Anecdata about love after divorce
June 1, 2021 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Please share your stories of love life post divorce. Good, bad, ugly and in between. I need to recalibrate my beliefs based on what others have actually experienced. It can also be the experience of someone you know, provided you know the situation well enough to confirm that it actually happened and isn't incredibly exaggerated somehow.

I'm not divorced yet, for lots of reasons. I'm trying to steel myself. (Please don't judge or chastise me about it like my past experiences here. Leaving is hard.) My brain is trying to tell me scary things like:

* Nobody will want a single mom with a chronic illness.

* I'm unlovable.

* All the good ones will be taken.

* I'm too far from the city to have a successful poly or queer relationship.

* My picker is irreparably broken.

* I'm not going to be able to see red flags so I should just never date again.

* My standards are too high.

* My only viable options will have baggage that they unceremoniously dump onto the relationship as soon as I fully commit, and I don't have the energy to process another adult's baggage anymore, so why not stay with the person that I've already helped deal with so much of their crap?

* I must only be compatible with mentally ill people so I'm going to have some version of difficulty no matter who I'm with.

* This person was in many ways much more socially evolved than the typical person where I live, so if I feel like the emotional labor is off now, it will be much worse with anyone else I meet locally.

* Invalidation is the behavior that upsets me the most, but it's very common and I won't be able to escape it with anyone else either. I shouldn't break up my family over a dynamic that I'm likely to have with anybody.

* The above, but replace "invalidation" with denial, minimizing, blame shifting, avoiding accountability, being crappy at apology, not listening well, etc. Ending my marriage isn't going to remove these issues from my relational life, so maybe I should stay and figure it out.

* Maybe I only think I can't stand x flaw because I've not directly experienced y flaw (or y characteristic that comes with z flaw in most people that have that characteristic).

* I'm actually not nearly as good of a catch as I think I am beyond my self-worth issues, so this really is the best I can do, and ending it means I'll just be alone forever.

* He's right and this is all mostly my fault and I should just stay single to avoid hurting anyone else.

Maybe reading a variety of actual experiences of romance after divorce will help me apply some appropriate self-talk to my anxiety thoughts. I do have a therapist but she's on vacation and if I was going to bother her during her vacation it wouldn't be for this.

To gauge my situation, right now I keep circling back to, would being alone forever as a single mother for probably 90% of my child's life be better than this? But something else to fight these fears would be helpful.
posted by crunchy potato to Human Relations (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
> 90% of my child’s life

You mean 90% of your child’s childhood? Because their adult life will be happier if their childhood is spent in a happy environment
posted by cyndigo at 6:45 PM on June 1, 2021 [18 favorites]


I can address these:

* Invalidation is the behavior that upsets me the most, but it's very common and I won't be able to escape it with anyone else either. I shouldn't break up my family over a dynamic that I'm likely to have with anybody.

* The above, but replace "invalidation" with denial, minimizing, blame shifting, avoiding accountability, being crappy at apology, not listening well, etc. Ending my marriage isn't going to remove these issues from my relational life, so maybe I should stay and figure it out.


Maybe! But when this bullshit comes with someone you're really into and who brings real value to your life, it's so, so, so much less infuriating. I am always amazed at how not-annoyed I am by the exact same characteristics in my now-partner than I was by them in my then-husband. The difference is incredible.

* I'm actually not nearly as good of a catch as I think I am beyond my self-worth issues, so this really is the best I can do, and ending it means I'll just be alone forever.


Yeah, no. This is not how it works. There's no Blue Book for humans.

* My standards are too high.

Maybe! But maybe you're just not that into him and will be way more forgiving of flaws in someone you really want. I bet it's the latter.
posted by HotToddy at 6:58 PM on June 1, 2021 [17 favorites]


I don't have much to say except "solidarity" because I'm in a very similar situation as you are, but one thing my therapist said that I found helpful was that I should try to separate the question of "should I divorce?" from the question of "is it possible for me to find love?"

Like, nobody can guarantee that I'll find love, or that I won't. So all these worries from my anxiety brain -- which sound like so many of the same worries as yours is throwing up -- are in a real sense irrelevant. Anxiety comes from your brain spinning possible scenarios, but it doesn't really know the future one way or another. And no matter what reassurances or stories people can tell you, if your brain is anything like mine, I'm sure it will still manage to spin stories of this or that worst-case scenario happening.

