The thought of finding love again after a divorce is the dream of many who experience the breakup of a marriage. Some quickly jump back into the dating pool, while others are a bit more cautious, for fear of being hurt again. Many divorced people have an unconscious tendency to hear the “voice” of their previous spouse in the words shared by a new person they are dating. A simple statement that person makes can take them back to something that they had heard from their former partner, which might cause them to take a step back and reconsider pursuing this new relationship. Memories of the problems of that previous marriage can often get in the way of finding love again after a divorce.
The reason this happens is fairly simple to explain.
We all tend to make decisions based on past experiences. This is based on the information we begin implanting in our “belief system” from the time we are born.
When a child burns his or her hands on a stove, they tend to stay away for it for a while to avoid having that experience again. The concept that the stove is hot and can cause pain is implanted in their belief system, which constantly reminds them that there is an element of danger attached to that appliance. This is just one example of the many things that are implanted in this mental library at an early age.
As we get older, we continue to add to this collection of information. When we start driving a car, we learn to gauge how far off an oncoming car needs to be before we try to make a left turn in front of it. If we have had a close call or an accident, with such a turn, we tend to become even more cautious about making left turns. We have learned and stored the concept that our wellbeing might be endangered if we do not allow enough distance.
Likewise, we store information in our belief system about people and relationships. Think back, for a moment, about the first person, outside your immediate family, that stirred an emotional interest in your heart. This may have been when you were in grade school or when you were a little older. You might have shared a lot of things about yourself, feeling certain that they would never tell those things to someone else. When that “relationship” fizzled, and they told someone else the things that you had said, you probably felt betrayed. When such things happen, it is common that people choose to share a little less about themselves with the next person in whom they took an interest. The memories of that first painful “breakup” are implanted in our belief system with such strong feelings that they tend to produce elements of anxiety at the thought of being hurt so deeply again. The more times we deal with these early life experiences, the more cautious we tend to become about similar situations in the future.
Then we find our “true love!”
Ultimately you find that person you that know in your heart is your true love! While you might find yourself a bit thoughtful about being hurt again, you decide to throw caution to the wind and take a chance! This is it! You fully invest yourself in this relationship and get married. This does not mean that you might hold just a few things back in that emotional commitment, based on past experience, but for the most part you fully invest yourself in this relationship. Then, as time goes by, perhaps many years later and after having children, things go south. This might be caused by economic strains, the sense that you are “growing in different directions” or because the other person “strayed” with another. The number of reasons behind breakups have filled any number of different books. The reason might have been that the other person never fully matured in the way you thought they should. Whatever the cause, divorce becomes the solution to the problem.
Many people do not think about divorce as a grief generating issue.
Certainly a large number of people struggle with the many emotions they experience before, during and after a divorce. They might feel that they have lost a partner, a love, a sense of security, a former confidant or even a former friend. No matter how logical the reasons for a divorce, the list of emotional losses that come with it can be extensive and overwhelming. This is something that people often try to ignore, but it is still there. You might find your friends giving you logical reasons why you should discount those feelings and move on with your life, but that rarely makes it easier. Believe it or not, these lists mirror the things that people are often told to “get over” the death of someone they deeply loved. A divorce is very much like a death, with the exception that the other person is still alive to sometimes “haunt” you!
As you look towards the future in forming a new relationship (or your friends try to convince you that your happiness depends on finding a new person to love), it is important to keep something in mind: you cannot begin to build a new and lasting relationship until you have effectively grieved and “completed” the unfinished business in that last relationship that was lost! If you fail to do so, you will continually be carrying the emotional pain and problems of that last relationship into the new one, undermining it from the start!
The legal action of divorce does not fully address your emotional pain.
Again, think about that first “love” you had as a child, and how you held back a little of yourself when you met the next person who interested you. Your belief system was already implanting at an early age that you needed to protect yourself from future emotional pain. After a divorce, you are carrying an enormous level of emotional pain inside, even if you hate to admit it. You may feel that the legal action you have taken in divorcing that person has dealt with all of your problems, but it has only dealt with your legal connection and not the emotional issues. Failure to address these emotional connections leaves you in the position that when that next person you meet says anything, you will find yourself comparing these comments to things said by your previous spouse. Even though this is an entirely different person saying something to you, it is not uncommon for a divorced person to always be looking for signals, based on that past relationship, that this new person is “just like the last one!” There is that unconscious tendency to hear the “voice” of your past love in everything this new person says and attach the same meanings to their words, even if, in fact, they mean something entirely different.
How can you effectively “grieve and complete” that last relationship?
The first thought that many people have is that “I don’t have time to do this!” The first truth is that it does not take many months or even years to accomplish this, if you follow a well-directed path. The second truth is that if you really want to build a new, lasting and loving relationship, it is essential that you take this action, or you will run a far greater risk in it failing as well.
“Moving On,” By Russell Friedman and John W. James, offers this direction and an effective action plan for accomplishing this. The subtitle says it all: “Dump Your Relationship Baggage and Make Room for the Love of Your Life!” The authors of this book, who both went through divorce, followed this action plan to accomplish exactly that in new marriages.
Unlike divorce support books or groups, that intellectually “support” you in reliving the emotional issues of your divorce, this book takes an entirely different direction. The first part of the book deals with the intellectual reasons for the failure of a relationship regarding all of the information stored in your belief system, based on a lifetime of dealing with other people. It does this, not in the form of a text book, but rather in conversationally speaking to your heart, as well as your head. It then moves into the necessary actions you need to take to deal with your broken heart, concerning that relationship lost, so that you do not carry that emotional pain into your next relationship. The authors do not just tell you what to do, but instead walk with you in this process and explain why each step is valuable on an emotional level. As was said above, they both followed this action plan to deal with past loves so that they could build new and lasting loving relationships with the loves of their lives.
If you are truly looking at finding love again after a divorce, take the time to read this book and follow these action steps. When you have taken effective action to deal with your past relationship(s) that caused you emotional pain, you will be in a far better position to fully invest in a new relationship. It will make it possible to hear the voice of this new person from a fresh perspective, not colored by the pain of the past. It will allow you to build a new love that is not in any way colored by the unmet dreams and expectations of your past marriage.
If you share children from that previous relationship, it will also make it easier to work with your past spouse in raising those children together, rather than your children being caught between the both of you both and your problems of the past. It will allow you to deal with your past spouse as another person, rather than as someone with whom you had been in conflict or someone who broke your heart. This is understandably a healthier situation for everyone.
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