I never in a million thought that I would be 4o something and single. It was not a goal of mine when I was younger. No one grows up thinking, I want to get married, divorce and spend my middle years alone. However, more and more now days people are finding themselves in this situation. I have found myself as a single parent for the majority of the last 8 years. Although this is not something that I aspired to, it is a part of who I am, for good or bad, I have learned a lot of lessons through my experiences.
I am asked constantly by the newly divorced, and friends that are getting married for the first time, if I have any advice for them. I find it interesting that they come to me, and I think it is wise. Where it is always beneficial to seek the insight of someone who has made something work well, I think it is equally important to seek retrospect from those that have experienced the other side as well. Learning what to do right and how to avoid disaster go hand in hand.
I wanted to share a few of the lessons that I have learned along the way. These are just my personal thoughts and don’t necessarily apply to everyone, but they seem to be more universal than not.
He’s Just Not That Into You
He’s just not that into you. This is a HARD lesson to learn. When a guy is truly into you, he will pursue you. He will make sure that you know that he is there. He will take time to text, call and make arrangements to see you. If you find yourself seeeking him out, give it up. He is stringing you along and doesn’t have interest. When a man is into, there is no need for you to pursue him. You WILL BE a priority. If you wonder and have to ask where you stand with him, the answer is NOWHERE. He WILL let you know. This is the hardest one to learn to just let go. We keep trying to convince ourselves that if we try a little harder, he will get it. He won’t. Take a day to eat chocolate and icecream out of the container, then get your wits together and move on.
Believe People When They Show You Who They Are
When people show you who they are, believe them. I am all for giving someone the benefit of the doubt. However, when someone shows a pattern of behavior, PAY ATTENTION. You are going to come across people in your life that always say the right things at the right times. However, remember, actions always speak louder than words. Do not doubt patterns. This goes for both good and toxic behavior.
Marry For Consistency, Not Potential
Don’t be with people for their potential. Women often choose men for who they could be and not who they are. We love to see potential in people and think of what life could be like if they only did X, Y and Z. That is a recipe for disaster. If you are with someone because someday they could be a phenomenal person if they change or adapted X, Y or Z, STOP! People can change, but generally don’t. So, ask yourself, if this person never reaches the potential that you see in them, are you ok with that? Be real with yourself. A moment of pain now is SO MUCH better than a lifetime of sorry.
Pay Attention to Red Flags
Pay attention to the red flags. If you see a red flag, don’t dismiss it, don’t justify it and don’t excuse it. I am not saying that it is a deal breaker, but keep it in your mind. Too often we look back at relationships and see where we ignored red flag behavior. Had we just indexed it into our brains, we could have saved ourselves a great deal of pain and heartache. If you find lies, inconsistencies, unacceptable behavior, etc…. PAY ATTENTION. Now, I undersand this goes both ways. So, take a look at yourself and see what could be potential red flags to someone else. If they matter to you, then change. They will be noticed by someone trying to pursue you. They say to keep your eyes wide open during courtship and partially closed during marriage. Remember THIS is your time to be deciduous.
Listen To Your Gut
Listen to your gut, not your heart and not your brain. One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received is “Feelings can lie to you.” That is very true. Often times we fall in love with someone over our twitterpation. Either they are adorable or charming or we feel amazing by the things that they do and say to us. However, those can be manipulated. I am not saying they always are, but they can be. Our brains can also deceive us. We can justify all sorts of things in our brain. We can make something make sense in our brains and we can make our hearts feel in love, but what does your CORE tell you. If at your core, you are uneasy, have questions or feeling amiss, LISTEN.
Sacrifice- The Good and Bad
There is a huge difference between sacrificing for the greater good of the relationship, and sacrificing who you are. Sacrificing to make things better for both you and your partner is how it should be. You should sacrifice for each other to make things better for both of you and your relationship. However, if you find yourself sacrificing who you are, your interests, your feelings, your needs for the benefit of the other person or making them feel secure, it is not good. It is a toxic relationship and is a recipe for codependency.
Be Careful of Chameleons
Don’t vascilate. Pick who you are, what you want and stick with it. You want someone to care for you how you are….not who you think they want you to be. It is a vicious cycle to start when you try to be someone that you aren’t. With that being said, watch out for someone else who is being a chameleon. Does someone change everything to be like the person that they are in a relationship with? Do they match you on every level that you are on? Do they seem to be too perfect in every way. I am not saying they aren’t, but it may be because they are trying to be who they think you want them to be. Don’t fall victim to someone who is trying to manipulate you.
Never Ever Settle
Never ever ever settle. The best relationships are where both people feel that they are getting the better end of the deal. You want to think that you are with someone amazing, and they will think the same. With that being said, erase your arrogance. Put aside your desire for the GQ multimillionaire that will fly you to a different exotic get away every weekend. Look for someone who compliments you, who loves you, who brings out the best qualities in you, that makes you want to be a better person. Who do you bring those qualities out in? At the end of the day, realize that your perfect person, may be someone completely different than what you have imagined. Be open and flexible to new people. Even though someone isn’t your “type” doesn’t mean that they could be exactly what you need. Remember, your “type” did work the first time.
Dealing With Judgement
People will judge you. People will judge you for being divorce, for remarrying, for who you chose to be in a relationship with, and all sorts of things. Who cares, they don’t know what you have been through, who you have become and the lessons you have learned. It has been very hard for me to admit that I have been been through two failed marriages. People judge and have their two cents. What they don’t realize is that it is now part of who I am and I can not change it, nor would I want to. I have learned so much about me, life, other people and what to do to improve myself. So, learn to let it go and be strong.
