When a marriage ends, one of the most natural tendencies is to look for another one. Despite the problems associated with divorce:
Feelings of rejection
Child care and custody complexities
…there still is a heartfelt desire to be known and loved by another. Even something as mundane as having another person to talk to about the day can feel like a vacume during and after seperation and divorce. You don’t realize how much identity you derive from being a union of two people, no matter how dysfunctional the prior relationship might have been. So the natural desire is to gravitate back towards that identity. Sexual desire also builds intensity into the desire for a new relationship. Honestly, many stories I have heard from persons involved in failing marriages report that sex is one of the parts of the relationship that suffocates fairly early in the death process. So a person coming out of the melodrama desperately hopes for the Hollywood ending.
However, Hollywood speaks in two languages: manufactured fantasy and junior high melodrama. The first is lived in front of the camera and filled with contrived stories fitting a particular structure to make it interesting and make money. The second plays itself out in private reality and seems to be filled with a form of serial monogamy… which isn’t really monogamy at all. Although the above is a generalization, it seems to be a common perception of most folks not living their lives in front of a camera and living east of Bakersfield.
Although our desire for another relationship is natural…that doesn’t mean it is best nor that rushing right into another love will work out. At the Divorce Care group I attended last night, the material presented left a fairly depressing picture of the success of new marriages. The dvd listed percentages for successive marriages:
70-something percent of 2nd marriages end in divorce
80-something percent of 3rd marriages fail
90-something percent of 4th marriages also….
Wow… and judging the mullet worn by one of the guys in the dvd, those are probably not current stats. That is scary. Personally, I never want to feel this way again. The dvd then gave some suggestions about how we can determine we are ready to date. The time frame suggested was 1 year for every 4 years in the prior marriage….so, for me that would be about 5 years.
They did mention, however, that doing the necessary work on yourself to become healthier could shorten that time frame. That work as I see it is:
- To take suffient time to grieve the loss of your dreams. This means more than the loss of your former spouse. I have mentioned in another post, that I have been surprised at how the loss of the reality of “home” has hurt. I wasn’t expecting that, because I took the concept for granted. It was part of my reality for most of my life. Holiday dinners with me at the table are no longer a reality. Its like my place in the picture has been cut out and another person’s picture has been put in its place seated with my kids at each side. While I don’t care about new relationships Greta has or will have, and the hurt is gone, I never thought about the way the new reality would play itself out. That is how grief works. It comes and goes in waves when you least expect it. One way you know you are ready to date again, according to the dvd, is when you aren’t living in the past anymore. That is hard to put a date on.
- Another facet of leaving behind the failed marriage, is to be honest about my own failures in the past and current weaknesses. Who am I, right now. Failures need forgiveness from God and myself. But I also have to be honest about doing the work necessary to manage life effectively. I will take myself into a new relationship, if one comes, and I must be sure I manage my life when it comes. Looking for rescue, or someone to “complete” me is disrespectful to my own capabilities and ignores the good which can come from the pain I have suffered. It is very easy to allow the comfort and excitement of feeling accepted and cared for by someone who is beautiful and vivacious and funny, and smart, and….uh…..sorry. It’s easy for a new relationship to distract us from the work we need to do on ourselves and life structures to be healthier in the long run.
- I must learn how to carve out boundaries in my life. Actually, I need to understand that I need boundaries, what that means in daily life, and the skill it takes to treat myself with respect. Love is built upon mutual honor and respect. If I am unsure that I am loved by God unconditionally and that He has created me with innate value, then my expectations of someone else will never be met. I am beginning to believe that there are some things I should only tell God, because he always loves me, and He can work with me in the healing process.
In Donald Miller’s newest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he tells of a relationship which grew serious and then broke. He explains a bit of the emotional process… the emotional numbness initially… and then the switch that seemed to open the pain. I am so tired of that process. The waiting… I know its coming… and then the fight to stop wollowing in it. Miller noticed that he felt like he had control in the pain, as if it were a blanket which brought a strange comfort. Getting back into life meant once again battling with uncertainty. I GET that. I tire of the process of getting back up. But I will always get back up.
For good or for ill, I am a fullback… I lead with my head…. and keep coming back for more… well… hopefully not more of the same….