Post-divorce relationships can be tricky.
Go about them in the wrong way and you won’t find the happiness you desire.
If you want to give your next relationship the best chance of success, it’s helpful to explore some of the ways things might go wrong – so that you can avoid them.
Here are 7 reasons your post-divorce relationships haven’t worked.
1. You’re Not Ready
A marriage is a big thing. So is a divorce. You go from thinking that you’ve found your life partner to facing the reality of being single and alone again. This change is not one you’ll be able to get over in an instant. It can take a long time before you fully come to terms with what has happened.
In fact, you will have to grieve your marriage like any other loss. You’ll have to grieve the future you thought you had together, the feelings you had, the person you were married to, and even the lifestyle you had grown accustomed to.
This grief involves going through several stages before your wounds are healed. If you rush into dating and a new relationship before you’ve fully grieved, you’ll struggle to feel the excitement and joy a new love can bring.
If you can’t throw yourself fully into a new relationship, it is always going to feel somewhat disappointing. You’ll assume that it’s not meant to be because, if it were, you’d feel it.
2. Your Expectations Are Wrong
Every new relationship starts with plenty of expectations. That’s natural. But enter one with expectations that are misguided or unrealistic, and you won’t find the happiness you are looking for.
After a divorce, your expectations can be either tainted or rose-colored. Or both. You may have low expectations that reflect the way your marriage broke down. You may expect your new partner to behave poorly because your ex did.
You may think that they will disrespect you, devalue you, or even cheat on you because you’ve learned to expect this from a partner. When you do this, you hold back from committing your heart to this new romantic interest. When you can’t be truly you and let the other person see this, the chances of a happy, healthy long-term relationship fall dramatically.
On the flip side, you can enter a new relationship with expectations that are unrealistically high. You may believe that this person will heal you, be the person you wish your ex had been, and fill the void in your life that was left when your marriage ended.
Only, when these expectations are not met (and they won’t be), you feel disappointed. You question whether this person is right for you because they can’t live up to the vision of a perfect partner you have in your head. After all, you spent years compromising with your ex, why should you have to do so again?
3. You’re Dating The Wrong People
There are lots of people out there who would make a great match for you, but there are far more who would not. If you are struggling to find happiness in a post-divorce relationship, perhaps you keep dating the wrong people. Chances are you are doing one of two things: dating people who are too like your ex or dating people who are very different to them. Neither is likely to end well.
When you date someone who is similar to your ex in nearly every way, you may think you’re doing the right thing. After all, you fell in love with your ex for a reason and if you date someone like them, you’ll probably fall in love with them too, right? Not necessarily.
Sure, they may share many of the traits you liked about your ex and you may experience a welcome sense of familiarity from them, but they will also share some traits that you really dislike. In fact, they may do things that you came to hate in your ex. So you will hate them in this new partner too.
If you go too far in the opposite direction, however, and date people who are totally different from your ex, you’ll face other problems. You may think that you are breaking the patterns of your marriage and starting fresh by dating someone very different, but you risk not having enough in common to really hold a relationship together in the long term.
The key is to find a balance between the traits and interests you liked in your ex while avoiding those you didn’t like.
4. Your Self-esteem Has Taken A Knock
Even the best of divorces can have a negative impact on your self-esteem and the way you think about yourself. It’s likely that you’ve been in an unhappy marriage for a while and this can leave you feeling unsure of yourself and your worth. This is part of the reason why it’s important not to jump too quickly into a new relationship as was discussed earlier.
If your self-esteem has fallen significantly, you may now doubt whether you even deserve to be happy. And when you do head back onto the dating scene or enter a new relationship, you might feel more anxious about it. This can influence how you behave and how others behave toward you, making it more difficult to form genuine connections.
And let’s face it, you might experience lots of false starts before you find the right person. This repeated rejection – as it will feel to you – can make it even harder for you to relax and come out of your shell.
5. Your Struggle To Trust
Your marriage may or may not have ended in betrayal, but it is common to feel a sense of mistrust when any long relationship ends. You trusted your ex to be there for you, to love you, to act in a way that you felt was right. And they broke that trust.
So what do you do? You put up walls around your heart. You tell yourself that you won’t fall for empty words and hollow promises again. You’ll protect yourself first and love second. But no relationship can blossom when one party doesn’t trust the other. And you’ll certainly never feel fully happy in a relationship if you can’t believe and depend on your partner.
6. You Worry How Your Children Will React
If you have children from your marriage, you will no doubt want to put their needs first; particularly if they are young. They may have found your separation quite difficult to deal with and you won’t want to do anything that might upset them further.
This is where a new relationship can prove difficult. Once it gets serious, you are effectively introducing a new father or mother figure into their lives. You may worry how your children will react to this change. Will they like your new partner? Will they resent them? Will they try to force a wedge between you?
These worries can cause you to sabotage a relationship before it reaches this stage. You might not consciously wish to end things, but your concerns can affect your behavior and the way you think about your partner.
7. You’re Enjoying Your Freedom Too Much
Finding yourself single after such a long time can be daunting, but it can also feel liberating. You may be one of those people who relishes all the opportunities that being single brings. You may just love the freedom that it affords you.
And why shouldn’t you? That’s the million dollar question, of course. Because sooner or later, you’ll have people telling you that you ought to “get back out there” and meet someone new. Perhaps you tell yourself this too. Friends or family members may even try to set you up with someone who they claim is a great match. And perhaps they are, but you enjoy your single life way too much right now.
But you humor them, go on a date, and things might go well for a while. But if you’re still yearning to be free for a little while longer, chances are no relationship is going to leave you feeling happy or fulfilled.
Steve Phillips-Waller writes on a whole range of relationship issues at his website A Conscious Rethink including separation topics such as falling out of love with your partner, trust issues, and dealing with betrayal.