I got divorced almost two years ago, and it ended pretty badly. While I was married, my wife and I attended couples counseling. After the divorce, I kept going to counseling for a few months.
Ever since my divorce, the relationships in my life with my family, friends, and girls I have dated have suffered. I started feeling disengaged with my family and friends; and the girls I tend to be attracted to are not the best for me, but I feel it’s the best I can do. These relationships begin to feel self-destructive after only a few weeks.
One of the girls had a rough past that involved abuse and drugs and another had a lot of family issues and personal baggage. My family is constantly asking me to try harder for a girl that I want and not settle. But, once again, I feel it’s the best I can do.
I’m constantly slipping between being depressed and being as close as I can to being OK. My family, friends, and co-workers are getting really concerned for my well being, as they tell me often, and I just feel there’s nothing I can do to change anything. I appreciate any feedback you can offer.
It sounds like your divorce knocked you down for the count and it’s been difficult to get back up. It’s time to slow down, get your bearings, and set your course for a brighter future. Life can improve after divorce, but only if you are willing to do the work it takes to take honest inventory of your behaviors so you don’t keep repeating the same patterns that keep you stuck.
Please recognize that recovering from divorce is often more difficult for men than women. Men don’t usually have strong social support systems, aren’t given permission to share their emotions, and are more impulsive and reckless when coping with difficult emotions. Your physical health, emotional health and relationships will continue to suffer if you don’t take corrective action.
First, I recommend you start with your physical health. This is the easiest area to control. Depression is a serious condition and can have deadly consequences. Men who divorce are more likely to attempt suicide, have high blood pressure, and die from heart attacks. The stress on your health cannot be ignored, so make sure you are taking care of yourself by getting to bed on time, eating healthy food, and exercising.
Clean up your environment so you are surrounded with peace and order. Don’t let your living environment turn into the worst kind of bachelor pad. Make your bed, do your dishes, keep the floor clean, and fold your laundry. You will feel a sense of accomplishment in these small efforts.
Next, since you are jumping from one romantic regret to another, make a commitment to take a temporary break from dating. You can always date later when you’re grounded and have better judgment.
In the meantime, spend time with people who are safe, such as family and guy friends who will bring you back to your best self. Don’t spend time on dating sites and trolling for love in the wrong places. This is just a way to medicate your loneliness and shame. Trust that as you become a healthier person, you will position yourself to find a healthy partner.
You might also consider going back to counseling to learn how to grieve, cope with the trauma of divorce, discover blind spots, and uncover any patterns that will sabotage you in the future. You can also use your counselor as an accountability partner to help you stay on track when your vulnerability takes over and you are tempted to give in to behaviors that would sabotage your growth.
As you spend time around healthy people, you are essentially “borrowing their brains,” as yours is temporarily compromised. Open up to them about your thinking, your feelings, your fears, and your desires. Ask them for feedback about your life and let them mirror back what they see in you.
Your life took an unexpected turn when you divorced. Don’t let this detour turn into a dead-end by ignoring all of the warning signs along the way. Slow down, honestly assess your situation, and reach out for guidance so you can heal and build healthier future.
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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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