For women who are divorcing in middle age, this blog regularly publishes relationship advice, including tips on starting to date again and navigating new relationships. The blog also offers personal stories and suggestions on starting over after a divorce.
In the months leading up to our wedding some 20 years ago, my husband and I had a series of meetings with the priest and the rabbi who were to preside jointly over our ceremony. These weren’t exactly pre-cana classes – more like a series of “getting-to-know” you sessions – but they were thought-provoking all the same.
We got a lot of good advice from our respective officiants. The Rabbi leaned in and told us that the secret to a good wedding wasn’t the food, but the music. He then proceeded to recommend a band from the South Side of Chicago called The Gentlemen of Leisure which he assured us would rock the house. The priest, for his part, counseled us that we should never go to bed angry.
Both kernels of wisdom turned out to be true. But something else the priest said has also stuck with me through the years: “In my opinion, it’s far too easy to get married in this country and far too difficult to get divorced.”
The idea never went anywhere, and as far as I can tell there were no other countries clamoring to get in the mix. But it’s certainly an idea worth taking on board, in Mexico and elsewhere.
I consider myself to be a happily married person. But I also know that I’m a minority. Many of my close friends and relatives have split from their partners, some bitterly so. And many of the couples I know who have stayed together clearly regret that decision. As Gina Frangello put it so eloquently in a recent piece for Full Grown People:”Promises made at the age of twenty-five can feel like words uttered by someone else entirely by the time we are forty-six.”
He may be out of the house and you may feel relief, but there’s that surprise feeling that greets you whenever you enter the empty house.
Ah, loneliness. It’s a horrible feeling to think you have nobody in the world to turn to as you are trying to make sense of your divorce and your new identity.
But like all of these emotions we are dealing with, there are mindful strategies that you can use to help you start feeling better, even when you think you cannot be consoled. Let’s take a look!
Being alone does not mean being lonely.
When we are by ourselves after divorce, we make a false correlation in our minds. We think that being alone is negative and bad for us. We can’t stand the silence, we feel weird sleeping in a bed alone, and we are uneasy saying “I” instead of “we.‘’
But why is being alone a bad thing?
Being by yourself means you can now breathe and look out for yourself for a change. You are now given the opportunity to heal and start over on your terms—things that would be impossible to do if you were still with someone who wasn’t giving you the love and respect you deserve.
And what we seem to forget is that even when we are with someone in an unhealthy relationship, we can still be lonely. Do you remember all the times when you felt the sadness and silence when you were living in the same house with someone who was no longer healthy for you?
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, being in a house with a partner in a marriage that is no longer healthy and still feeling alone is much more damaging than being by yourself in a house and having the space to heal on your own terms.
See the difference?
Loneliness is just independence and liberation waiting for a spark of hope.
Many of us tend to view loneliness and a solitary confinement that we can’t break free from. But I’m here to tell you that’s just wrong.
Yes, you may feel like there is nobody to call or to be intimate with. And as we try to heal, you may sometimes feel self-conscious reaching out to friends and family members because you don’t want to appear like a burden. Feeling like you can’t reach out although you feel awful only doubles that awful feeling.
But, what if, instead, you turned that sense of being by yourself into something new?
Sure, you do not have people around you, but doesn’t that give you the opportunity to start doing things that you never though you could do before? Instead of staying at home, you now have an opportunity to channel that energy into attending that sculpture class, joining that book club, planning that trip in the mountains. There is now nobody to stop you or judge you, and you are now given the opportunity to do the things you’ve wanted to for the longest time. Take advantage of it!
Exercise: Kicking Loneliness to the Curb and Embracing the Love Mindset
The next time that wave of loneliness hits you, instead of bracing for that inevitable despair that you do not think you can bounce back from, think instead that you have the opportunity to employ the following get-better strategies. If you are unsure where to start, I have included some of my own examples that I used to help keep the Loneliness Monster at bay. You will see that whenever we show ourselves kindness and be proactive about taking back our lives, we are embracing the Love Mindset.
Ask yourself: When do I feel lonely? Are there certain events that trigger this emotion for me?
Do not spend too much time on this part of the exercise, however. The point is to merely acknowledge your triggers so then you can move on to the Love Mindset.
I feel lonely whenever I see a little old couple holding hands walking in the park. I feel like that won’t be me.
