Snapshot: How to open yourself up to love again

by singlemomseeking on March 18, 2011

So many of you know the darkness of betrayal. You’ve been hurt. You are healing. You feel so cautious about opening up your heart again — I really get it.

That’s why I’d like you to meet Carrie, aka How Does She Do It Mom —  a former single mom with a very inspiring story (she’s pictured below with her man).

Carrie, the mother of two young children, left her abusive marriage three years ago. In the meantime, she has been doing her best to have a healthy co-parenting relationship with her ex, as they raise their five and seven-year-old kids.

At first, balancing everything on her own was tough, and Carrie did her best. In between parenting, she worked hard as a fitness specialist in Canada.

Then, in 2008 — not long after leaving her husband — Carrie got a Facebook friend request from a man named Brian. He was a Chicagoan whom she’d met at an international fitness conference for work. “Nothing happened during those three days other than a wonderful human connection,” Carrie recalls. “We’d fit like old friends. We’d felt comfortable around each other.”

Of course, Carrie “friended” Brian — and then went on with her life. “I was learning how to be a single mom, and how to be a single woman for the first time in my life.” (She’d been with her ex-husband since she was 13.)

“I was working on being the best that I could be — knowing that when that Mr.Right came along I would be ready, because I was being true to myself,” she says.

In the meantime, Carrie and Brian occasionally commented on each other’s Facebook pages — oh, and they flirted, too. “I had a feeling there was more to our random comments,” she says.

More indeed. “One day, Brian sent me an email, telling me that he’d had a crush on me since the day he’d met me. I read it and jumped around like a school girl. I knew that he was the one! It sounds crazy, but I just knew.”

They started to have very long phone conversations that lasted through the night. It all felt right. But it wasn’t that easy: Carrie was raising her kids in Montreal, and Brian lived in Chicago.

So, on January 16, 2010, Carrie flew south to visit Brian to see how things felt. “I didn’t sleep the night before, and I’d taken an early morning flight,” she says.

“After getting off the plane, I texted him to see where he was. I was so nervous, and I was also navigating the world’s largest airport. That’s when I absentmindedly walked straight into the men’s bathroom! I got a whole bunch of stares and some smiles, too…as I fumbled back out to the women’s washroom!”

“He came into my world knowing I had two kids,” Carrie says. “He knew that loving me would come with lifelong commitment to loving my kids. It’s a CRAZY story I know. It makes most people want to gag.”

Brian was ready for that responsibility — he moved to Montreal on February 26, 2010. Instead of exchanging engagement rings, Carrie and Brian got their first initials tattooed on their ring fingers.


Which brings up the question….

How do YOU know when it’s right?

After healing from so much hurt — like a divorce or a break up — how do you know that this time, it’s really going to work?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

pre-owned May 4, 2011 at 7:16 am

very good pieces of advice! very inspirational life and love experiences! i think i’m one very stubborn and you may say most stupid woman in the world of loving. i just can’t learn from my experiences! my ex-husband of 11 years and i got divorced and immediately after i fell for a man who i “just knew” was my true love and soul mate. he’s now my ex-boyfriend, after 2 years and after a 5-month old baby. by the way, i have a 9-year old son from my ex-husband too. my ex-bf and i just broke up march this year. immeadiately a week after, a co-worker started asking me out. i refused to have a date with him but i’m talking to him on the phone everyday, every night. here i am again? right. i’m controlling lyself to the best i can not to go out with him and start another relationship. is allowing him to talk to me a sign that i love him? maybe, i don’t know, but i don’t want to ignore him that’s for sure. i got used of him texting and calling me. he clearly knows that i don’t want to go out with him. he claims that he will stay until i’m ready. a disaster waiting to happen? i guess.


Maeve April 4, 2011 at 10:53 am

This is a lovely story, and I know it does work out this way sometimes, but I don’t think anyone “just knows.”

I “just knew” my ex-husband was the one when I met him at 22. He then started cheating on me a couple of months after we got married and kept it up straight through the divorce. He was an absolute jerk and broke every promise he ever made to me. What I “just knew” was totally, completely wrong. Looking back, there were a lot of signs of what kind of person he really was–signs I overlooked because I “just knew” we were supposed to be together.

My very recent ex-boyfriend “just knew” that we would be together forever. You can see how right he turned out to be.

