When I hit send on my last LoveLetter in January of 2018, I was still “wintering,” remember? Meaning, my divorce had been final for just over a year, but I had taken myself out of the dating scene for six months in order to do some deep, focused work on myself.  I absolutely plan on sharing with you all the work I did on myself during those six months but need to get this story out first.I had set March of 2018 as the month that I would return to dating.  Truly, I had set the first day of spring as the day I would return to dating, but I don’t think I made it quite there.  And by return to dating I mean return to using a dating app because that’s just how you meet people these days.I had several good friends who had used the same dating app and they had both schooled me on the ins and outs of using it.  I strongly advise that any person returning to the dating scene seek out similar, time-saving and emotional preparedness advice. With their help, I was able to approach dating like a social experiment in modern, personal communication styles.  Most importantly, you must go into it realizing that none of it is personal.I had been on the same app six months prior to that and had messaged with a handful of men and gone on exactly three, first dates.  They were all nice guys, but I was not interested in seeing any of them again.  Really though, I just wasn’t ready, so the wintering and time of deep, personal work began…Now that it was spring and I was ready, I carefully crafted the short bio for my profile and selected a handful of photos from the recent photo shoot that I had done for my website.  (Yes, I used professional photos for my dating profile, and I knew I was going to use them for that purpose when I took them.)I uploaded it all and started swiping. I was prepared to go on a year or so of disappointing first dates (like my girlfriends had) and then maybe hire a professional matchmaking service to find someone. 

But that’s not what happened.

 I got to be pretty good at predicting which guys would have swiped right on my profile, meaning that they were interested in me, too.  I did this by putting all the guys in one of three buckets.  First, there were the hot, buff guys that I was not interested in and they would not be interested in me.  Second, there were the freaky, creepers who obviously did not have good friends helping them out with their profile.  Third, and finally, there were the guys who looked a little nerdy but also kind of cute in their photos with the possibility that they could be cuter in person.  Those guys were my sweet spot.I began message with 2-3 of that kind of men, because being on a dating app becomes kind of like a part-time job and you can only take on so many.  That messaging quickly turned into two, first dates. The first of which was with a very kind man that I enjoyed talking to but he there was no physical attraction whatsoever. The second was Jeff.Yes, I went on exactly two first dates before meeting the man I would fall in love with and marry.  Unbelievable but totally true.  I promise you that no one was as shocked as I was about this and I was not at all prepared. Like I said, I was expecting a year of first dates with limited emotional vulnerability while I continued to work on myself and build my coaching business.But when I met Jeff (who is the best thing that ever happened to me, btw) all that planned nonsense went right out the window and let me tell you that I really started to freak the fuck out.  The last time I trusted someone with my heart and my body did not go well for me and I knew that I needed to be very deliberate and discerning every step of the way. 

I was terrified to find myself falling in love again.

 I had to ramp my therapy back up and I started taking daily medication for anxiety again.  Which, by the way, I eventually figured out that I was experiencing two different flavors of.  The first was general anxiety that I’ve dealt with most of my life but there was also a second kind that was trauma related. This kind would occur after every time we took one step closer together…every time I took a risk and the emotional stakes got higher. My nervous system would go in to fight or flight response and it would take about 48 hours to re-regulate.Let me tell you, it was HARD and there were many times when I wanted to RUN.  I would find myself wanting to tap out saying, “I can’t do this! I’m out!” But only in my head.  Or in my therapists’ office.  I was terrified to stay and push through the fear, but I chose to do it over and over again because I knew that this was part of the healing process.  There is only such much work you can do on your own.  We are hurt in relationship and we must heal in relationship, too.I did not necessarily share every blow by blow of this mental and emotional battle with Jeff. I did, however, try to be open and honest with him about what was going on with me.  I shared with him as much of my story as I thought was appropriate.  In the past, I have tended to share too much too soon so this time I tried to honor myself and not do that. Also, it’s a pretty awful story so I didn’t want him to have to carry any more than necessary at that time. He has, of course, heard pretty much the whole story by now but I gave both of us lots of time before asking that of him.I also put him through the wringer.  We had every uncomfortable conversation possible about past relationships, pornography, substance abuse…you name it, we talked about it.  He was (and is) one of the most open and honest people I had ever met.  He was forthright and intentional about allowing me to know him and, oh friends, was he able to know me.We were less than one month into our relationship when he described me in a way that I don’t think any man has ever done before.  We were talking on the phone, like we did most nights because finding time to see each was a challenge with all these boys that we have.I was lying in bed, with a big smile on my face when told me that he could easily see what a powerful, confidant woman I was but that underneath all that, I was also soft and tender and sometimes wanted to be taken care of.  That was the moment I began to fall in love.I want to add here that Jeff’s ability to see and know me was a reflection of who he was, but it was also a reflection of my having spent time getting to know myself…of becoming the love of my own life. The journey of learning to love myself paved the way for him to love me, too. 

Even after that magical moment, however, it was hard to maintain hope given my past.

 I also found it impossible to continue working with clients who were dealing with their own betrayal trauma.  I just couldn’t hold space for their pain as well as have hope that this new relationship with Jeff was going to work out.So, I stopped coaching and I stopped writing and I dropped out of my class at school.  I feel more than a little bit ashamed over this and sometimes very sad, but I also know that I was doing the best I could. I needed space to grow and I prayed that it would all be in service to the greater good and to the community of women going through divorce and suffering from betrayal trauma. I also held on to hope that I would eventually write about all of this in a LoveLetter.And here we are, dear friends.  Jeff and I dated for six months before getting engaged at the Taj Mahal – yes, the Taj Mahal!  Then we had the most magical wedding day this past May in front of our friends and family.  It was the best day of my life…so far.I said it before, and I’ll say it again…Jeff was the best thing that ever happened to me and that was true long before we decided to get married.  It would still be true even if we hadn’t worked out because he was proof that I could trust someone with my heart, that I could still fall in love and that there are still good men.Thanks for sticking with me through this rather long post and I will leave you with this mindbender of a thought.  If my experience with my ex-husband was the worst things that ever happened to me, but it led me to the best thing that ever happened to me…then does the worst thing that ever happened become the best thing? Or part of it somehow?I know, I know.  It feels like a bit of stretch but we have to pull back the lens sometimes and look at our lives from a more holistic perspective.  It’s all related, dear ones, it’s related.I have more to share about what I’ve been up these last few months and how I’ve drunk the Enneagram Kool-Aid and the big epiphany I had about my life’s work.  But this LoveLetter is long enough so you’ll just have to be patient.  I know, it’s not my strong suit either. Until next time! 

xoxo, Jenni