How Could They Move On So Quickly?

My ex-husband certainly wasted no time. He didn’t even bother filing for divorce before he married his second (I’m assuming here; there could have been others) wife.

Among all of the myriad thoughts that crashed around my mind in the aftermath of the discovery, one kept popping back up to the surface,

“How could he move on so quickly?”

I just couldn’t understand how he could go from sixteen years with the same person to seemingly head-over-heels within weeks of meeting this new woman. Here he was celebrating his newfound love while I was still struggling to sleep through the night.

Of course, it was apples to oranges trying to equate my mental state at the time with his. For so many reasons, we were at different places when it came to our readiness for moving on.

The following are some of the reasons that your ex may have moved on (or appeared to move on) soon after your breakup:

 

They have pre-grieved the breakup.

In some situations, one person has known (or at least suspected) that the relationship is over long before it is pronounced terminal. In these cases, the one with the prior knowledge often begins grieving the end of the relationship months or even years before it is truly over. They may begin to withdraw, they might start to expand their social circle and hobbies to fill anticipated gaps and they have time to process the loss. They will be ready to move on before you are because they have been attending to the breakup for a longer period of time.

 

They want you to think they’ve moved on.

Sometimes moving on is an illusion, a play put on social media or spread through mutual acquaintances in an attempt to make you jealous or regretful. The urge is understandable, although childlike. It can be driven by a, “I’ll show them that I am desirable” attitude. Others try to appear moved on soon after the end of the relationship because they don’t want to be seen as “weak” by appearing affected by the breakup. These people are motivated by a need to be seen as strong.

 

They are afraid of being alone.

Some people hop from relationship to relationship like life is a rocky river crossing. They cannot stomach the thought of being alone and so they waste no time in lining up the next partner as soon as a relationship implodes. This is less “moving on” and more “grasping on;” they’ll hold onto anyone like a life raft. Learn more about the underlying issues that lead to a fear of being alone.

 

They are able to compartmentalize your relationship and the new one.

For many us, we cannot enter into a new relationship before we have fully dissected and processed the previous one. Others are able to keep those two processes more separate. It may be that your ex seems to be moving quickly because they are doing the often- invisible internal work concurrent with reentry to the dating scene.

 

They are using dating as a distraction.

Let’s face it, divorce sucks. And while you’re going through it, you’d rather think about anything else. For some, this distraction comes in the form of dating. Although this can look like they’re moved on, they’re are really using others as a bandaid to temporarily stop the pain. Early dating can also be motivated by the blow to confidence that often accompanies divorce; it’s good to feel wanted.

 

They started seeing this person before your relationship ended.

If your ex seems to have moved on quickly, it may be that they were having an affair during your relationship and now that your partnership has ended, the love interest is brought to the surface. Of course, this revelation brings with it it’s own set of problems. Betrayal is a uniquely piercing pain with long-ranging repercussions.

 

They met somebody who is a good fit for them at this point in their lives.

And here’s the hard one – maybe they have met somebody that is a good match for them. I know that can be difficult to stomach when you still might be wishing/hoping/believing that you’re that person. It’s important here to remember that not being the right person for them does not mean that you’re a bad person and it certainly does not mean that you’re not the right person for someone else. It simply means that your ex found a better match for them and now you have an opportunity to look for somebody better for you.

 

 

In my ex’s case, he knew that the end was approaching and so had time to process the divorce long before it happened. He was having affairs and so his other wife was lined up and ready to go. And, from what I learned, she was a good fit for him at the time – trusting, nomadic and in possession of a decent credit score.

In time, I no longer questioned how he could move on so quickly. Instead, I got busy with moving on myself with a sense of gratitude that she helped to take him out of my life and far away.

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Just Because You Love Someone…

 

When we were on the lookout for a new dog this past winter, one thing became immediately clear – the shelters and the foster homes were filled with amazing dogs who had been surrendered by their original families. In most cases, these dogs were relinquished not because they weren’t loved or because they were “bad” dogs, but because they were not the right dog for the family. A painful choice, but sometimes the best one once a mismatch has been made.