Honestly, I think in any relationship that lasts over six months, there is one person who “just knows” that it’s right. But psychological research shows quite definitively that the feeling of certainty is absolutely unconnected with actual fact . I think it is very important not to encourage people to turn off their grey matter and “trust their gut” when so many of us are so badly led astray by it. Sure, trust your intuition–but trust your eyes, ears, critical thinking, past experience and lessons learned too.

Falling in love is a wonderful feeling but it blinds people and fills their brains with hormones for at least 18 months to two years–and those hormones can feel a lot like certainty before they wear off. I think it’s incredibly important to keep your head enough to wait for the honeymoon period to wear off, and THEN see how sure you are.


singlemomseeking April 4, 2011 at 12:32 pm

@Maeve: Thanks so much for chiming in with such REAL advice. I really do believe what you say, too: “Sure, trust your intuition–but trust your eyes, ears, critical thinking, past experience and lessons learned too.”


How Does She Do It Mom April 19, 2011 at 6:57 am

I agree with you Rachel….”knowing” has more to do than with your heart. Maeve when I met Brian I had a very clear vision of what I needed and wanted in a partner…I think that was the part of knowing…he fit the bill on all aspects of what I was looking for.

It wasn’t a “knowing” out of desperation to find true love and I think that is what made it so clear to me…it was effortless and just happened..naturally with nothing forced.

And trust me I get what you say about “just knew” when you were 22…I was in the same situation with my ex…and I know this is hard to explain or understand when you have not experienced it…but there is a very different feeling when you have found a partner for your soul…content, no stress, no fears and immediate commitment to working it out together.

I think of all things women should simply commit to themselves not to EVER settle on less than what they want/need! 🙂

LookingForLove31 March 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I loved reading this story! Definitely brought a smile to my face! 🙂


Sassy Single Mom March 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I think some of the common threads I’m hearing are:
1) learning to trust yourself
2) finding your own happiness

I think this is such good advice for single moms, period! Isn’t it?? =) We all want connection and to do life together. Carrie and Rachel’s story are such inspiration and GOOD NEWS for those of us who are still on that journey.

I think we feel tempted to compromise and settle whenever we are feeling lonely or unfulfilled. Making a daily habit of being self-honoring is the key!


How Does She Do It Mom March 31, 2011 at 6:50 am

NEVER SETTLE!! That is truly the best piece of advice I can offer…the minute you settle you are lowering what you think is best for you! Think about that in the long run would you rather wait until you find “right for you” or settle on “almost right”. Sure we all have weakness’s and things that frustrate us about our partners from time to time..but there are BIG differences from being not liking the way he chews gum to him not attending to ANY of your needs.

Another point to make is that I think women tend to try to find men simply to fill a void that is instead of looking for “him” fill that void with your own stuff…create new social circles of friends, find new hobbies, start dedicating significant time to yourself (exercise, beauty etc) build your own dreams!! Trust me when you do this you won’t so much notice the absence of a man…and then one day when you are so blissfully happy with what you created for yourself…he will appear! Cliche but true the universe rewards.

Oh and PS: this is not me saying anything about swearing of sex and dating though…gosh no!! 😉


Amy March 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Carrie’s story is so cool and inspirational–thanks for posting about her here, Rachel! I have found inspiration for some time in your story, watching the posts take on some of the glow I imagine you began to feel more and more as you approached, and then took the plunge into your new marriage.

I also love to read what T writes about her life and love–I, too, am in a long-distance relationship and I, too, am the doubter of the pair. Part of it, for me, is the fact that as my man and I get to know each other and figure out what we can be together, I am going through a challenging process of grief and rebuilding a life for myself and my kids after their father (from whom I was separated for three years, but who was very involved in their lives, and still a good friend to me) was killed in a tragic accident at the end of August.

I had been “dating” and even had a couple of what I thought of as “serious” relationships since my separation, but when I met my guy just six weeks after my ex’s death, I was in no way looking for anything of the kind. (They say it always happens when you’re not looking, blah blah blah…)

It hasn’t been easy, and it is still early on for us, but he has shown himself to be a man of incredible integrity and heart, and it is his conviction that we have something special that has kept me going through a recent rough patch.

We still face many obstacles, including the distance, and we are by no means “out of the woods,” but I do have hope that this is something lasting, real, and very much worth waiting for.


Crystal March 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm

How inspiring!! I really believe we have to do a lot of forgiveness work in order to move on. But when you do, you have embraced more fully of who you are and then can connect with another on a deeper level. Thanks for sharing!


How Does She Do It Mom April 19, 2011 at 6:51 am

Crystal let me tell you if it wasn’t for the forgiveness that I gave to him and myself I would probably still be stuck in post-divorce syndrome. How can we move on if we still harbor feelings of hurt and anger? I forgave for me not for him.


