Archive for the ‘Dating’ Category

Normally when I reference another post, I’ve got something to add.  In this case there is nothing more to say other than READ THIS.  I have followed Leigh’s blog (incaseimgone) for quite some time and she is always insightful and very thought provoking.  I hope sharing this will allow you to think about how you in your life can help improve the world we live in by making changes to stop the situations she refers to.  Especially if you are a man and reading my blog, take the time to understand what Leigh has to say on this topic and make sure you and the people you influence in your lives, children and other men, get it.

I hope you dance, openly

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Dating, Happiness, Love, Philosophy

First, I feel I need to address the social stereotypes that what I am about to cover today makes me secretly gay or in some way one of those guys who suddenly is discovered by his wife trying on her lace panties. I assure you this is as far from my thought patterns as thinking I will suddenly grow a tree out of my head tomorrow morning.

Recently my fiancée and I began taking dance lessons. In talking we found it was something both of us had an interest in doing. I’m not sure for her what the true motivation was as it really came up initially as we talked about how it would be cool to surprise people at our wedding. Since I’m struggling with my goal to not lie about anything but yet not being really good at not speaking the whole truth, I was unable to find a way to answer my daughter’s questions when they asked me where I was going earlier this week. If my motivation was to surprise, the bubble would have been popped and I would quit. My motivation is that I have always thought it was neat to see people who could look like they knew what they were doing and what it could bring to them. In my case I do not mean attention on the floor or other narcissistic motivations, though I’m sure many people take dance lessons for that reason alone. I mean just enjoying yourself more in a dancing situation and having fun. I see dancing as something I can do that is good for me and enjoyable. That was always my main motivation.

I’ll admit the real interest in it came to me like many a straight man recently, from watching “Dancing With The Stars”. Only in my case when the show was announced I was the one who wanted to see it and not my wife. And I want to get a pair of one of those new Cole Haan Oxfords with a snazzy pink highlight to it. I sometimes cross stitch because it’s relaxing, I can do it while watching TV, and I feel like I’m building something.  So maybe I’m more in touch with my feminine side than I comfortably should be as a guy, but I take no issue with that. I do not fall into the situation that I feel my manliness is questioned because I like these things. I’ll be blunt. I think it makes me a better partner to a lady. I’d go so far as to say I know it does. I’m not really bragging, just trying to explain how strongly I believe this. I enjoy and appreciate watching a “chick flik”. Doing all these things makes me more empathetic towards my fiancée. It helps me be a more romantic partner. It helps me connect with her in ways that more manly pursuits would not. Truly enjoying these activities opens up opportunities to connect that would not otherwise be there. That does not mean I do not enjoy “manly” pursuits, I’m just not exclusive to them.  Two guys were on the radio talking about Chuck Norris’ Super Bowl food ideas and it included oats and milk.  One of them said, “You should just turn in you man card now”.  I never feel anything I do has anything to do with my man card, but I do think those that do have some sort of insecurity in themselves.

When we went in to the dance studio this week different people informed my fiancée how rare it was for a man to come willingly and saying she was lucky. In fact they did it twice.  On two different days.  I see nothing strange about it, what I think is sad is labeling things as male or female and turning off people because of it. Divorce Care, dancing, watching romantic comedies, tearing up when your daughter gets married. Why can’t a man just do these things and not be somehow made to feel less a man? I talk to plenty of guys and many really, really do not like these things. This post is not about those guys. It’s not even about the guys like me who are totally fine with participating and just thumbs our noses at the world while we just enjoy ourselves. It’s for those guys who feel they want to do these things but feel they will be judged. You will be. But in the end, who cares? The only person that can make you feel bad is yourself.

What I think people miss is huge. Oh women say they want the “manly man”, the bad boy, and for a while I think that’s true and if the woman never really matures I think that can stay that way. My ex attached to a guy that could fit some of those labels and I just listen as she tells me all the stuff that’s not working. I read discussion boards, or listen to ladies complain about how all the “good” ones are taken and they can’t find a guy. Letting yourself be open to those experiences as a guy and enjoying them can go a long way to helping connect with a lady. Do you think women enjoy being friends with gay men because they hate having sex? No, you dolt, it’s because they like a guy not laughing at them when they want to talk about how cool their shoes are and what flowers they like and what makes them happy. I’m going to be a little crude here, but imagine if you could be that guy and still be the one handling their sexual needs as well. I’m not saying you need to be like our dance instructor, Frankie, who when he saw my fiancée’s sparkly silver wedding shoes squealed like a 12 year old school girl only solidifying his sexual preference more firmly than everything else he had already done in the first minute, but if you can really be genuinely interested and engaged it’s a lot of fun.

