Celui qui a ete mordu par un serpent a peur d’un bout de corde par terre (He who has been bitten by a snake is afraid of a piece of rope on the ground). – French Proverb
Marriage always comes with risks. Few divorcées will tell you that their breakup was smooth sailing; divorce can be a traumatic experience that alters our outlook on life. We enter marriage with the best of intentions, convinced that our relationship is rock solid and unbreakable. On my wedding day, I believed with all of my heart that we would be together forever. Then, somehow, life takes its own course, and we find ourselves feeling like we are married to a stranger.
After my divorce, I was bitter and angry. The uncertainty of the future scared me. Even having to announce our divorce to family and friends in France and in the US became an ordeal. Everyone wanted to know what happened and it became exhausting to repeatedly have such an intimate conversation. I worried about how to protect my girls when I would no longer be involved in their day-to-day lives consistently. I had no idea how to begin rebuilding my life.
Statistically, wives in the US are more likely to file for divorce than husbands. I see similarities in France. In most cases, French wives are the ones who initiate divorce. A divorce is rarely a decision made on a whim. Financial problems are a big contributor to stress and arguments in a marriage. Unfortunately, many couples remain together for the kids, sacrificing their own happiness and fooling themselves into believing that the children won’t notice the problems.
Like many of us, I was one of those men who didn’t believe in therapy. I closed myself off from everyone except my children and I only left the house to go to work. A friend of mine, herself a divorcee, concerned about my isolation, insisted and convinced me to seek therapy. Initially, it felt awkward to sit in a room with a stranger and open up about my pain.
In time, the therapist helped transform me into the optimistic person I am today and my skepticism for therapy was gone. The therapist suggested I push myself to make new friends, go out more, and participate in sports to reduce the level of my stress. While these were not drastic ideas, somehow it felt different to hear them coming from a professional. It was the nudge I needed to get out of my own head.
When I felt ready to date again, I was confronted with a dilemma. My girls were very young and very attached to me. They never saw me with another woman other than their mother. I decided to meet women but kept my children away from my activities. I was upfront with everyone I met about not being ready for a committed relationship. This is a dealbreaker for some women while others feel the same way.
The therapist continued to encourage my new dating life, but also warned me that people who remarry within a year or two of getting a divorce have a higher divorce rate the second time around. In other words, take things slow and avoid impulsive decisions.
In four years of being a single dad, I met different types of divorced women. I soon realized that I did not want to be involved with a single woman who had never been married or had children. I felt that it was harder for them to understand the pressures of co-parenting. It was like speaking French to a person who only spoke Chinese.
I met a successful woman who was also divorced with children. Her kids had already left the nest and were independent. She understood that I was still healing and agreed to take things easy. About six months into the relationship, she asked to meet my children and invited me to her family functions to meet her children. I struggled with the pressure she began putting on me to move the relationship forward. I did not feel ready to introduce her to my children. She ended the relationship because I was not moving fast enough. I understood her decision and we parted amicably.
I let time pass, then met another divorcée. She had an adult son who moved back home after dropping out of college. She warned me that her son was rude toward any man she dates. When I was visiting her, her son would slam doors and text his mother from inside the home to tell her they ran out of milk. Even when she was sure that her son was out of the house, he always managed to surprise us. He would turn up the volume on the television to drown out our conversation. It was a situation that I could not win.
My third divorcée had children in college. Things didn’t work out between us due to the amount of time I spent with my own children. She preferred a man who had more time for her and could make her his priority. My children were too young, and she felt she was competing for my attention. Once again, I had to respect the decision and move on.
Ultimately, dating after divorce looks different for everyone. Be honest about what you want and put yourself out there when you are ready. There is nothing wrong with being on your own and taking time to heal. Most importantly, never rule out seeking professional help when you are in a downward spiral. Getting a therapist’s perspective helped me more than I ever thought possible.
10 Tips to Having a Healthy, Lasting, Romantic Relationship
- Good communication is key. Talk with your partner and listen with intention.
- Share your joy and laugh together.
- Make time for your partner. Create a monthly or weekly date night.
- Demonstrate respect for your partner by listening and valuing their opinions.
- Treat one another with kindness. Be considerate and thoughtful.
- Trust is crucial. You can’t be vulnerable with someone you do not trust.
- Know your partner’s boundaries and respect them.
- Build emotional intimacy with your partner.
- Take responsibility and own your mistakes. It goes a long way.
- Cultivate a friendship first. You will have a solid foundation to build on.
Guy Blaise is an author and Frenchman living and working in America. After two decades of living between France and the United States – and being struck by the differences between two cultures’ approaches to romance and sex – Guy began writing books offering his insights. His new book is Love Like a Man: A Frenchman’s Guide to Help American Men be Better Partners (French Connection Publishing, 2023). www.thefrenchperspective.com