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In this blog series on new relationships and divorce, we have considered the legal consequences as well as the impact on your family if you enter into a new relationship.
In this third and final part of the series, Family Consultant Leia Monsoon of Family Transitions shares her experience of the emotional impact of dating during a divorce.
A divorce can bring negative, stressful and sometimes destructive emotions. It can be easy to rush into a new relationship to feel some of the ‘good’ emotions which come with someone new.
New relationships bring waves of great neurochemicals, such as oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. They make us feel good, but they are short lived. When the honeymoon period is over, will you really be in a happy healthy relationship which you can enjoy long term?
Going through a divorce may leave you feeling worn out or suffering from low self esteem, especially if it wasn’t your choice to end things. The attention of someone else can be a great pick me up.
Imagine a graph, the baseline is you when you are content in life. Below the baseline is sadness and unhappiness. Above the line is happiness and euphoria.
The downside of meeting someone new when you are at your lowest, or below the baseline, is that you rely on them or the new relationship to bring you back up to the baseline of contentment. That reliance puts you in a vulnerable position and the responsibility of making someone else happy all the time is a heavy weight for another person to bear too. If something goes wrong, sometimes even the slightest thing, you can feel really let down again and perhaps get stuck down an emotional pit.
If, instead, you take time to grieve the relationship that was, experience the loss and understand your part in what may have gone wrong, you will be helping yourself get strong. Learn from the relationship, take responsibility for what didn’t work and come out stronger and more independent.
Hopping from one relationship to another can seem easier than facing up to the sadness and loss, but you are more likely to end up repeating the same unhealthy patterns and having the same issues in any new relationship.
When you are in a long term relationship, you naturally change over time to compliment or co exist and it can be difficult to believe you can make it on your own, or ever be happy again. Rebalance yourself, discover your new identity, let it be all about you, what you like, what you dislike. What’s important to you and even your children if you have them? Who are you and what do you want in life?
Imagine ‘Single You’ as a muscle, it would perhaps be weak as you divorce or just after, but gets stronger and stronger over time and the more you use it. You don’t want to ‘need’ a crutch or a new partner, you want to wait to find someone that you choose to be with. That way, you can be strong muscles together and will be able to support each other.
If you have started dating before you have finalised your divorce take some time to think about things. Try to be aware of how much you are taking or needing from your new partner. How much of the conversation is about how difficult your ex is being, how unfair the situation is or how you are coping? It’s not very romantic and they don’t need to know all the detail of your divorce. They may be sympathetic at first, but it can be hard to hear strong emotions about ex partners, even if it is negative.
Have boundaries about how much you will discuss your ex or the situation with them and instead talk about the tough times to your close friends, family or a counsellor. This will leave the time you spend with your new partner to be a fun, relaxing time where you can learn about each other without being needy or being in the shadow of your ex.
In short, we don’t ‘break’ up, we disentangle. It takes time and it can be painful, ideally take time and let the ends heal before you entwine with someone new.