One of the ladies in the dance studio summed it up really well. “If you can spend forty five minutes a week with the person you love holding hands and looking into their eyes, what’s the harm in that?” Yet so many men miss the boat because they cannot be comfortable in these “female” pursuits. It really is liberating to not give a rip. And as if just having fun and enjoying myself was not enough conformation that what I was doing was the right thing, watching the smile never leave my fiancee’s face for the entire lesson certainly was. So loosen up a bit and give it a try. Watch those sappy movies with pleasure, take up dancing, and go to craft fairs. If you’ve got a great woman I can almost guarantee you’ll like the results.  Now I just need to convince her I’ll really rock those Cole Haans….

Love and Respect

Posted: December 16, 2011 in Communication, Dating, Lessons

We all got here for a reason.  It does not matter what it is.  In my case I felt that I did not want to go through anything like this again.  In the quest for that result I began looking at how I could learn from these experiences.  One of the things my fiancée and I were given were copies of a book called “Love & Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs. 

Just as other books I’ve pointed you to my goal is not to summarize the book.  Asides from the fact that I’d probably be infringing on some copyright or something, for self-help books like this, if you are not willing to put in the effort on your own, the likelihood of you getting anything out of it is virtually zero. 

In our case we were given the book and its associated workbook by a friend of my girlfriend at the time.  It has turned out to be one of the more helpful tools I have used to understand how to avoid getting thrown into a common process that can result in divorce.

The general principle of the book and its associated videos and lecture series that the Eggerichs’ sell is that most people understand to have a good romantic relationship you need to love each other.  Otherwise you are just roommates, or maybe just two people who can’t afford to live by yourself and can’t stand each other.  The general stresses of life will result in arguments.  The piece that is missing from a lot of couples is to understand that men want respect.  Men and women process and see and hear things differently and other books cover that communication gap as well, so I’m sure this is not news.

The book walks you through understanding why these things are important and how to realize things are out of control.  Once you commit to that, you get guidance on how to communicate in ways that fulfill each of your needs.  Certainly the goal would be, as it was with my girlfriend and me, to work together to make improvements, but if you are the one trying to save your relationship, you may be a lone wolf, and the book explains how you can draw your unwilling partner in with unilateral activities.  In my case I did not need to do that, so I cannot speak from personal experience on the effectiveness, but the process sounds well thought out and if I was in that boat I would certainly try it, especially if the alternative was the breakup of another marriage.

First, let me set the stage that while I realized in reading this book that there may have been some of this in my marriage, it certainly was not the driver of our failure.  I will be walking down the history of my marriage in some other posts this month that will detail what I think happened.  The book did make me realize the critical thing he points out is that men do get hurt deeply by being disrespected by their partners, but they just do not realize exactly what is going on.  This was one of the biggest things I learned by reading this book.  I could look back on certain arguments we had and realize that this was in play.  The thing that was not however, is that the premise of the book is based on the fact that you know your partner is a good willed person not out to hurt you and so the techniques he lays out will most likely work.  I did not have that in my marriage.  I honestly feel if I had read this book in my marriage and tried to follow it, it may have added years to my marriage but it still would have broken up because the fundamentals were not there and this would not have fixed them.  I was doing a lot of the unilateral items of unconditionally loving my wife that this book talks about, but she did not respond as I needed because she had no desire to be in a relationship with me.

The other extenuating circumstance in my case is as my fiancée and I work through this book we are not coming at it from the standpoint of having had ten years of yelling at each other and trying to figure out why, so we have discussed several times, that we do not have some of the issues he urges you to discuss because we are addressing this early on.  I do feel that it is a great program though, in that we have used its techniques several times to calm down a heated discussion and bring it back to a productive vein rather than derail ourselves as most couples do.

