I am in the process of getting a divorce from my spouse. We both married young and, as a result, have a young child. We both want this divorce, and I was the one to file. I met this co-worker of mine and we started hanging out and went on a few dates.
We’ve already been intimate and it feels right, but here is my question: Should this be acceptable especially as I’m ending one relationship and starting a new one in just a few short months?
I feel stuck trying to figure out what I really want in life now as I am finding new standards, but a part of me is afraid of being left alone.
Leaving a relationship is a really vulnerable time, and it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve already overconnected to a new relationship before finishing your divorce. I always try and slow people down when they’re leaving a relationship, but it’s hard, in practice, to actually hold that boundary.
I think the biggest reason people jump into new relationships so quickly is due to the deep loss and pain of divorce. In other words, the thrill of new love is a powerful painkiller that numbs the pain of losing a marriage.
Even if you consciously believe that divorce is the best option, there is still grief and loss over losing the dream of a stable long-term marriage.
Look closely and see if you’re using this new relationship as an escape for the relationship pain you’re experiencing with the loss of your first marriage. This takes honesty and courage to admit how you’re mismanaging your pain.
Another risk of moving too quickly toward a new relationship is that it prevents you from learning important lessons from your first relationship. It’s easy to blame your partner and believe that the marriage failed due to his dysfunction.
This is a good time to explore any blind spots you may have that led to the downfall of your union. This is hard work and often requires collaboration with a dear friend who can tell you the truth or a counselor who can ask questions and help you explore your relationship patterns.
You obviously want to do things differently, so make sure you don’t jump into this new relationship and consider it the final solution to your problems.
This is an important time to first figure out what went wrong and then identify what kind of partner you want and what kind of partner you would like to become. This is virtually impossible when you’ve already committed to another person physically, relationally and emotionally.
At a minimum, I recommend you do some reading and pick up a copy of “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk” by Dr. John Van Epp. This will give you a framework for slowing down this new relationship and exploring your vulnerabilities and blind spots that could leave you in the same situation in which you find yourself.
Divorce is traumatic, and there are many things to learn in the aftermath of losing such a significant relationship. Be careful that you don’t numb out in the exhilaration of new love and forget to ask hard questions of your marriage and explore personal weaknesses and beliefs.
This is an important time and you don’t want to fill it with avoidance. It won’t hurt to do this work, even if you’re not ready to give up this new relationship. It will just take tremendous courage and honesty to ask for the room from your new boyfriend while you try and understand what you’ve been through and what you want. He may or may not make the cut, but at least you’ll be that much more certain the next time around.
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.
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