You know how one minute you’re in a happy and fulfilling marriage and the next you find out that your husband of 20 years has been cheating on you with someone 10 years younger? Well, I do.
I went from country club wife and mother of high school students to a single, 39-year-old “cougar.” In this weekly feature, I will share with you all the mind-boggling, head-scratching, is-this-someone’s-idea-of-a-joke moments from my so-called single life. Consider this your private invitation to my tremendous learning curve…
What’s happening here?
I’ve been “dating” (I guess that’s what you’d call it) for four years since my divorce. My last two relationships (the first lasted six months and the second lasted three) were with good men. They were funny, smart, hard-working and treated me well. So what went wrong?
With the first guy, I hadn’t quite figured out why I wasn’t feeling “it,” but I wasn’t. Sure he was kind of weird and could be really opinionated, but plenty of women will put up with that if the guy is a decent person and is good to them. That wasn’t enough for me, and I’m not proud of that.
With the second guy, sure he was kind of needy and high maintenance, but we shared great companionship. He was also a “great guy.” But as soon as I started to go down the road of “what’s missing here?” I broke up with him.
I know “it” and this isn’t “it”
Right or wrong, fair or unfair, I use the feelings (it’s important to note that I don’t compare the people, but rather the feelings) from my 21-year marriage as a barometer in all my relationships. I know what it feels like to feel in love. I don’t have to ask, “How do you know if you’re in love with someone?” (The answer to which is, if you have to ask, you’re not in love.) I know what that feels like.
I also know what it feels like to be in something that can go the distance. You may think this is a curious point to make since I’m divorced, but I was married from the time I was 18 to the same man for 21 years until he had a midlife crisis. My marriage was caught in the crossfire. The first 20 years of my marriage were awesome and I’d do them again in a heartbeat. So I know what it feels like to be in something that will last more than a few months.
These are all gut-level feelings. It’s either there or it isn’t.
So, is that OK?
I asked Dr. Gilda Carle, 30-Second Therapist of the Today Show about what was happening in my relationships. Is the way my brain is hardwired interfering with my relationships and is it time to do something about it?
Dr. Carle explained, “It’s healthy to try to emulate positive feelings from our past. But when those feelings get in the way of progress, it’s time to reassess. You’re right to leave unions that don’t serve you. The truth is that you’re a different person now, and the ways in which you’ll respond to different people today will be different from how you responded in the past. By using your marriage as a barometer, you’re doing yourself and your various partners a disservice. We love differently with different people, especially as we grow. I recommend you stop idolizing your past, and see yourself, not as you used to be, but as you truly are today. In fact, you’ve probably gotten better at loving because of your years of growth. So you may actually be shortchanging yourself by not making the bar appropriate to your current day needs. For guidance in your new path, I do recommend some counseling.”
Just when I thought I was starting to get my post-divorce s*** dialed in! I did three years of therapy on and off before, during and after my divorce, but I suspected it was time for a tune-up. Since I was married at such a young age, it has occurred to me that I look at new love through the lens of a teenager, which at my age, can’t be a good thing! And so the post-divorce damage control continues…