Human relationships often fall into the same category. We choose poorly or the situation changes after we’ve made our choice. We struggle to admit that maybe we were wrong. We hold onto hope that maybe things will improve. We fear ending things because sometimes being with anybody is better than being alone. And we justify our inaction or our excuses by declaring our love.

 

When you say, “I love them, but…,” it’s the words that follow that are the most important to pay attention to.

 

Amazing things are accomplished in the name of love. People are nurtured and challenged, accepted and encouraged. Love gives us hope and purpose, bringing light into even the darkest corners.

Yet sometimes love is used as an excuse. A reason to avoid making those difficult choices that sometimes life brings our way.

 

Just because you love someone…

You do not have to maintain a relationship with them. Whether it be an abusive relationship with a partner or a toxic relationship with a parent, you can love someone and keep them at arm’s reach (or even further). This can be a decision made from a place of compassion, recognizing that continuing the relationship is harmful for one or both parties. Love means that you want the best for them, but this doesn’t have to be at the exclusion of your own well-being.

 

Just because you love someone…

You do not have to tolerate their abusive and cruel words or behaviors. It’s rare that abusive people are all-bad; there is often a soft and vulnerable and wonderful side as well. And you can love that part of them while at the same time, refusing to put yourself in the position of being subject to their bouts of anger or coercion. Maybe you limit your exposure or make a promise to yourself to walk away whenever things turn sour.

 

Just because you love someone…

You do not have to agree with their choices. You can love the person and hate the actions.    Furthermore, love does not preclude you from letting them experience the repercussions of their choices. Sometimes love means doing what is best for the person in the long run even though they may not be able to see it in the short term.

 

Just because you love someone…

You don’t have to like them. In this moment or in general. Everybody is worthy of love, but you have to really put effort into being liked. Here’s the hard part, though – when there is love without like, there is also great internal conflict as you wrestle with the often conflicting emotions.

 

Just because you love someone…

Doesn’t mean they are the right person for you. This can strangely be one of the harder positions to be in. When you love them, believe they are a good person and yet, for whatever reason, you’re unsure about the relationship. There are no easy answers here, no strong, solid reasons to leave that accompany the, “I love them, but…” It is possible to love someone. To like them and respect them. And also recognize that they are not what you’re looking for. A painful choice, but one that may allow both of you to move forward and find someone you love without the “but.”

 

Overcoming Insecurity

insecurity

They come into my 6th grade accelerated math class with confidence,  believing that they are smart and capable. Few of them have ever experienced struggle in math and so, because of the nature of my course and my teaching philosophy, when they first encounter a concept that is not readily apparent, they panic.

Because in their minds, it’s not simply a matter of not understanding this one type of math problem, it’s a potential threat to their very self-image.

And as we progress through the first few weeks of school, that earlier confidence is often replaced with a growing sense of insecurity. 

 

You’re never insecure unless you have something good that you want to hold onto. 

 

In the aftermath of my divorce, I had a strange sense of nonchalant assurance. It was strange because my confidence, in both myself and my future, were at an all-time low. Yet, perhaps because I both had nothing else to lose and couldn’t summon the energy needed to be anxious about small things, I was gifted a respite from normal insecurities.

The more you have, the more you can lose.

 

For months, I lived almost without fear. Without inhibition. Without insecurity. I adopted a “whatever” attitude when it came to love or money or any of those other things we so desperately attach ourselves to. The chasm between what I wanted and what I had was so great that I couldn’t imagine ever crossing it.

 

When we desire something, we focus more on the pursuit of it than the lack of it. We may even reach a sort of truce, a tacit acceptance of its absence. 

 

And then ever-so-slowly and without intention, I started to fall for someone who was supposed to only be passing through my life. And suddenly, I had something to lose.

And as science has found, we have evolved to fear loss almost more than anything else.

