Dating when you're over 40, divorced, atheist, angry at religion, with baggage

I'm looking for some input here.


As you can tell from previous posts, over the last year I've been divorcing my increasingly fundamentalist wife who was homeschooling my two children and unintentionally sabotaging their chances at a normal childhood/adulthood. I've been married for 17+ years, since my (very) early 20s. It wasn't a great marriage. It was ok. At first. Theologically neither of us were very passionate in the beginning. As I think on my past more I realize I think I may have practially been mostly atheist my whole life. I underwent a few periods of being strongly theist, but mostly I was put out with organized religion. I kept a small god box in my head for most of the first half of my life, but I didn't use it much.


Around 2000 or so, everything changed. My wife joined a fundamentalist cult, and through a series of mishaps and poor decision making I ended up joining as well. If I jump through a few mental hoops I could blame her for it, and she did set up the scenario that caused me to join, but I'm too honest to give her all the blame. I walked through the door and made the decision to join. The reasons are complex enough to merit another blog post, but that's not the point of this one.


A year later I left. Another year after that I had pieced together what had happened to me, and finally knew who these people were. I realized that any children we might have would be indoctrinated into this cult, and I wouldn't allow that. I decided to divorce her, because I didn't expect her to leave.


But she did. Again, the story would be best expanded upon elsewhere. Next thing you know, we're both out of the cult, the marriage is doing better than it has in years, and suddenly there's a baby on the way. Yes, it was all related.


Fast forward 10 years. The marriage deteriorated again over the next 10 years, and I finally realized that she may have physically left the cult, but she never left mentally. She's homeschooling the kids, teaching them creationism, and indoctrinating them into her new fundamentalist SDA-splinter cell beliefs against my wishes. And I can't do anything to stop it. Except for one thing. So I filed for divorce.


Fast forward another year. She has my house, my kids, and roughly half my income. I have debt, a small apartment, and a lot of time to kill with my xbox. Over the intervening nine months or so since I was court ordered out of the house I had completely paid for myself (no bitterness there) I had been agonizing over the thought of dating. One can only spend so much time hiding in one's apartment all alone. Turns out the girlies don't really come knocking down your door if they don't know you're there. I was starting to feel a little Ted Kazinsky (minus the explosives).


This is where my neurosis comes in. I gave up on dating before I even got started. My life is complicated enough right now, and the thought of adding a girlfriend on top of that was just a bit too much. I consulted the great oragle Google, and Google said that dating the recently divorced was a bad idea, so I realized that far from being a great catch, I was poison. My first relationship was doomed. But I did need to interact with other humans occasionally other than at work. So X->Y->Z I found some local meetup groups related to atheism and skepticism. Slowly (very slowly) I started going.


This is when it happened. There's a local skeptics group that meets on Saturdays. I can only go to every other one because of visitation (but I'm contemplating bringing them along though). Many of them go to a local bar afterwards and just talk and drink. Personally, I think that's the best part. Outside of this group I know almost know atheists or agnositics. Before going to this group, I was pretty much alone in my beliefs (or rather lack thereof). After one, there was a girl there. An attractive girl, mind you. Context check: I had already given up on dating (without even having had one at that), so I wasn't there to meet women other than in a friendly context. She had this way of drawing my eye though. Maybe it's because she was the most attractive woman at the table. Maybe it's because she kept talking to me. So beer+actual human contact with people who believe like I do+temporary loss of inhibitions=I forgot that I wasn't interested in dating. But that's okay cause I screwed it up anyway. I got to talking with a former pastor there who went atheist about my kid's situation, and eventually she left. Turns out if you ignore a girl long enough she'll go away. I had forgotten about that...


Ok, getting bogged down in detail here. Fast forward slightly, I e-mailed, she e-mailed, we met for coffee (well, sorta. she doesn't like coffee). And we ended up spending nine hours together the next day. A couple of months later things have grown quite serious. Sparing you the gaudy details of how goofy I've become, things are going very well. She's incredible.


But then there comes those moments when I doubt myself. Usually about 11pm-1am (or later) when I'm alone in my apartment again. There's something about the middle of the night which does weird things to my thought processes. Anyway, I start to wonder, am I forcing things? Am I really just trying to fill the gap left by the sudden loss of a family? I don't think I'm doing the dating thing right, I'm going too fast, and I'm scared shitless of screwing it all up as a result.


So what I'm asking for here, is: does anybody else here have similar experience? Do you have any tips on how to not fuck up your first relationship post-divorce? Any pitfalls I should avoid?

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Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on September 30, 2011 at 2:43pm
I was 30 when I got married and had been in lot of bad relationships before.  If you have taken time to consider what went wrong before, this could have a very happy ending for you.  It doesn't sound like you hit the bars the day your divorce was finalized.  I wish you the best.
Comment by Lana on September 30, 2011 at 2:05pm

Not all so called 'rebound' relationships end badly - I've been with mine for three years now.  I find I keep expecting things to turn for the worse in my own second marriage, but living as though things are going to fall apart at any time doesn't allow for a healthy sort of stability.  I choose to live my life taking risks, trying always to be the best person I can be, and work hard to build a healthy relationship.  Life can be all too short, and a lot of happiness can be had if you don't convince yourself that it is all too good to be true.  Learn to recognize when your baggage is infecting your current relationship interations - fears, insecurities, anger etc.  When you can recognize it, it gets better. 

Comment by Herbert Philip Peters on September 30, 2011 at 8:59am
Learning means changing! we all learned to walk. Good luck!
Comment by Richard K. Emms on September 30, 2011 at 6:36am

I have a lot to say on this.  I was married for 26 years before discovering myself.  Lots to say about that as well, but this is for you. 

   Dating soon after divorce is dangerous.  You are looking to fill the gaps in your prvious relationship, and now you're single, so add a very large gap to that.  It gives us a sense of urgency, and it is all too easy to fall into a new relationship often worse than the last.  In my case I narrowly escaped this. 

   I did date a woman once that told me she would not date a man soon after divorce as they always had a lot of baggage, and not more than 4 years after, as men tend to turn ferral and it's too hard to re-domesticate them.

   OK, it's fun to be ferral.  You are on the right track. Groups lend support, and how more level headed support than an Atheist group?  I also recommend productive hobbies.  For me it was re-learning my woodwind music, and becomming a living history participant, (buckskins and colonials).  I've also taken up gunsmithing, (just muzzleloaders).

   The bottom line here is that you need to figure out who you really are.  Find something you love to do and get good at it.  If another potential mate happens along, good, but don't let the pursuit of one consume you. 

   You already have the tools you need to have a happy life.  It's part of human nature.  Don't stifle it.  Look within yourself.  Get out and try living.  The natural world is wonderful. 



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