Now comes the fun part…
Ask yourself: Who am I when I am the most happy? When am I at my best?
The Love Mindset: I feel really happy when I am around my dogs. There is a soft spot in my heart for rescue dogs and I have always wanted to volunteer there.
The Love Mindset: All my worries seem to disappear when I am working hard in yoga class. I love how it makes me feel and how it forces me to focus on breathing and listening to my body. At the end of the class, I always feel relieved and ready to take on the world.
Discovering what brings out the best in you and what makes you happy doesn’t have to cost money. It does, however, mean that you will have to be introspective and honest with yourself. It can be hard to dig deep, but I promise you that it is worth it because you feeling better and being happy is worth it.
Okay, so now that you know what triggers your loneliness, and also what makes you feel happy and the best version of yourself, we need to bridge that gap with the final step.
Ask Yourself: What can I do right now to summon that amazing part of me? That part that will help me through those periods of loneliness?
The Love Mindset: The next time I am triggered seeing pictures of other couples, I am going to look up volunteering opportunities at the local animal shelter instead. My time and energy are better served helping those in need, and who on earth can feel lonely while they are taking care of pups and kitties who need a good home?
The Love Mindset: The house feels so empty and I am starting to feel alone. But I remember there’s that new museum exhibit I’ve been wanting to see. Why don’t I check the hours and go tomorrow?
See how that exercise works?
Recognize that you deserve to be happy and understand that spending quality time by yourself and in a life that is rich with ideas and hobbies and things that excite and inspire you—and have absolutely nothing to do with having a partner—can heal you. Being open to all the wonderful things this word can offer—and fully acknowledging that you are in this world to explore them—is the antidote to loneliness. When you begin the love story with yourself, you always have someone at your side.
One of the many things we struggle with as we learn to recover from a divorce is learning how to rebuild our self-esteem.
It’s easy to understand why this is such an issue. When your marriage ends, you may feel rejected. You may feel unworthy. You sit crying on your coach, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at hand, wondering why your partner does not love you anymore. You may think, as you’re stumbling through the list of to-do’s and stress of everything else going on in your life, that nobody will ever find you attractive and worthy of love.
But I am here to tell you to knock it off, because it’s simply not true.
Never forget for a second that you are strong and beautiful.
So, today, as we get a quick lesson on rebuilding our self-esteem, you need to embrace the following self-esteem revelation.
What happened to you does not define you.
Ending a marriage, or any relationship for that matter, is not fun. It causes us to question who we are, what we thought our life was, and where we are in this universe. We tend to define ourselves solely within the terms of being a partner and we become dependent on that position as a mean to validate ourselves. We start to place our entire value on being a spouse, rather than putting that focus on something healthy—the independent, kind person that you are.
So it’s no surprise that our self-esteem shatters when the one pillar we have used to define ourselves goes away. We make this false connection that end of a relationship = bad unworthy person. It’s no wonder why you’re feeling like crap.
But think about this for a second. When you stumbled and sprained your ankle that one time, the way you defined yourself didn’t go negative just because your ankle hurt. And if you were ever in a car accident, or if you have ever been hospitalized, you didn’t tie your identity and your self-worth into that one event happening in your life. Hell no. You knew that it was an inconvenience, but you were soon back to life.
So, why don’t you treat your divorce the same way? Sure, this is a hiccup in your life. But that doesn’t mean that you are any less of a person, or somehow not worthy or self-respect and love because you’re going through this situation. It’s quite the opposite. The fact that you have the grace to navigate through this stressful time, and the strength to carry on and taking care of everything else you have going on speaks volumes of your character, of your intellect, and your all-around awesomeness. You should applaud yourself for the amazing job you’re doing and give yourself credit.
But if you’re still struggling with rebuilding your self-esteem, I understand. And because it can be difficult to change your mindset, I have a few exercises for you!
Reclaiming your Self- Esteem Exercise: Embracing the fact that you’re amazing.
Step 1: List all the things that you’re good at.
Don’t be shy with this one! Every day, you no doubt accomplish things that would cause others to whimper—things that you most likely don’t give yourself credit for. But it’s time to change that. What are things that you know you rock at? This has nothing to do with bragging or being immodest. Acknowledging your awesome skills is an important step to nurture yourself.