So what my therapist told me was this: what you need to make your decision on is whether what you have now with your partner is enough for you. Enough for you for your life. Whether at the end of your life you'll be happier having divorced, even if you end up never dating anyone again.

You're trying to decide whether to jump out of a boiling pot. The question for you is whether the boiling is too much to bear, not what the exact temperature of the pot next to you is.

I hope that helps. Like I said, so much solidarity and love, because this is really hard.
posted by sir jective at 7:01 PM on June 1, 2021 [20 favorites]


My wife left me and I became a single dad of five every weekend, with work keeping me busy on weekdays. Dating was (and IS) hard. Really hard. Throw in the fact that I'm more moderate/conservative than most other people here in Portland, and things are even less easy.

I still found someone awesome to date about 2 1/2 years post-divorce. She was fun, she had kids, she was a divorcee, and things were pretty smooth and easy. We dated for seven months, but broke up because both of our lives were just too busy to spend much time together. I don't regret the relationship, and now (two years later) cling to it as hope that I can find love again.
posted by tacodave at 7:03 PM on June 1, 2021 [7 favorites]


I kind of want to tell you how luxurious and even miraculous it is to be single and unattached after enduring a bad marriage - how when such a weight falls away from your soul you catch yourself laughing so easily with your children, and how sometimes you'll lie in your bed and raise up your arms and legs for the sheer joy of feeling your limbs move...

But you didn't ask to hear about being single. You want to know whether anyone might ever want you again, so I'll tell you this: I have had z.e.r.o. issues finding dates after getting divorced. Turns out there's something that men find quite attractive about a person who is lit up with joy from the inside - my stretch-mark covered belly looks luminous, and the moles on my neck with the single hair coming out of them are all backlit, and, oh, I wear my desire well these days.

Have I met men who knocked my socks off? Yes, indeed. Have I been ghosted, dumped, flaked on, or worst of all, have I had to dump people? Sure. Have I had great sex? Y.E.S.S.S.S.S. Have I fallen in love with anyone? Not yet, but sometimes I catch my stomach flipping over when I'm on the second date, and that helps me stay hopeful.

None of it has been difficult. Even the times I've been hurt - they have only helped me feel more alive. The last time a guy was a jerk to me I came home and growled at my walls in anger and then I hugged myself, feeling like I was living my best life. During my marriage I had only been filled with dread, sighing, and deadness. To risk feeling anything was to risk opening up a bottomless despair. I never used to allow myself to take a big-ass bite into an apple, you know? Because what if it was unripe and gross and left my mouth feeling like wax? I used to fear the little inconveniences, because my capacity for tolerating misfortune was utterly depleted by the everyday burden that my marriage was.

I never knew it would feel like this to be free: that I would stop being afraid of wax-mouth, that all the little troubles and heartbreaks and disappointments of dating would become not only tolerable but sought-after, like jumping off the top of a swing knowing that I might scrape my knee, but who cares, because this is the only way to live. The only way.

I wish this life for you. It can be yours.
posted by MiraK at 7:31 PM on June 1, 2021 [95 favorites]


After about 3ish months of grieving hibernation after leaving my ex, I started online dating. It was fun, I got to meet some fun people (and some weird ones) , and it was a little bit of an ego boost. I wasn't looking for anything serious and had re-calibrated my life plan to be single forever, just doing casual hookups when I wanted sex, but without the attachment stuff. A few months after that (and two weeks after I officially filed for divorce) I met a guy and fell head over heels in love. I told him I loved him a week after we met, and it took him another week to say it back to me. I was very shaken by this turn of events, but went with it because it was too good not to. Two years later, we are still very happily together, and are planning on getting married in 2023.

You're not unlovable. Everyone has some sort of baggage, but a lot of us have done the work so we don't carry it with us everywhere, and certainly don't dump it on others. Plus, no matter how smart we think we are, we cannot accurately predict the future.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 7:32 PM on June 1, 2021 [12 favorites]


My parents got divorced within a year of me graduating high school and leaving home. They have since each individually volunteered to me that they thought they would have done a better job raising me and my sibling as a single parent.
posted by aniola at 7:45 PM on June 1, 2021 [6 favorites]


I kind of want to tell you how luxurious and even miraculous it is to be single and unattached after enduring a bad marriage - how when such a weight falls away from your soul you catch yourself laughing so easily with your children, and how sometimes you'll lie in your bed and raise up your arms and legs for the sheer joy of feeling your limbs move...