______

 

We all have times when we’re feeling anxious or uncertain. You may feel confident and adept in one area of your life and insecure about another. You may find that your doubt-whispering inner voice is triggered by certain situations and that your anxious brain, once activated, spirals into endless questions and worries.

 

At its core, insecurity indicates that we lack belief in ourselves.

 

Insecurity, although common, is not a healthy state to occupy for long. When we’re operating from a place of fear, we’re likely to make poor decisions and contaminate others with our own worries. When we express excessive doubts and try to grasp on too tightly, we have a tendency to push others away. And that’s not even counting the horrible way that insecurity makes you feel.

 

Understanding Insecurity

 

Signs of Insecurity

Not everyone responds to insecurity in the same way. Some people express it openly. Others try to stuff it down with their favorite junk foods. Or build big muscles in an attempt to hide their self-doubts. Insecurity can be found in the agoraphobe afraid to leave the house and in the high-powered executive who secretly feels like a fraud.

Even though the outward signs differ, there are certain internal signals that you can attune to in order to recognize when you’re feeling insecure –

 

Overreacting  

If you find that you are consistently having strong emotional reactions that are out of line with the situation at hand, you may be experiencing a period where you are questioning yourself. These self-doubts mean that you can easily misinterpret or catastrophize normal exchanges.

 

Compulsive Questioning 

Insecurity seeks certainty. And so it keeps asking questions in an attempt to either confirm or deny the fears. And no matter how many reassurances are uttered, it’s never enough. Sometimes these questions arise within our minds and our never vocalized. Rather, they are bounced around within our own echo chambers. These unasked questions are often even worse than the ones we speak because we have nobody to call us out on any irrational thoughts.

 

Restlessness

When you’re feeling insecure, you’re not comfortable in your own skin. This can lead to a feeling of being on edge or even irritable. This can manifest as a sense of wanting things to be different, feeling like you’re waiting for something to happen or even in an increased difficulty in sleeping.

 

Excessive Social Media Use

Whether you’re making comparisons with others or obsessively checking how many “likes” your recent post received, an increase in social media usage suggests that you may be having a crisis of confidence. Pay special attention to how your time spent on social media makes you feel. If it’s constantly making you feel “less than” and yet you’re continuing to return to source, your insecurity has become a problem.

 

Attention or Validation Seeking

Insecurity wants other people to tell you that you’re okay. It seeks an external stamp of approval to quiet the internal voices that question if you’re enough. If you notice that you’re increasingly looking for others to pay attention to you or express their approval, it’s a sign that your trust in yourself is lacking.

 

Causes of Insecurity

There is not a single, universal cause of insecurity. For some, it is a constant underlying buzz, always present and rooted in beliefs formed in childhood. Others experience it more on a situational basis, with a corresponding ebb and flow in intensity. By pinpointing some of the precursors to your own insecurities, you can begin to view them as a reaction rather than a core part of who you are.

 

Fear of Loss

This is probably the most common underlying source of insecurity. Maybe, like my incoming 6th graders, you fear losing the labels that you identify with. Or maybe you are concerned about losing status. Or wealth. Perhaps you are afraid that if you say the wrong thing or act the wrong way, that you will lose somebody that is valuable to you. Insecurity occurs when you have something but you fear that your grasp is not strong enough and that it will slip right through your reaching fingers.

 

Periods of Transition

Whenever we are in a state of flux, changing from one state or role into another, we often feel a sense of inadequacy due to underdeveloped skills and unmastered knowledge and a fear of the unknowns inherent in change. This can lead to a sense of being an imposter (even once the learning curve has leveled) or avoiding transitional periods whenever possible.

 

Times of Uncertainty

Some people handle a state of limbo better than others. For those prone to anxiety, periods of time that have an abundance of unknowns can give rise to insecurity. It’s not uncommon to fret over every decision, turning the perceived pros and cons over and again until your mind is spinning. This lack of trust in your abilities to make a solid choice can lead to decision paralysis or an acquired helplessness if decisions are always relegated to others.

