As I look around at many of my divorced peers, I am seeing a lot of second marriages and fielding a lot of questions about me and my relationship with Alex. Inquiring minds want to know: Will you get married, when, when will you move in together, will you have more kids..blah blah blah…
It has been about 3 years now and I am used to this conversation by this point because our relationship does not follow any familiar road-map that most couples take. I feel like I need to make up notecards with their questions and my answers ahead of time to give out so that we can quickly move past and onto other things: No, Alex and I are not planning on ever getting married, no more kids (3 are enough!), and I don’t know when we will move in together.
Usually their response goes something like this: Oh, so you are only a girlfriend, nothing serious. In that instance, my relationship has been demoted from a stable, long term relationship to just a passing fling. It hurts, it really does.
If either you or your partner have children, marriage is a harder road to travel together and not to embarked lightly. There isn’t a clear delineation of titles and roles. I am not officially a Step Mother and my daughter doesn’t have official Step sisters. When we are all together, just the 5 of us, we know who we are as a family and what that means in our little bubble.
Once outside the family bubble and interacting with teachers, friends, family, life becomes a sort of dance. Introductions are awkward. Because of my flexible schedule, I am usually the one picking up the girls from their various schools. Alex’s older daughter is sometimes asked: Is that your mom? To which, she shyly looks down and avoids answering. As much as she loves me and loves having me and Mina in her life, she still struggles with her parents’ divorce and has a hard time articulating who I am. Times like these make me feel invisible and that my place holds less importance because I lack an “identity” or a “title” that can compartmentalize who I am for others to immediately get. I tire of feeling like I have to explain who I am what our family structure is like.
We are like nomads actually. Alex and I still maintain our own homes and have rooms set up for the three girls in each. Each week, when we have all three girls, we rotate nights at each other’s houses. This works for us. Each of us has our own time with our own kid(s), time all together, and time alone with each other’s kid when they are at their other parent’s house. Is this family structure right for everyone? Probably not.
When we began this journey about 4 years ago, we all started out as friends and we took our time into shifting into something more. We moved very slow and continue to do so as we progressed through various stages: friendship, relationship, new parental acceptance, Ex-partner acceptance, and the list goes on. By going slow, we can engage the moment and see how we need to shift for the betterment of ourselves and the girls. There are so many emotions that come up from so many directions. We want to be able to address all with empathy and compassion and not rush things for the sake of our own relationship ego or needs.
So I come back to the original question: Is a long term relationship equivalent to marriage?
No, but it takes commitment and determination to make it work because there is nothing, legally, binding you together. Anyone can leave at any moment. I would say that being a long term relationship is probably harder at times, especially if there are kids involved. It takes a lot of love and trust to see the bigger picture and slowly work toward that. I look at my relationship with Alex and compare it to my marriage: There is much more communication, compassion, and understanding this time around. Each of us is working together toward a loving future with our girls. Do I need a piece of paper for me to know he is committed? No, and neither does he. We believe in what we are building and take our time to build our life, slowly, one small step at a time.
More from DivorcedMoms:
- Blending Families:Why We Didn’t Do It The Brady Bunch Way
- Blending Families: Myths That Keep Families Apart
- Dreaming My Worst Remarriage Nightmare
- Marriage:A Complicated And Evolving Institution