If you need some inspiration, take a look at my examples below.
My friends say I’m a good listener.
I’m a go-getter and know how to take initiative.
I’m good at plan things and getting stuff done.
Now it’s your turn! And if you can’t think of many things all at once, come back to this exercise to continue listing all of the amazing stuff you’re good at.
Step 2: List all the things that you love about yourself.
Many times, we struggle with celebrating the great stuff about ourselves. Many of us were taught to be modest, and that it was wrong and extravagant to “toot our own horn.” But that misguided thinking meant that many of us weren’t taught how to be self-confidence and to hold ourselves in the high regard that we should. But it’s not too late to kick that negative thinking aside and start acknowledging how beautiful and amazing we really are. So, here are some examples to inspire you!
I love my long hair.
I love to read.
I love to explore new things.
I love that I am a good cook and know how to entertain.
See how easy it is? How about you? What do you love about yourself? Some things may come to you later, so it’s okay to come back to this list as often as you need to!
Step 3: The next time your self-esteem bothers you, how will you incorporate Step 1 and 2 to neutralize the Self Esteem Monster?
The next time my self-esteem starts playing tricks on me, I will consciously stop myself and remind myself of two things that I am good at, and two things that I love about myself, turning this negativity into kindness. As an example…
Now that my relationship is over, who in the hell would ever want me?
STOP. I am kind. I am a good friend. And I’m damn good at my profession.
I feel so stupid—this break-up is all my fault.
STOP. I did my best. I have a good heart. I have much to contribute to this world. This a break-up does not define me.
Okay, now it’s your turn! Are there self-esteem issues that you deal with when it comes to recovering from your relationship? What types of thought do you have when you are not feeling confident?
And, more importantly, what kind, loving messages will you start to tell yourself as you begin to repair your self-esteem?
Remember that no matter what anybody has told you in life, you are enough. You are worthy of respect and love. And you are stronger and smarter than you can imagine.
Martha Bodyfelt is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps readers navigate their divorce with less stress and drama, so they can move on with their lives. For your Free Divorce Goddess Recovery Kit, stop by http://survivingyoursplit.com/ or drop Martha a line at email@example.com.
Woman thinking. Pop Art girl. Vector illustration in retro style pop art.
Let’s talk about one of the most common obstacles that stop us from moving on after divorce after 50.
Fairness. Unfairness. The feeling like we’ve been screwed over during divorce.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Do any of the following sound like things you have said or thought?
“It’s not fair that my ex has already moved on and I’m stuck here with nothing.”
“It’s not fair that they’re out having a great time while I’m here heartbroken.”
“It’s not fair that my adult children are going to be in my ex’s wedding, and they don’t understand what I’m going through.
“It’s not fair that I will have to work for another 10 years instead of retiring next year.”
Many of us have stewed in the injustice of it all, thinking that our ex should be punished for all the bad things they did. But I am here to tell you something.
You’re right. It’s not fair. But now what?
Here’s where the fairness trap gets us. We see something about the divorce situation that is not fair and we choose to shape our lives and our outlook on that injustice, so much to the point that we can’t even move on because all we’re doing is thinking about something that we cannot control.
You’re right that it’s not fair that your ex has moved on and you’re still feeling bad.
You’re right that it’s not fair that he has the beach house now and you’re now stressing about being able to retire on a limited income.
You’re right that you made a bunch of personal and professional sacrifices during the marriage and you’re not getting credit for it.
Nobody is denying that an injustice has been done to you. It sucks and it’s not right, but grounding yourself in that unfairness and choosing to let it influence how you think about things will get you nowhere.
Think about it—focusing the unfairness of your situation is like insisting on drive a car with a flat tire.
It’s not going to get you anywhere.
You’ll continue damaging your car and putting yourself at risk by when driving with a flat tire.
There is actually something you can do about it.
Instead of being pissed off at the flat tire and thinking it’s unfair that the tire is flat, what do you do?
You get the tire changed.
The same thing goes with letting go of the notion of fairness.
Instead of dwelling on how unfair it is that your ex didn’t get punished for the crap they pulled, you do something about it. Because remaining pissed off and stewing in that injustice gets you nowhere. You put your emotional well-being and the next chapter of your life at risk by letting the unfairness consume you. And there is always something you can do about it.
