"I NEVER put out!" Ok, I take that statement back. In this week's blog I'm going to put it all out on the table as promised, about Duff, dating and relationships. And by the way, I was never trying to be rude to my blind date at the time with my statement. As might have been perceived by everyone watching, I am not much of a pro at dating! I've been with very few men, and almost exclusively in long-term relationships most of my life. I tend to just pop out with statements like that before even realizing what I am saying. Maybe it is a Leo thing. I think I have a strange combination of modesty and flamboyance within me, and sometimes both sides are present at once.
In my very short experience with modern-day dating, I was almost shocked to discover that people hardly get to know each other these days before moving right on to sex. Maybe it has something to do with the Internet age. Either that or I am just old-fashioned and don't get it. My blind date was an attractive man, a renowned plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. We had a great time, but definitely weren't a good match. One of the scenes that didn't make it to broadcast was when he explained to me that he wanted children of his own, and didn't like fake boobs. Well, I have the boobs, and I have children already ...so you can guess how well that was going. As a matter of fact, I was probably worrying more about Ryley than my date. Having a small child makes it very difficult to go out, whether you are married or single. I'm sure most parents have similar issues. I am lucky because I never have to leave Ryley with a babysitter. Lindsey and Megan love watching their brother and it is a good time for them to bond without me being there. The only problem is that when I come home Ryley usually has a new hair-do. It breaks my heart to see any of my children hurt or not feel safe. I do think it is important for them to feel that they will be okay without mommy and that mommy will be back. Besides Ryley, there are many other issues that keep me distracted from the dating scene. I haven't spoken much about my current career or housing situation because I don't want to perpetuate the whole "woe-is-me" theme that seems to be coming up often, nor do I want to take advantage of this forum merely for personal career promotion. But to be brief, for those who are curious, I am very busy working as a loan officer for Barrington Capital and beginning to extend back into my previous field of product development and balancing some additional side projects. My goals have been somewhat on hold though, pending some form of resolve over my home. At the moment I am living in a simple one-bedroom apartment "outside the gates." I am not unhappy living there, however I am still paying two mortgages. Due to ongoing litigation, I cannot elaborate much more at this time. Last week I touched on some of my tumultuous past with my ex-husband, Lou.
Suffice it to say, coming out of that relationship I felt extremely cautious about entering into another one. As a matter of fact, the last thing I wanted to do was meet another man. However, it was on my first official "girl's night out" that I actually met Duff. He was attending a woman's birthday party with one of his friends and smoking a cigar in my vicinity, which bothered me greatly. Still smarting from my recent break up, I tended to be very short with people at the time. I believe I asked him to move or put out the cigar in no uncertain terms. Shortly after, Jeana called him over to our table, probably to apologize for my rude behavior, and we all ended up in conversation. Jeana encouraged Duff to ask me to dance, to which Duff replied, "With her??" (Implying, "That rude chick?") But we danced and had a good time, regardless. He asked me out, but due to my situation I declined. My good friend Jeana, always wishing to help me out, gave him my phone number though. Duff called and we actually spoke on the phone several months before going out on a date. This later escalated into a great relationship. We felt like rebels, both having come out of unfortunate marriages. My divorce was long and complicated, and more than anything I longed for a normal, loving relationship by then. But I was fearful of marriage and did not want to contemplate doing it again at that time. After eight years together we decided to have a child. We lost our first child, but then we were very fortunate to have Ryley, who is a blessing to all of us. Well, this is where the road got bumpy. I changed the rules on Duff. Officially free from Lou, and now with a child, I wanted to get married.
Duff had started a business in Palm Springs and was commuting to Orange County by then. I had just started working for RE/MAX Real Estate and it seemed we had everything. I was happy, and financially independent. Everything was good. There are two or more sides to every story of course, and Duff can't really speak his on here. But my side of it is that I wanted to get married, and Duff didn't. We had different views on our future together. I had grown past a role of essentially living one day at a time I suppose. I had been accustomed to being in survival mode for so long that perhaps it became a way of life for me. Now I was ready to think about the future, and I wanted a more solid, committed family unit. We just weren't on the same track. This is not to say that he wasn't a great partner and great father, but yes, I did want that elusive "more," that was mentioned in my lunch out with Duff in an earlier episode. I felt I had proven myself, by putting eight years into the relationship. I didn't want to be just floating, possibly in different directions and never anywhere specific. I wanted more than the just the journey. I wanted a destination, and a new place to discover together.
