NEVER AGAIN: ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY!
I was determined to be in control of all future romance.
- No woman was going to abuse me again.
- No woman would ever humiliate me again.
- No woman was going to make me doubt my own sanity again.
I was a new man now: strong, decisive and with clear boundaries. All future relationships would be conducted on my own terms and constantly scrutinised for red flags, and if any were found:
“Sorry love, there’s the door: OVER AND OUT”
Vulnerability? Nope, not any more.
Trust? Maybe, but she’ll have to work damn hard to earn it.
Sacrifice/Service? She can go first: serve me well and I MIGHT reciprocate, or maybe I won’t!
Injured, damaged and in need of time to sort my head out, I did what most people would do … I told myself I was fine and dived straight back into dating!
Looking back, I feel for the few decent women I dated. They were good women with loads to offer and they unwittingly got involved in my train crash. I was tearing myself apart at the prospect of not wanting to go back to the abuse on the one hand, yet failing to come to terms with not living with my daughters on the other. It didn’t help that I greatly feared my ex-wife would blocking and/or manipulate my contact with them. Bitter ex-wives with mental health issues don’t make for the easiest divorces, nor do they make for rational primary carers who put the kids needs first.
After abuse comes pain, more suffering and a long crawl through the slime and the mud before you get to greener pastures. It generally takes time for you to heal and be ready for your soulmate (whoever he/she is) and if you want happiness and romance at some point in the future, then there is a massive question to answer.
How do you prepare yourself to be vulnerable so you can trust again?
I have 3 suggestions:
Forgive your ex:
How do you forgive someone who is hellbent on your destruction and who continues to hurt you through controlling your contact with the most precious people in your life?
In any other circumstance, you could walk away and that would be that, but your kids ensure that you have to remain in contact and play the game for years ahead. And when you become bitter:
YOU MAKE DUMB DECISIONS BECAUSE BITTERNESS IS AN ALL- CONSUMING BLACK HOLE: WHEN YOU’RE SPINNING AROUND IN THE DARKNESS, YOU CAN FORGET MAKING RATIONAL DECISIONS!
You can’t rush forgiveness so aim lower and focus first on becoming philosophical about what happened. Practise seeing every situation which involves your ex partner through the eyes of an external observer, detached from the raw emotion. Over time, you may well see a different perspective as you make this your habit and that new perspective might empower you to make consistently wise decisions on the things which involves your ex. That new perspective may also help you to forgive … eventually.
When I became philosophical, I started to see a broken woman in pain, struggling with mental health issues and a naive young man who got involved way out of his depth and couldn’t break free, but who had now matured and learned his lessons. Seeing it like that, helped me to avoid the bitterness trap (a trap because the pain of being bitter causes you to make stupid decisions, which causes yet more pain …)
Create Flexible Boundaries (and stick to them):
Boundaries are healthy and as part of my leadership development work, I coach busy leaders on how to create flexible boundaries which both protect them and drive them to higher levels of performance, but which also allow for some compromise. Healthy relationships require healthy boundaries.
- Identify the things about your future romantic relationships which will be deal breakers and deal makers for you.
- Identify the things which you would compromise on and be clear about how far you’d compromise.
- Identify the things which you’d happily sacrifice for a new partner, and the things you wouldn’t sacrifice.
- Identify the things you would agree to and the things you would say NO to.
Then, stick to your boundaries: do not change them or override them unless it makes LOGICAL AND RATIONAL sense to do so. Use your head as much as your heart in your new romantic liaisons and don’t fear walking away. There are always other amazing people to engage with on this planet!
When you’re dependent on romance, you’re not ready for it:
Rebuild yourself so you’re not dependent on finding a new partner. After my abusive marriage broke down, I was so needy, that I really, really needed new romance, so guess what? Those romances didn’t go so well, either for me or the poor women who joined my train crash. But in 2010, 3 years after the split, I realised, I was now happy whether I was in a relationship or single. I was happy with other people and also on my own, enjoying my space and own company. These were critical changes and not long after, I met my wife.
There was no train crash this time: we’re still cruising on a life-long adventure, wind in our hair and enjoying the scenery!
This post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
Talk to you soon.
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