Thank You, Next

Thank You, Next

Hello, readers. My name is Evann Harrison, formerly Evann Cook, and even more formerly Evann Clucas. You read it right – I am a divorce’ that now, after quite the rocky road, is happily remarried for the second time. I’m here to talk about dating after divorce, because holy mother, it was ROUGH. 

I was born Evann Clucas in Scottsdale, Arizona; I have two incredibly loving and supportive parents who are still married after 39 years together. My family moved to Prescott, Arizona when I was ten years old, and they have continued to live in the same house, on the same quiet street ever since. Prescott was the most amazing place to grow up, as well as the most amazing place to come back to after 10 years of adulting and a healthy dose of heartbreak (more on that later). 

Growing up, I most certainly had boys on the brain. As a teen, I was all about the adventure and the chase, which trickled into my adult life. Throughout my young-adult years, I couldn’t commit to ANYONE except the one who refused to commit to me. I was (and still am) challenge-driven and incredibly head-strong, to an absolute fault. Yup, that sums me up well. 

I left Prescott, Arizona and headed for Tempe to attend ASU after high school; I loved the freedom I received having severed the ties from myself and the small town that I loved and hated simultaneously. Gossip in a town like Prescott is as destructive as wildfire, and over the years I had done my fair share to enable gossip about myself, and my life. The day I received my cap and gown from Prescott High School was also the day I left; escaping what I thought would nothing but a dreary little town that I formerly lived.

One thing I couldn’t seem to quit though, was my on-again, off-again “not quite” high school boyfriend. Throughout the first few months of college, I proceeded to date my manipulative ex, John. He was the kind of boy who wanted the control over me that a committed partner would have, yet he never would commit. Finally, after a heart to heart conversation with my father (of all people), I cut the cord on that toxic “relationship”, for good. I began to focus on why I came to Tempe in the first place… SCHOOL.

Halfway through my freshman year, I met a boy at a party. His voice was foreign, his eyes dreamy – I was hooked. His name was Richard and he was a foreign exchange student from Australia. We were instantly connected and dated until his school visa expired, where I then proceeded to follow him ALL the way across the 8,000-mile pond of the Pacific Ocean to Sydney, Australia in July of 2009. I lived there for a year – it was equal parts wonderful and soul crushing; I missed my friends and family more than words could ever adequately express. One day, I reached my limit, called my parents, and begged them to put me on the next plane home (did I mention how loving and supportive my parents are?). $1,500 and a 16-hour plane ride later, I was home, and beginning to put the pieces of my life back together. 

I hustled my way through the next year of work and schooling at ASU. One night, after working the late shift at RA Sushi, I stopped next door for a drink and a post-work meal. That is where I met Conor… Conor was 27 when we met – I was 21. Within six months of dating, I moved into his condo. We traveled a lot, made time for date nights, and supported each other endlessly. Also, we fucking laughed A LOT. After two years together, we decided to move to his hometown of Seattle, Washington.   A week before the U-Haul arrived, Conor asked me to marry him – I was sure this meant “forever”. We were engaged for 16 months and married for 18 months. Honestly, it was good until it wasn’t; our personalities were too self-involved and too guarded. After many heated conversations, infidelity, and a very nasty separation, our marriage was over. He packed up his belongings while I was away, drained our bank accounts, and left our home of nearly 4 years. There was no conversation, compromise, or fight for our marriage. He no longer loved me, and probably hadn’t for quite some time. I don’t hate Conor for leaving me, that was his choice, however, I loathed him for how he went about doing it. Without question or hesitation, he just…left. It broke me into so many pieces, I literally didn’t know how I would ever move on. 

But, I rebounded with a new guy right away, his name was Mike. It was a huge mistake, one that I will always regret. I had been one half of a pair for so many years, I truly had forgotten what it was like to be on my own. And in all honesty, I didn’t think I could hack it by myself; I craved the validation that a significant other gave me. After a few weeks with my lack-luster rebound, we ended even faster than we began. Thank god. However, I was left sitting there wondering, “What next? Who would ever want ME? I’m discarded goods; damaged”. 

I just sat with myself for a while; coached myself through getting out of bed, functioning socially, and working every day. I felt like a hollow shell of the person I used to be. Eventually, my two best girlfriends in Seattle encouraged me to try online dating. The most popular format being the app “Bumble”. I was hesitant, like, full blown no shot in hell was I going to meet a stranger online. After checking out my girlfriend’s profiles, and some deeper explanation from the two of them…I decided it couldn’t hurt, right? 

Wrong. So fucking Wrong. 

