Chapter 1: The Beginning
I've posted a few times but decided I want to start using the blog primarily to help me process the past 5 years of steplife that finally lead to my disengaging from SD23 (aka Bratty McBratFace).
So, I will take a journey back in time and start at the start: how SO and I first met. We'll call this Chapter 1.
It was August 2015 and it was a rare cloudy day in SoCal. I was single and had been for a long time. I was never interested in the bar scene and I tried online dating services for a bit but ultimately got to a place where I was happy wth myself and my life, and figured I would just do what I loved with friends. If I met a Mr. Right along the way, great. If not, I didn't really want to waste time and life energy on boy-chasing.
On this fateful day, my girlfriend of 15+ years (who worked at the same company I did) scheduled a casual Saturday hike with a group of work friends, including yours truly. There was a big group invited, but that morning only me, my friend, and my future SO showed up at the trailhead. When I saw him there that morning, I groaned to myself a bit. I knew him a little from work and had heard people say he was tough to work with as he was really stubborn. Also, I thought he was married as people has said he was really active in the church. But I thought to mysefl, its just a hike. We can be quiet if he starts being obnoxious.
It was a challenging hike and during our walking and breaks, we got to talk between ourselves about a variety of topics. He spoke about his kids, including SD23 who was then a freshman at university, but never mentioned a wife (and I didn't ask as I generally don't pry). We ended up all really having a nice day. On the way down the skies decided to open up on us and when we finally trudged back to our cars we were soaked and covered in mud!
The next few weeks were a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. A few emails inviting me to things but mostly 'group' things. No real indication that he liked me for anything other than a hiking buddy, and I was unsure about him. He was different than what I expected but I wasn't sure who the real person was. We did have a few fun outings (some of which turned into one on one evenings which I classified as dates but he didn't - he still saw them as 'friends' spending time together. During this time he spoke a bit about his estrangement from his 2 oldest kids but said he would tell me the full story another time. Obviously he confirmed he had been divorced for some time by then and had mentioned he and his ex were not on speaking terms.
This little cat and mouse game went on for a few weeks. I realized how much I enjoyed spending time with him and started to feel an attraction. It took him a while to catch on but when he did, he called me on the phone and asked me on a date, very proper and formal. It was so endearing.
Our first date was a simple yet magical dinner date - one of those evenings that you don't want to really end. I somehow knew he was going to be a very special person in my life. He was intelligent, funny, thoughtful, attentive, affectionate and warm. I was smitten. A few dates later, he told me the backstory behind the end of his first (and only) marriage. His ex had many mental health issues, and he tried valiantly to stay in the marriage. The first half of it was happy and they produced three children. However, his ex's mental health struggles grew and one day she turned on him and told him to leave. Their divorce was long and bitter; his ex pulled out every trick in the book to get maximum child custody, support and alimony. They were having financial struggles and SO tried to represent himself which he realizes now was a mistake. The ex's lawyer won her full custody with child support and long-term alimony.
While the older 2 kids succumbed to his ex's massive PAS campaign, the youngest (SD23) did not and still wanted a relationship with SO. This drove the ex to become quite hostile and verbally abusive to SD23. SD23 grew depressed and this finally drove SO to get a lawyer and sue for custody of SD23 again, and this time he won (the judge was swayed by the fact that SD23 was a few months away from 18 at the time and said she wanted to live with SO), and the psychiatrists' report actually favored SO as the better of the two to parent SD23. So, one day she moved in with SO who upgraded to a 2-bedroom apartment. A year or so later, SD23 finished high school and left for college - right when SO and I first met on our rainy hike.
I would not meet SD23 until she came home for winter break near the end of 2015. I'll save our initial introduction for Chapter 2, so stay tuned StepTalkers!