I didn't even have a particularly bad marriage. My ex and I coparent amicably to the point that he runs into issues with his girlfriend about it.

But the luxuriousness was and is invaluable. I wake up in my bed, how I want it to be. Lots of pillows because my spine is wrecked, the level of blankets I want, nobody snoring, temperature how it suits me. I can spend time waking up and drinking coffee without someone being obnoxiously Morning Person Extroverted at me. I can listen to anything and everything I want. I have a coffee machine on my bench. I have lots of mugs and jars and candles. I have rugs. All things I negotiated with my ex about because I had to share a space with him. Now I don't.

It took a year and a half for me to have any desire to date and even then it was more "friends and family are worried I'm becoming a recluse" than any actual desire to. I missed sex and intimacy but not enough to compromise on what I find integral to enjoying my life now. And by happenstance, luck, and refusing to compromise, I found someone who is willing to fit in with those aspects of my life. As a single parent there are concerns about safety and risk that you don't have if you don't have kids, and I've made it clear that my child, and my career, are priorities for me. And I'd rather be single than bonsai myself again. But point by point:

* Nobody will want a single mom with a chronic illness.
PTSD, scoliosis, incipient Hashimotos, within the first six weeks of dating I fractured my ankle badly and I'm about to have several bouts of surgery, one for chronic menstrual issues, and my boyfriend wants me. I know others do too. It turns out people are not stereotypes created by mass media to make us buy bullshit.

* I'm unlovable.
* I'm actually not nearly as good of a catch as I think I am beyond my self-worth issues, so this really is the best I can do, and ending it means I'll just be alone forever.
* He's right and this is all mostly my fault and I should just stay single to avoid hurting anyone else.


I'm going to guess these are scripts and words from your hopefully soon to be ex because those are vicious. Nobody is unloveable. Catch language is weirdly competittive with no space for individuality and is very rooted in misogyny. Even if it is your fault it just means you're badly matched.

But you should stay single to heal, and work out what you want from life.

* All the good ones will be taken.
* I'm too far from the city to have a successful poly or queer relationship.
* My picker is irreparably broken.
* I'm not going to be able to see red flags so I should just never date again.
* My standards are too high.
* My only viable options will have baggage that they unceremoniously dump onto the relationship as soon as I fully commit, and I don't have the energy to process another adult's baggage anymore, so why not stay with the person that I've already helped deal with so much of their crap?
* I must only be compatible with mentally ill people so I'm going to have some version of difficulty no matter who I'm with.
* This person was in many ways much more socially evolved than the typical person where I live, so if I feel like the emotional labor is off now, it will be much worse with anyone else I meet locally.
* Maybe I only think I can't stand x flaw because I've not directly experienced y flaw (or y characteristic that comes with z flaw in most people that have that characteristic).


Your standards SHOULD be high. You can absolutely work on your own self in order to be able to see red flags and work out which partners will suit you and what you need to find in a partner. Because sometimes the baggage is just...y'know, the sorted suitcase of things that make them who they are. Even if they're mentally ill. Even if there are specific flaws or characteristics you dislike.

My boyfriend has severe ADHD. So does my ex, and my kid likely has it too. That comes with baggage, but its totally different between them, and what my boyfriend brings with him are things that make him a good partner for me - he understands neurodivergence, he has a hard won awareness of patterns of behaviour, etc. I have PTSD and a couple of other things. It makes me a lot more aware of and supportive of things he needs too.

And honestly, having him (and a few other friends with ADHD with all their baggage, or BPD, or PTSD) has made me a better mother, and better friend, and better human being. Baggage makes us who we are, and that can be useful when they pull out the sewing kit or spare socks.

Yes, a wider number of people increases your chance to find an appropriate partner. I sure as hell know a lot of leftist queer poly folk in rural and regional areas though.

