10/03/2013 12:30 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Road to Re-Partnering: 'I' Always Precedes 'We'

Re-partnering can be a particularly frightening prospect after a divorce. Since the breakup, you've spent time on your own with no commitments or emotional ties to a partner, so venturing back into the marketplace might be overwhelming.

You may fear repeating some of your past errors, only to fail once more. Or, perhaps you feel inhibited to trust again. Both are very normal reactions to the trauma of divorce.

Despite your well-founded anxieties about re-partnering and no guarantees of a perfectly smooth ride ahead, you have considerably more leverage navigating this terrain than you might realize. Let's take a look at the glass as half full and identify where your power comes in.

First comes letting go...

No matter how clever you think you are at outsmarting the pain of your loss, I am here to tell you that your efforts will fail. Where there is attachment, there is loss. Where there is loss, there is grief. Your mission is to embrace and experience the myriad of emotions you feel in response to the collapse of your marriage. To do otherwise is to inhibit successful re-partnering. One cannot let go and re-partner simultaneously.

... Then comes self-reflection...

To Thine Own Self Be True.... While it is awfully tempting to point the finger at your former spouse and blame them solely for the demise of your marriage, think of your divorce as a wake-up call and instead ask yourself honestly where you went wrong. By identifying your shortcomings, you empower yourself to avoid repeating your past mistakes and to contribute positively to your re-partnering journey.

... Finally, the re-partnering

By grieving your lost marriage and doing some courageous introspection, you have positioned yourself perfectly to confront the challenges of re-partnering. The following suggestions will immeasurably add to your success.

Remember: your partnership is made up of three entities; "I," "You," "We." Successful re-partnering means you are always nurturing yourself, your partner, and the "we" that you have jointly formed. To ignore any entity is to weaken the final product.

It takes two secure "I's" to have a solid "we." Healthy re-partnering will only occur when each person is a clearly defined individual. This means assuming full responsibility for your personal development, never shifting it onto your partner. Think about it, the crises in your failed marriage more than likely resulted from two underdeveloped "I's" attempting to create a secure "we."

Support your partner. You must invest in your partner's growth with tolerance and acceptance. You and your partner are two distinct individuals with unique identities. Therefore, you must grant them the right to have their own feelings, thoughts, needs, interests, and viewpoints, even when they differ from yours.

Remain separate but connected. Honor yours and your partner's need for individuality (2 "I's") while simultaneously seeking more closeness and intimacy ("we").

I am not suggesting that re-partnering is easy; it is not. The cornerstone of a healthy, loving relationship consists of a mindful commitment to the growth of your "I," your partner ("you"), and to the development of the relationship as a whole ("we'). In other words, "it takes three to tango."


Author of the recently released book, "Who Am I Without My Partner? Post-Divorce Healing and Rediscovering Your SELF," Deborah Hecker, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist with over 35 years of private practice experience. She received her Master's Degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from The Union Institute. In addition, she is certified as a psychoanalyst and has extensive training in the following areas: addiction counseling, grief counseling, collaborative practice and mediation. For more information, please visit