 

Concern of Not Being Enough

This cause may begin in childhood, with an absent or hard-to-please parent giving the impression that you’re not good enough for them. This sense of insecurity may be generalized or may be tied to a particular skill or trait that your parent held in particular esteem. In adulthood, this sense of not being enough can develop after (or in anticipation of) rejection or abandonment.

 

Inadequate Communication

Our brains despise a vacuum. So when you’re in a situation where you receive inadequate feedback or information, that void can trigger a sense of insecurity as you begin to ponder the worst. One of the problems with this type of insecurity is that it is difficult to tell what may be your intuition cluing you in that something is amiss and what is simply your brain telling you scary fiction.

 

Gaslighting or Emotional Abuse

This is the most malevolent insecurity, as it is intentionally cultivated by somebody else in an attempt to manipulate or control you. This sort of covert abuse is challenging to recognize and overwhelming in its intensity. If you’re starting to doubt yourself and your perceptions ay every turn and you cannot pinpoint a reason, you may want to examine your relationships for signs of control.

 

Overcoming Insecurity

 

What NOT to Do to Overcome Insecurity

Insecurity is an awful feeling. It’s a restlessness, an agitation that precludes feelings of peace. It often causes us to act in unhealthy or ineffective ways as we search for external fixes for our internal plight. The following are some of the common methods attempted to eradicate insecurity that are ineffective at best and maybe even harmful.

 

Pretending to Be Someone You’re Not

There is definitely something to the adage, “Fake it until you make it” when you’re navigating a new situation or challenge. But some take this too far and assume an entirely new persona in an attempt to please others or fill a perceived role. This will ultimately only compound your problems as you begin to feel like you will only be accepted if you hide your true self.

 

Assigning Responsibility to Others

I see this response so often in my female students. When they’re feeling insecure about their looks (just like every other preteen and teenage girl on the planet), they often turn to social media in a search for validation and approval. With every “like,” their spirits soar. And then just one cruel or harsh comment can undo every positive reaction. And in a strange way, the negative comments ring more “true” because they echo the self-doubts that are already within. And there’s another problem with fishing for compliments – at some level, you always know that you’re baiting the hook.

 

Baidaiding

I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling insecure, I develop an urge to purchase new clothes or makeup. This is a type of bandaiding, covering the discomfort with a temporary covering in an attempt to make me feel more confident. I’ve also noticed that this reaction often backfires, not only offering a short period of relief, but also creating feelings of regret.

 

Fixation

This reaction is often seen in those struggling to avoid their ex’s social media. Their own insecurities are manifested in an obsessive focus on their ex and/or their ex’s new partner. It’s both a distraction from the insecurity and a source of fuel that feeds the insecurity. Like with bandaiding, it may feel good in the moment, but often leaves you feeling worse after.

Immediately Discounting the Feeling

Some people have trouble admitting to feeling insecure as it is seen as “weak” or vulnerable. When insecurity is immediately brushed aside without consideration, it leaves no room to understand and address the actual causes of the doubt. In the worst cases, the insecurity is hidden behind a steamrolling force of false bravado, the ego leaving little room for compassion.

 

Attempting to Control

It makes sense, doesn’t it? If we’re worried about losing something, we have a tendency to grasp on even stronger. As though we can prevent loss through sheer determination and force of will. For some people, insecurity manifests in an attempt to orchestrate everything around them. To make it “just so” so that they can maintain the illusion that control can replace trust.

 

What TO Do to Overcome Insecurity

Insecurity can become overwhelming. Your fear of taking the wrong step preventing you from moving forward at all. Your endless comparisons leading you to believe that you’ll never measure up. Your hesitation at facing the truth keeping you blinded.

Insecurity feels all-powerful. Yet you’re really the one at the helm. Here’s how you can learn to overcome your insecurity:

 

Accept That Certainty Is an Illusion

Consider for a moment the antonyms of insecurity – safety, protection, invulnerability, and certainty. Those are all states that we strive for. We yearn for that ultimate sense of security that the lucky among us experienced periodically as a child. And the reality is that even that occasional sense of ultimate stability was only because we were too young to understand how easily it could be threatened.

