How to Not "Remarry Your Ex"

06/16/2015 12:36 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2016
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Almost 20 years ago, long before divorce was even a thought (and I was still fairly happily married to my first husband), one of my girlfriends was lamenting her husband's lack of... well, something. I don't remember what she was complaining about, but I do remember she was complaining about her second husband.

I will never forget what she said about getting remarried: "Make sure if you ever get divorced to do your work, really work on yourself, otherwise you just and up marrying the same guy again."

Wondering if she was right, I have talked to divorced men and women, therapists, and divorce attorneys. They all agree that people who divorce a second or even third time will often find striking similarities among their exes, especially if they didn't get themselves in order between marriages. While you may think there is no one quite like your ex, and I know you don't mean that in a good way, it would greatly benefit you to do a few things to ensure you don't, indeed, find and marry {!} someone just like them.

1. Work on yourself. The one major thing any new relationship will have in common with your old relationship is you. Even if your ex is a drug-dealing serial killer, there are at least a few things you probably could have done better in your marriage. Take ownership of the challenges and mistakes you had, and spend some time working on yourself so you don't repeat them. Even as you await your divorce decree, you can make a list of the things you didn't love about your relationship, including what you didn't love about you in your relationship. If you let yourself go, or you stopped having sex, or you stopped appreciating the things your ex did to contribute to the marriage, you can set a new standard for yourself going forward.

2. Be single for at least a few minutes! Whether you've been married for two months or 25 years, there is no better time than after a divorce to focus on yourself, find your smile again, and discover who you are today. Dating someone seriously can be a distraction, and that isn't always all bad, however, it can cause you to miss the golden opportunity to spend quality time with yourself. Divorce can be the catalyst for a major reinvention, and you don't want to miss meeting and getting to know your new self! Experts all agree it takes about two years to find your footing after divorce. Diving right into another relationship, instead of taking some time to reflect and review your relationship, can be the main ingredient in a recipe for disaster. Spend time alone and relish every moment!

3. Forgive yourself and your ex. This is a big one, so listen up! Carrying a grudge against your ex, or anyone for that matter, is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Instead of condemning yourself for the things you did wrong, or the things you could have done better, just simply forgive yourself. The same goes with your ex. They may or may not be really upset with you. Because you no longer married, that's about them not about you. How you feel about them is not about them, it's about you. The sooner you can forgive and move forward, the better off you'll be. You have a big opportunity to focus solely on the new future you are creating for yourself, and the sooner you start, the sooner you'll be really happy.

One thing I want to mention before I go: your ex can't be a totally horrible person, or you wouldn't have married them. Make a list of all of their great qualities. You will want the next person you're with to have some of the best ones, right?

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