I felt reading the book that a woman reading it might feel it was a big one sided, especially in the beginning when he regularly brings up how men and women do not debate the need for love in a relationship, but the concept of unconditional respect makes most women seize up and demand that their partner earn it.  He argues this is the core breakdown that happens.  When my fiancée read that she did not have that reaction though, so maybe I was assuming because the focus seemed a little to women need to respect men and when that happens men will love them because they know how that it would cause an issue, but in my case it has not.

At this point we have both read the whole book, but we are working through the workbook, which is basically a set of about 10 – 15 questions per chapter designed to get you and your partner discussing how you feel you handle a certain scenario in the past, and what you can do differently with the knowledge from the book to improve in the future.  We are not quite half way done with that, but the work is definitely beneficial as the scenarios bring out a lot of things.  We ended up on an hour long tangent discussion about our process to pick a new church for our family that was great.  It was very beneficial for each of us to get a better understanding of where each of us was coming from.  I know I learned a lot about her and I think she learned a thing or two about me that she was not aware of as well.

We have both seen changes in how we communicate more effectively over the last few months, and I feel using the knowledge from this book has certainly been a part of that.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their relationships.

The phone call

Posted: December 13, 2011 in Dating, Divorce, Recovery, Remarriage

So I’ve explained how I went through my process understanding that my divorce was done on God’s terms, how I understood reconciliation and how I had processed my divorce well. I was clear and I was good. It was summer and I was moving on. I had posted a profile on a couple dating sites and had exchanged e-mails and phone calls with a few ladies but nothing clicked and so we never agreed to meet. I had learned what I needed moving forward and these ladies did not have it, but I had just had a few conversations with a new one that had gone really well. She lived over an hour away and meeting would be a challenge but if you don’t work for love you might pass up something great, right? I was good. I was on cloud nine. Or so I thought……

My parents were in town and I had received a call from my ex while out with them and the kids. She had left a voice mail. This in and of itself is a rare thing as normally she wants to talk to gauge my reaction in real time, push buttons, I don’t know. I have a busy job and now I’m a single dad with kids and all that entails so I encouraged her to at least leave a voice mail and then when I got back to her I could respond and make progress. Still, she rarely ever did, so I figured something was up.

We got home and everyone was getting ready for dinner and I figure I’ll listen to the voice mail. She left one, but of course nothing more than, “I need to talk to you. Call me.” I walk down to the end of the driveway and call back and she answers. She started by quizzing me if the house sold, which was really none of her business given she had quit claimed the thing in the divorce, but she was due equity, so I figure it might be that. She goes on for about ten minutes talking about nothing, kind of like Seinfeld, but not nearly as funny, especially since I was not sure why she needed to talk to me. In any event, we hang up.

No sooner do I take the phone away from my ear and it rings again. Her again. Did she butt dial me? Must have but I figure I’ll answer.

“You know I was just thinking maybe we should get remarried”, she says.

In my head: WTF?!!! Is she nuts!? No way in hell I would even consider it. She’s not changed nor will she and this would be stupid.

What I said: “Uh… You’re engaged.” Very deadpan delivery.

“Yeah, I know, but it’s so hard. I think I understand him but then I do something and he gets mad. With us even though it was not great we understand each other so we know what to expect.”

Wouldn’t that just make you want to jump back into someone’s arms if they called you with that reasoning? Especially after why she wanted out with you was because it was no fun and hard and she just wanted Prince Charming and what she knew to expect is that she could just scream at me and accuse me of all kinds of things including being a lousy lover, man, human being and general lack of space on the planet. Oh and you cheated on me with this guy you’re engaged to and while you’re engaged you’re calling me back to ask if I want to marry you again. Oh yeah, now that I’ve heard that I’ll get right on it.

What I said:,”Uh… You’re engaged.”

“I know, but now that the house is sold we could all live here and it would be tight, but it would be fine.”

At this point I just did not say anything; after all she should have understood my response would be. “Uh… You’re engaged.” I few seconds went by and she said something like it was probably a dumb idea but she wanted to know what I thought. I asked her if she needed anything else. Nope. Cool. Hang up the phone.