A state of insecurity is inevitable. No foundation is immune to cracks. No rug is completely slip-resistant. And change and loss are guaranteed. When you’re feeling insecure, it’s because you’re fighting against the natural and the inevitable.

There’s a sort of confidence that can come from accepting this impermanence. From stopping the illusion that if you just work hard enough, hold on tightly enough, or control everything enough, that you can keep things as they are.

 

Detach From the Outcome

When I first started dating again, one of the many fears that held me back was the concern that the relationship would end, like my marriage, with some sort of abandonment or betrayal. I led with that fear, feeling insecure in my ability to maintain a relationship with somebody who wouldn’t behave badly.

During one particularly difficult evening, I pulled out my journal and made two columns – things I can control and things I cannot control. Under the first list, I added items like choosing a partner, learning to handle my triggers and not tolerating abusive behavior. Betrayal and abandonment went in the second column. No wonder I was feeling insecure; I was trying to control the outcome when I could only influence the process.

No matter what you do or who you are, it will not be enough for some people. And as long as you have acted within your values, done your best to be kind and put forth your highest effort, they’re opinions don’t matter.

 

Strive to Get Out of Your Head

When you’re in an echo chamber, you risk only hearing your own critical thoughts bouncing back at you. It’s amazing how our minds can take one little fact (They didn’t text back immediately.) and spin it into an entire narrative (I bet they’re falling out love and they are currently flirting with someone that they met at lunch. I won’t go through that again. I wonder if I’ll be able to get out of the lease…).

And like with anything, the more you allow your mind to travel that path, the more of a habit it will become.

Take a break from your own thoughts. Surround yourself – and listen – to others. Even, perhaps especially, those you disagree with. Get moving, when your body is moving forward, your brain naturally tags along. Strive to enter a flow state through art or sport or work, where time ceases to exist and the activity has become all-consuming.

 

Recognize That Insecurity Is Often Fleeting and Cyclical

I’ve just wrapped my seventeenth year teaching. And I’m still insecure at the beginning of every school year. I doubt my abilities to form relationships with the kids, I worry that they will be unable to master the material and I question my own capacity with the mathematics. I still feel insecure, but it no longer bothers me. I trust that it will build through the first week of school and then begin to dissipate as I again find my stride.

And this is often how insecurity operates. It swells and recedes, according to the calendar or some other external rhythm. This sort or periodic insecurity doesn’t require much intervention. Just an acknowledgement (Oh, I’m feeling insecure again.) and faith that it will only be temporary.

 

Set and Accomplish Meaningful Goals

When everybody gets a trophy, every trophy becomes meaningless. It is much the same with our personal goals. When you set (and even reach) a low bar, you fail to build any confidence in yourself. In fact, you may even find that you outright dismiss your achievements because you know that they don’t really represent a challenge.

Insecurity begs us to set these safe goals, to stay in a place of guaranteed success. Yet staying there only feeds the self-doubt. Instead, try something new. Something scary. Something difficult.

Yes, you may fail (And so what if you do?). But you also might surprise yourself. And that trophy certainly has meaning.

 

Separate Mistakes From Your Character

When you’re feeling insecure, mistakes become very threatening. An error in judgment or a misstep can easily be interpreted as a defect in character, thus both confirming and inflating your feelings of unworthiness. When you’re operating from this place of low esteem, it’s easy to see others as flawless and fear that you are somehow irrecoverably broken.

Of course, neither is true. And your mistakes are a sign that you are learning and trying, which is an indication that you’re brave and persistent. Both excellent qualities to have.

 

_____

The end of the first nine weeks is often a crisis point in my 6th grade accelerated math class. The kids are insecure, questioning their abilities no matter how many times I reassure them that struggle is normal and no matter how much they see the kids around them falter as all. Some give in to this feeling and drop out, preferring to move to class where they are again assured of their top standing. 

