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Juliet Jeske

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Dating After Divorce: Rebounds and Supernovas

Posted: 10/21/11 03:30 PM ET

I don't know why they call them rebound relationships. When I think of a rebound I think of a ball bouncing off of a wall, which is a fairly tame thing. I call the first major relationship after leaving my husband the supernova -- a collection of stars exploding all at once vaporizing everything in their path, burning bright, hot and fast. It was a force of nature -- so much bigger than a rebound.

I left my husband when I discovered he was a closeted homosexual. He had been lying to me and to himself for our entire nine-year relationship. When I left him I was devastated, although the relationship had grown dysfunctional, I was still deeply in love and a dedicated wife.

My marriage had been celibate for a prolonged period of time, and I desperately longed for a relationship with a straight man. I found it almost too easily and only four months after leaving my husband. He was a man who I had known casually in my social group of friends. He was handsome, charming, and we had a lot of the same interests. We sort of discovered through mutual friends that we both had a crush on each other, so it seemed inevitable that we would end up together. He even remembered the moment we first met years earlier, which was fuzzy to me, but he could recall it in startling detail. And he resembled a taller, younger version of my husband. It was as if I had found the straight version of the man I had just left.

I knew it was a dangerous situation and I avoided getting involved at first. I had so many fears -- was it too soon? Would this end up making my depression worse? Was it because he reminded me of my ex?

But it happened, the universe finally put us together, and for a brief period in my life it was pure magic. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world to have fallen from that complete and utter disaster that was my divorce into something that felt so perfect. And he seemed just as excited as I was; it felt like the ideal love affair. But the cracks started to form almost immediately. I was deeply depressed, a depression that is almost too difficult to describe now. I couldn't sleep through the night, I had difficulty eating, I cried constantly, I suffered panic attacks, I had general anxiety, overwhelming fears dominated my thoughts, and my moods would turn on a dime. I lost 20 pounds and dropped two dress sizes in a few months, had frequent asthma attacks, and was constantly sick; physically, and emotionally I was falling apart.

I also wasn't used to dating, I was used to being married. Dating is not anywhere near being married. I didn't know how to make the transition; I was suffocating, smothering and desperate for his affection. I will never know his motivations but I can't blame him for walking away from an obvious train wreck. He had his own problems as everyone does, and I was just a disaster of a human being. When it ended it felt like being dropped off an emotional cliff. I was already so damaged from my divorce and now my first attempt at love was an implosion of epic proportions.

For months I tormented myself over the whole affair, beating myself up for all of the mistakes I had made. I tried to start another relationship only to have that blow up in my face almost the exact same way. I kept blaming myself -- what if I had waited? What if I had been healthier? Would either relationship have worked out differently? Eventually I convinced myself that it didn't matter. I would never know that alternate reality and life doesn't work with a reset button. The damage was done; the trust was shattered on both sides and couldn't be repaired. Feelings were hurt, egos bruised, expectations destroyed and there was no way I could repair any of it. And I needed to move forward anyway as the whole affair was just collateral damage of my state of mind at the time. Being clinically depressed is not the best time to start a relationship.

The real source of my anguish was my divorce, so either it would have been this one painful affair or a series of short meaningless flings, but the outcome would have been the same. I was eventually going to hit rock-bottom. After an agonizing eight-hour long anxiety attack and three days of very little sleep, I finally bottomed out, and then I got into therapy. I briefly went on antidepressants and little by little, month by month, the horrible twisted vice of depression released its grip and I began to have my mind back. It took nearly two years from the day I left my marriage to finally feel like myself again. Friendships tarnished and other aspects of my personal and professional life have been negatively affected, but I try to live with a positive outlook and not look back. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one tool that worked for me and I try to use its tips and tricks every day.

I say it all the time now to anyone newly divorced and I say it even if they are not listening. Don't do it. Give yourself time to heal before you suck someone else into the personal torment that you are inevitably going to experience. Of course not every divorced person goes through this, as some are happy to leave their spouse, and for them divorce is a new beginning. But if a person is emotionally crushed, they should avoid getting involved in a serious intimate relationship for a while.

The most important thing that I learned from my supernova experience is that no one else could save me. No one person has enough love or strength to pull another out of a free fall, especially in a brand new relationship. I had to do it on my own. I couldn't really be available emotionally to another partner when I couldn't even take care of myself.

Sometimes a person gets lucky and has a perfect love affair immediately after a divorce, but from my own, and most of my friend's experiences, this hasn't been the case. So fight the force of nature, hang out with your friends, and work on yourself. Things will get better, but the main thing that you need is time -- not another lover.

 

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