“Go out and find someone new,” they tell you.
Sure. Sounds simple — to someone who has never been through it.
Your marriage came to a disastrous end and that hurt. Being alone for the rest of your life doesn’t appeal to you. But that means you are about to be plunged into the icy cold waters of the dating world again.
It had been 24 years for me and what surprised me most was that all my insecurities, fears and foibles returned as if I were 18 again. To my dismay, even though I was near the magic age of 50, it had no effect whatsoever on my wisdom. I entered the land of “crazy.”
In hopes of sparing you the humiliation and ultimately, more heartbreak — I am sharing some of my most critical mistakes so that you don’t make them too.
1. Don’t jump at the first compliment someone gives you
“Hi there, beautiful lady,” were the words that did it. I had not been called “beautiful” for so many years that they hit me like a truck. I was a goner.
Warning: If smooth words are coming easily from a man who barely knows you, he may be a player who has learned just what a woman wants to hear. Beware of “charming” especially if he looks like a Prince. Let the words roll off your back and don’t trust them until you know him better.
2. Don’t give in to desperation — it will skew your radar
Tenderness, laughing together, intelligent conversation…actually, man to woman attention in whatever form it was offered, sucked me in like a fly to honey. Starving for romance, my heart said “Go for it! You only live once”. I have no idea what my brain was saying because I simply ignored it.
Warning: You are an easy target in the early stages after separation. If you haven’t moved beyond feeling lonely, mistreated and abandoned or if the anger toward your ex has not quieted to acceptance, then you are still frantic to prove that you are loveable. That makes you vulnerable to acting out of desperation.
3. Don’t think you are exempt from acting like an idiot
No matter if you are 18 or 60, don’t ever think that you could never be an idiot. I was convinced that I was as mature a divorcee as one could be. Yet I cover my face in embarrassment now when I think about moments when I would show up at places where he was, stand close to hear his conversations with others, write him thank you notes to get his attention, ask other people about him, hang on his every word and action.
Warning: You may shamelessly chase the one you think wants you, all the while justifying every crazy move in your own mind.
4. Don’t convince yourself that a new relationship will heal your broken heart
Logically, if something isn’t working and can’t be fixed, you toss it for something new. When it comes to your heart and it’s longing to be loved, logic is what is tossed. Scary to me now, but I couldn’t see that the man I was after was my ex all over again hiding behind a different face.
Warning: You will clone the relationship that didn’t work, only to go through the entire nightmare again unless you take the time to close up the open wounds in your heart and redesign what you need. The guideline is one year for every four spent in a long-term relationship before you’re ready for healthy closeness. However, it can be way less if you face it head-on and do the healing.
5. Don’t think you can fix the one you are fixated on
I drew him diagrams, can you believe that? I spent hours thinking about what he could do to heal, how he could feel better about himself, and ways for him to let go of the anger toward his ex. Being a coach and highly visual, I created graphics that were simple, not much reading, to show him exactly how he could move on. I wanted that man so badly!
Warning: Unless someone wants to be healed and seeks it out for themselves, they will not respond to your “doctoring.” FYI: A woman should never become her partner’s therapist. A man will grow to resent a lover who positions herself as his teacher.
6. Don’t call him if he doesn’t ask you to
In my lost mind, the reason he wasn’t calling was because he was afraid of being rejected. So I thought I would make it easy for him, sometimes phoning him up to 10 times in one evening if he didn’t pick up on the first try.
Warning: No matter the bold statements about how dating has changed, certain principles still apply. If he doesn’t pursue, he doesn’t want to.
7. Don’t stalk him — it’s illegal
I hated being alone with time on my hands. If he would only ask me out, that would solve everything. Again, I concluded he must simply be afraid. So I would “drop in” where he worked, show up coincidentally where I knew he would be, do a drive-by past his house to see if he was home and, after the second or third time, stop in for “a visit.”
Warning: Stalking is illegal and has never won anyone’s heart.
8. Don’t mistake sex as an antidote for loneliness
Too many second time around singles have admitted to me that they hate sleeping alone. They will lie next to a friend for the night for the comfort alone, even if sex is not involved. But, of course, in most cases sex is involved and is the source of many awkward conversations the day after.
Warning: Sex complicates your life if you aren’t in a long term committed relationship, even if both are lonely and longing for someone to snuggle up to in bed. What you think is a door to happiness can literally turn around to bite you painfully in the butt.
9. Remember that how you see sex is not necessarily how he sees sex
She says, “That was the most beautiful night of my life. I have found my soul mate.” He says, “That was just what I needed. Wonder who’s going to win the game tonight?”
Warning: Ladies, a night of passion does not necessarily a future guarantee. Along with the morning, more often than not, dawns fear and those dreaded words, “I think I made a mistake.” Keep your goods to yourself until, yes — you have marriage on the table.
10. Don’t forget how much it hurt
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to push down how much it hurt to be in a floundering relationship, thinking that you won’t let it happen ever again. Romance killed my brain. I remember saying distinctly to a man that I was “over all that” (my marriage) when I had only been gone a couple of months. Looking back, I was trying to numb the shock with a happier emotion — the ecstasy of being in love again.
Warning: It feels so much better to be in love than to be hurting. But what is said about rebound relationships is true — they are the proof to you and the world that you are lovable no matter what your ex says. Unknowingly in many cases, you want to deflect and distract yourself from what is really going on. For that reason, it’s a dangerous time to be evaluating whether or not someone new is right for you.
11. Don’t let your fear of being alone keep you in the crazy zone
I went from being a responsible, passionate wife, mother, friend, employee, church and community supporter to someone who resembled a wanton woman on the prowl, because I thought staying alone to heal would mean being alone forever.
Warning: I now know that two fears were shouting at me, “You are not enough. You will never be loved.” Anxious to prove the fears were wrong, I did everything I could to keep from staring them in the face. I emerged from my crazy zone more hurt than at the end of my marriage. If I would have let myself become a strong single before considering dating again, I would have spared myself many added tears.
12. Don’t think of your brain as your enemy
I am a champion of the heart and I love my own. I also coach all my clients to listen closely to theirs. The heart is the core of the “real you” and where you must go to find your best life.
But there comes a time when you need your head. I didn’t want to listen to mine and tuned it out. Driven by the desire to forget the pain, I swung way too far in the other direction.
Warning: When your heart is broken and weeping, it may lead you to strange places as you seek to find your equilibrium and adapt to a new identity. This is when you need to make friends with your brain. Evidence shows that when the heart and brain are in sync, you have the most peace. Warning bells go off for a reason, so pay attention. They may be vital to your protection.
Now, all of this being said, don’t allow fear of this zany behavior to freeze you in your dating tracks. Use the wisdom offered here and go confidently forward, step by step, into finding new love.
You will be happy to know, as I am, that I was divinely spared from the man I sought to lasso into love with me. Six years of trial, error and healing led me to my second wedding day and it was the most magical day of my life with someone I am exactly suited for. You will find your ideal (not perfect) partner too, if you are willing to learn.
What is your greatest frustration when it comes to finding new love after divorce?
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