in no hurry to remarry.  For years, he’d tell anyone his relationship with Toni was a “temporary situation.”  Even after they decided to live together, it was years before they opted to marry.  With everything going right, George was in no hurry to make any changes.  To date, they have been together more than two decades and have no plans to change.

Keys to Success.

John attributes his 36-year success this time to a variety of factors.  First and foremost?  Learning how to stay out of each other’s way.  Not everything has to be a team effort, according to John.  “We live parallel existences in the same space, but we don’t do everything together.”   While he maintains it’s important to share interests, that doesn’t mean everything.  “I love theme parks, and I enjoy taking the kids.  Betsy hates it, so she doesn’t go, and we’re both happy.”  Betsy nods her head in agreement, “It’s way too hot for me.” 

“We understand our strengths and weaknesses.  We’ve learned what will mesh and what will grind,” says John.  Both still love to discover new interests that they can share, citing the Pops Concert series with the local symphony as something new they both enjoy.  “It’s a neat change of pace to find something new.”

Getting married again is not for everybody.

Both men agree that taking a little extra time is worth the long-term benefits.  “Both people have to sit down and decide what they need from the other person and what they themselves are prepared to give,” says John.  He cautions against jumping in with both feet, just because you think you should.

George’s desire to live together extensively before marriage the third time around provided that extra time both he and his younger mate needed.  Separated by more than 20 years, they spent time making certain the match would last before they married again.  They had realistic expectations and their caution appears to have paid dividends.  Even George’s daughter from a previous marriage has seen a change, “For years, I had a really distant relationship with my father.  But now he seems more grounded and interested in being part of my life.”

John recommends having open discussions about virtually everything.  “Explore all aspects of life.  Nothing should be taboo.  If it is, alarms should be going off.  Don’t think it will all work out.  Don’t think you’ll be able to change the other person.  That’s bullshit.”

How to Happily Ever After.

Can married again really be happily ever after?  Both John and George think so.  Interestingly enough, they don’t toss the ball in their spouses’ courts.  Instead, they look to themselves, not as men who are inherently flawed, but as all of us should, as works-in-progress.

“Unless you are prepared to live with yourself, you’ll be a lousy partner for someone else,” says John.  “Don’t feel like you can’t live without them.  You need to be able to function independently.  You need to remember you’re not seeking a replacement for someone else.”

George and his wife Toni mirror those same thoughts.  There is no pressure to match the other step for step.  The relationship is relaxed and easy.  They smile at each other, gently ribbing and making summer plans to see the kids that are all part of their extended family.  Married again has become married for good.

John and Betsy are also married for good this time around.  Through surgeries and busy schedules, job changes and many children, together they’ve managed to mesh their varied experiences into one cohesive life.

For both men, and likely all their spouses past and present, it hasn’t been an easy road.  Learning about yourself can be hard.  But taking those life lessons into account, they are living proof that happily ever after starts and ends with you before you can share with anyone else.  Married or not.

Have you married again, or thinking about it? Speak up in the comments below.

 

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(c) Can Stock Photo / EpicStockMedia

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