* Invalidation is the behavior that upsets me the most, but it's very common and I won't be able to escape it with anyone else either. I shouldn't break up my family over a dynamic that I'm likely to have with anybody.
* The above, but replace "invalidation" with denial, minimizing, blame shifting, avoiding accountability, being crappy at apology, not listening well, etc. Ending my marriage isn't going to remove these issues from my relational life, so maybe I should stay and figure it out.


Uh. No. I didn't have half of that with my ex that I broke up our family to separate from. I don't have it with my partner now, or my friends. Is this a feature of all your friendships? Because I'd suggest that you're accepting a lot of behaviour out of fear of being single, and a: that's a terrible foundation for relationship, b: being single is better than being in a miserable relationship, and c: the damage this is doing to you and the kid is only gonna increase.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:00 PM on June 1, 2021 [20 favorites]


I’ve got a friend who went through a very bad marriage, bad divorce. Single mum, healthcare professional hours. I’m going to be standing up in her wedding post-Covid.

In between those two relationships, she also got to enjoy herself and her own company.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:04 PM on June 1, 2021 [1 favorite]


I've been separated for a couple of years now (she dumped me fwiw). I've been moving pretty slowly. Making my new home was both sad (starting over alone) and happy/liberating (making my place exactly what I wanted it to be without needing to compromise or convince anyone). We have kids, and I felt like I was betraying them by leaving. I now live very close by and I am still very much a part of their lives, but that was the hardest part.

Eventually I started lurking on match.com. The thought that all those people on there are looking for someone and maybe I'm that person made me feel good for a while. I'm getting older, I'm not good looking and my social skills aren't great, but if you don't try you'll never succeed and what do I have to lose? So I savored the possibilities, which was really nice after all these years.

And then one day during the pandemic I saw someone that I wanted to talk to so I actually signed up. That never went anywhere, but I did end up texting with someone else quite a bit. It was really fun to have a pen-pall, that someone was actually interested in me. She'd ask how my day went and it was so nice to have someone ask that and actually be interested in the answer. We have some things in common and it was great to talk about them.

Anyways, other life things came up for me so I had to put the whole dating thing on hold but it's out there when I'm ready for it. I was actually more worried about finding someone early on in this whole process, but now I'm not too worried about it. I've accepted that nobody is going to make me happy but me so I'm working on that first. A partner will happen when/if it happens.

That's my experience so far for whatever it's worth. Moving on is sad but it also has its joys. I'm glad I did it.

One more piece of anecdata. My parents split up when I was in 6th grade. I remember feeling relieved and in retrospect I'm glad they did it.

One my friend's parents had their marriage fall apart around the same time. They stayed together -- I suspect for the benefit of their kids -- until their youngest was 18. I think everyone involved was more miserable because of it.

So random advice from some random internet stranger: if you're miserable move on and build the life you and your kid(s) need. It's scary and it hurts in the short term but it may be the best for everyone.

I wish you all the best. This is hard.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:53 PM on June 1, 2021 [3 favorites]


I have had so many hard times and bad times and problems since my divorce, which now feels like one million years ago. The only problem I have never had is "not being able to find a date." If anything, I have found too many, and too quickly, and not savored enough the joys of singlehood.

I have been on bad dates (not that many, though, all considered) and I've dated wrong people, and I've wanted people who didn't want me back. And I've had some long and wonderful relationships, and those too have ended, and that also was hard. Now I am once again waking up in my own bed that is just the way I like it, moving unobserved around my own space (even though it sucks in a lot of ways, even though sometimes I still cry thinking about my old apartment and what it was like spending mornings in it with my ex partner) and spending some time, but not too much, with someone new. And heck -- far from fretting that I won't find The One, at this point there's a part of me that wonders if I'm even meant to have a forever-type, live-together, get-married-type partner at all.

You cannot fathom how much you will change when you're on your own and building your own life, which things will actually preoccupy you and which will just melt away as you discover the kind of person you're becoming.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:21 PM on June 1, 2021 [9 favorites]


After I got divorced, I finally had the space & time to figure out my sexuality, the result of which is that I've actually experienced feeling romantic love for the first time in my life and it's amazing. Ending my "good enough" marriage was probably one of the best things I've ever done and ever will do for myself.
posted by augustimagination at 9:27 PM on June 1, 2021 [6 favorites]


I'm not divorced, but I left a common law marriage at the end of 2013, and haven't found a long-term romantic relationship since. I don't regret leaving him. I would be emotionally destroyed and possibly dead by now had I stayed.

