She was so in love with him. It had only been a few months, but she’d fallen hard. She had all these rules in her head that she tried to live by when it came to love, rules created from past experiences where things had gone wrong and she’d decided to learn from her mistakes rather than repeat them. So even though it had only been a few months, and even though she’d fallen hard, she tried to keep perspective. She told her best friend all about him, of course. “Have you told him you loved him?” her friend asked.

Rule #1: Never Fall In Love Before Dating a Minimum of Six Months

She knew within two weeks that this man would be trouble for her rules. He was all the things she’d decided she needed in a man, and so many things she wasn’t sure she could handle. They met every single evening for dinner and drinks, their dogs by their sides on the patio. They discussed everything from religion and politics to children and retirement. They were so in sync with one another, even when they disagreed, that she began to understand why people wanted to marry their best friends. In a way, he was her new best friend. But not really, because she still went home and told her actual best friend more about him. “When are you moving in together?” her friend asked.

Rule #2: Never Think You Know a Man Before Living With Him a Minimum of Six Months

They decided to move in together, why not? They spent so much time together anyway, it was a logical next step. They discussed their respective separate spaces and chose to live in hers. They went through their respective separate spaces and decided which of their things they’d live with and which of their things they’d put in storage (they kept his bed, her couch, his coffee table, and her dishes). They were now able to have even more sex, which they both considered a bonus. Now there were opportunities in the morning upon waking, at lunch time if they could both make it home in time, the regular pre-bed sex, and of course all kinds of extra sex on the weekends and in the occasional middle of the night when one or the other had gotten up to pee in the freezing cold and they snuggled up together to warm back up. They were madly in love and after only four months felt they’d lived together forever and also like they’d wasted so much time not moving in sooner. “When are you getting married?” her friend asked.

Rule #3: Never Get Married

Every married couple she knew was miserable with very few exceptions and she could count those on one hand. She came from a “broken home” and so did he. They agreed neither one had any intention to get married. And that was that. But as the years passed and their love only deepened one or the other would occasionally remark upon why they weren’t married. The idea that getting married would automatically mean they’d begin to take one another for granted, or that their sex life would immediately cease, began to seem ridiculous. Marriage as an institution doesn’t mean any of those things, it’s the people behind the marriage and whether or not they can maintain appreciation for one another. They were married a month later. “When are you having kids?” her friend asked.

Rule #4: Never Have Children

They’d discussed kids enough times while dating. They both wanted them but were also afraid. Everyone they knew with kids never slept, had sex, or seemed to love each other anymore; their lives were all about their kids. And maybe that’s how it has to be in the beginning especially, with young children, but they didn’t want that. They debated and decided to leave it up to nature to decide. They stopped using protection and were pregnant within a month. It was fast. Perhaps a bit too fast. But they were both thrilled, reveling in the idea of a family, old traditions they could continue, new traditions they could create, the type of parents they wanted to be, the possibilities for who their child would be. They were confident they would do things better, different, they wouldn’t let their relationship fall to the child executioner. “Are you going to have time for me?” her friend asked.

Rule #5: Never Lose Sight of Your Friends

Anytime people start new relationships they seem to lose their friendships. It’s the excitement of someone new, the thrill of spending as much time as possible with this new potential mate, friends tend to fall by the wayside. It happens. But she’d refused to let it happen to her after it happened that first time. She’d learned her lesson. She always had time for her best friend, or made time. With the birth of her first child she completely lost track of days, weeks, months, a year. Her time was taken entirely by the little life she’d created and now nourished and bathed and clothed and held. She hadn’t realized how long it had been since she’d seen her bestie, hadn’t even considered that it had been a year, until she realized it had. She celebrated her child’s first birthday and the very next day called her friend. “You’ve survived! Are you divorced yet?” she asked.

Rule #6: If You Have to Separate Keep it Amicable

They wanted different things. He wanted sex every day and weekends with his buddies down at the lake. She wanted someone to take the baby for an hour everyday and someone to share the cooking. They’d fought about these things multiple times and finally decided they didn’t want to reconcile. They preferred to go their separate ways rather than try to repair the road they’d been travelling together. And so they got divorced. The most amicable divorce anyone had ever heard of: they treated one another the way they wanted to be treated, splitting custody fairly down the middle, splitting their assets fairly down the middle, agreeing to an every-other-holiday schedule rather than trying to split holidays in half. They’d long ago sold everything they had in storage so they decided who would take what (he kept the bed, she kept the couch, he kept the coffee table, and she kept the dishes). They sold the house. “Let’s go out this weekend,” her friend said.

Rule #7: Never Go Back

Their separation was so well executed that they began to wonder why they separated at all. They still loved each other, especially as they spent time apart, and time with their child who was so much each of them it was maddening. Perhaps they’d rushed into the divorce. But she’d learned from the past: never go back because there’s a reason it didn’t work the first time and that reason is still there. When it was her weekend without their child she spent time with her bestie. When it was her weekend with her child she spent time being the best parent she could be. She began meeting new people by virtue of her new free half-time, new parents, new single parents, new single men. She even dated a few times, but no one that measured up to her ex-husband, no one who could be half the father to her child that he was. “You just need to sleep with someone else,” her friend said.

Rule #8: Never Sleep With Someone To Get Over Someone

She was wrong. All wrong about rule #8. She ended up having a few too many drinks with a single dad friend and one thing led to another. The next thing she knew she’d had sex. With someone other than her husband. For the first time in years. It was a revelation. It was also awkward, and sloppy, and not actually the best ever, but it was also different and freeing and somehow snapped the anchor keeping her from moving on. She was suddenly free to see all the ways that her new life afforded her the things she’d been wanting or needing but hadn’t been able to vocalize. She saw clearly that what she wanted was exactly what she now had: half-time freedom. She could be the very best parent she could possibly be for half the time and the other half of the time she could read with abandon, fix popcorn and a glass of wine for dinner, and binge watch television, all with no repercussions. This was the life she’d never knew she always wanted, and now she had it.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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