And now I’m pissed. How dare she call and ask me this? I just had a wonderful phone call with a woman that I felt might be a great fit and then she calls and asks me this? Then my head went to what we learned at DivorceCare and I start to panic about the reconciliation lesson. I certainly do not want this, but now that she’s asked does God expect me to stop trying to date and try to work it out with her, again, for the umpteenth time? Immediately I knew I needed some help so I called my old DivorceCare leader.

Luckily she answered. I proceeded to explain the situation to her as she calmly listened. After all she’s been doing this for fifteen years and I’m sure I’m not the first raving post-DivorceCare lunatic she’s had call her. I explained how my ex wants to remarry or so she said, but I don’t want to and in fact I want to go on the date this woman and I had set up, but can I. I felt selfish. I felt torn. Was I spitting in God’s face saying I wanted to date when all he wanted was for me to reconcile? It was a terrible feeling.

The answer I received was the greatest thing I think I ever heard. The piece I had missed in the reconciliation process was that nothing was required of me until there was genuine repentance on the part of my ex. She had heard enough about my ex and also met my children at church a few times to clearly state that there was no belief in her mind that my ex had repented in any way, so I was under no obligation from the Lord to do anything about it.

My next concern was, ok, if that’s the case I understand about now, but am I obliged to wait around now? She stated what I felt in my heart, that she felt my ex would never repent and come to the Lord given her views on religion and therefore waiting would most likely result in nothing. It would be much more beneficial for me to move forward and follow the new path the Lord had for me. We did talk about that at some length, to again make certain I was trying to date for the right reasons and not because I was not healed. I had searched my heart and prayed to God many times on this, so I knew the answer to that. I hung up with her feeling much better than I had a few minutes before when I got the question that sucked me into a terrible spiritual place.

So be aware, you can be sure everything is good, but then you can be sucked away in a heartbeat. Keep yourself in contact with good godly people to counsel you at those times and I know you’ll be OK.

As a postscript, that lady in this story is NOT my fiancée. That situation deteriorated a few day later when her true character was revealed to me on another phone call before we met. I never met her, and in the process of explaining that I did not want to saw even more of her character, making me very thankful that God had given me the understanding to know what I needed in a partner for me and my children and the strength to see through the fog. While she was attractive and fun to speak with, her inner soul was not godly and she was not recovered from her divorce of years past. I thank God I was able to see that and later meet my lovely fiancée.

Go slow to go fast

Posted: November 10, 2011 in Dating, Divorce, Kids, Recovery, Remarriage

I am a racing fan, NASCAR mainly.  One of the strange contradictions in racing, which is about who can go the fastest overall is that in many cases you have to go slow to go fast.  What that means is that if you barrel into a corner full bore and have to slam on your brakes and then speed out and do the same thing at the next turn, your overall speed is most likely lower because you end up overcompensating.  It’s like the guy going down Main Street in your town who takes off when the light turns green only to have to slam on his brakes at the next light and wait.  Meanwhile you move along at a more leisurely pace and hit the light as it changes and stay at a constant speed and pass him by. 

As I live and observe the divorce process I think this is a great phrase to keep in mind.  We live in a world of instant gratification.  Want to play a game?  Download it on your smart phone in a few seconds and off you go.  Want to hear that new song?  Go find it on iTunes and you can purchase it too in a flash.  There is speculation that CDs will be phased out after 2013 since no one can take the time to go to the store for them anymore or buy the whole album.  Want to read a book?  Get it on your Kindle in sixty seconds or less.  We can debate the effect of these changes, but the CD one is interesting in the context of divorce.  True musicians used to try to put together an album that reflected their musical footprint.  Some songs that never got radio airplay still played an important part in fans getting to know them, especially if the artist penned the tunes themselves.  Our desires to pick and choose only the best songs lead artists to just look for hot singles and forget the small gems.  Those of you old enough to remember 45s, think of how many times you preferred to listen to the “B” side more than the sure thing on the “A” side.  It’s hard to argue that this behavior does not trickle over to other areas of our life.  I love my wife’s humor, but I can’t stand her cooking.  I love her wit, but can’t stand her sarcasm.  With music and books and anything else I can just get the best, I should be able to do that with people too, so our minds get trained to not be content with solid goodness.  Everything needs to be great and easy.  Good is no longer good enough.

