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.

Advertisements

How to Maintain Your Independence in a Marriage

When I first married at the age of twenty-two, I was happy to trade in my independence for what I thought was a guarantee of partnership and togetherness. By exchanging “me” for “we,” I knew that I was making the promise to consider his opinions and needs when making decisions and that I was committing to putting the marriage before my own desires and dreams. A transaction that seemed completely reasonable at the time.

 

I didn’t lose my independence all at once.

 

Its integrity frayed slowly, like fabric subject to excess friction. Sometimes, it simply didn’t feel worth the energy to assert my own opinions. Other times, I found that I too easily adopted his views as my own. He became my primary confidant, my go-to social partner and we undertook most tasks and errands together simply by default.

Some of my actions were driven by consideration and respect – I would notify him if I was running late, consult him before making a major decision and seek his approval before spending a significant sum.

Other behaviors seem more concerning in retrospect. I was always careful to consider his feelings or preferences, yet I often neglected to examine my own.  I looked for his validation when I took up running at the age of thirty. I rarely went to parties or other large-group gatherings without him. And I relied on him to take over tasks that I found difficult instead of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone (the one that stands out the most here is making returns at a store – I HATED doing that to the point of mini anxiety attacks).

On one of my first shopping expeditions after he left, I impulsively grabbed a pack of strawberry-flavored gum at the register. Not because I have a particular fondness for fruit gum, but because he despised it so much that I never chewed the stuff. Not even in the hours I spent away from him each day.

That small act suggested a large step.

 

It was time to take back my independence and again find the “me” that had been lost in the “we.”

 

It was strange at first, acting without consulting anybody else. Making decisions on my own (and also facing the consequences of those choices on my own). I felt a little lost, like a kid at their first summer camp, unsure how to act when the accustomed structure was no longer apparent. Then, over time, the independence became comfortable and ultimately, essential. That autonomy that I had so willingly signed away years ago had become imperative to my well-being. Even though I wanted another partnership, I vowed to never again give away my independence.

My marriage now looks very different than my earlier marriage. We came together later in life, with established careers, friendships, bank accounts and habits that we weren’t willing to lose in order to enter into a relationship. Instead of there being an assumption that everything would become shared, we negotiated what elements we would merge and what would stay more autonomous.

I feel that I now truly have the best of both worlds – I know that my husband has my back but I also have my own mind (and vice-versa). There’s a much better balance; whereas my first marriage was dependent, this one is interdependent with a hearty sprinkling of independence.

 

The fear of losing oneself upon entering a relationship is a commonly cited reason for resisting commitment.

 

And rightfully so.

It’s easy to get so caught up in your role as wife, husband, mother or father that you no longer have the time or energy to devote to those things that used to bring you joy. You can find yourself slowly losing your desire or even ability to make decisions on your own, deflecting these to your partner and neglecting your thoughts in the process.

Maybe you came out of your previous marriage with the realization that you lost yourself somewhere along the way. Maybe, after years of hard work, you feel like you’ve found yourself again. You like your life. Love your independence and the confidence and freedom that comes with it. And still, you may find that you’re feeling pulled towards partnership. But you know that you don’t want to lose that independence that you’ve fought so hard for.

Good news. You can maintain your independence even within a marriage.

 

  How to Be Married (and Still Be Yourself)

 

Choose a Partner With Similar Requirements

There are some people who want to spend all of their time with their spouse. They share email addresses, home offices and friends. Others prefer to have more delineation between mine, yours and ours, creating and maintaining boundaries between areas. Some married couples even agree to live separately and only have the smallest regions of intersection between their lives.

No situation is better than the other and any variation within this continuum is perfectly fine as long as both partners are in agreement with the terms. And since you’re concerned about maintaining your independence, seek out people that are equally dedicated to maintaining their freedoms as well. Those that have full lives are more likely to respect your interests and passions and willing allow you the time to operate solo.

If, like me, you’ve experienced more overlapping lives in your past relationships, be aware that it may take time for you to adjust to this shift in the dynamic. You can’t have it both ways – if you’re going to maintain your independence, you also have to accept that you will receive less attention from your partner because they will also be busy with their own lives.

 

Distinguish Between Independence and Consideration

When I was single, I could go away for a weekend and not tell anyone as long as I returned in time for work on Monday morning. Now as a married woman, I can still go away by myself for a weekend, but I do have to at least inform my husband first. To leave without the respect of ample notice would be rude and inconsistent with a healthy partnership.