I think a good question to ask yourself is this: Would I prefer to be alone the rest of my life, or prefer to be with this shit ass motherfucker until the end of my days? There's no wrong answer, only depressing ones. My answer was and is I'd rather be alone, though I hoped I wouldn't be.

I'm 47, fat, and also have a chronic illness, but no kids. Oh and I'm unemployed now too. I realize my liabilities in dating, but the straight middle-aged men I've encountered don't seem to recognize theirs, for the most part. Unhealthy, paunchy, bald, dull, poor, socially awkward men with poor hygiene still do expect to find 30-year-old Barbies who will fall at their feet. It would be ridiculous if it weren't so tragic, leaving people who could otherwise find mates alone and pining for something that will never happen. Most men seem profoundly bad, even in middle age, at connecting with another human being.

Are your standards too high? Unlikely given what you've continued to put up with. I have standards too. Though I recognize my liabilities, I also recognize how much I have to offer a romantic partner, and won't compromise on finding someone who will treat me well. I don't expect a handsome date, or a wealthy one, or one without baggage, but I do expect clean, respectful, and honest, with something (physical, emotional, and/or intellectual) to offer, and usually they fail out of the gate on one or more of those.

I relate to many of your issues. Invalidation is a huge problem for me too, and one that seems pervasive. I can't tell you how many times I have sat across a table listening to a man spout off about himself, only to have him steamroll what I have to say (if I ever get a chance to talk). Even in the space of one date (!) I've been told that the lived experience I had caring for my terminally-ill father didn't actually happen; that I was wrong to take my car to the dealership service center (he cut me off to tell me this, and had no idea the history that warranted this decision), and that I can't really smell what I in fact actually do smell. I've been lectured to on topics that I know much more about than my date. #1 on my list of must-haves in order to progress to a second date at this point is for the man to EFFING LISTEN. Just shut the eff up, take in what I have to say, and don't correct it with your infinite male wisdom. Asking questions that indicate you've actually paid attention? That would be heaven.

I have had several short (a few months) relationships since I broke up with my ex, but all have ended after they revealed their fatal flaws (extremely selfish in bed / wouldn't initiate physical affection / wouldn't carve out time for relationship even when they wanted to be exclusive / was trying to fleece me for money) or how incompatible they were. And I did a fair amount of dating pre-Covid. I still have profiles up but am not that active anymore. I guess I'm close to giving up. You did ask for real talk, and this is the reality of my life. I'm alone with no prospects and am slowly losing hope of having any, despite the fact that I am a loving, supportive, funny, honest, intelliegent, etc. etc. etc. partner. I won't settle for the BS on offer.

I too do not live that close to a major city. Online dating especially is a horror show. It's filled with men trying to cheat on their wives, men who lie about their age (I've heard from several in their 70s who initially said they were many years younger), and "poly" men whose conception of poly is "I get to fuck whomever I want and have no accountability to anyone, nor do I need to even have a passing thought about anyone else's feelings".

I've really only sustained romantic feelings for one person in the 7+ years since I broke up with my ex, and he went back with his former girlfriend and then turned out after several years of platonic friendship to have a severe character flaw (workplace sexism bordering on misogyny) that meant I could no longer even be friends with him. That broke my heart, and my heart has been broken and put back together quite a few times and is mostly duct tape at this point.

Years ago, I would have responded to your "nobody will want a single mom with a chronic illness" statement with cheerleading about how you only need ONE person, and it doesn't matter what the mass of people wants. You just have to find that one person who values you. That sounds great in theory, but man, my experiences have really tamped down my optimism on that ever happening for myself.