You need to throw out that flat tire that is unfairness and change it to something better—an easy step for overcoming that sense of unfairness so you can continue to make a better life for yourself as a divorcee.
Exercise: Escaping the Fairness Trap.
Step 1: List the current events during the divorce or separation that you do not think are fair. If you need some help, take a look at my own examples!
It’s not fair that I had to share my savings when I worked my ass off to put most of the money into that account. We’d never have as much in it had it not been for me.
It’s not fair that now I have to watch every nickel and dime on a fixed income.
Be honest and complete on this part—the more feelings of unfairness you harbor, the harder it is to move on. So list, list, list away!
Step 2: List what you can actually do about those feelings. As a gentle reminder, remember that you can’t “make” your ex do something or feel something. The healing comes from changing your own outlook.
The fact I have a reduced savings now is merely a fact. That’s all. Reduced savings is reduced savings. The situation being unfair is immaterial to how I can move on.
Watching my money is just a change in circumstance. Thinking it’s unfair and dwelling on that does not solve anything.
Step 3: Change the “unfair” into something actionable that will move you forward.
Instead of thinking about how unfair my new situation is, I am going to focus on ways I can save more money to rebuild my savings.
Instead of thinking how unfair it is that my ex and their new partner are having a great time, I am going to focus on how I am going to practice self-care and put myself first for a change.
Remember that letting go means making a concerted effort to change the current thought patterns that do not serve you. Although you are grappling with a perceived injustice in your life, you are not powerless. You have everything you need to overcome these thoughts of unfairness and become a stronger person.
Martha Bodyfelt is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps readers navigate their divorce with less stress and drama, so they can move on with their lives. For your Free Divorce Goddess Recovery Kit, stop by http://survivingyoursplit.com/ or drop Martha a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been miserable for years but I’m just not sure.
I know I should leave but the time is never right.
Sometimes I’m ready to leave but then something good happens.
I know I have to go but I’m worried I will regret it.
If any of these sound like you, I have good news: You’re in very good company. And that’s simply because leaving is hard, and caring, thoughtful people don’t do it without a ton of careful thought.
As I’ve said at least a million times before, people in good relationships don’t spend their days wondering if they should stay. They don’t think about it when they’re driving their kids to school. They don’t think about it when they’re standing in line at the grocery store. They don’t go to therapy to talk about it.
If you’re doing the should-I-stay-or-go analysis right now, you know how miserable it can be. How it consumes your every waking moment. How nothing really feels right because the uncertainty is always there.
It’s in your kitchen when you wash the dishes. It’s in your bedroom when you pull back the covers. You can’t get away from it. It follows you around. And, I also have bad news: Until you make a decision, it won’t stop.
Here are some important things to weigh:
1. Indifference. It’s said that opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. Translation: If you’re past the point of caring about the relationship or your partner, could be it’s time to go. Why stay with a partner or in a relationship you don’t care about?
2. Keep track. A reality check can’t hurt. Keep a calendar — or make a private note in your phone — marking good days and bad. Give yourself at least a month or two to get a fair tally. How many of those days were spent unhappily? If there were good days, what made them good? Remember: The absence of unhappiness should not be confused with happiness. If you’re relieved a day wasn’t bad, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was good.
3. Percentage. It’s been said that any healthy relationship is at least 70 percent good. Is yours? There is no such thing as perfect bliss, so kindly take that into account. Every couple has struggles. But the good should largely outweigh the not-so-good. In other words, you should at least feel peaceful most of the time.
4. Time. How long have you been thinking about leaving? Has it been a few months or a few years? A few bad months strung together may not mean it’s time to move on. All couples go through rocky times. But if it’s been years of strife and struggles, you may have your answer.
5. Foundation. Think about the foundation — the beginnings — of your relationship. Did it start out with love, understanding, and warmth? Or were there issues you were concerned about from the get-go? It’s not always the case, but couples who are able to access their happier beginnings may have a better luck getting back to those roots. If it’s never been good, you’ll have a harder time making it so.
6. Partnership. Is your partner willing to do the work? Is he/she open to making changes? Going to therapy? Dealing with any addictions? You absolutely cannot do this work alone. If your partner is willing, you’ve got more of a chance to get the relationship back on track. If your partner is unwilling or thinks you’re the problem, that’s a problem.
