I’m 41 and been dating 3 years. Most of the woman I meet assume that they can go from a divorce to another long-term relationship and never work on themselves before doing so. The longer someone is in a bad relationship the more work it is going to take to get yourself ready to date and have a healthy relationship again.
I spent 5 years in a 12-step program designed for family members of substance abusers, and even longer in personal counseling. I slowly changed myself into an emotionally healthy person capable of a healthy relationship.
I realize most people are not going to have gone through the level of self-improvement as I have. I do not believe I have unattainable criteria by which I’m judging my dates, and which have been confirmed by other emotionally healthy people. But I wonder if I’m ever going to find someone who admits that both partners in a failed marriage are responsible to some degree. If you’ve been in an abusive situation, you’re going to need to seek help if you plan on having a healthy relationship again.
Here are responses from women when I asked what they had done since their divorce to ensure a better outcome in their next relationship.
“I’ve been divorced for a year, and my ex was such an a–hole I knew I needed to take care of myself a little so just went shopping.” The sad part is she meant it.
“It was entirely his fault, why should I have to do anything?” Next please!
A woman I dated for several months gave me all of the right answers. Turns out she knew the right things to say, but saying them and living them are two completely different things. She had major trust issues with men in general because of how terribly her ex had treated her. This caused communication problems because she was still trying to protect herself from him, even though she was dating me.
How can women (or men) expect to move onto an emotionally healthy relationship when they have only ever been in a bad one without doing anything to change?
Tim, you articulate what I and other midlife daters have found as well. Few are willing to look at their part in a marriage breakdown as it is so much easier to blame the one who “did you wrong.” Since my ex left me (not for another woman), it was easy to blame him for being self-centered and inflexible. But the more I looked inside, I saw I had a hand in our dissolution, even though it was hard to admit it.
I find few people willing to look inside, even if they are in a terrific relationship. It takes courage to face your demons. Although it’s gotten much better in the last few decades, there is still some stigma about counseling. Many people feel they aren’t “broken” so why invest in counseling? The truth is a good counselor can help you become even better than you imagined, clearing out old issues that may be holding you back without your realizing it. In the past 30 years I’ve seen therapists when I’ve been in pain and also when I wanted to make my life even better. But it can be emotionally draining so I can see why many people prefer to not experience reliving painful pasts.
Now, back to the women’s responses to your question. While shopping therapy can be beneficial, not if that’s the only thing you’ve done to heal from the relationship. And even if your ex was the biggest cad, jerk, loser and player ever born, there is still healing to do about what caused you to be attracted to someone like this, or stay with someone like that. If you don’t work on the root causes, you’ll keep finding yourself with the same kind of person, no matter how much you swear you know the signs.
To answer your specific question, I’m biased. I think you are doomed to repeat the same type of relationship issues with the next relationship(s) until you do some reflection, introspection and work on recognizing the causes of your patterns. If someone I’m dating admits he’s never done any personal growth activities, I’m cautious. However, I know the opposite is also a red flag — if someone is constantly enrolled in self-development programs, but makes no changes. They just know the language but don’t practice the principles.
What do you think? Do you think it’s important to work on yourself before entering your next relationship? What has worked for you? How do you respond to a potential suitor who says he doesn’t need to do any reflection and takes no part of the responsibility for his last relationship failing?
Technorati Tags: dating Internet, dating online, senior dating, bbw dating, mature dating, dating over 50, dating over 40, online dating advice, dating after 40, dating after 50, over 40 dating, 40+ dating, dating after forty