New Relationships Based on Shared Divorce Experiences
As a relationship coach, I often encourage those who have divorced to start dating again. I think it is important to give your children an example of a healthy relationship, and it is important for you to heal and move on. I’m not saying that you cannot survive on your own. I am only saying that life is more enjoyable when it is shared. We need other people to support us, emotionally, and we need to have someone who is always there for us when we need them. We can have supportive friends in our lives, but that is not the same thing as having someone who has committed themselves to walking your journey with you, no matter what. Because I advocate for dating after divorce, I hate to be a wet blanket on those who think they have found someone, but I always stress healthy relationships, not just having any relationship. This means that you need to be healthy first, and find someone else who is healthy, too. In this day and age, that in itself is a tall order.
Be careful to find someone with whom you have a lot in common. Yes, opposites can attract, and you should have some separate interests, but be careful about the foundation of your relationship. I have seen numerous times where a couple gets together based on their hatred of their exes, and the common experience of a high conflict divorce. The experience is not something that many people understand so when you find someone who gets it, you feel like you have struck gold. However, when the only thing you have in common is what is hopefully only a temporary experience, you may be setting yourself up for failure. What happens when the kids are grown and this experience becomes a distant memory? It may seem like this will be your life forever, but the truth is, it won’t be.
Sometimes one person is able to move beyond that conflict and the other person is not. What happens to your relationship then? If you have grown beyond it, but your new partner stays stuck in resentment, will that make you feel differently about them? Married couples who stay together only because of their children also find out that there is nothing there once the children move out. Those couples can learn to rebuild a relationship, but that is pretty rare. There is a better chance of staying together when you have many building blocks in your relationship foundation.
When you search for a new relationship, try to think in overall terms of your life and what you hope to accomplish in the future. Look at the events of your life to see what is going to be temporary and what will be more permanent. While divorce is permanent, divorce difficulties are temporary. Believe that both of you will move past this one day. Having children to raise is also permanent, but temporary in the fact that those children will become adults with lives of their own, and they will not need you as much. Find a partner that your want to live with through good times and bad, with small children at home or grown children out of the home. Before getting too involved with anyone, think about what life is like now, and in the future, and in the other person’s life now and in their future, and discuss how you see that future together.
When a relationship has its roots in a temporary situation, the relationship may be doomed to be only temporary. If you want something to last long term, you will have to choose a mate who loves so much about you that they will ride all temporary and permanent life events with you. What is it that attracts you to the other person? What attracts the other person to you? If you are afraid to ask them that question then you are not in a healthy relationship. If you are together because you were able to talk for hours about the similarities in your divorce experiences, realize that those experiences have a basis in the involvement of two other people, too. What else do you have to talk about?
I have seen a few times where a relationship is based on both people being involved in high conflict divorce and nothing else. Each time, these relationships have failed. There is nothing wrong with failed relationships because we do learn from them, but when children are involved, I urge you to be cautious. Conflicts always involve two people. Think about that. Examine how each of you handles conflict because you just may repeat the cycle. That would be more damaging to your kids than staying alone. As always, don’t rush into anything before you are ready. Divorce is a period of time when a person will go through great change. Hopefully you and your new partner will come out as better people, the unfortunate truth is that not everyone does. Make sure that you have healed enough to be in a relationship with someone because if you have not done the work you need to do on yourself, these issues will creep into this relationship, too.