Just Say No… For Now

date after a divorce

My first bit of advice for a person who wants to date after a divorce is:  don’t.  At least not initially, and certainly not before the ink on the divorce decree is dry.  Unless, of course, you want to replay the misery that created the divorce in the first place.      I know that the urge to get back in the game is strong, but it’s probably not why you might think.  It’s not because people are meant to be in relationships, although we are; it’s much more complicated that just that.   

   The biggest reason is psychological.  Most people are terrified of being alone.  When we get out of a relationship, even if we are the one who wanted it to end, it triggers a deep fear that everyone has.  It’s the fear that we are unworthy of love.  It gets implanted in everyone (in our culture at least) when we’re infants or young children.  It can happen innocently enough- we get left to cry in a crib for longer than normal; or it can happen as a result of abuse or neglect.  Even people who had idyllic childhoods have this psychological imprint of being unloved.    

 Even if our partner loves us imperfectly, that frightened part of the personality that experienced feeling unloved will grab onto that love .  That frightened part of your personality is the part that probably made you stay in the relationship for months or years longer than was healthy.  If you unconsciously let frightened parts of your personality run the show, you’ll keep getting opportunities to heal those frightened parts.

 The problem is that if you don’t become conscious of them, you’ll just believe you keep choosing the wrong person.  It’s a classic pattern of behavior.  Psychiatrist Harville Hendrix coined the word “imago” to explain it.  The imago is your subconscious mind’s version of your perfect partner.  This imago is a combination of all the positive and negative traits of your primary caregivers that most affected with you, mixed in with personality traits you want to express but were told long ago are inappropriate

       You’re initially attracted to someone because they express positive traits that one of your parents exhibited, for example.  Then once the honeymoon period is over, you start noticing the negative traits.  In fact, sometimes you project those negative traits onto your partner that aren’t even there!  The negative traits trigger that feeling of being unloved, and you respond by withdrawing or fighting back– the classic “fight or flight” response.

 Eventually, if you don’t take a long hard look at the patterns in the relationship, it will disintegrate.  You move onto the next person, thinking it will all be better this time.  It might take a few months, or a few years, but eventually that fearful pattern will resurface. You can try to ignore it and stuff it back into your subconscious mind, but it’ll just pop up somewhere else.      The alternative is to face your fears, uncover those wounded, fearful parts and heal them.  Stay tuned. Next time, I show you how.

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