Seven years ago, my parents decided to end their marriage. After a long struggle to understand and process a lifetime of his experiences, my father decided he was ready to tell all of us that he is gay. He told my mother first, and they navigated that revelation in privacy for quite a while before deciding to tell us kids and move on to separate lives for their second acts.
To this day, my father is adamant that he loved my mother, felt very attracted to her, and never faked a moment of happiness in their life together. My mother will tell you the same. They were happy for a long time, but people evolve. They were a perfect match until they weren’t.
Their divorce came after thirty years of marriage and changed the entire composition of our multi-generational family. I won’t pretend there was no anger, pain, sadness and grief. Every single member of the family had to come to terms with the changes, and that took time.
But my parents fought for each other way more often than they fought with each other. They emerged as friends, and to this day, they are both there for every milestone and every holiday. We are a new kind of family now.
My dad found love after divorce pretty quickly. Five years ago, my dad met the man that would become his husband. Doug has become a second grandfather to my children in every way. My mom even attended their wedding reception.
Through the years, my mom just never got seriously involved with anyone. She is gorgeous, and not just “for her age.” Men have been interested, some very seriously interested. But Jeanne never found one that made her feel like settling back down. She talked about finding love after divorce once in a while, but didn’t want to look for it. She wanted to travel.
After the divorce, my mom found freedom she had never known. She traveled the world as a chef, accepting short-term cooking assignments at high-end lodges and resorts. It was hard for her to imagine loving any man more than she loved the feeling of waking up on the beach in New Zealand.
Then it happened.
A man from her very distant past came back into her life by chance, and within weeks it became clear that their paths were meant to cross again.
My mom is in love after divorce.
The mix of emotions I feel when I see those words is hard to explain.
My overwhelming emotion is warm joy. I’m so happy for her. I haven’t even met her new beau yet, but I can already tell how he makes her feel. During our video chats, they just laugh and laugh. My mom is quirky and funny, and he gets her. He and I have already discussed her idiosyncrasies, and he thinks they’re great. Her new man doesn’t care that she wears readers over her prescription glasses. He doesn’t run from her seven-thousand-year-old blue sweatshirt that she wears so often it’s almost see-through at this point.
Her socks balled up on the coffee table make him laugh.
More than that, she assures me that he carries her insecurities gently. He is patient, making her feel as beautiful as she deserves to feel. After thirty years with the same man, getting comfortable with someone new felt like an insurmountable challenge to my mom. None of the men who wanted her made her feel safe enough to give love a second try. She knew this new man was meant to be her man when she realized she didn’t feel like she wanted to hide the parts of her she sees as flaws. She was willing to be fully known to someone new.
I thought that might never happen.
I am so glad she has someone keeping tabs on her well-being. She lives a thousand miles away from me, and this is the first time in my life I haven’t been five minutes away. I worried about her when she was alone. She’s still young and can take care of herself, but I know my mom. She loves her freedom, but she never wanted to spend the rest of her life alone. She deserves someone who will make her soup when she’s sick and rub her feet after a long day. I hated the idea of my mom being alone the whole entire time it was happening. And now she’s not alone anymore.
It’s still a little weird for me. It didn’t take long for me to get used to my dad and his husband, but to be honest, I think that was easier. I never had to see my father with another woman. I think the comparisons would have made it much harder to see him move on. The temptation to compare his partners has never existed because Doug is man. It has never felt like he was taking my mom’s place. That made it easier for me to see their marriage as a completely new and separate entity from any life that came before.
Seeing my mom with another man feels different to me a little bit. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think it makes me feel a little bit disloyal to my dad. Like I should be skeptical of the man who is “taking his place.” I feel a little guilty that I am so happy for her. That makes no sense at all, and I realize that. It’s just something my heart needs to work through, and I’ll put in the effort. My mom and her new love deserve that.
Watching your parents fall in love after divorce is strange and beautiful. There’s nothing I want more for my parents than to feel loved, supported and understood. Just because they can’t love each other like that anymore doesn’t mean I want to see them any less happy.
When they divorced, I worried that my father might not find a partner. He was a newly-out gay man in his 50s in the Bible belt. It never crossed my mind that my mom would take so much time to move on, but I’m so glad she held out until it felt right to her.
I can’t wait to meet him in person, learn to trust him, and welcome him into our lives. As long as he loves her well, he’s welcome here.
There’s so much love in our unconventional family. We always have room for one more.