Separated But Thriving: The importance of figuring out what comes next.
During the final moments of disintegration of a marriage or relationship it can seem as if the world is ending. In all directions there is confusion and disappointment. One can also throw in some feelings such as regret, shame and a sense of failure. All these feelings may well be relevant, and even serve a purpose, however you are going to survive. The is going to be a ‘tomorrow.’
You are going to move past this time in your life by planning for the coming period and ensuring you come out of this well positioned for the future. So, right from the start let’s acknowledge something: Life goes on. Your children, friends, colleagues at work – not to mention members of your own family, will continue to see you and continue to watch you and wonder how you are doing. You’re going to show them how well you can manage this period in your life.
It’s a good plan to approach your new reality proactively. You will work towards making sure this is not so much something that ‘happened to you’, as something you overcame. Right from this point it’s time to make sure you take control of the events in your life, and choose exactly how you present yourself to the world.
Without delving too deep, it’s worth realizing that if you continue to do what you’ve been doing in relationships, you will likely continue to get the same result. When people talk with disdain about rebound dating, and getting into relationships too quickly, it’s usually because the poor sap hunting around so desperately is inevitably going to make the very same mistakes he did last time round. If there’s someone you really like at the end of marriage, the best thing you can do is stay as far away from them as possible. I’ve already created two ‘Ex Mrs. Hadley’s. I have no intention of creating another.
So, with this in mind it’s pretty clear we need to go through the same ‘post relationship pattern’ that many millions of people experience at the end of a relationship. This is a set of predictable actions that get played out time and time again. The only thing surprising about them is that we rarely find them clearly defined and detailed. Aren’t you pleased you’re reading this!
So, as we go forward deciding to change a few basics, let’s do a couple of things that will help us in the future. Now, if you follow Separated But Thriving you may have come across this idea before. However, I can’t repeat it enough. Make a list of the reasons the relationship ended. What was it about it that made it an unhappy one? You will want to check this list in future. Most people’s IQ drops down radically when in love, and you might find this list helps you to check you are actually in a relationship you want to be in later. I’m serious, we sometimes need to remind ourselves that dating musicians and artists is not a good idea – even though we always date them, the relationship is always a disaster and we go right out and do it again. This goes for both men and women. It doesn’t do any harm at all to check in with this list from time to time.
This is doubly true if the ex calls and says, “Errr… by the way, what are you doing tonight….”
It’s not unreasonable to say you might want to have that list tatted onto the back of your hand if the ex keeps reeling you in and you keep experiencing the same horrible feelings you have time and time again. It will help you remember why it’s a bad idea, and failing that it will give the guys in the morgue a good laugh when they find your body.
You might also want to acknowledge that no relationship fails as a result of everybody being totally happy. If you were to magically re-immerse yourself in the relationship, with the same friends, pressures, values and stresses, you’d almost certainly end up exactly where you are now. Just the same as someone coming out of rehab, going back into the same situation that got them into an addiction (a very good analogy, by the way), the result will likely be that they’ll go right around the same process and end up in exactly the same place – it’s just another rotation of the circle.
So, if you really want to do it again just the way you did, feel the way you feel and just get a little older and more tired, and you’re not prepared to make change then great! You don’t need to do anything else!
On the other hand, you could try and do things a little differently. As an experiment, you may want to take a look at some of the people around you and ask yourself a question. Are they making the same errors in their current relationships as they did in previous ones. The answer to this often comes back, ‘hell, yes!’ Just for the fun of it, ask yourself if you’ve been taking relationship advice from these people.
Now we get to the crux of it. At the end of a marriage, or a long relationship, it might well be time to get some new friends. When I say friends, I don’t mean lovers. I sometimes have to spell that out because some people get blinkers on when it comes to good ideas at the end of a relationship. You are going to need a few new friends and some fresh ideas about life.
The next great move at this time in your life is to start doing some of the things you felt deprived of in the relationship. If you really wanted to go sky diving, or learn to ride a recumbent bicycle, and never got to do so, heck now is a wonderful time to through yourself out of a plane. Actually, anyone who wants to ride a recumbent bicycle should through themselves from a plane anyway.
At the end of a major relationship we often see people go through a set pattern. It looks something like this – and for some reason men have the weird idea that it’s only them that experience it. It’s not. Get used to it, guys.
The Post Relationship Pattern:
i. Rapid rounds of dating.
ii. Emerging self awareness and glimpses of spirituality.
iii. Experimentation with relationships and uncharacteristic behaviour.
iv. Developing self-reliance.
v. With the return of prosperity the acquisition of new status symbols which may seem out of character.
vi. Stabilization and eventual growth.
Now, if you look at each of these in detail you can see they not only serve a purpose, but they may even be quite healthy reactions. There’s no reason to think these have to be avoided, they just need to be recognized and managed intelligently. As you look at them you’ll also see they are like a pendulum swinging in lessening frequencies and eventually settling.
In my work at Vancouver Hypnotherapy we see this set of actions played out many times, as well as having experienced it. It’s nice to know what’s happening, even if you don’t particularly agree with the idea. The resulting experiences of this process leave their marks too, and teach their own lessons. Isn’t learning fun!
By the time you are ready to go back into a serious relationship you will have been through these cycles and will be coming into the relationship a very different person to the one that got their heart splattered all over the sidewalk in the last relationship. You’ll be better equipped and more experienced. You’ll also make sure you have a much better outcome.
With all this new knowledge you can now approach dealing with the post relationship pattern might start to look like a good idea. In fact, planning how you might deal with each specific step might not be an entirely dumb idea. While you can’t force them, you certainly can embrace them. Just try and do it intelligently.
Speaking for myself, realizing that I’ve always formed my most important and painful relationships with very powerful and intelligent women I came to the brilliant realization that dating the vulnerable and moronic might be a good idea. This was in that first part of the post relationship pattern. I quickly learned two things. Firstly, neither Match.com nor Lavalife appreciate you listing among the traits you look for in a partner ‘having a lack of personal self esteem and being developmentally subnormal’. Secondly, I realized that actually the problem may be with me, rather than my potential partner.
I realized that I might do better if I tried to change myself, rather than look for a partner that conformed to a set of specifications some may find questionable. This was an important step forward.
It just goes to show, it’s a good thing that you can change no one but yourself. All the same, over the years I’ve repeatedly told both my daughters, ‘never date musicians or artists! Never!’ I find it oddly ironic that they are both remarkably talented in the arts.
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