I met Evan, as my first ever Bumble date. He was well educated and witty, worked in finance and we had the same name. How endearing is that?! Well, not endearing enough. He spent our ENTIRE first date talking about the culmination of what he considered to be, his personal achievements (his money, loft, cars). He talked horribly about his ex-fiancé, (of course the ending of their relationship was entirely her fault). He decided to spark the conversation about his weird sexual preferences, (sorry if you are reading this, mom and dad). Continuing with the theme of ‘no self-awareness’, he asked me back to his place for a night cap… I told Evan that I wasn’t feeling very well; I went directly home and that was the end of that.

After my disastrous first-attempt at social media style dating on Bumble, I admit… I felt defeated. This new platform of meeting peers seemed to be the only way for a full-time working person in a big city to get to know anyone outside of their office and immediate social circles. I told my two best girlfriends every cringe-worthy detail and much to my protest, they encouraged me to give it another try. And that is how I met Hayden.

He was everything I was looking for and exactly what I needed at the time. Charismatic, handsome, undeniably funny, and a dedicated Army Ranger. He had a stoic nature about him that instantly made me feel safe, which after so much turmoil with my divorce and failed attempts at being a singleton again, was exactly what I needed. 

On our first date, I agreed to meet with him at the Joint Lewis/McChord military base in Tacoma, Washington where he lived and worked. The second he stepped out of his Ford pick-up truck, he smiled and said, “Are you ready to have some fun today?”, I was absolutely smitten. We spent the remainder of the day with his friends on the military base, oddly ended up at PetSmart where we bought him and his roommate a beta fish, went out for dinner, and stopped in a local piano bar to listen to music. Everything about the day was effortless and I was head over heels. Caught in the day-dreamy phase of something new, I thought that was how most days would be for us; for the first several months it was. We road tripped to Arizona at Christmas, adventured outdoors, saw Chris Stapleton in concert, and went to our fair share of baseball games. We were very lucky to have had a great physical chemistry that stayed consistent throughout the entire time we were dating. However, we were both entering two separate stages of our lives, both personally and professionally, and it started to show up in our relationship. 

Two short weeks into dating, Hayden was sent to a special operations school for thirty days known as SERE school (any military personnel will know just how tumultuous that training is). We were a new couple, he was gone, and I was alone again. We weren’t allowed to speak while he was away, and it was difficult, to say the least. However, his friends took pity on me and invited me to things while he was gone, and that sense of community made the separation a bit more bearable.  We went through another training like this, where he was gone for a month, as well as several other separations for his work.

Because of the difficult nature of his job and the mentality that was bred into him when joining this branch of special forces, Hayden was seemingly emotionally detached from just about anything that wasn’t centered around his work and the people he worked with. I know this is more out of necessity, as he needed to be focused and mentally present during each task while on the job for the military, but unfortunately, that same detached mentality has a nasty habit of trickling over into “everyday” life. He lived, worked, slept, and entertained all within the confines of the base. Slowly, I began to realize that I was an afterthought for Hayden. 

His time with me no longer seemed to be of value or priority. I sat with those feelings for a while and we even discussed it many times, trying to work it out. However, I realized that I had served my purpose to Hayden, which was to be a companion to him while his closest friends were overseas. What once was “our” time (weekends, since we both worked and lived over an hour apart), soon became an endless parade of “Saturdays are for the boys”. I got fed up, started to pick fights with him, and I realized that we were no longer on the same page, let alone the same chapter of our lives. I couldn’t give him what he wanted without being resentful about it, and he wasn’t ready to give me the kind of relationship I wanted. 

We ended things in May of 2017 and I was heartbroken. Hayden, during the time of our relationship, had become my very best friend. Losing the romantic side of our relationship was one thing, but it felt like an even greater loss because our friendship went with it. I remember missing him endlessly for several months, but I had to keep my distance from him. After all, Hayden was the first man I loved after my divorce, and those feelings don’t simply evaporate. Eventually, we were able to talk again and to this day I consider him a friend as well as an incredibly important part of my life-story so far. 

Amidst the struggle of getting over Hayden, I realized something very powerful. I was not as irrevocably broken as I had previously thought after my divorce; I WAS capable of loving again. I could open myself up to something, someone, when the time was right.