I'm sorry. I hope you make the best decision for you, and if that is leaving him, that you heal quickly and find someone who deserves what you have to offer. You are lovable.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 9:39 PM on June 1, 2021 [15 favorites]


I have a friend who had a kid when she was young with a dude who sucked. She’s been married to her husband for almost ten years and they were together for 3-4 years before that. They have two more kids now and he adopted her eldest. She has a disability that has been an ongoing source of pain and she’s had many surgeries for it. They also have an open relationship and she dates women when that fits in her life. Their marriage has had some hard times, including mental health stuff on both of their parts, but they each worked on themselves and worked on stuff together and it got better. I think they’d agree that they’ve both grown a lot within their relationship. They’re both great and I’m looking forward to seeing them soon now I’m vaxxed.

I have other divorced friends in much better second marriages, that one is just the most like your situation. Don’t believe the mean things your brain is telling you!
posted by momus_window at 9:43 PM on June 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: I feel like this warrants a response:
Uh. No. I didn't have half of that with my ex that I broke up our family to separate from. I don't have it with my partner now, or my friends. Is this a feature of all your friendships? Because I'd suggest that you're accepting a lot of behaviour out of fear of being single, and a: that's a terrible foundation for relationship, b: being single is better than being in a miserable relationship, and c: the damage this is doing to you and the kid is only gonna increase."

None of my friends treat me that way, but right now I don't really have any because I became codependent in the beginning of this relationship and voluntarily let go of the activities where I gathered with my friends (I don't believe my partner manipulated me to do this). My friends now are mostly his friends, because I have social anxiety and issues with bonding which is part of why the list of fears is there. Bonding is super scary and complicated for me (CPTSD), I found someone that I trusted to bond to, and while I have felt loved unconditionally, I have also confirmed for myself that bonding may just not be for me, in general, because I feel like it turns me into a terrible person and I don't see clearly. Yes, I'm in therapy for that.

My partner and one of my parents have been invalidating through most of my relationship with them, but I don't generally spend time with anyone else that acts that way. It was definitely programmed into me to accept it though. My partner has severe ADHD which causes trouble with perspective taking, and a lifetime of messing up has made him very defensive. The combination means invalidating behaviors. I don't think he did this intentionally, but I definitely tolerated it too long as now I struggle to think for myself about, well, anything, hence coming to MeFi. He doesn't do it to the kid or I'd have already been gone.

Thanks for these little stories everyone. Please keep them coming.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:48 PM on June 1, 2021 [1 favorite]


My ex left me unexpectedly with two teenage kids when I was forty-five — something had clearly been wrong for a few years, but I had been unable to get him to engage in working on it. He left the state, so I had 100% custody barring the occasional short visit. For various personal reasons (nothing exciting, I’m mostly just kind of irritable and antisocial) I wasn’t expecting to have much luck dating.

I spent a little over a year trying to date on OK Cupid and Tinder, with not a great deal of success (went on a lot of first dates, had sex a couple of times, but nothing stuck) but not much downside. But living without my ex was terrific: I hadn’t realized it because the divorce wasn’t my idea, but he had been making me miserable for years, and not having to work around him was a delight.

And then I had lunch with an old but not previously close online-only friend who I’d never met before and whose marriage had also just unexpectedly ended, and he turned out to be surprisingly hot and also into me. We’ve been in a very happy LDR for the last three years or so — we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but when we do it’s great: all the fun of having a grownup affair with lots of sex and going out for cocktails and so on, except that we’re not actually sneaking around.

So, you can’t plan on that kind of thing happening, but things like that do happen. And even without the relationship, just being able to live without my ex was wonderful.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:42 AM on June 2, 2021 [5 favorites]


My parents divorced right after I graduated from college (timing was deliberate). They've both been married/in long-term relationships, to far more suitable partners, for like ten years now. One met theirs online, the other met theirs in a meet up group for divorced people.

Both of them, especially my mom, are extremely very much happier in their current relationships, and those relationships seem to suit them both much better. I think sometimes of what it would have been like growing up with models of relationships where both people actually like being in them. Sounds nice.
posted by HtotheH at 7:56 AM on June 2, 2021 [1 favorite]


I separated from my ex eight years ago, and we're both remarried now. I can't speak to how happy he is (we don't talk, he does creep on my Instagram stories regularly ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) but I'm SO much happier. You'll probably make some stupid dating decisions for a while—I did and everyone I know did! We were all practically intolerable for at least a year because we were inventing the concept of dating from scratch. But even the bad, stupid experiences were better because they felt like they were doing something. If you've been banging your head against this relationship for years and nothing changes, all the bad feelings are just pointless and horrible. When you have new bad feelings in a new relationship, you get to do things like "set boundaries" and "break up" and "learn something new about what you will and won't tolerate." After years of emotional stagnation it felt really, really good to just be moving again, even when I was moving through some very shabby territory.

