As you get married, in that first flush of love and saying your vows, you'd really like to believe it would last forever. And then when it doesn't and you become another divorce statistic you're not sure how it happened or what went wrong.
Gemma, a recently divorced mother of a five-year-old found herself struggling to cope after her marriage ended. Jeff had been her high school sweetheart and somehow she'd envisaged they'd always be together. In fact, she still had trouble figuring out when exactly the relationship had begun to sour.
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Just like Gemma found out, the trauma of a divorce leaves a mark. And it requires great inner strength to heal, a lot of patience, time and a healthy dollop of self-esteem. But eventually, once it's over and we look back, we wonder why we weren't successful at it. And more so if there is more than one failed marriage, it can leave an individual with a very low self-worth, "Fine, so it might not have been my fault the first time, but I couldn't be blameless twice could I?"
And once we start doubting our self-worth we close ourselves off from meaningful relationships with others. So instead of wallowing in misery and self-recrimination, try and focus on the positive. That may include a supportive group of family and friends or even a great job. And don't live in the past - look ahead.
Once you are able to get over your initial self-doubts try reflecting on your positive points too, in fact make a list of them. If you can't, ask your best friend to, and look at them everyday to remind yourself that there's nothing wrong with you.
Part of looking ahead is to open yourself to loving again. And while actual love may not happen instantly, you have to be willing to give it a try and start dating again. It can be a daunting experience to expose yourself again and give somebody (and yourself) a chance to explore a relationship.
To get into the dating scene again after a divorce involves :
• A positive approach (It will be better this time round)
• Resolve (I will try and make it work)
• Willingness to trust (I won't let the past influence my future chances at happiness)
• Plain old guts!
If you've been married for some years and either lived together or dated the same person for a few years before that, chances are you've been out of the dating game for a good bit. But don't let the fear of the unknown dissuade you from taking a chance.
However, don't expect to be ready to start dating again until you've given yourself the time to heal properly. Don't throw yourself into the dating scene until you can feel complete as a person again. Else you might make the mistake of dating to just satisfy your emotional need to be in a relationship and to be loved.
In fact, when you do feel ready to start dating, keep it light. This will give you enough time to appreciate the fun things in a relationship without getting too caught up in the commitment issues and the more serious stuff.
Avoid confining yourself to dating just one person; you don't have to immediately look out for Mr. Right again. In fact this is precisely the time to enjoy being single again. So go out with as many different people as you have the chance to and bask in the pleasure of uncomplicated companionship and mutual attraction.
And what if you're one of those people to whom dates don't just happen? Well, not many people are. You have to work for it. Yes, once bitten, twice shy. You might find your opinion being colored by the fact that you've already been hurt, but nobody ever got anywhere without taking a chance on love and life. Don't look on your divorce as a personal failure but as an experiential learning that you can use to hopefully avoid making the same mistake again.
Actively look out for potential dates. Go to that community picnic or charity dinner without being apprehensive about being single. Look on it as an opportunity to meet someone in a relaxed atmosphere with no pressures or expectations. And if you don't get introduced to somebody you like, don't hesitate to take the initiative. Asking someone out on a date is simply about plucking up the courage to make the first move. What's the worst that can happen? They'll say no, but so what? It's better than wondering about what might-have-been and doing nothing about it.
And if you don't think you have what it takes to approach a woman (or a man) and ask them out then choose the Internet for the anonymity and variety it offers. Join an online dating service. You might really enjoy just chatting and maybe even flirting online with people without getting in over your head. However, don't carry on too long with too many people. Start narrowing your choice down after some time and if you feel you connect with somebody, start talking to him/her over the phone or arrange a meeting. After all, you can't hide behind a (computer) screen forever.
And when you're dating remember the golden rule: don't launch into a diatribe about your ex. If your date is also a victim of divorce you might trade some funny stories about your exes but that's it. And don't make it a habit. After all, you're trying to explore new ground with someone fresh, don't spoil it by bringing up what's best left in the past. Keep your date enjoyable and you will go home with a good feeling - about yourself and what you have to give to a relationship!