When people divorce, at least for many of us who had lost that loving feeling in our previous relationship, something pretty strange happens which I can only attribute to human nature. When we become uncoupled we suddenly acquire a voracious appetite for that over-the-top love affair we see in the movies. Yeah, I failed at that last one, but I can still be swept off my feet. I can still have my happy ending! In fact, I long for it. I must have it and I must have it now!
So we become open, maybe too open, to new possibilities before we’ve really worked through our failings, taken inventory of our lessons and given serious thought to what we want in a future relationship. Before we know it, someone shows us affection, respect, and tells us how beautiful we are and all at once, our rational-self forgets to go into a new relationship eyes wide open. We plunge head-first into the deep end and are completely consumed not by the other person’s actual wonder but rather by the idea of the perfect relationship. We discount any shortcomings we witness in the new interest and find it effortless to only focus on the immense feelings provoked when in the presence of this new someone. We feel sexy again. Our heart races with excitement. Colors seem brighter. The sun shines more intensely. Our hearts feel warm. We dance like kids again with complete reckless abandon. Just thinking about this new relationship is exhilarating. But if only we paused, we’d realize that we’re not actually thinking about the new love interest so much as we are thinking about the ideas of love, lust, and excitement that this new relationship conjures up. God forbid a friend tries to impose on the perfect imagery we’ve created around this new person, we dismiss it – that is if we ever even heard it in the first place. Oh our friends just don’t understand. They don’t remember what this feels like. And they can’t know what they’re talking about. He’s perfect. We’re perfect! So we pour our heart and soul into this new relationship losing ourselves and our perspective entirely. One, or many in some cases, might even say we’ve lost our minds!
Yes, new love is a great thing – an enthralling experience. Really, there isn’t much else like it. I can think of few other events throughout our lives that provoke such intense positive emotion. But this intensity can also be blinding and in many cases, short lived. Further, it may deny us the opportunity to learn to love and honor ourselves. Then one day, sort of like that moment when we reach the bottom of the first hill of a roller coaster, the lust ends, our eyes flutter open, and we’re not sure if we like this ride after all. We feel a bit nauseous and through the fog, we can’t even figure out how we got here or how this person that seemed so perfect at first is suddenly revealing a reality we hadn’t even noticed was there all the time. This isn’t necessarily because they are not a good person. They may have lots of redeeming qualities. The just may not have those qualities that will sustain the two into their elder years. We may find they were worthy to reside in our life for a chapter or two but not an entire novel. Surprised, shocked, and deeply saddened, we realize we just read the last page of our book together.
These experiences can certainly run the gamut. Once we actually snap out of our dream state (the “honeymoon phase” if you will), we begin to notice annoying habits we just can’t come to terms with. Maybe the other person doesn’t share our values. Maybe they aren’t even as attractive as we once saw them. Where did that beer gut come from anyway? Cupid be damned I tell you! In extreme cases, one may find out the person has a criminal record or has become abusive to either them or their kids. I was fortunate to escape these extreme circumstances. But not everyone is.
Why am I telling you all this? It isn’t to scare you or to suggest that you can’t find the perfect love again. It’s just to raise some awareness that with that first relationship after marriage, you may be giving it more credit than it is due, so consumed by the idea of love, that you actually miss the fact that you aren’t really experiencing love at all but rather heightened human hormones, a.k.a. lust – an unsustainable illusion. Now there’s nothing wrong with lust either. But I would suggest that lust in the absence of real love can actually be dangerous because of how it manipulates our otherwise logical deduction processes. And I really believe we are more susceptible to this in that first relationship following a long term failed one than after having a series of “learning relationships”. These are the ones that provide us a feedback loop within which we consciously decide what we like and don’t like to experience. We learn what type of conversations and experiences we enjoy having with another person. We learn what type of lifestyle we really want to create for ourselves – what friend circle really serves us.
So as you become your new self, just be cautious of that first relationship that catapults you into the heavens. Be mindful not to bury your head in the sand. Don’t abandon your rational thinking. And if you do have a rebound relationship that ends, don’t be surprised if it hurts even worse than the divorce. A bubble that bursts is usually more startling than a ball that slowly deflates.