Sometimes, when people say they want to maintain their independence, they really mean that they do not want any responsibility to anybody else. Which is ultimately incompatible in a relationship (How many of you have been married to people like this who think that everything is always and only about them?).

When you enter into a relationship, you have a responsibility to the other person. And one of those duties is to be considerate of their rights and needs. And that consideration may sometimes step on the toes of your desire for independence. But when you enter into a marriage, that’s the choice you’ve made.

 

Determine What is Important to You

When I lived alone, I played heavy metal in the living room during 4:00 am workouts. I came home every day to clean kitchen and relaxed every evening on my white slipcovered sofa. When I moved in with my now-husband, I knew that all of those things would be history. And I also decided that those things weren’t important to me.

Of course, there were other considerations that I deemed vital. I needed to have my own space in the home, I needed to be able to schedule my evenings and weekends the way I wanted and I had to maintain control over my own paychecks and accounts. I actually made a list of the specific types of independence that were important to me; I wanted to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently lose my autonomy again.

Take the time to decide what independence looks like for you. What makes you feel controlled or trapped? What conditions allow you the freedom you want?

Is this compatible with a relationship? With parenthood (or parenthood of younger children)? Be honest with yourself here. If you try to pigeonhole yourself into too small a hole, you will inevitably feel constricted. It’s better to start with less commitment and responsibility and see if you want to grow towards more.

 

Communicate Your Needs Clearly and Early

All you need to do to understand the struggles inherent in a bid for more independence is look at teenagers and their parents. The teens want more freedom; the parents fear losing their kids. The kids push their parents away and the parents often take these words and behaviors personally.

It’s not that different in a partnership. When one person suddenly makes a stand for more independence, it can be seen as a threat to the relationship and can be taken personally. This is a great place for those famous “I statements,” to communicate that this is about what you’re needing, not about the other person.

Whenever possible, communicate your needs for independence at the beginning of the relationship. If your needs have changed over time, be aware that the information may be difficult for your partner to receive and that it may take a series of conversations (and time) to fully negotiate the changes.

 

Listen to Your Partner and Ignore the Peanut Gallery

When I was on my recent trip and mentioned my husband (who was home in Atlanta) to someone, I often received a raised eyebrow, “Why aren’t you doing this trip together?” I gave them a pat non-answer because the real one would be a bit longer.

Travel is important to me. I only recently have the means to enjoy it again after recovering from my ex’s financial shenanigans. In my former life, I waited too much to live, always promising myself that I would do all of the things once some benchmark occurred. And after? I promised myself that I would never again wait to live. Or to travel.

It’s different for my husband. He has to travel for work and being away means that he can’t train martial arts (his passion). His preferred funnel for the “I’ve made it tough to exhale” funds is his Corvette. And he much prefers waking up in the same bed each day to days full of the unknowns and inevitably discomforts of travel.

So I travel and often he does not. And it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of that other than the two of us (and Kazh too!).

Do what works for you and your partner and feel free to turn a deaf ear to those that want to criticize from afar. After all, the ultimate independence is the freedom to build your life in the way that works for you. Whatever that may look like.

“I Want You” vs. “I Need You”

There’s nothing sexy about being needed.

I feel it after a long day at work after hundreds of children have made their demands, becoming more task-monitor and cognition-manager than woman. Mothers describe feeling like little more than a milk-generating machine during those months when breastfeeding may be a constant. Bread-winners may start to feel more like a money-making automaton than a living, breathing creature. Caretakers often begin to resent their charge, love clouded by a fog of endless need.

Those on the other side often chafe at their sense of dependency. They need, but they don’t want to need. They desire independence, yet may be unable (or unwilling) to strive for it.

There’s nothing sexy about being needed.

Yet, so often, “need” is exactly the energy that begins to permeate our relationships after the initial, heady rush of burgeoning love. As “I want you” is slowly replaced by “I need you.”

You hear this from people who bemoan that their suppose is essentially another child who is absolutely clueless at handling the day-to-day on their own. They begin to see their partner as dependent and incapable, neither of which are particularly attractive traits. Others may become overly needed on an emotional level. Often called emotional labor, this feeling of always being “on” and taking care of the family’s relationship, communication and emotional needs is as tiring as physical labor (if not more so). Those that are fearful of being alone may overly cling to their partner. And feeling suffocated by somebody’s anxieties is a sure way to dull any attraction.

