“And when I tell you that you're beautiful you can't be sure, 'Cause he don't seem to want you back, And it got you asking, So all you see is what you lacking, Not what you packing.” J Cole
Dating after divorce has been challenging in more ways than one. First of all, the last time I was single, I was 20 years old, inexperienced and full of optimism, without any baggage, and myspace was a thing. At 31, I re-entered this world wiser, scarred, with a baby, and dating was as accessible as swiping right.
I would often think about how it felt to fall in love with my ex-husband. Maybe “the one” was still out there and I had simply made a mistake in marrying the wrong one. This would give me faith in love, and complete doubt in my own judgement.
Then I would think about the end. Shoulda, woulda, coulda’s can haunt you. With any failure comes guilt and shame- divorce is no exception. There’s something about making it to the finish line, and having it all fall apart 8 years later, that completely rocked my perspective on love, relationships, and myself.
Any insecurities I already had, became magnified. And I picked up a few new ones along the way. Having already been divorced, I felt like a proven failure at relationships, and as a single mom, I felt like damaged goods. I was ashamed of the baggage I brought to the table and for having these feelings about my son and motherhood.
With a shattered faith in happy endings and questionable self-confidence, I dated for present company instead of future partnership. I was looking for a distraction, someone to take the boredom out of loneliness. The saddest part about it: so was everyone else.
At this age, the optimism and vulnerability were gone. Everyone was scarred, everyone was “wiser”. Insecurities were quelled with each new prospect. The back and forth banter and the thrill of meeting someone new made for great entertainment (and content 😉). And if the chemistry was right, the start of a new relationship reignited a flicker of hope in happily ever after. But it wouldn’t be long before all the unresolved issues would infect it. New partners paid for the sins of old ones. Everyone had one foot out the door and options were always open- the ultimate defense mechanism. Turns out, a bruised ego is harder to recover from than a broken heart.
And when it would end, our beliefs about love would be validated in this self-fulfilling prophecy. It was easy to see why love was hard to find and relationships didn’t last. For many people, dating was an escape from reality, a method of coping. Eventually, the predictable cycle lost its entertainment value for me, so I went on a dating hiatus. I wanted to believe in love again- I wanted to heal.
But it was just too much emotion to navigate through on my own. I enrolled in a personal development program, which helped me face my darkest feelings of guilt and fear- and begin the process of understanding where they truly come from. Once you understand yourself better, forgiving yourself and letting go comes naturally- you learn there’s a lot of innocence and good intention behind your struggle. And you begin to approach others with that mindset too.
I began to understand the whole “you can’t love someone until you love yourself” concept. Before I invested in my own personal development, I was full of anger and regret. I didn’t even like myself, much less love myself. And I expected others to eventually stop liking or loving me too, so my defense mechanisms were on point. But once I could understand and accept myself, it seemed possible that someone else could. Learning to love is a process, but it starts with the belief that you’re not so bad after all, and that you can be loved too.