One of the scariest aspects of being a divorcee is the prospect of dating again. You are no longer a “we” with emotional ties, exclusive commitments and promises. Liberating? Perhaps. Confusing and scary? Definitely.
In an ideal post-divorce world, the itch to re-partner would not arise until you are actually ready to deal with it. But, the reality remains the same: you are afraid of being without a partner, you are lonely and in pain, and you feel like an outcast. Your inclination, therefore, is to want to connect, and perhaps even rush into re-partnering.
Ok, I am not going to beat around the bush. You should wait about a year before seriously dating anyone. Like it or not, there are three important tasks you must first accomplish before you are ready to successfully enter into another serious relationship.
1. The Grieving Process
Where there is attachment and loss, there is grief. Grief is a wound that needs attention in order to heal. To work through and complete grief means to face your feelings openly and honestly, however long it takes for the wound to heal.
Grief is not just one dimensional, consisting only of sorrow. It is comprised of many other raw emotions such as relief, compassion, rage, remorse, regret, and guilt, to name a few. Grief feelings may even be contradictory, such as love and hate.
Grief hurts, so you may be inclined to try to outsmart it by re-partnering prematurely. A word of caution: running from your grief only delays the healing process. It is impossible to simultaneously let go of one relationship and attach to another with any degree of success.
You know the adage – “Time heals all wounds.” Grieving is not a passive experience. It is what you do with the time that will work to support or undermine your recovery. You must make the choice to recover. You can’t change what happened, but you can change how you respond to it. Remember, there is life after grief!
2. Reinvent Your SELF: Who Am I Without My Partner?
By putting yourself under a microscope and looking at your responsibility in the collapse of your marriage, you can use divorce as a catalyst to reinvent and empower your SELF. Be radically honest by asking yourself the following types of questions:
- Was I the partner I wanted to be?
- Did I turn to my spouse when I needed to depend on myself?
- Did I believe it was my spouse, not me, who needed to change in order to have a better marriage?
- Did I always need to be right?
- Was I sensitive to my spouse’s needs or mostly concerned about my own?
By identifying your deficits — as well as your assets — you will be able to modify your interpersonal behaviors and develop your muscles of independence.
3. Learn a New Relationship Model
It takes three to create a healthy and enduring partnership: You, Me and We. The three entities must be simultaneously nurtured throughout the partnership.
Remember the following:
1. A solid We is only as good as the You and Me.
2. Develop strong boundaries and honor your partner’s need to do the same.
3. Invest in your partner’s growth as you do your own.
4. Learn how to stay simultaneously separated and connected.
5. Develop good conflict resolution skills without forgetting that You and Me are always on the same team (We).
Your Readiness For Dating
In contrast to dating and becoming emotionally involved during the first year, spend time socializing instead. Make new friends, go to parties and spend time with groups. Casual socializing gives you time to adjust to your new ME and explore the world of options that has opened up for you.
Author of the recently released book, “Who Am I Without My Partner? Post-Divorce Healing and Rediscovering Your SELF,” Deborah Hecker, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist with over 35 years of private practice experience. She received her Master’s Degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from The Union Institute. In addition, she is certified as a psychoanalyst and has extensive training in the following areas: addiction counseling, grief counseling, collaborative practice and mediation. For more information, please visit www.drdeborahhecker.com.