But most tough it out. And even as they question their ability to master the math, they keep trying. When they receive a poor grade, they no longer see that number as a reflection of themselves. They begin to accept that struggle is not only inevitable, but often desirable. Instead of turning away from challenge, they embrace it.

They become willing to take risks, trusting that they will find their way through. Mistakes become normalized and simply part of the process. They slowly start to again see themselves as smart. As capable.

But this time, those beliefs are not so easily threatened because they have been constructed to withstand the inevitable tremors and obstacles that will come their way.

And ultimately that’s how to overcome insecurity – Not by believing that your foundation is solid, but by trusting that your footing is capable and malleable. That even when things change, you’ll be able to adapt and thrive.

 

 

Advantages to Dating In Your 40s (and Beyond)

dating 40s

One of the myriad side effects of divorce is that you may find yourself thrust back into the daunting world of dating in your 40s or beyond. It’s easy to dismiss dating as a young person’s game and become intimidated at the prospect of putting yourself back out there after life has had years to make its marks upon you.

Love is not, “One strike and you’re out.” You always have another chance.

Perhaps you worry that your body is too saggy or that your emotional baggage is too heavy. The thought of putting your best face forward and making the effort to get to know somebody sounds exhausting. You’re hesitant at the thought of opening up again and you’re increasingly enjoying doing things your way. And through all of these concerns, is the uneasiness that there is nobody out there for you (or the twin fear that nobody will want you).

Yet the urge to connect is still there, persistent in its approach. You may no longer be looking for somebody to start a family with and your white picket fence dreams have faded with the harsh light of day, but even now, you desire to have someone by your side. A partner through life’s second half.

Dating in your 40s is an opportunity to apply what you learned in your 20s and 30s. 

Dating when you’re younger is all about possibility. Excitement. It’s less about what you’ve experienced and more about what you want to accomplish. The youthful veneer of invincibility has yet to wear off and so you may approach relationships with a sense of certainty that if it feels right, it is right.

Dating in your 40s is different. You’ve experienced both love and loss. You’ve had to accept that wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so. And while it’s true that dating in midlife can be more challenging in many ways, there are also many advantages to dating once you have lived a little.

In many ways, it’s easier to determine if someone is the right person for you when you’re dating in your 40s.

Here’s why…

You see who somebody is, not what they promise to become.

When I was dating my first husband, I stated that I would never be a teacher and he promised that he would never turn into his father. We were wrong on both counts.

When you’re dating in your teens and 20s, you are basing decisions about how well you fit with somebody based on their dreams and youthful intentions. And many of those expectations may never materialize.

Once you’ve reached your 40s, those early aspirations have been woven with reality, a tapestry that speaks to the truth of who you are. You no longer have to rely on who somebody says they want to be, you now have evidence to support (or refute) their claims.

You are able to ascertain how they handle transition, disappointment, mistakes and failure. 

I never knew that my first husband was prone to cowardice and deception until he faced some harsh realities associated with his chosen career. If I had known that about him ahead of time, I may have thought twice before deciding to marry.

Few of us reach 40 without dealing with some major blows from life. When you are getting to someone new that has been through life’s tumbler, you have the opportunity to discover how they handle hard times before you make the decision to make them your partner through the good and the bad.

All of this is valuable data to have that is difficult to come by when you’re younger.

The inevitability of mortality often encourages more vulnerability.

There’s a softening that happens to people in their 40s that is unrelated to the effects of gravity and a slowing metabolism. Parents are aging, friends are beginning to be diagnosed with serious illnesses and you begin to experience the inevitability of aging.

As a sense of invincibility is replaced with a respect for mortality, a desire for real connection often follows. When you no longer feel like you have forever, you begin to understand the importance of every moment and every interaction.

Along with this sense of urgency comes a fear of being alone and of missed opportunities to express your feelings. All of this can lead to more openness and less ego.

Your beliefs and values have become your own and you are less concerned about appearances and the views of others.