7. Kids. If you have them, this decision is nothing short of brutal. If you leave, are you scarring them for life? Are you bequeathing a legacy of separation or divorce? But you may want to ask yourself what your kids are seeing on a daily basis. Are they watching you in a relationship filled with affection and respect? Or are they seeing their parent(s) living in cold, detached misery? What they see now could set the table for their future relationships. (Note: If there’s any violence in the house, you’ve gotta go. Now.)
8. How bad is bad? With a few exceptions, only you can define what’s bad for you. What you might be willing to tolerate may be someone else’s breaking point. But if you’re feeling these things consistently, you may have hit bottom:
You feel more alone than partnered
Being apart from your partner is preferable than being together
You can no longer rely on your partner for support (in any form)
Your partner has no desire or capability for change
Being with your partner requires you walk on eggshells or create anxiety
When it’s possible, do the work. When it’s possible, figure out if you can get enough of what you need to stay. But when staying feels impossible, it just might be because it is.
There are many life events that are associated with different ages. Early on it is Bar Mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteen parties. In the twenties, it’s graduating college, marriage and having kids . In your fifties the kids graduate, become independent, and parents become elderly. I am not a glass half empty kind of guy, but there is a lot of change in the fifties that creates a new reality, a new norm.
And it happens quickly. I’m now playing in old guy softball and basketball leagues. My kids routinely beat me in hoop and as they celebrate, I’m taking Advil. When I auditioned for Survivor, my son suggested that if I got picked that I’d be the old guy on the show. The problem is, I don’t see myself that way. Thinning hair notwithstanding. I still slide in softball and dive on the basketball court, although the next day it takes me longer to get out of bed. It’s all good, I now am OK with this new norm.
What’s important is that I have learned is not just to memorize every line from Pulp Fiction, but to also look at new things and not be overwhelmed because they are different, and to embrace the positive aspects and revel in whatever comes next.
My Mom had a long slow battle with cancer that she lost three years ago; something that many of us unfortunately experience as we age. I was incredibly sad, of course, and, it created a lot of apprehension in other areas of my life. Would I keep in touch with my sisters when she was gone? Would I know what’s going on in my niece and nephews lives, and they with my kids? A new reality was scary to think about, but. here I am three years later, and my sisters and I do keep in touch, probably even more so now. We spend holidays together and the kids remain in contact. Rather than dwelling on past conflicts, we have embraced the new norm, and I appreciate them more than ever. Out of sadness came positivity.
I am fortunate to have a solid group of friends that each enrich my life in different ways. As I have gotten older, many of those friendships have changed for one reason or another and I am OK with the change. I have a buddy with whom I played cards, trained for the marathons and spoke to all the time. Now we talk and see each other much less frequently. When we do talk, we fall into the same routines, same stupid jokes. Instead of lamenting that we don’t see each other much, we simply drink martinis and try to take each other’s money at the poker table and it is all good. The new norm.
I also have two very close childhood friends who are like brothers. Even those friendships have changed and evolved, and our conversations have a new tone. Don’t get me wrong, we still have heated debates about which movie was better – 48 Hours or Trading Places, but, the new norm is that we listen to each other, and try to help navigate through things like relationships, finances, health, fitness goals, etc. We offer advice and input, usually over a plate of nachos and it is therapeutic. Of course, we still discuss which Charlie’s Angel was the hottest. After all, it can’t all be new all the time.
In the book, Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom talks about his relationship with his professor who was dying. Mitch writes that even though Morrie could no longer even walk or stand, and couldn’t do all the things he loved anymore, he appreciated learning new things more than ever before. He was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t dance, but cherished listening to music. Morrie could no longer take his regular hikes, but spent hours staring at the leaves changing colors from his window. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. He embraced his new norm. This is a good lesson for all of us.
Being divorced created a lot of change in my life. It was very hard not to be with my kids 24/7 and not to feel guilty. My kids were also growing up, and didn’t necessarily need me as much as they once did. I lamented their becoming capable, independent young men. Last week, my youngest texted me that he was in TJ Maxx shopping for clothes. This from a kid who six months earlier modeled his fashion choices after Bill Belichick on the sideline. But, I digress….