So your marriage falls apart and you just want to move on.  And you want to do it fast.  I can take a pill to make me lose 30 pounds in 30 days, where’s that divorce recovery pill to get me through this and wipe all memory away?  I can learn a foreign language in a month using CDs and magic software, why can’t I learn to decipher all the stuff my ex is saying and just get her to agree with me right now?!  I can fix erectile dysfunction with a pill, soon replace a failed organ with something we may grow in a lab, and now they just reported this week we might even have discovered anti-aging drugs, so why can’t I just snap my fingers and put away all these emotions and trade my spouse in for a new model?

I see it all the time.  People want the process to go fast.  They want to get on with their lives.  They want to be happy now.  Life is too short.  Yes it is, but when you rush something that can’t be rushed like divorce recovery you end up going slower not faster as you build up the damage.  Just as plaque deposits in your arteries accumulate over time if you do not take the time to eat right (fast food is easier and faster but sucks for your heart) and physically move  (I can just buy that wiggly spring and shake it in my hands for 6 minutes and get 60 minutes of exercise can’t I?)  so too are the emotions and pain of divorce going to build if you do not process, grieve, reflect and learn. 

I took one of my kids to get a haircut last night.  As I was sitting there, one of the women working there was chatting happily with her co-workers, “I just found out from him today that the final papers will be filed in December!  YESSSS!!!  Joe was going to get me a green pearl for Christmas, now I’ll just tell him to make it a diamond!”  Really??!!!  Yet another example of going so fast that the race will be lost and the risk of massive of wreckage increases as the speed does.  This woman is going to hit the wall at 200 mph and not even see it coming.  You say, “But that does not happen for everyone.”  You’re right.  Every Sunday there is one winner and only 42 losers.  For the factual of you out there, second marriages fail 67% of the time, third marriages 73% and fourth marriages 85% according to combined data from the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology and divorce parenting programs.  If you are going slow to go fast you don’t live long enough to get married four times.    I don’t know this woman in the hair salon, but it is probably a safe bet that she has no idea about any of this and just wants to go fast.  I would venture that most of these follow up marriages are quick situations like this where they are seriously dating before divorce.  I have commented on another blog on WordPress to a woman who is trying to rationalize dating while separated.  The argument I heard from her and others I have tried to talk with is “We’re only technically married.”  Really?  You’re either married or you’re not.  There is nothing technical about it.  But in the rush to go fast, to feel good again, to feel loved, to feel wanted, understood, cared about and real, so many miss the fact that they must go slow or avoid a high probability of repeat of the same thing at the next turn.

I understand, I really do.  Fast is fun.  Fast is exciting.  Fast makes you fly on adrenaline and not really think and it feels great.  We all want to go fast.  When the world is about you, I guess you do what you want, but most of you reading this have kids and like it or not they deal with the wreckage too.  Just as Dan Wheldon’s family needed to deal with the fall out of his death from track speeds being too high in Las Vegas a few weeks back, your children will suffer along with you as you throw caution to the wind and just barrel ahead.  You owe it to them to go slow.  Take the time and effort to look at everything you must. 

I know this works differently for everyone and I’m one who has pushed back myself on hard and fast time frames of how long it takes and when the clock starts.  I have no idea if I’m more capable of self reflection than most.  I may be fooling myself, but I do know I test myself with a lot of other sources of input that I trust in family and friends.  I know most of my friends are not yes men.  I feel comfortable with my journey out of divorce.  I will not deny that from the outside looking in my process has been faster than is normally accepted.  The people close to me who know me best over years do feel that I am taking the time to go slow enough to check everything out.  Go slow to go fast, does not mean go slower than needed, it means go slow enough to move as quickly as possible through that given scenario.  If a racer slowed to 10 mph at every turn they would navigate it without a problem but they would certainly be passed by other cars who saw that they could get through there very safely at a much higher clip.  That’s my push back on straight stats saying it should take you x amount of time for y amount of time in marriage to get better.  Different drivers can handle the track at different speeds but the average is set amongst them all.  Some can go much faster and some have to go much slower.  Different people can handle divorce at different speeds and those stats are the average.

