Linda Bittle - West Plains, Missouri 65775

This is Not Where I Thought I Was Going

#5-Defy Expectations

My friend Sally likes to say that I saved myself. I don’t think that’s entirely true.

Instead, I see how God used a bunch of unusual experiences to get me ready to defy the expectations that are put on a newly divorced woman. Here’s a partial list of the things that prepared me for a new life:

  • a book club
  • a gun club
  • a ride on an elephant
  • a charming invitation to the church around the corner
  • a women’s outdoor group
  • a road trip with my sister
  • and a George Strait song on the radio

That’s an interesting list of seemingly unrelated things that I am forever grateful for. I will cover them in upcoming  posts because they are all crucial steps to my empowerment story.

Small, pale pink daisy-like flowers grow in rocky ground.
Flowers can grow even in rocky ground.        photo by Linda Bittle

There were also some negative things that helped move me along to my new and improved life.

While dealing with the practical issues of finding a place to live with 2 dogs and 3 formerly stray cats, I was horrified to find that I was the subject of much gossip at work. And trying to defend your honor with the truth never works, so I ignored it as much as I could. Rumors spread about who I was supposedly sleeping with – and the number of suspects was astounding!

At least my ex had never suggested that I was unfaithful.

Of all the reasons that he could articulate most were related to his depression resulting from his older brother’s death a couple of years earlier. We had been married a long time, he said. We’d had some good times but it was best if we went our separate ways, he said. He wanted a do-over. OK, he didn’t say that, but that was the gist of it.

That, and apparently for 24 years I had been putting his pillowcase on wrong every time I changed the bed linens…yes, he did say that.

The second hardest thing to deal with was the expectation that I would start dating right away. Before the first week of my separation was over a girlfriend told me that I must take off my ring and buy a supply of condoms because I would want to “go out with a lot of guys.” And then she explained the “3 date rule”, which I found stupid and, well, just icky. Here’s a link if you are curious about current thinking on the subject:

Don’t live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.

Wendy Wasserstein

The whole dating in my 40s thing was uncomfortable. Despite the “rule”, casual sex was not what I wanted…I mean, that’s how I got married in the first place, and I figured I had learned THAT lesson well enough to not risk repeating it.

My first date was with an old friend who had too many ex-wives and way too many small children to be a serious contender, but he was a safe choice because I knew him and he had no expectations of what might happen after dinner. It occurred to me, though, that we might know each other too well because it was such a surreal situation. After all, we had been out together as couples many times, and it just felt wrong. I was twitchy all evening, and I imagine he was relieved to drop me off .

If friends were out as potential dates that left me with on-line dating, which I quickly ruled out, or dating strangers. I am not a party animal by nature, and so I reluctantly agreed to meet friends of friends.

Meeting strangers is hard for an introvert anyway, and I soon realized that my friends had interesting ideas about who constituted an acceptable date for me. Here’s a tip: Never, never accept a blind date with someone a coworker’s husband is trying to discourage from hanging out at his house all day. 

I know that I have a reputation for being a bit quirky, and I don’t expect perfection in others, but dang…

Then I had 3 dates with a perfectly nice man who I knew through his routine professional visits to my workplace. A different coworker arranged our fist date. It was nice. He was capable of conversation, we had many common interests, and we had both been dumped for little or no reason by our long-time spouses.

On the 3rd date we spent the day at the Harry S Truman Presidential Library, which told me that he paid attention. He did not call in his 3rd date marker, which told me that he wasn’t playing me. And he wasn’t stingy with his time or his money. I didn’t feel like he begrudged spending either on me, and that was something I’d rarely felt in my marriage.

 Under other circumstances we might have made a go of it. But neither of us was ready, and I had ridden the elephant and taken the road trip, and that George Strait song was playing on the radio every day.

I was finally ready to defy everyone’s expectations and do something crazy to save myself.


  1. Margaret E Smith

    I didn’t even know that you dated… Some friend I was then.

    1. Linda Bittle (Post author)

      I didn’t exactly announce it. I still don’t date. I read too many books where the new love is a serial killer or something.


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