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Dr. Terri Orbuch

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To Find Love Again, Try Changing Your Behavior

Posted: 08/02/2012 3:45 am

Author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship

Do you want to increase your prospects of finding new love after divorce? Do you feel like there is a "new you" you want to present to the world this time around? If you answered yes to either of these questions, read on.

In my long-term study of marriage and divorce, funded by the National Institute of Health, divorced singles who changed at least one of their behaviors over a three-week period were twice as likely to find new love as the singles who stuck to their routines and old behavior patterns. Does this sound like a simple strategy? It is!
A Real-Life Success Story
Here's a real-life example of how this works. Allen, a client from my private practice, recently found himself divorced and single again at 56. Repeating the same old rut day in and day out was definitely an issue for him. In his marriage, Allen was the dictionary definition of "routine." You could literally set a clock by him, which was one of his ex-wife's complaints. When Allen's ex-wife told him she wanted a divorce, Allen went into something resembling shock, and he hung on to his old routine for dear life. Allen felt that doing what he knew -- and what he knew best -- was the only way to cope with all of the change and loss in his life.

But at my suggestion, Allen did something uncharacteristically different: he bought a banjo, which he'd played as a boy. A few weeks after that, he joined a bluegrass band, had a group of work colleagues over for a backyard barbecue and booked a weekend yoga retreat. Other people, including his ex-wife, couldn't believe the changed man Allen had become -- happy, outgoing and confident. Allen's urge to make just one small change snowballed into a series of positive, healthy changes. And that's what we're going to focus on for you.

In this article, I'm going to focus on just one of the factors that, in my ongoing study of 25 years, predicted new and satisfying partnerships after divorce: trying a new behavior. Changing a behavior is simple and you too can find new love, just like my client Allen did.

New Behaviors Invite Attraction
New behaviors, even seemingly insignificant ones such as leaving work at 4 instead of 5, produce a ripple effect of change. Getting out of a set behavior pattern or comfort zone opens you up to new experiences. It also sends a signal to your brain that makes you feel slightly unsettled, uncomfortable, excited and alert. These novel and interesting thoughts and emotions are the same ones that are triggered when you meet someone new. So in a sense, you're preparing your brain and body for change and adventure with a new partner.

How to Get Started
All it takes is one change: either changing an old habit or adopting a new behavior that will become part of your new identity. You might decide to drop your old habit of taking the elevator and walk up the three flights of stairs to your apartment instead. Or shop for fresh produce instead of picking up take-out dinner. Or find a different dog park for your pooch. Another way is to introduce something new, such as joining a book group, taking a Zumba class, or trying a weekend pottery class.

The idea is to stimulate learning, encourage healthy risk taking, and put yourself in front of potential partners. Bringing something new into your life is an easy and effective way to feel hopeful and energized. Best of all, making one change usually leads to more. If those changes continue to have a positive effect on your life, other singles will take notice and be drawn to you.

Setting a 21-day Plan
No matter what change you decide on, the key is to make a plan and stick with it for 21 days. Why 21 days? Because that's enough time to get comfortable with a new routine and see some results. Those results could be anything from feeling healthier and meeting new people to learning something unexpected about yourself. By making one small change in your life and routine, and following through for 21 days, you'll also be giving structure and organization to your future.

Following Through for Success
It's not uncommon for people to have a goal, even a small one like riding their bike to work twice a week, and then quickly find excuses not to follow through with it. Here are a few tips to help you succeed.

First, decide what you want to change. Think of an area of your life that you want to be different. Some typical categories are money, health, work/life balance, appearance, emotions, friends or family, travel, education, or an unrealized talent or hobby. Second, write it down on your calendar so you see it every day. Third, break your goal into smaller tasks that will help you succeed. For the biking-to-work example, these smaller tasks might include: checking the weather on Sunday to pick two good days that week, taking a spare work outfit to work the day before so you can change into it when you arrive, getting your bike tuned up and going to bed a half-hour earlier the night before your bike commute. Schedule these smaller tasks on your calendar too so you don't forget to do them.

At the end of the three weeks, take a moment to look back and reflect on the results and changes you notice. For example, did you meet anyone new? Were you more open to meeting someone new? Did the new activity or behavior change the way you felt about yourself? Did people who know you well remark on how you've changed? I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.

Among the divorced singles I studied, those who changed one behavior not only increased their prospects of repartnering successfully, but they also described feeling happier and more hopeful than they had before they made the change. Sounds good, right? As you navigate through this challenging period, remember that being single again isn't always easy, but it can be an exciting adventure. If you're open to changing and growing, life has a way of rewarding your efforts.

 

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