I’m in love like I’ve never been in love before. I feel like that’s saying a lot considering I had a pretty good marriage which ended after a few decades. I know what healthy, clean love feels like. I also know what betrayal and hurt feels like — you can experience both with the same person, and I certainly did.
I’ve cleaned my heart up enough since my divorce to allow myself to fall in love again. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to this point, but here I am. I’m willing to receive love. I’ve reached the phase when I’m ready to share a life with a man and his child, and I’m ready to share my kids with him.
But there’s something I’m not ready to do. Something I may never be ready to do again simply because I just don’t want to. That something is to live with a man.
I recently spent the weekend with my boyfriend and his daughter while my kids were with their father. This wasn’t the first time; we’ve done this many times and I always look forward to it like a kid on Christmas Eve night. It was wonderful to wake up with him in the morning. I love feeling a big spoon behind me at night while falling asleep. And going out to dinner with him and his daughter is the next best thing to having my kids there with us.
We went to the grocery store together. We held hands while shopping for bedding. We went out with his friends and ate fried food as the snow fell. I even cried as I pulled out of his driveway after three nights and three days together. I didn’t want to leave him, and yet… I did. When I first fell in love with him months ago, I thought these feelings were confusing, but they really aren’t. My definition of sharing a life with someone has just changed since my divorce.
I was happy to return to my home. My home, where the toilet seat stays down and I can turn up the heat to the temperature I like. My home, where sports aren’t blasting and I can focus on one show instead of him changing the channel every five minutes. My home, where there aren’t random hairs in the sink because as soon as I see them I get rid of them. (Why do men leave so much hair behind?)
I love eating with him, and I love eating alone. There’s something about shoving food in your mouth over the kitchen sink without worrying whether you look like a hot mess. There’s also something about eating in silence and taking your time to chew.
I love sleeping with him, and I love sleeping alone. I loved the intimate sex and the naughty sex and everything in between. I adore the cuddling and the touching of toes in the middle of the night when you know the other person is awake too but you both want to fall back asleep. But I also enjoy throwing myself into bed as early or as late as I want and sprawling out diagonally and falling asleep to a cheesy rom-com without worrying if I’m keeping him awake.
I love his oversized furniture and comfy recliners. I mean, his whole house is one cozy man cave. He has dark curtains he pulls shut every night so you don’t see the sun until you want to. But I also love the way I decorate, my color scheme, and how the morning sunlight shines in my room and wakes me up early.
Before I left his place, we were making out in his car and he whispered something about wanting me to move me in. We both laughed, and then on the way home I thought, I could do that with him. I could.
I just don’t want to.
The story of how I envisioned my life when I was younger — the partner, the living together, the sharing and splitting of the finances and household duties — isn’t my story any longer.
I now know I am so capable. I’m capable of running my house, of taking care of the finances, of being the solo parent. Right now, that’s what I want to do. And I want to do it alone. I want to do it my way, at my speed.
I like spending time with my boyfriend more than I like my freedoms, I’ll admit that. That in no way means I want to give them up.
Right now, I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I get to take care of myself — like really take care of myself — because I’ve learned through living alone if you don’t take care of you, no one else will. I’ve realized relying on another person to this (no matter how wonderful they are) in the way you needs always leads to disappointment.
I get to do what I want, when I want to do it. That includes eating dinner at 10 p.m. and pooping with the door open and leaving my delicate underwear over the extra sink in the bathroom to dry. I don’t have to consult anyone about purchases, paint colors, or wonder how much they are going to help me repaint the deck. I depend on me, that’s it.
I also have a partner who comes over, gives me luscious orgasms and feeds me warm garlic bread while driving down the road. He rubs my back when we are watching television and knows I need to stop every few hours for a fresh Diet Coke if we are going on a road trip. He tells me that I am a good mother, and loves the woman I become after a few drinks. He wants me to be happy and handles arguments and misunderstandings with so much grace, I question if I’m deserving of him.
I believe with my whole soul he is the one person (besides me) who has made me a better version of myself.
I don’t want to lose that magic by becoming roommates. I don’t want to share finances with him. I don’t want to talk about how much we should spend on cable or get his opinion on a new rug.
Maybe in the future, but not anytime soon.
It feels too good to feel this grounded. It feels too good to know I’ve done things on my own for years and I’m strong enough to keep it up. It feels too good to pay all the bills on my own. And it feels too good to know I don’t need a partner to share a roof with me in order to be happy.
I want to preserve this feeling as long as possible. It’s a feeling my 20-year-old self never would have understood. It’s a lifestyle the woman I was in my thirties, who had a bundle of young kids, feared. It’s a feeling I never thought I’d have. Now, I’m in my forties and I can’t imagine my life — my sweet, wonderful, living-without-a-partner life — any different.
What I want out of my life has changed. It may not fit into the social norm, but that doesn’t matter. I’m not going to try to change my mind despite the fact that moving in with someone still feels safer than living alone.
I like my life so much right now, and I’ll hang onto this happiness for as long as I want. And that’s empowering as hell.