I love to compare first weddings to subsequent ones. The initial nuptials are often lavish affairs, dictated both by what’s popular and by the expectations of the families. Second weddings are more personalized and less commercial, reflecting more on the couple than on those around them.

Relationships often follow similar patterns. When we’re younger, we’re more likely to structure our lives in a certain way because it’s what’s expected or because we want others to perceive us in a certain way. Once we reach our 40s, there’s a certain confidence and a “Don’t care what others think” attitude that reflects a comfort with your own beliefs and decisions.

Lasting friendships give insight into commitment and loyalty. 

“I promise to never leave you,” my first husband said. And then, over the years, I saw him leave friendships, his parents and eventually, me. In contrast, when I met my second husband’s friends, I was impressed at the longevity of these friendships and his loyalty even through trying times.

Maintaining friendships becomes more challenging as we grow older and our lives become increasingly busy. When you’re dating someone in midlife, you have this powerful window into how important maintaining relationships is to them.

You learn about their adaptability. 

Change or become obsolete.

It’s harsh. But you only have to look to the natural world to see its truth.

I’m a firm believer that adaptability is one of the core qualities people need to have for successful relationships.

And by our 40s, life has given us many opportunities to adapt – children come and go, jobs are secured and security is threatened, earlier choices lead to unseen consequences that require difficult choices. And aging will bring even more opportunities for adaptation. Isn’t it nice to have a sense of how somebody will cope?

Dating has its challenges at any life stage.

And it also has its advantages.

Don’t let fear or discouragement hold you back.

There is no age limit to love.

Dating After Divorce: Distinguishing Between Forewarnings and Normal Fears

dating after divorce fears

Dating after divorce requires navigating a minefield littered with the emotional debris of your marriage. In such a potentially hostile and alien environment, differentiating between true threats and harmless anxieties can be challenging. Here are some clues to help you decide if your new relationship worries are normal…or something to be worried about –

 

Signs That You May Need to Reevaluate Your Relationship:

 

1 – Feeling like the other person “saved” you.

This can be such a seductive feeling. When you’ve been slogging through the suck of divorce and you meet somebody that promises (through word or action) to pull you free of all that misery, it’s an amazing sensation. Things go from seeming insurmountably terrible to unbelievably simple as this person sweeps you off your feet.

It’s tempting to read into this feeling as a sign that you’ve finally met the right one. That by replacing the person on your arm, you’ve immediately shed all of the pain and struggle from your previous relationship. Yet it’s not that simple. That lightness and elation you’re feeling with your new date is a great sign – it tells you that you won’t be mired in the past forever. And when it comes solely from an external source, it will also be fleeting. Because nobody has the power to save you from yourself.

If you find that you’re assuming the stance that you have been saved by your new dating partner, you’re putting yourself in the perilous position of counting on them to remedy your problems. You’re both giving them too much responsibility and too much power over you.

 

2 – Only staying with your new partner because you don’t want to be alone.

When we’re starving, we’ll settle for food that is less than desirable in order to avoid the urgent discomfort of an empty stomach. Likewise, when we’re hungry for companionship, we’ll accept a partner that is far from ideal.

The fear of being alone is universal and powerful. Consider the role isolation plays in some of the more psychologically terrifying fiction. From Hanks’ character in Cast Away to Wahlberg in The Martian, we feel that primal twinge of panic at the thought of being abandoned. And after divorce? That primal scream is awfully loud.

And so we easily can grasp onto the first available body that we encounter. Not only setting us up for a misguided choice, but also increasing the chances of feeling lonely within a relationship. Which, as many people can attest, is even more isolating than feeling lonely by yourself. Being alone suck, but being with the wrong person is even worse.

 

3 – Describing your dating partner as good, but…

There’s a common narrative in relationship letters to advice columnists. The writer first describes all of the wonderful characteristics of their partner, only to then follow up with, “but…” And the word that follow that conjunction are often terrible, describing abusive or controlling behaviors. Effectively negating all of the positives that were first recounted.