So how do you know if you are going too fast?  Trust your intuition and your gut.  If you are uncomfortable, it is too fast.  If you find yourself making excuses even you know are shallow to people you trust who are seeing red flags, it is too fast.  If you feel what you are doing is wrong, it is too fast.  Your spirit and soul will let you know.  You will not have questions in the back of your mind.  Joy will be real and not fabricated to put on a good face for the public.  You will see that you are not blazing forward in choices in your life only to have to slam on the brakes to avoid a massive crash because you missed something ahead.  When that happens, you’ll know you’ve found the optimal line through every curve life has in store for you.

I had mentioned that I work with several divorce groups or web sites. I also talk to friends and family who are in various stages in the process and they all ask me some variation of the question I posed for this topic. Sure I rarely get the question directly, but in between the anguish of their lament, in the depths of their anger, in the drawn breaths of their crying, it’s there. It comes out in various colors, such as “Will I ever feel normal?” “How do I stop thinking about them?” “What do I do now?”

As time marches on I admit more and more than I was a lucky man. My divorce process was quick, just about nine weeks from start to finish. My ex and I kept relatively civil and still do. The kids seem to be working through the process well.

For many, many couples, they look on my situation and almost lust after it. I hear about contentious divorces that bankrupted both parties because it was more important to fight in the courts than to work things out outside them. I hear about kids placed in the middle as spies, messengers, snitches, couriers, and a myriad of other roles that they should never be subjected to. I hear about fighting over who gets the dog, the gerbil, the sofa. I hear about the ex coming over in the middle of the night in a drunken rage on the front lawn and demanding to be taken back. I hear about people who are in such depression that they can see no good in life and trying to talk with them is excruciating, but I refuse to withdraw as so many others have from the blackness of spirit that has become their soul. For these people, out situation would have been a Godsend.

I hope explaining my thought process can help those of you still struggling to find a way towards the light. For me I know I’m great because in almost every moment I am back to focusing on the future or the here and now. I spend very, very little energy thinking about my past. I love history so saying I don’t think about the past often would be a lie, but the critical differentiator is that I am not wallowing in the might have been, the revisionist history that many go through about their failed marriage. I have made my peace and understand what I could learn and simply use that as a teaching tool for others where appropriate. I have no idea if my ex functions the same way, and I do not think about it because it’s not my concern. My ex has become for me just another person I need to deal with in certain occasions, specifically with events related to my children. You can see a previous post for more on that.

I will digress for a second, because getting through IS so hard. In a divorce recovery class one of the professionals on the video said something that at first I thought was ludicrous. She said “It is in almost all cases best to stay and work on a marriage if there is any chance of change, even in an abusive situation, than to get divorced. Divorce is that hard and life changing.” As I work with others who still struggle to make it through, I begin to see the truth in that statement. They wrestle with the possibility that it was not that bad. The drinking, yelling and the hitting were better than the loneliness and the poverty and the struggles. I had to think about her statement in these cases and understand that key was “any chance of change”. In many cases there is sadly not that and then it is important to get out, but for those who say “I still love them I just want them to get better” and they rationalize their divorce in that light, I stand confused. They talk of wanting to go back after they are better. I have never seen that work. If you think the person can change then use God’s grace and power to help them in your marriage, not from without. Too much other baggage will be created by choosing not to support and then trying to return.

Many people feel you only really get through a divorce by cutting the other person out of your life. I disagree. Especially if it was a long marriage and/or kids are involved. You have too much of your life intertwined to fully pull away. Are you really going to never talk to your mutual friends again? Are you going to make them choose? Are you going to avoid going to events with your kids as they grow and have families of their own? Are you going to set the example that avoiding and being exclusive are the ways to live a Christian life? I think if you are going down this path you are not getting through your divorce, you are perpetually in it. Just as a liar needs to cover their tracks, every decision in your life going forward is tainted with the burden of deciding if you will do something because of what your ex decides. Do you decide if you are going to a movie because of your neighbor being there? Do you decide to not have a conversation because of who might hear about it third hand? Yet many people make decisions like this every day because they are worried about if getting back to their ex, or seeing their ex. That’s not being through a divorce. Learn to be civil with them just as you do with other people in your life.

