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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Footprints on My Heart

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The following was one of the responses to my most recent piece on The Good Men Project about how to love someone who is dealing with issues from past relationships:


“I however chose to heal alone and become complete and empowered before seeking a new love. The newly divorced me and the three years divorced me are two very different people and I choose different men also. My baggage was quite a weight to carry, but has made me stronger and I’m more skilled in moving through my life with it. I dont think I would be as adept had I dove into seeking assistance with it.”


In some respects, I completely agree with her. I was also significantly altered by my divorce and my interests and attractions changed as a result. I also fully support the idea that it is important to address your trauma and that it is necessary to be whole and happy on your own before you’re even ready to contemplate the idea of a new relationship. And, contrary to how she seems to view my situation, I certainly don’t support diving into a new relationship with the goal of being “saved.”


But from there, our opinions diverge.


It is not possible to completely heal alone.

Yes, you can learn how to be okay on your own. You can address any triggers or trauma that intrude upon your single life.

But as soon as a relationship enters the picture, new issues, related to the past, will emerge that were unnoticed while alone.

And you learn and adapt.

And then the relationship moves to another level, requiring additional vulnerability and trust. And again, the past will whisper.

So you learn and adapt again.


Healing is much more about experiences than time. And some of those experiences can only be done with another.


I find that each “first…since” is another trigger potential and another opportunity for healing –

The first time living with a man since my ex.

The first time trusting someone since my ex.

The first time buying a house since my ex.

The first basement-finishing project since my ex.

The first (and last!) time marrying since my ex.

And, soon, the first cruise since my ex (yippee!!!).


None of those are a sign that I am not healed enough to be in a relationship again. They are simply a sign that the past left its footprints on my heart.

And just like steps, they have to be taken one at a time.



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10 thoughts on “Footprints on My Heart

  1. And sometimes just having that new someone holding your hand doubles your courage and frees you to move ahead to something wonderful. – Fawn

  2. I don’t think we choose. Life finds us. Love finds us. We might say never again and someone knocks on the door that surprises us. We might say I am ready and wait for years, turning away each potential because in truth we aren’t. I think, honestly we each of us have to step outside of ourselves, heal and at the same time be open to the world. Acknowledge our hurt, but be open.

  3. This post addresses my biggest fear. While I’m alone (single) I feel quite strong, emotionally well balanced and accepting of who I am. My fear is just that. I’m single. There’s no one to test any of the above. I’m afraid when I get into another relationship (I’m just 5 months separated from my husband) all of that will go out the window and I’ll make the same exact mistakes, or turn into the same unhappy person I was when I was married and the pattern will repeat itself. I’m so afraid I will never learn how to have a healthy relationship. I feel like I would need to be in couples counseling right from the very first date! 🙂

    1. One step at a time:)

      Think of it like a diver coming up from the depths and stopping at certain points to acclimate. Figure out the single stuff first, then the early dating, then the commitment and so forth.

      Sorry about the mixed metaphors!

  4. I completely, 100% disagree with her. O my God did I try to do it alone though. Fortunately for me I had too many people in my life who wouldn’t let me–they took shifts, somebody was always there for the “firsts”…which ironically enough I had one of today–7 years post divorce. My marriage was filled with infidelity and abuse, for 12 years. And the message I send to those following me: 1) surround yourself with “2AM” friends 2) get help and 3) it won’t always feel like this. I do hear her on the waiting to date thing, though. Divorce is so bloody painful, I’m not sure I would survive another one. Anyway there are many of us blogging on this subject–& with each painful post, I get somebody I don’t even know writing to me. So, keep up the good work!

  5. I agree that is not possible to heal alone.
    The connections for the healing process do not have to come from a love relationship. One thing I have discovered about being alone is that I am having deeper relationships with others in my life (mother, sister, friends, etc) and those issues of vulnerability and trust are addressed in those relationships as well… as the healing continues.

    1. Yes! Although there are a few elements that are only true for romantic relationships, the key ones of trust and vulnerability can be found with other relationships. I, too, found that I had deeper relationships with others after. It’s one of the strange upsides of betrayal.

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