As I am a single mother of two, I have had a few interesting experiences dating men that do not have children of their own. I remember dating a man some years ago that had a reaction to one of my daughters. She was tired and moody, and being a young teenager, really didn’t have much interest in hanging out and getting to know my new man. Her biggest concern was who was saying what on Facebook and how often this man was planning on hanging out in her home.
One night she asked to eat dinner in her room as opposed to eating with us at the kitchen table. Her request was due partly because she had a big test the next day and wanted to study, and partly because she was tired and didn’t want to deal with having to engage in polite conversation with my date. I gave her the pass and brought her plate to her in her room.
To make a long story short, my date reacted to her distant and detached demeanor. Why he had the reaction he did and what was triggered is not all that important. We all have had our own version of reacting to someone or something in a negative way. The bottom line is that for my date, my daughter represented a potential problem. Her behavior indicated that life with me would not always be hassle free. And as much as he liked me, he had to reconcile what being with me would include. He had to decide if he was willing to walk into a situation that might entail some mess every now and then. The realities of relationships and life were confronting him the moment my daughter disappeared upstairs with indifference.
We eventually sat down and talked about what had happened, what he made it mean, and what was really behind my daughter’s behavior. I spoke with my daughter and shared with her the importance of engaging with others and making people feel welcomed and comfortable in our home. My friend did what he needed to do and at the end of the day worked through his feelings and was at peace with me and my family.
But what I want to share most with all of you is what I said to him at the end of our conversation because really, we all need to be reminded to this from time to time.
Life is messy. Relationships are messy. Everyone comes with a family. Everyone comes with a past. Someone may come with a crazy mother or alcoholic brother or temperamental adolescent. Someone may get ill, get laid off, or the house may burn down. Life is messy. We can’t control what life brings. People and situations will always present challenges from time to time. What’s important is to decide who you want to go through life with—who do you want beside you while you clean up the mess that life has brought this time around. Sometimes the mess will come from your side of the house, sometimes from mine, and more times than not, simply from life itself.
So for those of you that are avoiding relationships in order to avoid a mess, please think again. If you find or have found someone who is a good match for you, that person is worth any extra mess that may come with him. When you find yourself resenting having to deal with your loved one’s mess, please think again. There will be a day when she needs to deal with yours. Approaching life’s messes together makes cleaning up a little bit nicer. You feel less alone. You feel less drained. Your efforts are supported. It gets done in less time. And it actually helps turn something messy into something good.
What mess are you dealing with today? How can we support you in cleaning up? Please let us know. Or if you have a great story in how you and your significant other deal with life’s messes together, please share. We can all learn from each other’s stories.
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
Create Relationships in Your Life That Work — learn more at www.julieorlov.com