Zelena van der Leeden, MC, CDC® and Jake W. Purdy, PMP, CDC® are the Co-founders of Divorce Management, the first multi-lingual divorce coaching firm in North America. Divorce Management operates on a “pay what you can” model offering certified Divorce Coaching and Divorce Transition and Recovery Coaching. Further details can be found on their website.
As I sit here today, the father of four in a perfectly imperfect blended family, I am grateful things turned out how they did. Mistakes were made along the way, but we also did things that enabled us to create a happy space for our new family.
After a marriage you might be itching to get back out there, find someone that gets your juices going and latch on for the ride. Years of self-neglect, needs not being met and a loveless relationship make jumping into something new tempting, but there are risks with that. Starting a relationship might even turn a respectful/amicable separation into a high-conflict nightmare. If you are exploring relationships or already in one, this article might help you avoid some of the pain we experienced and stories we hear from clients.
Illustration by Alisa Zahoruiko via iStock
Many of our clients start relationships soon after separation. Feeling lonely is completely natural, but being alone will allow you to start a self-discovery journey that will help you heal old wounds, learn from your mistakes, grow stronger and become wiser. Before trying to find a new partner, try to get to know yourself better: what makes you happy? What triggers you? What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
A new partner should lighten up your world, but if you don’t know who you are or what you want out of this life, you might end up choosing the wrong partner again. New lovers should not fill voids, nor should they be used to get back at your ex. People who jump from relationship to relationship tend to make the same mistakes and usually wonder why they cannot be with anyone long-term (no wonder why divorce rates skyrocket after the second marriage). There is no timeline for being ready to move on, but we recommend taking six months to yourself: heal and learn to love yourself before giving your heart away again.
Self-care is the path to self-love: take yourself out on dates, exercise, learn something new, volunteer… maybe you have been thinking about taking a course, joining a team or a club. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you should consider talking to a therapist or having an appointment with your medical doctor (trust the experts!).
Understanding where romance falls in your list of priorities is very important. Remember that a day has 24 hours, so take some time to think how much time you want to spend on self-care, on your career, on your family, etc.
Do you have the time and energy to add someone new to the mix? And if you do, what kind of person do you want by your side? How do they make you feel? What do you do together? How do they talk to you? How do they support you? How often do you see them? Visualizing your ideal partner is not just about looks, job titles and income.
If you find someone that checks all the marks, take some time to really get to know them. The honeymoon phase can last anywhere between 6 months to 2 years, so slowing down might let you see your new partner’s true colors before you make any life-changing decisions. You might want to talk to a lawyer before moving in with someone else or consider having a cohabitation agreement that will protect you if things don’t work out.
Do not introduce your new partner to your children until you are sure that this new person fits into your life’s plan. Some kids fantasize about their parents getting back together, so introducing a new partner too soon might backfire. They might think the new partner is to blame for the divorce or for their parents inability to reconcile. The last thing you want is for your kids to resent you or your new partner during these confusing times. You might eventually want to blend your family, but giving the children time to adapt is in their best interest. A child psychologist can give you tools for discussing your love life with the children: how and when to introduce a new partner, what sort of activities to do together and how to ensure you still have quality time with your children without the new partner present.
Another person to consider when you start dating again is your former spouse. Sounds a little strange, doesn’t it?
Now that you are no longer in your relationship, you can do what you want! You have freedom!
Not so fast…
Whether you like it or not, your former spouse holds a lot of power in the separation process and if you trigger them at the wrong time, look out. Emotional intelligence is key when dealing with matters of the heart. Certified divorce coaches can help you communicate delicate matters with compassion and set boundaries to protect your privacy and avoid future problems. When people are hurt they tend to act irrationally and they might try to get back at you by taking you to court, withholding the children or even suing you (we have seen and heard it all!).
This doesn’t mean that you have to live in fear or hide things from your former partner, but if you want a peaceful separation, make sure you are doing everything in your power to maintain the peace and give everyone time to transition into the new family dynamic. Putting yourself in your ex’s shoes might help you understand how your action might play out in future discussions around parenting time, decision making, property division and support payments.
Everyone deserves love and you have been deprived of it for a long time, you might want to jump back into the dating world right away. This is normal, but take a deep breath and start by loving the only constant in your life: yourself. If you focus on nourishing your mind, body and spirit, you will be wiser, kinder and stronger. Confidence and independence are attractive. Empower yourself and the right person will come your way when you are ready. Put yourself out there, but not because you want to meet someone; do it because you want to grow and become the best version of yourself.
Surround yourself with people that energize you and not with those who drain you. Believe that you deserve to be cherished and respected and the right person will come. If they are not right for you, be grateful for the good times you had together and for what you learned from the experience. As cliché as it sounds, there are plenty of fish in the sea and as long as you continue to love yourself, others will want to join in the fun.
Written by: Jake Purdy, co-founder of Divorce Management