It’s not always easy, but it’s important to embrace change. Instead of being bummed that my son is away at college in the Midwest, I am happy for him and proud. I know he is spreading his wings and learning and thriving. Rather than being upset that my youngest is driving and independent, I make plans to try to meet him so he can beat me at basketball when he’s going to be at the gym.
Pick whatever cliché works best for you – seeing the forest through the trees, waking up to smell the roses, whatever you prefer. In our fifties there are a lot of changes and adjustments, and you know what? While it may not be a piece of cake to establish a new norm we can do and flourish. After all, I wouldn’t blow smoke up your ass…,(sorry, couldn’t resist one more cliché).
This article is for men in “traditional,” heterosexual relationships.
Why, you might ask? Well, in general, (see there – I wrote “in general” – yes, I am generalizing. If the generalization does not apply to you, please don’t be offended. I’m writing this piece based on academic research and client interactions.) In general, people in relationships that we don’t think of as “traditional” have had to find ways to communicate more openly than have others.
With that in mind, here goes…Oh, one more thing, ladies, if your man does not subscribe to Better After 50, feel free to forward this to him. Hopefully it will open the door to increased communication.
Okay, so, guys, let’s talk (pronounced tawk):
Many of your wives/partners are unhappy with the lack of sexual energy between you, in general, and in the bedroom, in particular. They want to discuss this with you but they don’t know how!
The fact of the matter is that when you got together it was likely when you were experiencing a sexual peak. As was dictated by our society, she was focused on having a family. At that time, it was acceptable for you to have “sewn your oats” prior to getting into a long-term relationship. Women, however, have never had that opportunity. We were supposed to be sexy but not sexual and attractive but not to act on attraction.
Things have now changed: We are done raising our families and we have gotten to a point where we would like our lives to be a bit more about us. In some cases, we are discovering parts of ourselves that we didn’t know existed or weren’t allowed (society again) to feel. Another part of the problem is that with life getting in the way for years, we forgot how to connect with you – if we ever really knew how to do so in the first place.
Today we are becoming aware of our own needs and desires – feelings that aren’t based on what is best for the kids, or our parents, or what society expects. In addition, we are beginning to experience our own sexual peak. Based on how our relationships began, we are afraid to talk to you about our needs and desires. In some cases, we fear humiliation or outright rejection. Of course, you don’t plan to ridicule us. But, it is possible that you don’t want the boat rocked or that you would be shocked to learn what is going on in our minds and with our bodies.
And so, we settle for the status quo while talking to our girlfriends about how unhappy we are and fantasize about having hot, sultry affairs. In some cases, we act on those fantasies because we are so desperately lonely in our needs.
You may wonder, why I am telling you all of this. Well, as I said at the beginning, I have based this article on academic readings as well as my experience with many clients. I am hoping to help you and your partner achieve a mutually satisfying love life as well as happiness. Of course,
Let’s Talk About Sex:
An Article For Heterosexual Men And The Women Who Love Them
I realize that you may be afraid to speak to her about all of this. But, if she is giving you this blog post, she clearly wants to have a conversation. In case you’ve found this piece on your own, and are interested in communicating with your partner, here are some possible conversation starters:
“Honey, I just read this great blog post and I’m wondering what you think of it.” Then show her this post.
“Honey, what is something you’ve always wanted to try but feel embarrassed to tell me?” Big caveat here…DO NOT SHAME HER!
“Honey, I would like you to show me what pleases you?” And then pay attention!
“Honey, I’d like us both to discuss our fantasies.” Again, no shaming!Please know that I am not minimizing how difficult it might be to start these conversations. That said, I do think it is a lot easier to have them than to live unfulfilled lives, to experience the pain of infidelity or possibly more painful still, to wind up in divorce court.My last thought on this topic (for now) … I read recently that most relationship unhappiness is due to unmet expectations. Guys, I can promise you that if your partner brought this blog post to your attention she is really hoping that you will learn to meet her expectations. And, in turn, she wants to meet yours.
As a divorce coach, one of the most common refrains I hear from clients deals with their ex-spouses. The thoughts, the memories, their current actions—dwelling on these things makes it very difficult to move on. And all these thoughts can creep up on you when you least expect it, especially when the split wasn’t exactly amicable, and when you’re still feeling hurt.
