Dating Again after Divorce
I never knew that at this time in my life I would be writing about how I survived a breakup. After a separation and impending divorce, my children convinced me that I should be trying to date again, but dating was the last thing on my mind. Eventually, I followed their advice and went to the Craigslist “strictly platonic” section of the personals to meet someone, having no expectations that anything would come of it. I certainly didn’t think it would ever get as serious as it did.
And that is how I met a man about my age and started out as platonic friends—he was tall, easy to talk to, intelligent, had a dry sense of humor, and did interesting and fun things. Since he was out of state when we first met online, we decided to meet up on his upcoming return to my city, which was also his hometown. We decided to meet and go for a walk in the park because he lived close to the park. I, of course, had been sensible and made sure I had left his name and phone number with one of my kids before I left.
The walk went very well—in fact, though we walked several miles, the time passed quickly. We found that we knew at least one person in common—as such, he felt safe to me. When he went back out of state to complete his move back here to San Francisco, we texted daily and communicated by IM, developing more and more of a bond. I soon took a huge leap and agreed to join him on his drive back—a trip of a few days.
This might seem naive on my part but I felt that I was a good judge of character and could trust him. And to be fair, he was a perfect gentleman and didn’t get out of line at all. He was easy to talk to and easy to travel with, and I felt I could be myself with him. After some little while, we soon became much closer and continued to date after his move back here.
After a while and with my inexperience in the dating world, I thought that what we were having was a relationship. That was my first mistake—he had clearly stated that he was NOT ready for a relationship and I agreed that neither was I. (That’s what my head said, anyway.) But, what many women don’t realize is that our emotions (fueled by our hormones) are speaking another language than our brains are!
There is a pesky little hormone that is released when two people have a physical relationship—sex, fondling, even kissing can trigger it—that is called oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone. This is the same hormone that is released by our bodies when we give birth, and its purpose is to bond a mother to her newborn child. What I found surprising is that, even though I had some doubts whether this was the right man for me, I felt a “chemistry” with him. I assumed that he was feeling the same way and must surely be as committed to me as I was to him. And he did seem to be, for a while.
But as it turned out, after a few months of feeling very close and contented, he began to seem impatient or angry with me, and I started to notice that I wasn’t always being invited out to special events and trips with him any more. In fact, one time I noticed that he had a pair of tickets on his entrance table that he hadn’t mentioned to me. I didn’t think anything of it since he was still with me and I had assumed we were in an exclusive relationship. (In retrospect, I wonder whether he was dropping a hint with those tickets.)
When he admitted he had been seeing someone else, we had a terrible fight and I walked out. This is where I made a really HUGE mistake—I second-guessed myself. Instead of trusting my intuition and standing firm on my boundaries of what I expected from a relationship, I tried to win him back. I read everything I could on the subject, figuring that if I had only done something differently, he wouldn’t have pulled away and left to pursue someone else.
Even though, as I said before, I wasn’t even sure that this was the right man for me, but when he started to pull away, I reacted. The hormones that I talked about earlier were telling me that this couldn’t possibly be happening—and it hurt like hell to be torn apart when we were supposed to be bonding! And so it went for nearly two years! I couldn’t go on like this.
And, so, for about a year and a half after I had broken up with this man, we were still “friends” (without benefits—I do have my limits!) while he got into one ongoing relationship after another. I mistakenly felt that, if I gave him enough time, he’d eventually wander back to me because, after all, what we had had was special (so I thought, anyway). When I wouldn’t contact him for a while or be available, he would get curious and start texting or messaging me again. This behavior, however, did nothing but keep my hopes alive and I only was able to halfheartedly attempt dating someone else.
So How Did I Survive A Breakup Finally?
In my reading and online research (where I discovered “Why He Disappeared” by Evan Marc Katz—an excellent resource—plus tons of articles focusing on how to “keep your man” or “get him back”), I stumbled upon the Dating Without Drama, an e-course that, as a bonus, had an online forum where women who had recently gone through a bad breakup or were trying to learn how to date again successfully, without all the drama, could get together and talk about their experiences and provide emotional support and advice to each other on a private online message board. Those wonderful women were a big part of how I survived a breakup.
On that forum, I met many amazing women who gave me good advice and helped me see that I was not alone in my relationship troubles. While there was a host of wonderful friends on that site, the best and most helpful advice came from one woman named Robin, who had discovered that a little method called NO CONTACT was the best way to recover from breakup trauma while tearing down the emotional bonds that hold us hostage after a relationship has ended.
