Since it’s Father’s Day weekend, I thought I’d throw things back to my first book, Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in your 20s, and talk about why dating with fatherhood in mind can save women from a future divorce.
This, of course, is advice for women who want to have a family. If motherhood isn’t in your life plan, then not all of this applies.
In Trash the Dress, I wrote a chapter about moving on from divorce and getting ready to date again by making a dating checklist. This document should compile all your requirements in a future mate. Your bulleted items will not only help you find Mr. Right, but comfort you each time you encounter Mr. Eh, Mr. Playing-The-Field and Mr. I-Really-Thought-He-Was-The-One-This-Time-Even-Though-I-Only-Dated-Him-For-One-Week. Your dating checklist will be a therapeutic and inspiring guide for your journey to “The One.”
That dating checklist needs to have “someone who wants children and will be a good father on it.”
No negotiations. No compromise.
A man either wants to be a father or doesn’t. If he doesn’t want children when you first meet, dating and marriage won’t change his mind. THIS IS A BURNING RED FLAG.
Let me repeat that. If a man doesn’t want children when you are dating, he will not want them once you are married.
You can’t force someone to want children if they don’t have the same dream as you. And this is a 100 percent deal-breaker. No matter how blue his eyes are, or how much money is in his bank account. Not even how great his six-pack abs look.
I made the mistake of marrying someone who didn’t want children when we first me. Then, he agreed that he would let me have one kid. And he even started suggesting names. So I thought he changed his mind.
Looking back, I can see that I was SO naïve. First of all, he was allowing me to have a kid? And I was OK to have one kid with him? I always envisioned myself with two kids. So why did I accept that? Why did I think someone who didn’t want kids and quit his jobs all the time without consulting me would be a good father and be able to provide for a family?
I was young. I came from a broken home. I saw someone who had good parents and I wanted to be a part of a family that didn’t have trauma, for starters. And he was my best friend. But he WAS NOT the man to start a family with. Because his life didn’t align with my number one dream in the world: motherhood.
On one occasion, I remember discussing the topic while we were on drive. I told my then- boyfriend to stop the car and let me get out right there if he really didn’t want to have kids. Because there was no reason for us to keep dating if it wasn’t going to lead anywhere. I wasn’t about to waste my time. I was already in my mid-20s and always wanted to be a mother by age 26. He didn’t want to lose me. So, he went along with my plans, while searching for his own path in life. And of course, once we were married and he realized he didn’t even want to be married, we got divorced.
I’ll say it again. We did not share the same dream of becoming parents. I married him anyway and ended up getting divorced.
As I detail in Trash the Dress, after my ex-husband and I split, I went to my spiritual healer for a tarot card reading. She told me, “There was a deal-breaker situation. That’s what we make changes for. That’s why there are situations that evolve that show us someone’s true colors. It’s good to see when a situation shows you how much time you’re wasting and how little common ground you thought you had and also that your expectations and their expectations and beliefs are completely different.”
Do you hear that, ladies? If I had a dating checklist before I got married, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and my mother a lot of money.
If you’re already divorced, please know that one day, your dating checklist will have every quality marked off and you’ll find yourself over the moon, not only with the person you’ve found, but also the person you have become. It happened to me.
My post-divorce dating checklist was rather simple. I wanted someone who:
- Was goal oriented
- Had a good job (or was taking action towards getting one)
- Was hard-working
- Had his own hobbies
- Appreciated all my hard work and supported my goals
- Loved my dogs
- Was open to fostering shelter dogs
- Embraced the straight-edge lifestyle or was close to it (Social drinking is OK. Getting drunk and using drugs are not. I’ve never smoked or had more than a sip of alcohol).
- Perhaps had tattoos
- Enjoyed the simple things in life
- I didn’t have to chase or make all the first moves with
- Would happily take pictures with me (my ex-husband complained every time and even stomped off during our engagement photo shoot!)
- Enjoyed hanging out at book stores
- I didn’t have to change who I was in order to be with
- Did not have stretched earlobes (Hey, it was a trend in my “scene!”)
- Was not a musician (Touring all the time? Groupies? Always struggling financially? No, way!)
Today, I’m remarried and my husband, Frank, meets all those requirements except for my love of bookstores (I was OK to let that one slide and hold onto it for “me-time”). We have two amazing children and have the same dream: to be the best parents and partners we can and give our kids the happy childhoods we never got to experience ourselves growing up.
Now that I’m a mother and actually raising two kids (and boy is it HARD!), I can’t even imagine how I would have done with someone who didn’t love children or want to be a father, or was able to help support them financially. I look at how much Frank loves our kids, and how much they love him and my heart bursts with gratitude.
I urge you—if you are at the point in your life where you are done casually dating, and you want to settle down and start a family, you must date with that intention.
Have the strength to leave the relationship you are in if the person you are dating doesn’t have the same vision for the future. You are only going to end up breaking up or getting divorced when you get to that breaking point.
Never forget how strong you are.
Never forget how amazing you are.
Never forget how much you deserve to live the life of your dreams.
Never compromise your dream of being a mother for a man.
Write the dating checklist.
Get Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in your 20s on Amazon for more inspiration.
Participants of the book Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in your 20s and members of the Trash the Dress online support group can’t stress enough the importance discussing key issues with your fiancé before you walk down the aisle. We learned the hard way that red flags should not be ignored, but you don’t have to go down that path.
Consider these collaborative tips as the engaged couple’s toolkit for beginning a healthy, happy marriage, provided by those who had quite the opposite experience.