Submitted by Delaine
Do you ever wonder if staying in an unhappy marriage for years has made you blind to warning signs as you date again? Are you so accustomed to ‘dealing with’ relationship issues and compromising who you are/what you need, that you continue dating someone who’s already bringing you down?
Take Chuck for example, a man who recently wrote me asking for counsel around a woman he’s been dating for a month now. Although he really likes this woman, to his chagrin, she doesn’t like receiving oral sex. When he tried to talk to her about it, she closed the conversation and laughed: “Hey, consider yourself lucky – I’ll never make you do it so you’re off the hook.”
Then, to make matters worse, he’s noticed that they can be in the same room for hours without her wanting any kind of physical contact – not even as much as a hug. What do you think of her behavior, Delaine? he asked. “What can I do to make things better?”
I first suggested that perhaps her disinterest in oral sex stemmed from a really bad past experience…or maybe she’d even been sexualy abused. And as for her non-affection, perhaps that would change over time as they got to know each other better. It sounded to me like they needed to have a good talk.
But he quickly rejected my suggestions. Instead he was focused on what he what he could do to ‘fix her’ and change her. And that’s when I heard alarm bells. “Chuck,” I wrote, “Since this is the first woman you’ve dated since separating, do you really think your time/energy is best spent trying to ‘fix’ someone? And by the way, you can’t fix or change anyone; she has to want to do it herself.”
Still, he ignored me – he was convinced that if he DID or SAID something specific, these issues, HER issues, would go away.
I probed deeper,asking about the dynamic between he and his wife during their marriage. No surprise, he said he spent his marriage trying to please her, yet always felt he came up short; that despite his ongoing efforts, nothing he said or did was good enough to meet his wife’s needs or expectations. He was accustomed to feeling inadequate and unworthy.
Thus I use Chuck’s case to caution those who are new to separation and dating again: even though you swear you’d never date someone like your ex again, you can unconsciously end up in the same kind of dynamic yet again, even if on the outside, your new relationship looks very different. That’s why it’s imperative you make the time to consciously keep doing your ‘inner work.’ Your marriage trained you to be and act a certain way, probably for a significant part of your life – and you’ve probably grown accustomed, possibly even addicted, to feeling crappy about yourself in many ways while in a relationship.
So remember to put getting to know YOURSELF at the top of your list as you get back out there and date. Be curious about YOU, pay close attention to what things do and don’t make you truly happy, and be aware of any triggers or sore spots when you’re in someone’s company. And if EVER you start contemplating what YOU can do or say to change someone else, give yourself a shake. You did NOT go through all the pain of divorce just to end up in another unhappy realtionship, whether it’s for three weeks or three years.
Delaine – www.iamdivorcednotdead.com