Nobody will be all-good or even an entirely good fit for you. Every person and every relationship has its “yes, buts…” And in order to have a happy and healthy relationship, you have to be willing to live with (and even ignore) those negatives. However, especially when you’re feeling vulnerable, it can be easy to be in denial about some major red flags. Pay careful attention to the downsides that your partner brings to the table. The good side can only balance out so much.

 

4 – Only staying with your partner because you don’t want another “failed” relationship.

It’s not easy to accept that either you chose poorly again or haven’t yet developed the skills needed to maintain a healthy relationship (or both). It’s both disheartening and embarrassing to have to admit that you’re yet again at the end.

So maybe you begin to tell yourself that “it’s not that bad” or maybe you begin to believe that this is what all relationships ultimately dissolve into. For many of us, it’s not easy to admit to our mistakes or our shortcomings. We stay on the path because it seems preferable to conceding a wrong turn.

Yet often, refusing to admit to a mistake is the worst mistake you can make. What’s worse – having to say you screwed up or living with a screw-up for the foreseeable future?

 

5 – Feeling embarrassed to introduce your date to your friends or family.

When you feel like you have to keep your date a secret from others, you need to ask yourself where this shame or embarrassment is coming from. Do you subconsciously believe that they are somehow beneath you? Do they have some very real shortcomings that you privately believe should be deal-breakers (but you still don’t want to break the deal)?

Friends and family can often provide a helpful perspective on your romantic relationships. Unblinded by love (or lust) and fear, they may be able to give you some insight that you’re too close to see. It’s a warning sign if you’re reticent to hear that input.

 

6 – Justifying or ignoring “deal breakers.”

before you started dating again after divorce, you probably generated a list of deal breakers in a relationship. Some of these may have been reactionary and rather inconsequential (I know I swore off men with a certain pattern of facial hair). But other items on your list are probably there for an important reason.

Take a moment to recall those traits that you swore would be a “stop sign” to a relationship. Have you allowed your resolve to slip and you’re now justifying or excusing those very things you swore you would not tolerate?

Changing your own values and boundaries is a sign that you’re allowing yourself to be swallowed up within your relationship. Remember, the promises you make with yourself are the most important ones of all.

 

 

Normal Fears When You’re Dating Again After Divorce:

 

1 – Struggling with being open and vulnerable.

Dating is risky. Allowing yourself to love again is scary. You will probably find yourself either wanting to hide behind an emotional wall or wanting to run at the first sign of developing intimacy. This impulse is completely normal as you try to find the balance between never wanting to be hurt again and wanting to find love again.

 

2 – Learning to manage triggers from the past.

You will carry some of your old assumptions and fears into your new relationship. You will struggle to differentiate between an appropriate reaction to the present situation and an attempt to battle ghosts from the past. Feeling triggered often says more about where you are in the healing process than it does about the state of your new dating relationship.

 

3 – Negotiating the terms and expectations of the relationship.

This new dating relationship is not your marriage. There will be rocky periods as you navigate the unfamiliar terrain and both communicate your needs and expectations. Divorce has most likely influenced you; the terms you seek within a relationship now may differ from those that you sought before.

 

4 – Fear of losing your dating partner.

You’re fresh on the heels of lost love. It’s completely natural to fear losing it again. You may find that you have a tendency towards clinginess or a drive to know everything your partner is doing in an attempt to control the outcome. This fear is normal; however, it can also easily become out of control if it is allowed to run amuck.

 

5 – Missing elements of your ex.

No matter how vile you now believe your ex to be, there were traits that drew you to them. Traits that you may now miss. Occasionally longing for the positive elements of your ex is nothing to worry about. Just be careful about comparing your new date to your former spouse. 

 

6 – A sense of awkwardness and discomfort.

In time, marriages become the comfortable tee shirt you’ve had since college. The sharp folds have been softened as it molds to your body and you’re familiar with its every seam. A new relationship is a unworn pair of boots. Shiny and full of promise, but also a bit uncomfortable and strange feeling. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit. You have to give it some time to break in.