And in all of these cases, the needed one speaks to seeing their spouse as more like a friend or a roommate than a romantic partner. The more needy partner can begin to take offense at their position and may begin to act out. Furthermore, the unhealthy dynamic can lead to an increase in irritations and frustrations on both sides.

Here’s the unbridled truth – if you are both adults, neither one of you truly needs the other (no matter what it feels like).

In fact, I think this is possibly the most important lesson I learned from the end of my first marriage. I sure believed that I needed my first husband. After all, I had never navigated adulthood without him. He would handle making retail returns and spending hours debating with the gas company on the phone, both tasks with which I struggled. He knew just how to soothe me after a stressful day and he would laugh at all of our inside jokes. He (sometimes) brought in needed income and used his impressive carpentry and handy-man skills to upgrade and maintain our home on the cheap. He was always willing to talk (even in the middle of the night) and so I rarely felt alone or ignored.

I thought I needed him.

But it turned out I was wrong. Somehow, with a few changes and some missteps along the way, I was able to survive (actually thrive) without the person I thought I couldn’t live without.

Thank goodness:)

 

lookatyoulivingandshit

 

 

Being needed can feel good. It gives you purpose. Shores up your confidence and helps to mitigate any fears about being alone (after all, if someone needs you, they’re unlikely to leave you). Yet, taken too far or applied too liberally and being needed can begin to feel like an inescapable prison.

 

On the other hand, we all like to feel to wanted. It’s a compliment, an acceptance. It makes us feel both desirable and powerful. It speaks to being chosen. Appreciated and valued.

 

 

I need you says that you are responsible for my happiness.

I want you declares that I’m happier when you’re around.

 

I need you implies that neither one of you are free agents and that you’re trapped.

I want you suggests that there are other options and you are the chosen one.

 

I need you sets the stage for an imbalance of power as one gives and the other takes.

I want you acknowledges the power within both of you and allows for an equal exchange.

 

I need you speaks to what you can do for the other person; it focuses on the tasks you perform.

I want you expresses a desire for the person; it focuses on who you are.

 

There’s nothing sexy about being needed and there’s nothing sexier than hearing someone you care about say,

“I want you.”

 

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.”

 

What NOT to Do If You’re Unhappy in Your Marriage

unhappy marriage

So you’ve come to realize that you’re unhappy in your marriage.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that you look forward to the times when your spouse is out of the home. Maybe you’re feeling increasingly stifled or frustrated with your life and you’re experiencing a driving need to do something different. Or your spouse has begun to feel like a stranger to you and you startle to learn that you feel longer with them than when you’re by yourself.

Your mind is a whirlwind of conflicting thoughts and emotions. You remember your vows and you think about the pain that divorce would inflict upon your partner and children and you make an internal pledge to suck it up and make it work. Then, as you contemplate endless years with more of the same unhappiness or discontentment, you begin to summon the courage to make a change. And then you remember your shared history and the time invested into the relationship and you’re again unsure.

I’ve written before about what to do when you’re in the midst of a marital crisis.

But what about what not to do? Sometimes we need to be able to see the hazards clearly so that we can make sure we avoid crashing into them.

Here is that list –

 

What NOT to Do If You’re Unhappy in Your Marriage:

 

Don’t Ignore It

When things are uncomfortable or suboptimal, it can be tempting to turn away from the unpleasant reality. To pull an adult version of, “If I don’t look for the monster under the bed, it can’t exist.” Yet ignoring any concrete issues in the marriage or your own unhappiness with the status quo will not only be unsuccessful, it will also be unsustainable over the long run. The issues, whatever they may be be, will not resolve on their own and your ignored feelings will refuse to stay silent indefinitely.

It is only by facing your unhappiness that you have the possibility of resolving it.

Worried that you’re ignoring some important signs of marital discord? Here are five signs that you may be in denial.

 

Don’t Fixate On It

It is important not to deny your marital unhappiness and it is also critical that you refrain from becoming preoccupied with it. Whatever we nurture, grows. If all of your attention is focused on your discontentment, it will begin to multiply until it blocks your view of any residual affection or commitment.