A few months after ending my relationship with Hayden, I decided to take myself out for a date. I drove down to my favorite restaurant in the Magnolia Suburb of Seattle. I wore a white sundress, brought my newest murder-mystery novel, sat at the bar with a glass of wine and a bowl of lobster mac and cheese and was completely happy. Then, a man I had seen earlier sitting across the bar tapped me on the shoulder and asked if the seat next to me was taken. All I replied was, “no, go ahead”, as I put my nose back into my book and took another sip of wine. That’s when he introduced himself as Andrew, and I shook his hand and gave him my name. We talked for several hours, I learned about his upbringing and his multiple business ventures in Seattle and Honolulu. He was mid-thirties, handsome, and had a boyish grin. Andrew walked me out to my car, and stated, “Well Evann, if you are even half as interested in getting to know me as you were in reading that book tonight, can I get your number; maybe take you to dinner?” After attempting the social media dating route, and not quite loving it, this organic conversation with a handsome stranger at my favorite restaurant seemed so serendipitous, how could I say no? I gave Andrew my number, got into my Jeep, and went home with the most genuine smile.

Three months into dating Andrew, I was happy, and curious. He lived this very affluent, yet off the grid and nomadic lifestyle. With dual businesses in Seattle and Hawaii, his travel was constant and our time together infrequent. I noticed rather quickly that he didn’t appear to have any social media, which I thought was charming. One night, after he had returned from a business trip to Hawaii, he called and asked me to dinner. We met at our favorite spot, La Palma Mexican, for fajitas and margs. Afterwards, we walked the Discovery Park Beach, and went back to my place. The next morning, after he left to go to his office, I had this gut-wrenching “something is really not right”, feeling. I got onto my phone, and started to do some serious ninja, FBI shit, internet sleuthing. Three hours, three search engines, and about a million ‘what the fuck’s’ later, I confirmed Andrew was lying to me.

Andrew was a dual business owner, with licenses in Seattle and Hawaii, he was the age he said to be, had two sisters, and a passion for the outdoors. He also had a home in Honolulu, as well as a girlfriend of several years. His frequent trips weren’t simply to check in on his business holdings, they were to check in on his girlfriend…take her to dinner…fall asleep with her at night and make her feel like she was the only one. I was absolutely sickened. Here I am, looking at photo after photo of them on his trip just the previous week, happy as can be…just the night before he had wined and dined me and finished off the night sleeping in my bed. Turns out, he lied to me about the spelling of his middle and last name, so I would have a difficult time finding him online. Like I said, it was this gut feeling waking up that morning after our date that something truly wasn’t right, and I couldn’t ignore it. After pouring through online leads via personal details and the names of family members he had shared, I found the truth; had I not been so desperate to find myself a “happy ending”, I’m sure I would have caught him much sooner. I sent a screen-shot of his girlfriend’s social media profile to him via text message, and he quickly responded, “I need to talk to you right now”. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was never to text or call my number again. 

Just a few weeks after, some things happened in my life that made me decide it was time to return to Arizona. More specifically, small-town Prescott. Saying goodbye to Seattle, every memory I made there (both good and bad), was incredibly hard. I packed up my home, wished my friends well, loaded up my Jeep and drove the 2,800 miles back to Prescott.

Only four months after returning to Arizona, I “re-met” Brian, my now husband… we actually went to high school together. Our first date was the biggest indicator that the connection between us was going to be unlike anything I had with another partner. We sat to chat, caught up on how life had been since we last passed each other in the halls at Prescott High School; I put the newest Beauty & the Beast film into the DVD player, and we just sat together, watching, pausing to compare certain scenes to the animated version, and really enjoyed the simplicity of the afternoon. When the movie was over, he asked if he could see me again, and soon. Trying to be coy, and somewhat demure, I replied “Well, sure. Any plans this weekend?”. His response was as direct as he is, saying “I was thinking more like taking you to dinner tonight”. And that was it; later that evening, like another Disney film, we shared bowl of pasta (plus salad and garlic bread). We come from different backgrounds, and lead different lives, but we valued so much of the same things. I told him everything about my past, and he opened up to me as well. Needless to say… I fell hard. Within 2 months of dating, we moved-in together; within 6 months, we were engaged, and within 1 year, we were married.

As would be expected in “normal” relationships, we have our tough days, as well as our days that are merry and bright (nice nod to the Christmas season). But the truly wonderful thing about my life with Brian, is it just fits. Every little thing, all at once feels special, and we’re now one year into our marriage. I breathe easier and live more confidently with him by my side; that’s how I know he is my person. Forever. 

Dating after divorce. What a damn trip. One could even say disastrous, but in my case, it ended perfectly. So, to anyone out there who is trying to move past divorce, sort through a separation, or forget that last disaster date…I feel you. I can also honestly say it gets better, one crazy story at a time, if you allow yourself to make mistakes, and grow in grace.

Evann Harrison

Instagram: @Coffee_With_A_Question

Committed To Curiosity

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