Avoid the When Then Game
Don’t get caught up in the when then, if only or what if game. When “this” happens, then I will be happy. If I can do “this” then I will be able to move on with my life. When and if do not exist. Only here and now do. Live life for the moment and be ok with it.
Find Yourself and Forgive Yourself
No one is perfect. In a break-up/ divorce we generally focus on what the other person did to do us wrong. We are quick to point ou their flaws and what they did to contribute to the demise of the relationship. Now, more often than not, one person usually carries the bulk of the fault. However, to grow as a person and to reach inner peace, learn to acknowledge who you are, what you could have done better, fix that and let it go. Face your faults, and move forward with a greater knowledge. Look for patterns in your choices and patterns of behavior. Are you doing toxic things or consistently seeking out wrong choices for you, figure out where your issues are and STOP THEM.
Take Care of Yourself
Put yourself first. This sounds so selfish, but when you think about it logically, it really isn’t. Make sure your needs are taken care of. Keep yourself mentally sharp and calm. You are not able to help or be there for anyone if you are a mess. Remember, it says, put yourself first, not put yourself only. Just like in an airplane. In the case of an emergency, put your own mask on before helping others with theirs. You are unable to help others, if you are mentally unresponsive. Take time for you, if you do not, no one else will.
Communication is the Key
Communication is key. Communication is hard and makes us vulnerable. So often we don’t want to have hard conversations because we don’t want to offend the other person or make them uncomfortables. However, it is key. Communication is the way to work through things. I love the Covey habit of Seek First to Understand, then be Understood. Ask the questions, clarify, find out what the other’s perspective is, talk it out. If the other person is unwilling to communicate, and it is a consistent issues, look at that. Dating is when someone is putting on their best front. If they are having issues with communication then, it will only get worse as time goes on. Ask the hard questions. Give the hard answers. Find the courage to ask the questions and express what you truly want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can as you can avoid misunderstanding, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
Stay Confident in Yourself
Stay confident in yourself. Divorce, dating and the consideration of remarriage are hard stages to go through. It is an experience that brings us through the circle of emotions. Stay confident in yourself and know that just because someone isn’t on your same track, it doesn’t make your value any less.
Honesty and Respect
Be completely honest, but respectful of your significant other’s feelings. Honesty is always the best policy. Just because someone else doesn’t feel the same way you do about the situation doesn’t make them wrong. It doesn’t make you right either. Mutual respect is the basis of any successful relationship whether romantic or otherwise. Validate and acknowledge what someone is feeling and decide if it is a game changer for you or not. If you feel that you are not listened to, validated or respected… Move on.
You Affect Your Children
Your attitude affects your kids. This has been a hard one for me. Children are far more receptive to what is going on than we give them credit for. They love you as a parent and will reflect your attitude. Do your best to be positive and loving and keep your chin up. Remember, this is your child’s ONLY shot at childhood. It is your responsibility as a parent to make it a great one for them.
Attitude is Everything
You can either laugh or cry. I am usually too tired to cry and I am not a cute crier. Life can get overwhelming and it can get to the point of dispair at times. When we have tried so hard, sometimes in vain, to make something work in our favor and it just doesn’t work, we get upset. It is hard to be a mid single. However, I have learned through 8 years of relationship instability, that there are two ways to handle things. I used to get upset and cry and wallow (I still have a good cry day every once in a while) but now, I just can’t do it anymore. I find myself laughing at things that happen. Just when things can’t get any worse, and then they do, I find myself chuckling. I can’t fix the situation, so I have two choices, cry or laugh and move on. I choose to laugh.
Assuming is a Deadly Sin
Don’t make assumptions. Assumptions is the basis of all mess ups. The problem with assumptions is that we believe them to be the truth. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, then we react by sending emotional poison with our words. This causes a big old fat drama for nothing. I can’t tell you how many times a seemingly amazing relationship has been blown to bits all because someone assumed incorrectly of the other person.
Trust someone until they give you reasons to not trust them. A relationship is doomed to fail if you go in with mistrust. They are not your ex. Do not treat them like they are. Going into a relationship with a preconceived notion that they are going to be just like someone that you had a bad experience with is not ever going to work. Without trust, you can not have a relationship. The only thing you can have without trust is a strategy.
Learn to Be Alone
Being alone isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, enjoy it! There are so many things that you learn from not having a romantic partner. Do not let your happiness be dependent on your relationship status or whether or not you have a date on Friday night. Use your alone time to become the best you that you can. Go to dinner and a movie on your own. Take a road time on your own. Spend time with just you and your kids. Be ok with you. Be happy with just you. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you don’t want to move on until you have a partner. Don’t expect someone to come in and save you. Buy that house, take that vacation, explore that hobby. You won’t be happy with someone if you aren’t happy without yourself. Suck the marrow out of being single.
Don’t Stay Too Long
Marriage will not fix a problematic relationship. Just like we all shake our heads when someone has a baby to improve their marriage, your relationship won’t improve by getting married. If you feel like you and your significant other need to go to counseling before you get married, run. Run run run. Don’t marry your best friend and don’t marry your crush. Marry your partner, your equal and your confidant. It is ok to call it quits. If it isn’t working, have the courage to move on. My dad always says that you can’t swim to the other side of the pool if you are still holding onto the edge.
You are WORTH IT!
At the end of the day, REMEMBER you are WORTH IT! You are worth being on the front burner and not moved to the back while they explore other options. You are worth the effort. You are worth the text messages and calls. You are worth patience and effort. You are worth being treated kindly. You are worth being put as a priority. And, the person that you choose, is worth it too.