If your ex is difficult, I suggest working through the process from an impartial business focused perspective. Negotiate and come to agreements without emotion. This is very, very hard for nearly everyone unless you area narcissist and only care about yourself anyway. I know I am talking about doing this with someone who probably knows you better than anyone on the planet. They know how to make you mad, happy, sad and any other feeling as quickly as anyone can. The buttons are fully labeled and they may enjoy pressing them. If they maintain that control over you, I contend you will not get through. I think it’s foolish to think you will not occasionally regress, but as with anything in this process you are looking for less and less of a reaction, and more and more ability to just deal with the facts, have a discussion, make the necessary decision and move on. You are not connected the same way anymore and it takes conscious effort and at times saying it out loud to yourself in a mirror may help. When your ex loses the power to control your thoughts, choices and feelings, you are getting through.

Remember what it was like before you were married and maybe even seriously dating? All the hopes and dreams you had FOR YOURSELF. One of those was probably getting married, yes, but there were many others. More importantly, what were most of your thoughts about during the day and night? Were you looking forward with excitement, or looking back with regret? For most I would think the future was so bright you had to wear shades. To me this is the biggest indicator that you are getting through. When you begin to look at life that way again and not regularly think about your failed marriage, you are in a great place. It is crucial, oh so very, very crucial, to be very clear here. I am NOT talking about dating around and being so busy that you do not think about the past. You are then medicating with relationship and busyness. I do think it is possible to allow God and religion to take this same role. It is crucial to have God help you through this, but I know people who get so involved in church activities and ministering to others yet when you talk with them about their divorce they are still fixated on it. They are dating God in this case, and using Him in an inappropriate way. This can be tough to see in yourself, but if you are honest, you can see it.

The best test so see if you have changed your life perspective back to hopes and dreams is what do you think about when you are alone. Do you look forward to your life and see yourself successful in whatever you choose, and perhaps see the possibility of love again? This is all a fine line and a key reason why not getting in a relationship before you truly feel you can think in the above manner is critical. If you are dating, your “alone” thoughts may be happy ones about being with your significant other and building a life, but again, this is pacification not healing. You are distracting yourself with sex or the promise of it. When you have no prospect of not being alone, are you at peace? This is a good sign you are getting through.

Did you spend time taking what you could from your failed marriage? I think this is very important as well. If you believe that you had no part in your marriage failing, or maybe just a teeny bit, but hey you were justified because she was so mean, then you are not through. In addition if you start getting involved with someone else the likelihood that you will do the same things are very high. A big reason for multiple divorces? I think this is it. To me a huge red flag with someone would be if they had been divorced multiple times. It shows they are not learning and changing. Take the time and ask God to help you truly see what you did wrong in your marriage. What is clearer now with hindsight? Do not go down the path of self righteousness here. Remain humble and know that along the way you made bad choices that were a cause of your current situation. Take responsibility and ownership for your life.

So thinking about the future and not the past, being comfortable with the here and now, having taken time to reflect and looking at life in a hopeful way are great ways to know you are through your divorce. Are they the only ways? I think not, but for me they were the guideposts I looked for. I feel I am proof that you can go through this process and come out a better person. God has a purpose for each of us, and being divorced does not remove us from that purpose. If we do not take what we can from it we squander an opportunity to fulfill that role as fully as we can. I pray each and every person can find the way through their divorce and continue forward in a glorious way. I also hope we all remember the pain and agony involved and use that to motivate us to make any future relationships strong and never go through this process again. Divorce is a terrible thing and reverberates through our society in so many ways. If we all commit to stopping the cycle and removing it as an option and looking at relationships in that light, what a wonderful place this world would be.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately and felt I should summarize my thoughts in my blog at this time. It’s a topic I will come back to often I’m sure in various forms. The reason for this is I do think it is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest issue that comes up for divorced parents. For divorced men, I think it is even more of an issue because there is more pressure to “get back on the horse” applied from friends and family. Women are vulnerable, more publicly accepted to show hurt, pain, loneliness and all the other feelings that strong men are not so open to showing. As such, men tend to shut down, avoid or ignore those feelings and jump back in the saddle way too early.

