21, take two

Today, for the first time since I was 20 years old, I find myself an unmarried man. There’s a lot to unpack about this change.

It’s hardly the most momentous aspect, but today for whatever reason I find myself most struck by how much it feels like a second coming-of-age.

I’m 37 years old. But:

  • I’ve never in my life bought myself a drink as a (legally) single man.
  • I’ve never been dumped before.
  • I’ve never dated.
  • I’ve only ever… uh, nudge nudge wink wink saynomore with one person. (Obviously, I’m talking sharing a checking account…)

It feels strangely like being a mixture of 13, 18, and 21 again. Only with kids, stepkids, 20 extra pounds, and better taste in beer.

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  1. It is a change of puzzling proportions.

  2. Hugs brother. You are still you.

  3. You’re not alone. I got divorced at 37 too, after being married since I was 20 years old. I had to learn how to stand up for myself, and for my kids against their mom, and it was one of he most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I risked losing custody of them, in a fight to get them into a school where they wouldn’t be bullied, and it sucked. I started a new, non-conventional relationship, and my wife, who was supposedly just as liberal as me, tried to use that in the courts to take custody of my children. It really sucked, and I experienced a lot of fear. Fighting for a better future for them turned out wonderfully; I still come close to crying when I talk about it, because they were really suffering, and it is so great to see how well they are turning out now.

    I literally had no idea that happiness was a worthy goal in life, until I got divorced. That’s what the advice below is about. Take it with a grain of salt, since these are the issues I faced, and for all I know, simply don’t apply to you, but from your tweets, and your Crucible I feel like you might be in pain. You’ve done a lot for me, with your work in the Ruby community, and I want to at least do a little bit for you. So, here goes:

    Be a good dad. Model the pursuit of happiness. If you don’t know how, try learn how, so that your kids don’t have to figure that out on their own. Do not be afraid to rethink how you live, from first principles, with the goal of happiness. Everything about life is easier, if you are happy, or taking action to reach happy.

    if and when you are ready for a relationship, figure out what your boundaries are, communicate them, and enforce them. Boundaries are what make successful relationships, and they are not unreasonable. This can be hard, so here’s an example of my boundaries. First, I require at least a few hours a day of alone time. Second, everyone in the house gets at least a little money that is theirs to do whatever they want with. Third, if someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they are either gone. Fourth, no physical violence, no yelling at me or the kids, no corporal punishment. That’s it. Reasonable boundaries, oriented around increasing everyone’s autonomy, as well as providing a safe environment for the children.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate this.

  4. I’ve been recently in the same situation. I’ve been with the same person since I was 14 years old. We broke up last year.

    In the first months I was completely lost; I also never dated, never bought a drink and never shared a “checking account” with someone else.
    All I can say is that life goes on. Its a different life for sure, but, with time, it gets better in many unexpected ways.

    I hope this will be an incredible opportunity to know a lot more about yourself, as it was for me. <3

    1. Thanks. It’s a little surprising how many people have had a similar experience.

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