For the last three years, I’ve been untangling myself from a bad investment, made on the heels of my divorce. I’m not speaking of high powered financial bets gone awry, I’m talking about relationships that should have been nipped in the bud. Instead, l did what we all have done; because of initial success, I stayed in the game much too long. I kept thinking it would get better while I was dating after divorce.
I remembered those initial spikes of ecstasy, the frenzy and euphoria lasted about four months. Then, when it plummeted, I clung to the hope of returning to the beginning infatuation and all its components: good sex, long talks, heart-pounding anticipation when the phone rang, and the need to be permanently attached at the hip. Instead of reading the writing on the wall, and listening to the anxiety in my gut, I poured fertilizer on it to make it grow, when I should have let it crash and burn.
Such is the tendency in new relationships and dating after divorce, all through divorce recovery. As a divorce recovery coach, I’ve seen my clients do it over and over, now it’s my turn. As I stand up and dust myself off – and try to make sense of what happened – I see that there are three conditions that must be present to make a new relationship endure. Especially after divorce, when you’re so vulnerable, your new relationship must stand firmly on these three pedestals to get the ROI (return on investment) you’d like. If one is missing, you court danger, waste your precious time, and you’ll see your self-esteem shrink.
Finding the Return on Your Investment When Dating after Divorce
- The Knot is missing, and you want the knot to be missing! Call it intuition, unconscious, or gut, the knot is that thing that resides in your belly when things aren’t right. Whether it’s right or wrong, you know it when your most profound needs are (or aren’t) being met. When the knot shows up, beware. It doesn’t make your new potential partner a bad person, but it does give you pause about continuing the relationship against your gut’s better judgement. If you feel the knot in your belly – or a lump in your throat, let the red flags unfurl! Your wise body is trying to tell you, “This just isn’t right.” Pay attention, it’s simple. Bad investment: always a knot when you’re with her or him, or when you think about him or her. Good investment: You are knotless, the best day of any new relationship is when you realize, “I have no knot over this!” You’re on the right track.
- You laugh a lot – and at the same things. His or her sense of humor doesn’t have to be genetically identical to yours, but it’s essential that you both have one – and that you laugh early and often at similar situations. Don’t confuse the real thing, a spontaneous belly chuckle, with the “knotted” laugh – a forced flattery titter. You want to be able to really let ‘er rip with this person. No holes barred, laugh together to the point of speechless tears. Do it a lot, and if you can, you’re doing well on your journey to dating after divorce. It speaks to your comfort level. The best indicator: if you can laugh at yourself and each other during intimate snafus, you’re on your way to a solid foundation.
- It’s easy. A good relationship is easy, a bad relationship is hard. That’s pretty much it. All that time that you spend “working” on it with him or her, watch out. If you’re spending hours dissecting your individual needs now, don’t think it will be any easier in the future. Of course, good discourse between the two of you, about how you can better communicate in future challenges, is essential. When that’s all you discuss, however, it’s time to wonder if this is the right fit. Easy also means relaxed. Yes, we all go through the cool clothes, perfect makeup early infatuation. That’s hardly easy – it’s work! When that show-best-self phase passes, at about 3-6 months, a good relationship morphs into both of you becoming your shoes off self. When you can roll over and say good morning, then jump out of bed and share a cup of coffee without putting on makeup, brushing your teeth or combing your hair, you’ve arrived.
During divorce recovery, you’re vulnerable. You may be lonely, scared, overly joyful to find someone new, or holding back. You’ll bring those feelings into a new relationship. Before you commit to dating after divorce, step back and look at these big three benchmarks that cement a solid good relationship. Enjoy your initial infatuation, but don’t let it pass for real life. After four to six months, listen to your gut and use the three criteria above as a litmus test. If it’s time to cut the cord, do it. If it’s time to step further into a new relationship, do it.
Is your ROI in your new relationship high or low? Be sure all three qualities are present, and enjoy a wonderful new liaison and high ROI. Without any one of them, you’re courting danger. I’m planning to take my own advice next go-round!