So my spin on this topic today is to focus on what I see as a topic of many, many posts on divorce forums and blogs no matter what I look at and of course offer my own version.

My view on this is highly colored by my Christian worldview. I believe we are made to crave relationship, and I do not use that term lightly. It is not a tugging at the back of our mind, it is not a still small voice that we hear once in a while. It is a deep seated desire to see and be seen, to know and be known, to love and be loved. I firmly believe God created us to be single but not alone. But my version on single is not the traditional one, it is one based on the teachings of Dr. Myles Munroe. To be single in this regard is to be unique, complete and fulfilled in oneself. This does not mean you cannot be married, but it does bring you to marriage in a different package than the typical Jerry McGuire tainted worldview many have of “You complete me!” If you plug into this view and say, “Yeah, that’s what I need!” then I humbly beseech you to stay as far away from the lure of dating as is humanly possible. The sharks are there and they will eat you alive in the dating pool if you wade in with this outlook.

The question asked countless times on forums around the internet frequented by divorced people is some variation of “When am I ready to date/for love/for marriage?” To me the answer is simple: When you are fully embraced of your singleness (as defined above) and your desire for romantic relationship can be met in a healthy and uplifting way.

The first step that many neglect on this road is to really heal from your past marriage. I have been involved, both as a participant and now a leader, in the DivorceCare program. I cannot recommend enough for anyone in a divorce to go through this program as many times as you need to fully go through the process in yourself. I have attended with people who are on their third visit from the same divorce, and I have attended with some who are on their third go round from three divorces. In the latter case, one can ask, “How can you say it works then?” My personal experience is when I met those types of individuals they were the first to admit that they went to the program but did not work the program in their own lives. Just as with anything like counseling, advice from friends, inspiration from God; if we only pay lip service to the message but do not work to make it a part of our character, the value is only skin deep.

As you heal I think it is important for you to understand yourself. Do you really want a marriage in the future, or has the process helped you find that you want to stay unmarried and just minister to others and help them? How does your soul find fulfillment and allow you to live out God’s purpose in your life? For some having a like-thinking partner in the form of a marriage is that tool, but for others it is having relationships to enrich others lives but not pursuing anything romantically with another person. Neither answer is better than another. Listen to God’s guidance and He will point you in the way you need to go.

Moving back to the single discussion, if you are needing a romantic relationship to provide you with happiness, stability, direction, or any other supporting benefit, I will argue you need to wait. Dating someone when you have a need becomes a search, a hunt, a quest for who can meet my need. Dating someone when adding someone to your already complete life would be a welcome addition or a glorious blessing is a completely different experience. It is freeing and wonderful and truly removes a lot of the drama associated with relationships pushed on us by society today.

A big part of this equation of entering into the dating world is setting boundaries on your sexuality. This is a very, very uncomfortable topic for many people because the pressures are immense in the American mindset. Media bombards us with the “need”, the expectation even, that sex is just part of the equation in dating today. Going through a solid program like DivorceCare can give you tools to think differently and understand some of the inner emotions that can send you false signals if you get involved sexually at the wrong time. Many of us in a divorce can look back and see that we were deceived by the feelings we felt and looked past problem areas with our significant others in the past that may have led to long and ultimately painful relationships because of the connection that was so much more difficult to sever. Dating is hard enough with all the other things going on. Don’t make it even harder on yourself by not establishing a sexual code you will follow in your new relationships. I know this can be challenging or even seem foolish and old-school to many, but I firmly believe it is a key to finding success in dating and remarriage.

When you are truly prepared and ready, dating again can be a wonderful, exciting experience. It is no longer fraught with all the superficial trappings of our teenage years when we truly did lack the maturity to understand the depths of human love. I urge you to not turn your back on a tougher recovery to do it right and not use dating as a part of your recovery. Dating should only be embarked on AFTER you are recovered, not during. You will find you need to back away from many people who you can tell are not ready. This is to avoid getting hurt and to avoid ultimately hurting them. This is hard. But it is easier than going through another messy break-up of a marriage or a long-term relationship because you entered in without a healed heart, spirit and mind. Then you start the process all over again, and it gets harder the more times you do it.

So promise yourself that you will do what is right for you and your children. It will be so much more fulfilling.