Relationship Connection: I’m self-destructing after my divorce

Question

I got divorced almost two years ago, and it ended pretty badly. While I was married, my wife and I attended couples counseling. After the divorce, I kept going to counseling for a few months.

Ever since my divorce, the relationships in my life with my family, friends, and girls I have dated have suffered. I started feeling disengaged with my family and friends; and the girls I tend to be attracted to are not the best for me, but I feel it’s the best I can do. These relationships begin to feel self-destructive after only a few weeks.

One of the girls had a rough past that involved abuse and drugs and another had a lot of family issues and personal baggage. My family is constantly asking me to try harder for a girl that I want and not settle. But, once again, I feel it’s the best I can do.

I’m constantly slipping between being depressed and being as close as I can to being OK. My family, friends, and co-workers are getting really concerned for my well being, as they tell me often, and I just feel there’s nothing I can do to change anything. I appreciate any feedback you can offer.

Answer

It sounds like your divorce knocked you down for the count and it’s been difficult to get back up. It’s time to slow down, get your bearings, and set your course for a brighter future. Life can improve after divorce, but only if you are willing to do the work it takes to take honest inventory of your behaviors so you don’t keep repeating the same patterns that keep you stuck.

Please recognize that recovering from divorce is often more difficult for men than women. Men don’t usually have strong social support systems, aren’t given permission to share their emotions, and are more impulsive and reckless when coping with difficult emotions. Your physical health, emotional health and relationships will continue to suffer if you don’t take corrective action.

First, I recommend you start with your physical health. This is the easiest area to control. Depression is a serious condition and can have deadly consequences. Men who divorce are more likely to attempt suicide, have high blood pressure, and die from heart attacks. The stress on your health cannot be ignored, so make sure you are taking care of yourself by getting to bed on time, eating healthy food, and exercising.

Clean up your environment so you are surrounded with peace and order. Don’t let your living environment turn into the worst kind of bachelor pad. Make your bed, do your dishes, keep the floor clean, and fold your laundry. You will feel a sense of accomplishment in these small efforts.

Next, since you are jumping from one romantic regret to another, make a commitment to take a temporary break from dating. You can always date later when you’re grounded and have better judgment.

In the meantime, spend time with people who are safe, such as family and guy friends who will bring you back to your best self. Don’t spend time on dating sites and trolling for love in the wrong places. This is just a way to medicate your loneliness and shame. Trust that as you become a healthier person, you will position yourself to find a healthy partner.

You might also consider going back to counseling to learn how to grieve, cope with the trauma of divorce, discover blind spots, and uncover any patterns that will sabotage you in the future. You can also use your counselor as an accountability partner to help you stay on track when your vulnerability takes over and you are tempted to give in to behaviors that would sabotage your growth.

As you spend time around healthy people, you are essentially “borrowing their brains,” as yours is temporarily compromised. Open up to them about your thinking, your feelings, your fears, and your desires. Ask them for feedback about your life and let them mirror back what they see in you.

Your life took an unexpected turn when you divorced. Don’t let this detour turn into a dead-end by ignoring all of the warning signs along the way. Slow down, honestly assess your situation, and reach out for guidance so you can heal and build healthier future.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • anybody home March 11, 2015 at 10:19 am

    There’s information missing here. If the divorce ended badly (divorce almost never ends “goodly”) did the reason have anything to do with being attracted to the kinds of women you’re attracted to now? Infidelity? Being a jackass? Maybe what’s happening is not really new. More information needed. But in any case, taking a break from dating is a good suggestion from the doc. If you seriously want your life to improve, you’re the one who will have to do the work. Two words come to mind: Grow Up.

  • Mesaizacd March 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Oh shut up wanna be Dr Phil

    • anybody home March 11, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      Why do you keep insulting me? Do you know me? Have I done something to you? Please speak up.

      • CaliGirl March 11, 2015 at 6:45 pm

        Don’t take that troll personally, MESAIZACD has a big spoon and is always trying to stir the pot. Your above response is true; divorce doesn’t usually end up goodly. Two unhappy people does not = a happy marriage… it just gives you someone to blame it on. And MESAIZACD is probably the guy who got dumped! Couldn’t blame the girl.

        • anybody home March 11, 2015 at 8:35 pm

          Thanks…You’re probably right about the troll. Trolls begone!

  • Bender March 11, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Slightly disturbing looking people in the stock photos up top. Reminds me of the imagery used in “click bait” advertising.

  • ladybugavenger March 12, 2015 at 12:02 am

    I would say the guy was self destructing before the divorce but just didn’t know it, now its turned so blatant that he sees it.

  • Hataalii March 12, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Before you can be happy with someone else, you need to learn how to be happy with yourself. Friends and family that are pushing you to “find a nice girl and settle down,” may mean well, but the advice they are giving is bad.
    Forget about getting a girlfriend/wife/significant other for a while. You have your whole life ahead of you, and an awful lot of “senior citizens” wind up finding the “right one” and being happily married.
    Concentrate on relaxing and doing the things that YOU want to do. Like to travel? How about backpacking, fishing hunting and atving. Now is the perfect time to get into this, or if you are already into it, then get out and do it. Golf? How about taking some night classes at Dixie? Or learning to fly?
    Man don’t limit yourself. You have the perfect opportunity to get out there and do “guy things,” either by yourself or with a friend. Learn to enjoy your alone time. Solitude will give you a chance to really get to know yourself.
    And one more thing. Once you get comfortable with yourself, with your life as a bachelor, is when you are much more likely to meet “the right one.”
    Don’t be afraid to meet your “needs as a man.” Just don’t figure that you have to marry the first gal that will hop into bed with you. In fact, your most economical relief might be taking a trip to one of the “ranches” in Nevada.
    If that is against your religion, then well, I’m sure you can figure it out.
    Good luck, and remember some of the happiest people in the world are NOT MARRIED.

    • arrowone March 12, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      More than likely he doesn’t have any money to do the things you suggested after the divorce.

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