About the same time, I found that this man was dating a much younger woman now. Finally, along with my determination not to continue feeling like a fool and not wanting to compete with somebody 20 years younger, I had had ENOUGH. I instituted the no-contact method.
What is No-Contact? It’s just what it sounds like. No contact. Period.
I immediately unfriended this guy from Facebook, blocked him, and ignored his texts asking where I had gone to. The only text I sent was to say that I’m not going to compete any more, and basically get my head out of the sand and start living my life. It was not easy. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done—giving up hope and throwing in the towel—because I like to WIN and not give up and admit defeat. But you know what? That is the moment when I started to heal. I highly recommend it because it’s the only way to break free of the chains of a broken relationship. Seriously. No Contact.
So What Have I Learned?
1) The first thing I learned was to listen and pay attention to what a man says right at the outset. You will learn a lot and save yourself a lot of grief. Remember that this man said, “I am not ready for a relationship”? He wasn’t lying. I thought that I could change his mind or that I was different and special enough to make him reconsider—none of that matters. He had told me right away what I was in for, but I ignored it and didn’t listen.
2) Chemistry isn’t everything. Your hormones will fool you into thinking that this is the only man on earth for you. It isn’t true. For this reason, I suggest waiting for at least six months before becoming intimate with someone. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. It will save you a lot of heartache when his bonding hormone peaks and then declines and yours is still going strong! If you choose to become intimate earlier, be prepared for the “honeymoon” to end at about 6 months (sometimes 3, sometimes as late as 9, depending on the couple) and for that initial glow of excitement and intensity to fade to a feeling of more like a dull routine. Couples who can stay together and keep their heads on straight past this point have gone over a huge hurdle. It is at this point that people often get bored, feel they have made a mistake, and have to start all over again with a new person to keep that initial thrill going.
3) Don’t sell yourself short and hang around where you aren’t receiving the treatment you want or expect. You can become a very unattractive version of yourself if you desperately try to hang on to a relationship after it’s obviously over and you’re not getting your needs met. The best thing you can do is to pick yourself up and move on, by whatever means necessary. In my case, it was no-contact that got the ball rolling and, sure enough, a few months went by and I started to wonder what I had seen in this guy in the first place and I was embarrassed at how much I had tolerated. The spell was broken.
4) Don’t be afraid of being alone. I had been married just about all my adult life and couldn’t imagine being single again, and then this breakup just about did me in. I read all the books I could find on self-help, got a good therapist to vent to, and went out on dates and activities whether I felt like it or not. What I discovered is that I not only was able to live alone, but that I actually enjoyed it most of the time and did a darn good job at taking care of myself. I learned a lot about my own strengths and what I could handle.
5) Even though there are some not-so-quality people in the dating arena, there are still plenty of nice ones. During this time, I met a lot of interesting characters and some decent guys but either I wasn’t interested or they didn’t call back. That bothered me at first but now I understand that it’s not unusual. On one hand, men have a lot of options, with single women outnumbering men, or many don’t put themselves out there because they are afraid of being rejected. That doesn’t mean there are no good men out there. You just need to be patient and hold to your standards (see #6).
6) A must-have list is essential! One of the exercises I had done along with my reading was to make a must-have list. This started out with the obvious “red flag” list of things that I would not tolerate: druggies, boozers, cheaters, etc. Then, I created a list of must-haves: must have a good relationship with parents, must love animals, must not lie or cheat, to name just a few. Some might find it helpful to create a vision board to go along with the must-have list, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
7) Don’t expect someone to come to you. We’ve all read those dating advice books that say that men must pursue women or the relationship isn’t going to work. While I do advocate finding and getting comfortable with your feminine side (in contrast to your masculine business side) when you looking to date a guy, you can’t expect them to do all the work. Be friendly and approachable and give a little encouragement if someone wants to talk to you. Not everybody is going to be date-material but it’s just common courtesy to be friendly to all the men you meet. Eventually, your patience and persistence will pay off.
Recovery after a Breakup
Now, after having spent more than five years being single, I ended up in a real relationship with a kind and caring man who thinks the world of me. I know he’s the greatest guy for me who shares many of the same experiences and has the same expectations for a relationship that I do.
Yes, there’s great chemistry, but in the end, it’s all about kindness, acceptance, and respect. And that is how real love and commitment grows, and that is how I survived a breakup.