Although healing and moving on from the end of your marriage will not happen overnight, there are some systems you can start using to help you let go of those negative feelings.
So, the next time you start thinking about your ex—wondering why they changed, why they are acting so differently, how they could have moved on so quickly with someone else, how they can be so happy in spite of all of the bad stuff they did to you and all the hurt they have caused—I want you to remember the following.
Your emotional energy is finite. Don’t waste it dwelling on your ex.
One of the most common goals that folks have after divorce is to become independent, get a great support system, and one day, maybe find another partner.
If you’re going through a divorce or recovering from one, you may be in the same boat. And accomplishing those things is a tall order. Think about it—you have a lot of work ahead of you. You are learning how to let things go. You are embracing what it means to be independent and on your own. You are discovering what it means to make decisions that are best for you. You are finding out what living life on your own terms means and how to put yourself first for a change.
That’s a pretty awesome to-do list because it focuses on your recovery and you taking your life back. So, where do the following thought patterns fit in with your recovery? You may have had similar thoughts here.
I get so angry thinking about how my ex screwed me over with savings and retirement. Is he trying to bankrupt me? Is he trying to make sure I can never retire? What a pile of crap.
I’ll admit it…I’m envious that my ex has a new partner. He sure moved on quickly! It makes me feel like crap.
Hmmmmm. I’m having a hard time figuring out where those thought patterns fit.
And do you know why it’s hard figuring out where they fit into your recovery?
Trick question! NONE OF THOSE THOUGHT PATTERNS FIT INTO YOUR RECOVERY BECAUSE WORRYING ABOUT YOUR EX DOESN’T.
Investing your energy worrying about what your ex is doing or harboring resentment of the crap they pulled on you means that you’re only hurting yourself. You’re only slowing down your own recovery. And you’re taking away the gift that this divorce has given you—the gift of a second chance.
You deserve better than that.
And I’m going to help you get there with the following awesome as hell exercise.
Exercise: Ex out, your awesomeness in.
The next time you catch yourself thinking about your ex, do this simple exercise. Or, you can even be proactive about it. Even you’re not thinking about your ex, this is still an amazing shift in your thinking that will help with your divorce recovery. To get you started, take a look at my examples below!
Step 1: Ask Yourself: How does this thought pattern help in my recovery?
This step is the first in decreasing the emotional energy you spend thinking about your ex. And the more mindful you become of asking yourself this question whenever thoughts of the ex start to drag you down, the more in-tuned you can become to letting that negativity go. So let’s take a practice run.
My son mentioned my ex’s “new friend” who was over at the house, and it really made me angry. How did he move on that fast?
My lawyer said her lawyer is disagreeing to the terms of the agreement. We’ve been working on this for months and now he wants to change things at the last minute? Why is he being so selfish and difficult?
Wait—how does feeling angry help ME?
Hmmmm. Thinking about the ex doesn’t help me. I am going to acknowledge that I heard the information but then just stop there and not spend my energy thinking about it.
Step 2: Write Down: What can I try instead?
When you become aware of the negative emotions when thinking about your ex, direct that emotion elsewhere—specifically to something positive and healing for you.
I recognize this anger I feel when hearing about my ex. Instead of letting that anger get to me, I am going to flip the switch and channel those emotions into something that serves me.
The next time I realize I’m thinking about my ex, I instead will look forward to all the great stuff going on in my life. I am going to look forward to the upcoming massage I have instead of think about my ex. I am going to spend the 15 minutes I’d spend stewing about my ex and spend that time planning what I’ll do with the grandkids this weekend.
See what I mean? There’s literally dozens of other awesome things you can spend your emotional energy on that will help your healing, so rock the heck out of those.
Granted, switching this frame of mind may not happen overnight, and it certainly comes with practice. But the more mindful you are and the kindness you show to yourself in the form of channeling those bad feelings into something that’s actually good for you, the less stressed you will be.
The typical stereotype is that every guy wants a woman who is a long-legged, nymphomaniac that loves to cook, and whose Dad owns a liquor store. But that’s not me.
I am a 52 year-old, divorced father of two teenage boys who lives in the suburbs. I like to exercise, watch sports, drink martinis, play poker, spend time with my kids, and like George Costanza, if I’m home alone with Good Housekeeping magazine, well I’m rather un-unique.
