Make no bones about it, dating is challenging, overwhelming, and emotional. You have to make the investment to meet someone that is good for you, not change for someone just to be good for him or her. And finding that person, takes effort, intention, attention, showing up, and time. It also takes a hefty dose of laughter and fun. That last ingredient being the most important one.
It’s also about self-discovery. So, how you approach dating is key whether it’s after a divorce or the ending of a relationship. Dating entails doing the necessary work to find someone who is good for you. In essence, this means taking the time to tackle and work through underlying issues so not to repeat unhealthy relationship patterns and choices that often keep people stuck.
Learn how to do the work at the front end, to get what you want and need at the back end.
Emily, 36 and Mark, 37 were married for twelve years, together for fifteen. They have two children together. They met while they were seniors in college through mutual friends. He was good-looking and dazzling. He swept her off her feet. She had two previous relationships that didn’t end well, so she decided just to date here and there but up until Mark, as she put it, ‘nothing to write home about.’ So when they met, it just clicked. And according to Emily, he felt the same way. They both felt connected and shared many of the same interests. After graduation, despite living in different cities, they decided to continue the relationship, long distance. After about a year, Mark landed a job in the same city Emily. They seemed on top of the world. They moved into together. Although Emily would experience what she calls ‘a subtle form of emotional abuse that at first glance, didn’t appear all that bad.’ However, upon reflection, she realized she ignored what was hiding in plain sight.
There were many instances of Mark picking on her. He could be rude, disrespectful, and off putting to her but in front of his friends, he was different. She couldn’t reconcile the two different ‘Marks’ in her life because his subtle abuse was peppered with moments of kindness. The abuse was unpredictable. She chalked it up to having a bad day and would often blame herself. And he was good father and provider. They were financially secure. On the outside, it looked like they had a great life. Looking back, she also believed she was a confident person and would not tolerate that type of behavior. But as she discovered through her own self-discovery in therapy, she did. She would come to realize that her self-esteem and confidence had major cracks in it. Cracks that needed to be repaired before she would venture out to the dating world. And although her divorce was complicated, emotionally draining and a time suck, she discovered she was both hopeful and terrified – two all too common feelings when dating.
Over the past several months, Emily has transitioned from we to me, going from a married and now divorced woman embracing her singlehood. She is ready to date again, so she believes. Yet, her thoughts quickly turn to fears as she cannot fathom going through another divorce even though she knows it was the best decision. She wrestles with the thoughts of dating again. Getting back out there.
But, she knows the dating world has changed over the past 15 years. She knows this. She sees her friends struggling. She consoles them. Will she be the same way? Will she be able to find a better partner? What if she has a ‘bad picker?’ She hears about the horror stories of dating through her friends and wonders how it will be for her. In therapy, we explore some of her fears.
Where there is hope. We discuss the thoughts and feelings behind hope – hope for herself, her future, and her children’s future. And she shares that these are the things she wants most in life. I encourage her to go after them, seek to understand where you are and where you ultimately want to be.
There are moments – many – that her fears and apprehensions often hijack any rational thought. And the negative thoughts can keep her stuck and prevent her from recognizing and embracing all of her positive qualities. I share with her that it’s possible to hold two opposing thoughts – feeling hopeful and excited at times but equally overwhelmed and terrified – at the same time yet still move forward and through her fears.
We speak of her fears and what she has come to realize is that she is fearful about picking the wrong person (again), repeating patterns, and learning how to trust again. I share these are all too common fears. In a survey conducted by Worthy.com, 1700 women responded about dating after divorce, their concerns, the type of person they are looking forward, and where they look to find love again.
For Emily, this was validating. Maybe she wasn’t alone after all. She wasn’t. Not by a long shot. And she is thinking, maybe there is hope for her and by working through her fears, she would be able to find love again and a healthier relationship.
3 Pesty Dating Fears
For Emily, these three factors contributed to her relationship choices and ultimately uncovering patterns that at first glance didn’t look like patterns at all. Her ability to give herself the time and bandwidth to think about her situation also provided her deeper introspection that she needed to install lasting change. Emily was also able to recognize how she lost – and eventually – found her voice. Despite feeling uncomfortable during the process, she knows it was and continues to be a needed process. She feels positive about her future.
And so will you.