This is the part 1 of my journey of meeting and marrying my soul mate. In this series of articles, I share how I found authentic and lasting love, and how you can, too.

I remember meeting the love of my life like it was yesterday. I saw him standing in the parking lot of the restaurant, the chosen place we’d decided on to meet for our first date. I knew when I first saw him, and this will sound like a fairy tale or little girl talking here, I knew he was special and he was my soul mate. So much had led me here, at 40 years old, a single mother of three, no job but enrolled in undergraduate studies at a local university moving forward in life after being derailed by divorce.

I’d been through major life challenges before.

The Loss of My Mother at Seven Years Old

I was 7 when my mother passed away. My mother was pregnant and died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism. We still don’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl. She passed away March 11; the baby was due in June.

When we were 6 weeks old, my mother and father adopted me and my twin sister. my adoptive parents had had complications with pregnancy and decided it was better to adopt. Fourteen months later, they had a baby of their own, my younger sister (I later found my birthparents when I was about 25 years old).

When my mother passed, my sisters and I entered a very lonely and desolate time. As an adoptee, I felt extremely close to my mother but not to my father. My younger sister was, in my eyes, his favorite. I felt orphaned in a way when my mother passed. I can see now how having conversations with my father, grandparents, or a professional about our thoughts and feelings would have been so helpful then. I was in so many ways, pretending that I was an adult and all I wanted to be was a child again. I felt alone, abandoned, and scared. You can see how this would set me up for all kinds of issues in my later relationships. Oh, but wait, because it gets even more complicated!

My father struggled with balancing a family and home life with the new business he was building. At one point, we had one outfit besides our one school uniform, to wear. We bathed weekly. We lacked the nurturing care our mother so lovingly brought. My father and my grandparents fought and for a majority of my childhood and adolescence, I don’t remember seeing my grandparents. My grandmother would have been a wonderful presence in our lives at that moment.

Eleven Years Old and My Father’s Remarriage to My Teacher, Sister J

When I was 11 years old, my father remarried…and it was to my 5th grade teacher, Sister J, a nun from the Catholic school we were attending. This little community had been for us, in a way, a home away from home. Our mother had carefully chosen the school and taken us out of public school shortly before her death. It was a small school, the nuns for the most part looked out for us, and most of the kids were our friends. Due to the scandal of the love affair, we left the school and went back to a new public school and a new home.

From there, things in our home life went from bad to worse. Think neglect to abuse. You hear about old-school nuns that are lacking in emotional warmth, believe in physical punishment, and could use a bit of work on themselves? I’m being kind here. It was hell. Imagine young girls losing their mother, then their father marrying a nun- their teacher (who they tried to warn about to their father), and then their stepmother literally embodying the worst stereotype of stepmother. Physically, emotionally, psychologically- the abuse shut me down. A wall developed. More crap to work through in adulthood. 

It’s no wonder I struggled in school with grades even though I consider myself intelligent. I couldn’t focus. I was too busy trying to manage the pain of the loss of my mother and the dysfunction and abuse of this new family (my twin brothers were born about a year after their wedding).

I tried reaching out to a therapist and the school guidance counselor for help with the abusive situation at home. The therapist told me to try to work it out with my family. The guidance counselor called my parents and I got in more trouble. I had no advocates, no support. I didn’t crumble, I just decided to be tough–like an M & M. I was tough on the outside, with a shell, but inside I kept my kindness, warmth, and empathy. When you go through what I’ve been through, you develop incredible empathy, compassion, strength, and resiliency. Thanks to my parents, I was learning some incredible life lessons. I mean that with all sincerity. I could blame them for all my adult issues, but that wouldn’t be fair. I’m an adult. I’ll take care of it from here. You work on your own self, people.

Through it all, I managed to have a few long-term boyfriends. I craved the stability of love. I had times when I pushed them away. I could be moody. I didn’t assert myself. I was lost, so hurt inside, and I had a major wall up.

On to College

I made it through high school- barely- and found myself at a small private junior college. There, I flourished. I was away from the dysfunctional home life and loved it. When I graduated with an Associates degree, I was eager to go to Boston University to complete a Bachelors. My grandfather taught psychology there and I wanted to reconnect with them and live in the Boston area. My father wanted me to attend Syracuse University, I didn’t really have a choice so I enrolled.

While there, my family fell apart. My stepmother called me soon after I got settled in SU and told me she and my father were getting a divorce. And more. She would call me frequently to tell me about the horrible things he did. I couldn’t tell what was the truth and what wasn’t. I didn’t want to know about their relationship. She was a wreck. I was a sounding board. I began to skip classes. I went through depression and terrible anxiety. By the end of that year, I only had one passing grade- which means I flunked out.

I know it may sound strange, but even though I did not want Sister J to be our mother, nor did I want our family to fall apart again. My brothers were 6 years old at the time. I didn’t want them to have to go through a divorce so young. As a side note, for the readers who are familiar with Parental Alienation, there are instances in my childhood where a parent has made an effort to cut out or denigrate the other parent or caregiver. As young girls, I am still not clear about exactly what the arguments were about with my grandparents, but the cut off was harmful to our emotional and psychological well-being. My step-mother calling me and denigrating my father to me- that’s alienating behavior. Then, my brothers subsequently going through that as well, with both of them rejecting my father at times; that is again PA. History repeated itself as you’ll read about in this series. And while my intention is not to go over PA, it’s helpful to understand that if you aren’t aware of harmful patterns and you don’t heal your childhood crap, it