I received a message the other day from a woman who was recently divorced after fifteen years of marriage. But that’s not why she was reaching out. She was instead asking for help dealing with the utter devastation she was feeling at the end of a six month relationship.
She seemed surprised at the depth of her response.
Dating after divorce is often a journey through murky waters. Every encounter and action can have multiple layers, as we work through the end of one marriage, heal ourselves and learn to be in a new relationship. Those events take time and often result in certain stumbling blocks in dating after divorce.
If you were in a long marriage and you were faithful, it has probably been a long time since you have experienced the particular thrill that can electrify the early stages of infatuation. In fact, the last time you felt that intense passion and excitement may well have been with your ex, back when you thought they were the best thing ever. Anyone can get swept up in the romance of new love, but if you’re associating it with the beginning of long marriage, you’re even more at risk for reading more into it than there is. The beginning is always intense. But it’s what happens after that matters.
The Gift of Hope
When a marriage ends, it’s easy to feel unlovable. Broken, even. This belief is even more prevalent when infidelity or abandonment occurred and a partner is left wondering why he/she is not good enough. It’s common to fear that you will be alone. That no one will want you. When that first glimpse of love again occurs, it is though the clouds parted and let the sun through for the first time after a long, dark winter. It’s a sign that maybe you’re not broken beyond repair and that you can be loved as you are. Be careful, though. Because if you’re projecting damage, you will attract those who want to fix – white knights and enablers. It may feel good for a time, but they need you to remain broken. Is that what you want?
When one has been married, one knows how to be married. And one often forgets how to date. Recent divorcees are known for rushing in to a relationship and then rushing in to commitment. It’s usually not intentional. It’s just the comfort zone. But getting to know someone takes time. If you’re talking home buying before you have discussed deepest fears and witnessed their most important values, you’re falling in love with an idea rather than a person. Slow down.
Loss often triggers memories of other loss. Especially when a new relationship is entered soon after divorce, healing may be delayed. After all, it’s more fun to focus on the new romance than the demise of the old. But the thing about feelings is that they refuse to stay buried for long. As a result, the end of even a superficial connection can feel immense as it triggers the emotions buried from the earlier loss. What you feel may not always be a result of what just happened; cause and effect of emotion is more nuanced than that.
By all means, go out and date when you’re ready.
But please, keep your eyes open.