Love Looks Like This: Why I Believe in Marriage Again After Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Divorce (All Under the Age of 30)

“I never expected to find a partner for myself, let alone someone who brings such amazing bonus dad vibes to Hudson’s life.”

love looks like this

Photo by Suzzane Brown

Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey, but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Kristin Sweeting tells her story from Nashville.

We met on a dating app on Thanksgiving day after I had sworn I’d never go on an app date again. I photograph weddings for a living, which is kind of a big ‘ole life irony to be showing up every weekend to document love stories while going through a divorce at 30 years old, with a two-year-old at home, and a 10-year marriage under your belt. While I love marriage and weddings for other people, I had basically decided that I’d be a "freebird" for the rest of my life.

I was understandably scared of commitment. I had jumped into my first marriage/relationship when I was 18 (got married at 21) after being raised in a strict religious community. It was so strict that I hadn’t had sex until my wedding night and was still in college when I said, “I do.” We fought hard for that marriage—we were in and out of counseling from two months into it. I thought that’s just what marriage was supposed to be: super hard.

I thought that’s just what marriage was supposed to be: super hard.

After 10 years of trying to make it work, it finally was too much for me. And our separation was filled with name-calling and gaslighting and custody arguments and me swearing off ever trusting a man again. So when I started dating again, I was having a great time meeting up for drinks on rooftops in Portugal with random guys named Sven and not considering anything serious, maybe ever.

Fast forward a year or two: I was getting bored of random Svens. Single parenting and dating had not matched up well. I only went on dates when my two-year-old son was with his dad, which was not very often, and I was so exhausted balancing parenting and running two businesses that I didn’t have a lot of energy to focus on dating. Most of my work time was after my son went to bed or on the weekends, which is normally when people would be dating. And I had sworn off of app dating after a couple of bad experiences.

But that Thanksgiving, it hit me like a big ball of turkey that I was lonely. I wanted a partner for the first time and was ready to meet someone new. So I downloaded Hinge, a new dating app to me, and went about making my profile. That day (!!), I got a message from Andrew responding to something silly I’d written. There was only one day a week I didn’t have my son so we set up a date for that Sunday since “I only date on Sundays.”

We met up for dinner at our local taco shop. He was 100x cuter than his profile, which set us off on a really good foot. We ended up laughing the entire dinner and continuing the date at a speakeasy where we snuggled up in the corner and giggled some more. We’d barely gotten our drinks when he asked me on a second date. He kissed me goodnight, and I deleted Hinge. I told him I was “old fashioned” and only date “one person at a time.” Even though we were early stages, I found out later he never talked to another person again either.

We had the best time getting to know each other, meeting up for spontaneous dates when I had a quick second. It wasn’t easy—he was a traveling salesman, and I was a busy single mom, but we found ways to see each other about once a week for a while. By February, I knew it was time for us to get more serious. He had to meet Hudson, now three, because he’s my whole world, and separating things was getting harder and harder. 

My track record made me believe that no one could really be trusted, and I went into their meeting with a lot of fear and with one foot out the door just in case I had to run.

My biggest fear was bringing someone into Hudson’s life who would hurt him or bringing someone into his life that he loved but I didn’t love or it didn’t work out and he’d lose someone again. My track record made me believe that no one could really be trusted, and I went into their meeting with a lot of fear and with one foot out the door just in case I had to run.

family photo
Photo by Jessie Watts

They instantly bonded the night they met. In the months to come, Andrew dove into earning both my trust and Hudson’s. He learned how to be a parental figure and listened when I explained how I parented and how important connection and communication are to us. Two years later, Hudson doesn’t really remember a time without Andrew. They’re best buds, building birdhouses and tables together and playing Pokémon and video games. Hudson even cheers for Andrew’s sports teams. I never expected to find a partner for myself, let alone someone who brings such amazing bonus dad vibes to Hudson’s life. We have way more fun than we think is legal.

Andrew had told me early on in our dating that he wanted to marry me someday. To which I shoved my face into a pillow. We’d had conversations on and off about “What if I never want to get married, would you still stay with me?” He knew that I might never get on board, and he respected what I wanted. So when conversations around marriage came up, we both knew the ball was in my court. He wasn’t going to pressure me, and I wasn’t going to rush myself. Andrew moved in with us the week that the pandemic shut everything down. We were forced to figure out how to really be there for each other when there was no one else. I really think COVID-19 brought me around to the idea of marriage again. Without that forced closeness, and some of the emotionally challenging things that came up this last summer because of it, I might not have seen how much Andrew is capable of showing up for us.

We’d had conversations on and off about 'What if I never want to get married, would you still stay with me?' He knew that I might never get on board, and he respected what I wanted.

On a Monday in September, I looked at him and said, “Wanna get engaged today?” His smile covered his whole face. We all put on cute clothes and went to a local vineyard and brought my photographer friend Jessie. We grabbed a bottle of Champagne and sat on a swing and asked each other to marry each other, with Hudson cheering us on and Jessie capturing it from the rows of vines. It was perfect. No surprises. Only gentleness with my fears of commitment or being let down again. Only promises and trust and proving that he’d show up for us again and again. Hudson had been telling us to get married for months, so he was overjoyed and yelled, “When's the baby coming??" Apparently, he thought engagement meant pregnant?? Still not sure to be honest. Haha!

So here we are—planning a wedding in 2020, looking forward to celebrating with our families a love that felt so unexpected, so special, such a partnership, and someone worth the huge risk of falling in love again. People keep asking me if I’m excited—and, OMG, sure I am!—but, also, I’m twitchy in an “I’ve been through this before and what if it’s a trap” kinda way. Now, I know—thanks to lots of therapy—how to differentiate my intuition from my trauma. Sometimes those past things still come up and I give myself an emotional hug and keep walking forward and trusting myself.

family photo
Photo by Jessie Watts

I’m super thankful for a partner who holds space for my twitchiness and keeps reminding me that he shows up for us in all the ways. Allowing good things to flow in is actually really hard for most people, including me. What if I don’t actually deserve this? What if I lose it? What if something happens? What if I fail? Do you ask yourself these questions too? There’s an element of risk in every good thing that tries to come into our lives and it’s super vulnerable to celebrate or enjoy beautiful things. So here we go. Holding space for more good to flow.

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