Baggage: Now available in a convenient relationship size!
Dating after divorce isn’t for sissies. As if getting to know someone wasn’t complex to begin with, now we have baggage. Baggage is like the term “high maintenance” – it’s open for interpretation. The amount of baggage – tangible or emotional – you believe you have is irrelevant. To one, your baggage may appear to fit in an overhead compartment, to another it may look as though a half dozen Merck storage units will be required. The term baggage has become an excuse, a euphemism for “things I don’t like about you” or, for those truly honest, “things I don’t’ like about myself”. We have baggage, but we can’t keep it all – where would we put it? A short list of things to clean up now:
It’s Time to Move on
If you’re still in love with your ex, cyber stalking them, still have their number on speed dial or – GASP – are still sleeping with them, you should stop reading now because this is going to sting. Exes are exes for a reason. Unlike poetry, absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, it makes the heart lonely. Clinging to the past only prevents us from moving forward. She left you, or you left her, for a reason – and at the time – it was a damn good reason. Guess what? It still is. When you both agreed it was over, it was or you wouldn’t be divorced. If you made it all the way through the legal maze called divorce, you were committed to seeing it through. Don’t look back. You’ve been there and have the battle scars and legal bills to prove it.
I know its scary being single again and, tempting to return to the familiar hell you left versus the new, unknown hell of the future, but what drove you to divorce is still there. It will never go away. One friend was complimented on losing weight, after his divorce, to which he responded “Yes, I lost 220 pounds! One hundred eighty of it is still walking around, but she’s not my problem anymore!” Now that’s the spirit to embrace!
Exes were friends at one time and, particularly if you have children, you’d like to think they’ll be friends forever, but start dating someone new and tell me your perspective doesn’t change. Will he be the one you call to share the story of your new love? Will she be the one you tell that you haven’t felt this alive in years? Not unless you’re a sadist, bitter with baggage or both. It is a strange feeling, suddenly realizing the person you spent the last 10, 20, 30 years with is no longer a trusted partner or, even more difficult, realizing they never were. Either way, the best you can hope for is frenemies, a quasi-functional blend of friend and enemy. What binds you together is no longer commitment, love and ‘til death do us part. It’s now child support, alimony, every other weekend exchanges, bankruptcy, a lonely apartment and married friends that gradually quit inviting you over. These are things you now share with your ex. Cold. Hard. Truth.
SEX WITHOUT LOVE
When Casual Isn’t
Who isn’t tempted to rush out and feel what many were lacking in their marriage? It makes us feel alive, it’s part of human nature and helps us validate we’re still desirable but be realistic. Sex without love is as meaningful as love without sex (weren’t you just there?). Coming out of a sexless relationship, it’s top of mind for many, but try to resist the make-up-for-lost-time-I-have-to-use-it-before-I-lose-it approach and think about what you want. Women are much more desirable with their legs closed and their mind open. Men, much more attractive when they listen to a woman’s eyes and bring romance to life. The allure of sex is strong, but it will not fill the gap you have in your live (for more than 7-20 minutes, anyway). Don’t use sex – or anything – as a substitute for healing and finding your single path.
Coitus Never Hoitus
Not true. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16.9 percent of all sexually active males and females, ages 14-49 have genital herpes. While it seems chlamydia and gonorrhea are attacking our youth, syphilis rates among people ages 20-44 are double those of people under age 19. Researching the statistics, I found it frightening to think of a 14 year old having the burden of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and downright horrifying to imagine a parent and a child both suffering, silently, with the same STD. Not the parent-child bonding moment that typically comes to mind, is it?
There are emotional risks to consider, as well. Are you ready to be vulnerable and open with another person? To lay yourself bare (no pun intended) before a near stranger? Rejection will deflate your already battered ego and, should he never call again, won’t do a damn thing for your self confidence. Conversely, what about a hook up with someone that is emotionally ready and wants to be with you? If you’re not at that point, you may wind up breaking another heart unwittingly. As much pain as you feel, if given the choice, it’s unlikely you’d willingly inflict it on another.
That Aren’t New at All
More often than not, we find ourselves dating the same type of person we were married to. Why? Because it’s familiar and we are creatures of habit. Your husband was abusive, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when your new boyfriend turns out to be the same way. You wife didn’t enjoy sex and, ironically, neither does your new girlfriend. It is not until you recognize your particular dating pattern that you can make the positive choices that will help you move toward a meaningful and healthy relationship.
As a love coach, I tell my clients to make two lists: one with the traits they want in a future mate and another with the traits they will not tolerate again. While it sounds simple, writing it down and then mapping dates and lovers against the lists can be very much an eye opener. Suddenly, it’s easy to spot trends in the people you’re seeing, such as passive aggressive behavior, jealously, infidelity and dishonesty – the traits we just left behind us – in the people we’re currently dating! Good news: it’s not too late to change your dating pattern. The better news: it’s worth it.
We have baggage, it’s expected. We are adults, we’ve been in relationships, had children, loved and lost, experienced much over the years, but we are starting over and most of us without a solid network of singles to mingle with. The dating game hasn’t changed, but we have. We didn’t plan to be here right now, let alone lugging all this other stuff along with us. The choices we make today, can either set up another failed relationship or lead us to the big win. It’s not whether you have baggage, but whether you know what to keep and what to shed that will help you find the love you deserve. It’s time to lighten the load.
Own your baggage, it’s who you’ve become, deal with it and ignore those who can’t.