When your marriage is in trouble, it’s natural for it to threaten to become all-consuming. After all, tremors in your relationship create aftershocks that travel through your entire life as you begin to realize how much everything is connected. You may find yourself grasping onto whatever you can as a fear of loss and isolation begins to press against your ribcage, threatening to cut off all of your oxygen supply.

Even as you’re navigating this uncertain and scary time, continue to reassure yourself that you will be okay no matter what the outcome.

 

Don’t Assign Blame Without Responsibility

It’s so easy – and often quite deserved – to place the blame for your marital dissatisfaction  at the feet of your misbehaving or unenlightened spouse. “I’m miserable because he drinks.” “If she would just pay attention to me instead of just the kids, we’d be okay.” “We’re struggling because he keeps flirting with random girls on Facebook.”

All of those things may well be true. And it may also be true that your partner’s actions and your happiness are mutually exclusive, that as long as their behavior continues, you will be miserable. You cannot change their choices. Yet you also have a responsibility to yourself. What you tolerate, will continue. What you allow, communicates how you can be treated. When you only blame, you give away your power. When you take on responsibility for your own decisions, you become even more powerful.

It’s important to recognize, name and confront the decisions and behaviors that your parter is making that negatively impact the marriage. And it’s also important for you to identify and express the choices that you have in light of the circumstances. You may not be able to save your marriage alone, but you do have the power to save yourself.

 

Don’t Have a “Bandaid” Kid

What more tangible sign is there of a unity of two people than a child? This living, breathing combination of both of you. An impressionable and defenseless embodiment of love wrapped in blankets and dreams. So it’s no surprise that people often (consciously or subconsciously) have a child in an attempt to refresh a struggling marriage.

Yet children are also an immense strain on a relationship. Tempers flare as sleep becomes a rare and precious commodity. Finances stretch under the new responsibility and the partnership often feels the strain. And the challenging steps of negotiating a fair division of labor while navigating new roles can make even the closest couples begin to have doubts.

On top of the inevitable stressors that a child adds to a marriage, it is also unfair to task a kid with the burden of stitching a worn and threadbare relationship together. Just as you spruce up the physical space to welcome home a new baby, ensure that the repairs on the marriage are undertaken before a new child is brought into the fold.

 

 

Don’t Open Up the Relationship

Many of the podcasts I listen to and advice columns I read feature advice-seekers who begin by describing their dissatisfaction with their marriages and then follow up with a question about the viability of opening up their marriage. On the one hand, I get it. They’re desperate to find a way to keep what they have that also provides the excitement and novelty that one or both spouses are craving. On the other hand, navigating the transition from a monogamous relationship to an open one is fraught with many stumbling blocks. I can’t imagine a couple that is already in trouble successfully communicating about emotionally-charged boundaries and rules.

Part of the reason that opening up the relationship may be appealing in times of discord is that is acts as both a distraction from the marital problems and another source of the validation or intimacy that may be missing from the primary relationship. And when attentions are focused elsewhere, the unhappiness within the marriage is likely to grow.

 

Don’t Make a Major Purchase

For many of us, when we’re unhappy, we look to material goods to fill the voids that we feel inside. It’s easy to fall prey to the illusion put forth by advertisers as we see happy and smiling families spilling out of new homes or heading out in their newly-acquired vehicle on some sort of perfect adventure. We can begin to blame our current possessions for our discontentment and pin our hopes on becoming happier once we secure that next new thing.

Not only is this snipe hunt a distraction and wallet-emptier, it can become an endless search for meaning and satisfaction where it cannot be found. No matter what baubles decorate your marriage or what wrappings surround your relationship, the basic connection (or disconnection) remains the same.

 

Don’t Seek Emotional Intimacy or Validation Elsewhere

When you feel invisible in your marriage, it’s tempting to find others who will truly see and appreciate you. Be careful on this slippery slope. Attention feels good and you can end up unintentionally sliding into an emotional affair (here are the key signs to watch out for).

If you think your marriage has a chance, give it that chance. Focus your energy towards making your partnership stronger and growing yourself into a better spouse. If your marriage is already on shaky ground, focusing elsewhere is a surefire way to send it tumbling into ruins.

And if your marriage is dead, have the respect to communicate its demise before you turn your attentions elsewhere.

 

Don’t Disappear

Because that’s just a cowardly and malicious way to end a relationship. You have the right to leave, but don’t lose sight of your spouse’s rights as well. Here is what you do owe your spouse, no matter what decision you decide upon for you.