You can be a badass, independent woman AND want romance.
By Kasey Ferris
According to the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), divorce a top life stressor, second only to the death of a spouse. The physical, mental, and emotional toll divorce can take on a person and, more so, a family, is significant.
I’ve always been a pretty independent woman, but my divorce ramped up that independence ten-fold. It’s important to me that my children see that we can and will forge ahead and still be successful and happy, in spite of the societal expectations that we have a man around.
In my time as a single mother, I’ve taught myself how to change a tire and jump start a car (in four-inch heels and a dress, no less). I’ve learned plumbing and furniture restoration, figured out what sort of wound requires a little liquid Band-aid and which merits a trip to the ER for stitches, all while suppressing my urge to pass out at the sight of blood as I did when I was younger. I talk football with my kids, mow my own yard, patch holes in the walls. I hang shelves. I trap the mice and rescue the frogs and kill ALL THE SPIDERS (because we all have our limits).
I do it all around here because the truth of the matter is I, along with the majority of single parents, don’t have an option.
And then, two years post-divorce, I started dating someone seriously. For a while, my independent streak was an advantage to both of us. There was no chance I’d become the needy girlfriend, no chance I’d be that whiner, that helpless damsel you hear so much about. “Don’t worry, I’ve got it” became my mantra. For every dinner he bought, I bought one. Every time I’d come across one of life’s little (and not-so-little) bumps, he’d respectfully stand back and watch as I slogged through it on my own.
Because I didn’t require his help. I didn’t need him, I wanted him. There was a difference.
Until there wasn’t.
The night I received my brand new writing desk in a series of boxes from Amazon, I grabbed a hammer and a beer and set in to assemble the most majestic desk there ever was. An hour and a half, three beers, and a number of f-bombs later, I was only about a third of the way into my project. Frustrated and fed up, I was snappy with my kids and my boyfriend who had stopped by to check on my progress. My contractor boyfriend. My contractor boyfriend who spent the bulk of his time managing and working for his own construction business.
“How’s it coming?” He asked.
“I’m fine,” I snapped.
“Why aren’t you using your drill instead of that screwdriver?”
“Because I lost the *bleeping* battery to the drill and I don’t have a backup. It’s fine. I’m fine. Hush.”
“I’ve got a drill in the truck.”
“I don’t need a drill. I’ve got this screwdriver.”
“You know, I’ve built things before.”
“I’M FINE. I CAN DO THIS.”
And on it went until we were virtually screaming at each other at which point he stomped out, completely irritated, and I threw my stupid screwdriver across the empty room. It was one of the bigger fights we’d ever had.
“I don’t need you around, I want you, don’t you see that?” I told him, later.
“Need and want don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” he said. “You don’t have to make everything harder than it has to be to prove a point. I want to help.”
And that was just the problem, wasn’t it? I’d heard the “I’m here to help” schtick before, and look where it led me.
I didn’t need his help, dammit! I could do it! I could build a desk. I could pay for my own movie ticket. I could take care of myself and my children.
After a while, it started to seem like I shouldn’t be in a relationship at all…because what was the point if I wasn’t willing to accept companionship?
The dirty little secret I’ve kept tucked safely away for thirty-four years is that I’ve always been a closet romantic. I’m talking sick levels of romantic, here. Blooming flowers, singing birds, mice sewing ball gowns…all of it. It took me a long time to admit that to anyone, especially myself because it felt less bad-ass to want to believe in the Happily Ever Afters.
I was torn – the two halves of myself, Romantic and Independent Woman constantly at war. It almost felt like I was letting down Gloria Steinem personally every time I would get starry-eyed over a particularly sparkly engagement ring in a magazine ad. I felt as if I was punching Rosie the Riveter right in the mouth every time I wished for Prince Charming to show up and slay the dragon, for once. (I am so damn tired of slaying the dragons.)
So I denied that half of my soul to everyone including myself because it felt disingenuous to want both to be a strong independent woman and to wish for a man to sweep me off my feet. It took a major relationship argument to realize that, while I knew I could go it alone, I really wanted someone else along for the ride.
To help. To support. To love me through it. I really wanted to need a man just as much as he needed me.
That realization has completely changed how I approach relationships. While I’m no longer with that particular boyfriend, I am a little more gracious in accepting (and, GAG, even asking for) help. I’ve learned to embrace my inner sap, instead of cage her off in a corner somewhere. I’ve made peace with both halves of myself, both in and out of a relationship.
Because at the end of the day, I want to need a partner in life. And that subtle shift in thinking has made all the difference.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.