T March 21, 2011 at 10:45 am

I love this story too!

How do you know when it’s right?

In my current relationship, I’ve had a man who was willing to wait for me to come around. He has known since day 1. I was still healing from a past relationship. I felt better about who I was. I knew I was stronger. But he stood by, holding my hand, telling me he wasn’t going anywhere. That spoke, and still speaks, volumes to me to this day. It is a feeling of safety I haven’t experienced in some time.

He still can’t explain to you how he “knew” but he’s just as confident now, almost 2 years in, as he was that first day. Every time I’m in his arms, I can feel it. It just… is.


How Does She Do It Mom March 23, 2011 at 7:35 am

A friend of mine and I have created a group called the “IT” group…made up of other couples who have lived our experiences about “just knowing when this is IT”…we laugh about is all the time but you are right you “just” know!


soontobesinglemom March 20, 2011 at 7:00 am

This story just makes me happy. <3


avigail74 March 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Rachel–you are so much a role model for me–you’ve shown me that finding a good man is possible–so I’d love to hear: How did YOU know Thunderpants was right?


singlemomseeking March 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Ah, thanks @A!!
How did I know that he was right? Maybe it all comes down to this:
1. Trusting myself. I met TP at a time in my life when I felt grounded and confident (it took a LONG time and I’m still working on it). I felt good about myself as a mother and I was making a career transition that felt right. I wasn’t in that lonely, desperate place where I’d been for so long.

2. He’d shown me that he was the kind of man who wanted to work on being in a relationship. Early on, I could tell that he was a responsible, family guy — but more than that, whenever we were faced with challenges, he was always there, ready and open to communicate. Fortunately, he still is!


singlemomseeking March 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Oh, and No. 3: He’s funny….

Traci whitney March 18, 2011 at 8:09 am

This is a great article. I also feel that, as difficult as it is to open yourself up to love again, it’s also difficult to know how to be in a relationship again, after a failed one. The things that you do and say, it’s hard not to second guess yourself when clearly something went wrong before. Just food for thought 🙂

Congrats to carrie for pushing through and taking that very worth while leap!


How Does She Do It Mom March 18, 2011 at 8:59 am

Traci I 100% agree with what you said. Learning to be in a relationship again was not hard but it was weird and presented with its challenges.

I had come from a less than ideal relationship that left me with a few battle wounds…I had a huge protective wall up that I needed to lower but involved trusting and feeling safe. It had to be the right man. He has been gentle with my understanding my past and we worked through the “old stuff” that surfaced when he moved in together.

Not to mention going from a single mom who had control of everything to having a co-parent in the house…that was a challenge. I had to get used to not having to carry ALL the groceries, make the lunches, do the dishes and laundry ALL at once. Relinquishing that control was tough but boy am I thankful for it now!!


Single Mom March 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

What a story of hope. They look so lovely together…beautiful story.


Hilary Jacobs Trout March 18, 2011 at 6:51 am

Giving yourself time to heal and learn from your experience. Learn how you contributed to the dysfunction. Really get to know yourself. Know what truly makes you happy. What are your must haves. Forgive yourself and others. Then go about making yourself as happy has you can be. When you do meet someone make sure you pay attention to how they make you feel about yourself. Make sure you take care of yourself in the relationship. And remember love is a leap of faith. Leap when your feet are firmly on the ground and your head is screwed on straight to begin with. There is no story that is too crazy.


How Does She Do It Mom March 18, 2011 at 8:25 am

Hilary I am glad you don’t think my story is too crazy…lol my family sure did until they met and saw us together.

Forgiveness is a big one! I forgave my ex and myself for everything that happened in the past so that I could move on. It was the only way to live.


Memoirs of a Single Dad March 18, 2011 at 5:46 am

Two very important points that I’d take away from Carrie’s story: first, I feel when you know you know. Of course that doesn’t mean to me that you should jump head-first and throw caution to the wind (especially as a single parent). Second is that you can’t hope to move on after the end of a serious, long-term relationship without properly healing yourself. It takes time and some patience and I think most people try to move on too quickly. Sounds like Carrie got them both right!


How Does She Do It Mom March 18, 2011 at 8:24 am

After going through the toughest decision of my life and leaving my ex husband I wasn’t about to make any more big mistakes. I had to come before any other man did…finding me is what lead Brian to me. I encourage every woman I know who finds themselves in these shoes to find your happiness first.


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