This time you get to rewrite the rules.
It’s ominous in post-divorce dating land; there are too many online dating sites to count, and apparently, if you do venture out, there are profile writing coaches to assist your efforts because in this saturated market, you’ll be lucky to get a swipe right. Since my divorce was just finalized, I’m in no hurry, and although my friends smile and nod when I say I won’t do online dating, I don’t see what other options there are for a stay-at-home mom and writer who hasn’t been on a date since 1997. Yes, you read that right.
There was no Tinder, no OKCupid, or Match.com, and we didn’t even text. Cell phones weighed five pounds. Everywhere you look now, there are online sites with ratings and swipe options and photos of men holding giant fish and women in bikinis and profiles. What happened to meeting at a company meeting, smiling across the room and eventually going out for coffee? It’s a different world.
Yet, in this different world, I have wisdom, experience, and anecdotal evidence from my first marriage that will guide me to either a happy second union, or an equally happy single life. First marriages are, in fact, remarkable wake-up calls and learning experiences. Yes, it’s painful to live through years of an unhappy marriage. It’s also how many of us learn who we are, what we need, and how we relate to others. So, you, and I, can use what we can to learn about ourselves and our needs, patterns, issues, and values, and allow that knowledge to guide us as we move into our next chapter. And that gives me hope.
First, there are new rules. In a new relationship, after a difficult marriage, you (and your new partner) rewrite the rules. If you were passive or pushed around in your first marriage, you can start from the beginning in a new more collaborative and assertive role. You make plans, get your voice heard, and assert what you couldn’t in your first marriage. If you and your first partner couldn’t or didn’t grow and change in compatible ways, finding someone new can be liberating from those parts of yourself you have moved away from, grown out of, or have simply chosen to release.
Second, you’re in a new mindset. Both men and women I know who are divorced, talk about exhaustion, hopelessness, and despair from first marriages that made change feel impossible. It is easier to reinvent yourself in a new relationship dynamic. A hard marriage grinds you down. It’s depressing, and after years can feel, and become, literally impossible to make change. Things just get stuck. In a new, healthier, relationship, with a new set of challenges, neuroses, and downsides, of course, you can shed the hopeless habits of mind and being. You can experience new ways of being in love, of being a partner, of allowing yourself to be cared for, and of opening your heart to care for someone in a far deeper way.
Keep in mind, you don’t just magically become a new, healthier version of yourself. If you were in a co-dependent relationship dynamic with a narcissist, for example, you will need to address (theoretically in therapy or with a life coach) your co-dependency issues and, not choose someone with narcissistic tendencies this time, otherwise, you will repeat patterns. That’s why this is a new mindset. It’s about a fresh start.
Transform yourself from the inside. Anything is possible. Listen to your instincts and think about what got you in trouble in the first place. This is not simple, it may take months, and you may need professional help, but look at it as an opportunity for positive growth. You can learn remarkable new relationship ways and you can be vulnerable and open for the first time in your life. You can rediscover sexuality and sensuality in new relationships. Both men and women can make peace with their imperfect bodies for the first time, well, ever, because you are being cherished in entirely new ways.
You don’t need to be perfect to be ready. You just need to be ready. Divorce is hard. Divorce is a gut punch. Getting involved in a new relationship after a break up takes time and you need to heal and do some emotional work. But you don’t need to be perfect. All the things you thought needed to happen before you felt ready, losing ten pounds, getting a promotion, having more money or getting a new car. None of those mean anything about who you are. None of that has to happen. You get a do-over. And you can choose to get what you need and give what you want.
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