The New Girl

Sometimes in the dating world, we are given a gift - the gift of a man who has been single for quite some time, an ex file that is closed and shelved for all eternity, and in turn, a guy who is ready to love, and be loved, once again. But, let's be real - seldom is that actually the case. The fact that we have to accept is, nearly all of us carry some baggage. I certainly do - I like to think of mine as an old, mismatched collection of Walmart off-brand luggage, each piece stuffed with useless garbage. I know as well as anyone that it takes time to mentally and emotionally throw it all away, so I like to think I'm pretty patient when it comes to understanding that process. Sometimes the heart can't wait, and we find ourselves in deep with a guy who's still packing up his old relationship business - a pending divorce, child custody, or property disputes. But, this doesn't mean we have to count him out as an eligible bachelor - maybe it's possible to keep the guy, and our sanity too.

Stay Out Of It

The longer the relationship continues, the more serious it becomes. The more serious it becomes, the more loose ends there are to tie up when the relationship comes to a close. If you're in that unfortunate situation of being an innocent bystander while he's cleaning up the last bits of his previous relationship, I have some pointers for you. Remain the innocent bystander. Let him clean up his own mess. As a loving, doting partner, it's in our nature to want to protect our significant other from harm. We also want to enjoy our new love without distractions, so the quicker we can get his old baggage packed up and stashed out of sight, the better. Tammy Wynette tried to teach us to stand by our man, but I'm here to tell you that in this case, you only help the situation by letting the cheese stand alone on this one.

First, you're going to save yourself a boatload of stress. The minute you accept the hard truth that you have zero control over the outcome of property disputes, financial decisions, and co-parenting issues, you're going to be in a much better head-space. It is absolutely not your responsibility to try to fix a problematic situation that you didn't create. In addition, your

intrusion is highly likely to bring out the sinister side of his ex - and really, can you blame her? I can't say I'd be a fan of a random chick involving herself in my personal affairs. The more capable you are at staying on your side of the fence, the quicker he and his ex will arrive at a resolution.

Second, if your new guy is mature, emotionally intelligent, and ready to love you - he'll appreciate you that much more if you demonstrate grace under pressure. A boy would love a mouthy chick worthy of a Jerry Springer episode, who's ready for a fisticuffs with his ex-girlfriend. But a man doesn't need you to fight his battles for him. A man will protect you from becoming collateral damage, and he won't need your help in order to do it. In the same respect, girls intervene with the issues of pending divorce, children, and property, because they're intimidated by the previous woman's unfinished business with their man. Women, on the other hand, refuse to help clean up a guy's mess that he made long before she came into the picture. She knows there is nothing sexier to a guy than a woman who can make him forget all of his problems instead of intervening in them. So take a seat, Yoko Ono. Sit back, smile, and have a glass of wine while the loose ends are tied. Soon enough, you'll have him free and clear, all to yourself.

The Heaping Tablespoon of Salt

Women can't always accept their role in the failure of a relationship - but in my experience, they're able to gain that insight a lot easier than a man. Perhaps it's that egotistical side of the male species that just doesn't allow them to turn the spotlight 180 degrees and take a long, hard look at themselves. It's just so much easier to label their ex a crazy slut and keep right on truckin'. In the vast majority of cases, both parties hold some responsibility for the relationship going to hell in a hand basket. After all, no matter how flat you make a pancake, it has two sides.

So I'm here to preach my gospel:

No matter how amazing he is. No matter how great of a guy he is. No matter how much he has provided or promised to you. When it comes to his story of what happened with his ex, don't take it with just a grain of salt. Take it with a big, heaping tablespoon of that shit.

I'm not saying a man can't change. I do believe they can, if they truly want to. I'm not saying all men are liars, either. What I am claiming is that they are wired a bit differently than we are. Women are thinkers, analyzers, and seekers of personal growth and improvement. We don't hesitate to pick up a self help book, schedule an appointment with a therapist, or journal our emotions and experiences. We are raised to believe that this is all healthy, acceptable, and even commendable behavior. But toxic masculinity is still alive and well in our society, and this means that men often find all of the aforementioned activities as exhibiting weakness or sensitivity (both cardinal sins in manhood). In turn, men are often lacking in the self-reflection department, making it difficult for them to hold themselves accountable when it comes to matters of the heart. It's even more difficult for them to verbalize it. You don't have to dig for the real details of his last breakup. You don't have to disregard his story completely. But you don't have to be a complete fool, either. Know that his story is just one version of the actual truth.

The Heinous Bitch - Or Maybe Not...

So now the question is, what happens when his ex makes your life uncomfortable, or difficult? What if, by no fault of your own, she attempts to drag you into the drama? She starts showing up to your regular hang out spot, or she reaches out to you on social media? That sort of behavior can seem like incitement of an all out fem-war. I've been in that situation, more than once. And let me tell you, those girls had no idea who they were messing with. Fortunately, they were messing with me - a person who had been in multiple serious relationships, dealt with multiple breakups, and even a divorce. They were messing with a person who knew the difference between a cuntasaurus rex, and a woman who had been hurt. They - were hurt. And hurt - I can handle.

Some people move on more quickly than others. Sometimes the details of the breakup make moving on that much harder. I knew these women weren't jealous of me - it wasn't about envy. It was about that sick feeling that washes over you when you realize that a life you once lived is now being occupied by someone else. It can feel like you were a temporary placeholder, a tiny, inconsequential stone in the broken road that lead him to another. To

make matters worse, maybe she felt he treated me better than he did her - that she had endured his raw edges and harshness - and by the time he reached me, he was a perfectly polished stone. She and I weren't all that different. We were two girls with broken hearts, just at different times, under different circumstances. I could respect that.

The fact is, ladies - good men, the kind that are worth your time, don't shack up with heinous bitches, and they sure as shit don't stay for years on end with them either. If he's painting her as Hitler, with just about zero redeeming qualities, take a long, hard look at him, because you might just be staring at the actual problem in that relationship. I challenge you, the next time your new love interest is tying up those loose ends, venting about just how awful his ex was - sit quietly and listen. When he's calmed down, ask him, "tell me something you loved about her." I've actually done this myself, and he gave quite a lovely answer. They may not have made a great couple in the long run, and many factors may have muddied the waters for the two of them. But, he loved her once, and was able to verbalize that he did, and why.

Somehow, my asking that question gave some closure to the issue. It also made me feel that much better about the guy I was dating, since he was able to still view his past love as human, with positive attributes and character flaws just like the rest of us. Perhaps most importantly, it sent him a clear message about my own character - I'm not here to try to fix you. I am not here to pack up your relationship baggage for you. I am here to love you, and support you, but not at the expense of who I am, or what I stand for. I told a friend once that I wanted to "fall in love at least fifty times before I die." So, I've gotten relatively comfortable being the ex that one man would like to forget, and being the new girl that another man can't stop thinking about. What's the saying - a woman's heart is an ocean? Maybe a man's heart is an ocean, too. Sometimes you've got to ride out the waves with strength and patience, to get to calmer seas.

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