The sunk cost fallacy ("why not stay with the person that I've already helped deal with so much of their crap?") is real. But the thing is, you haven't helped him deal with his crap—or rather, I'm sure you've helped, but the crap's still there, isn't it? The crap just respawns. Leaving opens the possibility for new crap, yes, including the crap of being single (which as everyone else is saying is WONDERFUL in parts, especially after cleaning up after someone else for so long, but does have its own crap attached). But it also opens the possibility for change, growth, development, a trajectory towards happiness instead of a repetitive cycle. At our age, yeah, people come with baggage—but what if they don't dump it on you, but ask you to help carry it for a while and they'll carry yours? What if they lay it out and you sort through it together? Sometimes when I'm going through something with my spouse I think "ugh I'd never be dealing with this if I hadn't left my marriage" but that's because we wouldn't actually be dealing with anything, ever, I'd just be quietly resentful and emotionally stultified and miserable. I'd so, so much rather be untying a big knot that getting whipped with a small one every day.

You can't avoid the existence of baggage but there are ways to engage with another person that feel productive, generative, and healing. Leaving doesn't guarantee you'll find one of those people or one of those dynamics, but it opens up the possibility, and it's not possible now.
posted by babelfish at 9:24 AM on June 2, 2021 [7 favorites]


There is a podcast called “Divorce, A Love Story”. It’s worth listening to.
posted by chuke at 9:36 AM on June 2, 2021


Best answer: You're talking about romantic love, and honestly, who knows? It's a big weird world out there. You may or may not find the next person quickly.

But I'm going to talk about loving yourself.

I am older and fatter than I was when I got married. I'm not having more kids. I don't know if I'll ever hit it off with another guy. Maybe no guy will ever find me desirable, or tell me if he does.

But I love LOVE myself, so, so much more. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a compassionate, appreciative, protective way. I realized at one point that what I was doing was taking the love I'd been throwing (with limited success) at another person and giving it to myself. I treat myself as I would want a hypothetical significant other to treat me. I buy myself things I like, I fight against negative self-talk, I smile at myself in the mirror. I still want to improve myself, but not because I am insufficient as I am. In the same way that when you love someone else, you don't cease to see their flaws. I know mine, and acknowledge them, but also they do not get in the way of feeling that love.

It's fucking amazing, I have to tell you.

And if the thought of doing that is so strange or offputting to you...maybe sit with it a bit. Because why is it wrong to love yourself the way you would love someone else? Maybe it's not. Maybe it's exactly what you need.
posted by emjaybee at 11:04 AM on June 2, 2021 [19 favorites]


I have been divorced, twice, and am currently in the most "normal", stable, ACTUAL relationship I've ever had (I'm in my mid 50s).

My first husband was full of put downs: I'm ugly; no one will ever find me attractive; I'm stupid; I made him mad. Having my kids actually saved me - my self esteem began with them loving me exactly as I was. I felt released from prison when my divorce was final.

I didn't expect to find a second husband as quickly as I did, but I DID discover that lots of men found me (curvy girl, lol, two young kids) attractive. I met my second husband just months after the first divorce was final. And even though we dated far longer than my first marriage, before getting married, things in the end didn't work out, but I learned a lot about myself after that marriage ended. (Both marriages lasted just under 10 years).

I can absolutely attest to a feeling of liberation when you are finally on your own. After all the emotional turmoil of my second marriage, it was about a year and a half later that I felt the "fog" lift and began truly loving my life. I had one long term relationship after that, and that ended amicably, so here I am, with a new love who I can TRULY have discussions with, and work out any communication difficulties (and this is so new for me).

I think I really just want you to know that life on your own is amazing, fulfilling, and freeing. Your joy may not happen immediately, it may take some time, but you will be able to do things your own way, on your own schedule, and love will find you in time.

I wish you all the best in your future!
posted by annieb at 6:13 PM on June 2, 2021 [3 favorites]


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