It's been mentioned by some viewers that I send mixed signals. The truth is that it has been a very difficult and complex process, so I'm not surprised if it appears that way. After the breakup of any major relationship I think that most couples go through at least a two-year period of floundering, occasionally unsure if the right decision was made and struggling with desires to go back to what is familiar and perhaps safe. You remember all the good times and somehow magically forget the bad -- until you spend too much time with the person again. Then you recall why you aren't together. It's been a tough time for both of us. But I am at peace with my final decision. There is a popular book out now titled It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken. That title sums it up well. I know many people have urged me to get back together with Duff. Frankly, I cannot understand why anyone would urge someone to go back to a relationship that they are uncomfortable with. I don't want to be stuck in one of those dreadful situations where you break up then get back together again countless times, only to find that the original reason you broke up is still valid. I've done enough of that and I gave it ten years of my life. I've noticed that men who are attracted to me often assume a sort of savior quality in their interactions with me. There can be a level of mild condescension or protectiveness, as if perhaps they know what I need — but of course they think they know it before I even know it. I am not always as assertive as I would like to be at times. I'm an easy-going person. It may seem alluring to be "saved" by someone in a sense, but it becomes tedious quickly. I may struggle at times, or seek counsel, help and opinions, but I like to learn from my experiences and enjoy the rewards of achieving goals on my own — even if the goal is merely survival.
Sometimes I feel that Duff brings up certain issues, like the sacrifices he has made for me and my children, or gazing at old greeting cards from years ago as a method of guilt-tripping me, or at least saying, "See, I am the right one for you!" The truth is that I am sincerely grateful from the bottom of my heart for all the good things he has done, and I won't deny that. I feel for him and don't want to hurt him. But my feelings now have changed, and it would be useless to pretend otherwise. I cannot give back something that is no longer there. I have great respect and love for him, even if friendship is the current manifestation of that sentiment rather than something more passionate. Duff is a wonderful man and father of my child and I hope to always have a good relationship with him. It's taken awhile to reset our parameters. It was portrayed in an earlier episode that I had Duff kicked out of Jeana's BBQ party before I came over. In reality, I never asked Jeana to kick him out. I simply called ahead to advise that I would be arriving in about an hour. Jeana was also aware that I had a date with me at the time (who was not shown on camera). Obviously it would have been a bit awkward for everyone involved had I busted in there with a date when we hadn't really crossed that hurdle yet. I had no intention at all to hurt Duff's feelings.
But these are some of the growing pains of moving on. I'm sure it is best for both parties to abstain from too much social time together in such a situation. For Ryley's sake we strive to provide a stable environment. Duff and I were having a hard time with Ryley during the typical drop-offs and pick-ups between parents. We did not want to do it at each others homes or at McDonald's because we felt it was too stressful to pull him from an environment where he is happy and having a good time and force him to say goodbye to one parent. We both decided that it would be best to do it at school so he did not feel like he had to pick a parent in a sense and there was a buffer zone of time in between where he was focused on daily activities. In the beginning it was very confusing for him because he was not sure who was picking him up each day. As a result, when we came to pick him up he would cry and say he wanted the other parent, and vice-versa. It was breaking our hearts to see him feel so uncomfortable and unhappy.
So, we scheduled a meeting with his teacher Ms. Cristal to ask for help in dealing with this issue. She gave us the advice of putting a sticker in his lunch box everyday to show who was picking him up at the end of day. She said it would take away the guessing or anxiety of not knowing. All I have to say is it was the best advice. After four weeks Ryley's stress was pretty much eliminated. He had the tools to understand what was going on and feel more empowered. He even got to the point where in the morning when we put the colored sticker in his lunch box he would say, "Today... Mommy it is a green sticker, right?" (Duff's sticker was orange and mine was green.) It was really cute and now after three months of this we can officially say we are off the sticker program. A big thank you and appreciation to Ms. Cristal and all the wonderful, concerned teachers out there who help guide families like us through these challenges of life. We are truly grateful for the job you do. Now if only stickers worked for my older kids, or full-grown college students like Shane, we might be onto something. Duct tape might be a better tool for Shane, right over his mouth at times. But I think one thing people don't realize is that when they get to the size and age of Shane, and my older children for that matter, even though we think of them as our "kids", they are actually adults. And that's a whole new ballgame that I don't envy Jeana and Matt having to play with Shane. I have my hands full also and most of the time I am just grateful when all is quiet on the domestic front for any amount of time.