As a typical guy, I certainly would not be averse if Margot Robbie wanted to wildly service me, but, I would rather have a woman in my life that wants to go for a run or hike and then watch a Patriots game while having a drink, and who knows exactly who the Donger and Jake Ryan are.
So while physical attractiveness is a big plus, as a typical guy what matters most to me is: Compatibility, Vibe and Interests.
Compatibility is not just someone who shares my passion for spicy food, or likes to binge watch the same shows on Netflix and has an affinity for working out. It’s about being in sync in the way you speak to each other, or in the approach to problem solving. It’s someone that employs a similar method of communicating and discussing. Someone who will get mad at me, and then is comfortable telling me how we can fix it. Compatibility in communication styles is key and as important as a mutual appreciation of bathroom humor.
Then there’s Vibe. I am pretty laid back. Ok, if I was any more laid back, I’d be asleep, so, what I want is a partner that has the chill vibe. The chill vibe means staying calm even when all is going wrong. When there are problems, which everyone will have, I want a person that will look for a solution rather than throwing gas on the fire. It is a woman who is not only chill, but makes me feel excited and energized when we are together. When their name comes up on my phone, the reaction is always Mmmmm!! Never ugh.
Having common Interests can help a relationship work, but, its more than both loving the beach, or agreeing that Bill Murray’s finest work was Stripes. It’s not just about having the same interests, it’s about having an interest in what your partners enjoys even if it’s not your particular brand of vodka.
Regarding physical attraction and sex, yes it’s important. I recognize that many women, they need to feel love to have sex. But lots of guys need to have sex to feel love. I will tell you that it’s a little of both ideally. A random kiss, or holding hands in the movie theatre is just as important for establishing intimacy.
Having two teenage boys, I have tried to impart things that I deem important to them. They always open a door for a woman, say please and thank you, they are polite and respectful. I’ve also made it clear that in my experience, there are two strategies to argue with women….and neither work. And since, many a truth is said in jest, I stand by that statement. Of course, while everyone will argue occasionally, that is not an issue at all if you have compatibility, vibe, interests and attraction.
So, while I have tried to educate my kids on what to look for in a partner based on what I have learned through my own life lessons, I realize that we are all shaped and molded by our own experiences. In the end, they will have to figure out what they want in a woman in order to be happy and to make her happy. While it is not always easy to figure out exactly what you want, and then to find that special someone, it is really wicked pissah when you do!
I have been divorced twice and have some suggestions for getting back into dating. I’ve made mistakes and I have learned from them. May these tips spare you the problems I encountered and help you find an awesome partner.
Wait! For crying out loud, please don’t rush into something serious right away or something that you will be sorry for later. Divorce is very painful and you need time to heal. After my first marriage I jumped into a relationship that was doomed, because I was lonely and it was great to have someone attracted to me again. Bad decision. Then I married the next guy, because I was afraid of husband #1. Another bad decision. Take. Your. Time.
Be discriminating. Don’t settle for someone who you know isn’t right for you (see #1). Pay attention and get to know the person well. Be picky. This is a good time to make a list of the qualities you want in a partner and review it periodically.
On the other hand, don’t rule someone out just on the basis of your list. The person/package may differ from what is on your list, but give them a chance You might be surprised. My husband (and his 7-year-old son) were definitely not the package I had expected, but there was a reason we were brought together and it worked out splendidly. Be open.
Be careful about adding the physical to the mix. We all know that the romantic rush of a new love interest can make your resolutions to wait awhile on the physical fly out the window. This can be difficult, but stick to your resolutions.The physical can surely complicate matters, cloud your judgement and make you do impulsive things. Take your time (see #1).
Examine your state of mind. A good internal assessment is necessary. Are you feeling lonely, afraid, undesirable, tired of waiting or even desperate and think dating after divorce will help? Perhaps it may be beneficial to get some help and share those feelings before moving on to the next person. A therapist, a coach, and even a good friend can help you express what you are feeling in order to move forward as a much happier you, ready for a strong, healthy relationship again. My frame of mind was not in a good place after my first husband, and it did not turn out well.
I hope these five suggestions for dating after divorce helped you take a look at where you are and where you want to go in your next relationship. Proceed with a little caution, but not without hope.