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3 Critical Steps to a Healthy Dating Life

By Michelle Bersell, M.A., M.Ed.

dating advice

Your divorce is final and you are ready, perhaps reluctantly, to get back into dating again. The reluctance sounds something like “I’m scared there is no one out there who is right for me!” After all, you’ve heard it time and again from some of your hopelessly single friends who seem deep down miserable. Hearing this so frequently, you find yourself asking “Is it really true? Are there no good men/women out there for me?”

Part of that answer is going to rely on you. After going through a divorce, you want to make sure that you are changing within yourself what set the marriage up not to work. Although it is easy to blame our spouse, especially when his mistakes are glaring, the truth is you allowed or tolerated aspects to your partner that were not working for you, long before the glaring issues reared their ugly heads.

Let’s look at the inner shift you need to make in order to create the possibility for Mr. Right to show up sooner rather than later.

One of the most common characteristics I find in today’s woman is described best in a former client Sandy. Sandy’s married life looked perfect on the outside: she had a beautiful daughter, loving husband, and blossoming career. The problem was that inside her marriage, there were some major cracks, one of which was due to her husband having been underemployed for nearly 8 years. He had big ideas, but a sense of low self-esteem stopped him from acting on them. Her husband didn’t like to discuss what was going on within him or her, which meant any time she tried to talk to him he would accuse her of being too pessimistic. For years, Sandy felt isolated and alone, being the main breadwinner, as well as the primary caregiver of her child and home. She did her best to shield her husband’s fragile self-worth from her extended family and friends by coming up with excuses as to why they couldn’t get together or go out.

Sandy could “do it all” but sadly, she paid the price. She could have easily walked away as the martyr, but the truth is, women like Sandy who feel they need to “do it all” often have internal, unconscious shame driving them to be everything to everyone.

Unbeknownst to Sandy, she had an unconscious belief that told her in order to be loved by another, she had to have herself all together; otherwise, she wouldn’t be “good enough” and could end up alone.

This “not good enough” theme can drive women to not only take on much more than they should, but also tolerate far more than is good for them or their relationship.

Fortunately, Sandy was able to turn this around. Here’s how she began.

Step 1: Be vulnerable with yourself and recognize how you feel. Sandy knew how to put on a good show that looked like everything was great in her life, however, when she found herself close to bankruptcy and filled with shame, she knew she had to address her feelings.

Step 2: Learn an empowered understanding of how you feel. Sandy felt angry at her husband for not showing up for the past eight years. She was furious that their finances had tanked and he wouldn’t help her. While Sandy had real reasons to be upset with her now ex-husband, learning the empowered understanding of her feelings made her realize that she was really upset with herself. Her anger was guiding her to realize all the ways she had dismissed her needs to make her partner happy.

Step 3: Change you, not others.  With a newly empowered realization of her anger, Sandy knew that in order to have a future healthy relationship, she had to stop pretending she had it all together and start asking for help. This can be scary to someone who unconsciously believes they aren’t lovable if they show flaws.

At first, asking for her needs to be met felt like admitting she was vulnerable. Soon, Sandy learned that allowing her needs to be met actually felt like claiming her self-worth because she was demonstrating to herself and others that her needs mattered just as much as anyone else’s.

It was extremely difficult for Sandy to dive inward and claim her responsibility for her part in the failed marriage, but in the end she was thrilled she did. Not long after gaining this new awareness did Sandy enter the dating world and soon after find a healthy relationship that demonstrates mutual love, respect, and giving toward one another, allowing each person to be their best.

Avoid repeating the same mistakes in your relationships by first diving inward. Take an emotional empowerment journey and you will likely learn a whole lot more about yourself, which will in turn help you find someone who shares your values.

 

michelleMichelle Bersell, M.A., M.Ed., is an author, psychotherapist, and mother of three who teaches and speaks about emotional empowerment. Her forthcoming book, The 5-Minute Misery Cure, is due out in 2016. Download Michelle’s Misery Cure Kit and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 


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