It's over. You've broken up, hired attorneys, filed or are already divorced. You thought that you were successfully moving on, but it's Friday night and you're facing what feels like another long, lonely weekend alone. Sure, you've been dating, but you haven't met anyone of enduring significance. When you first separated you felt confident and justified, even hopeful about meeting someone new, but now you're feeling miserable.
You're laying on the couch, obsessing over what could have or should have been with your ex. You're wondering what they're doing and whom they're with. Are they thinking about and missing you too? Maybe they're your Great Love after all, and you screwed up in letting them go!
So when they text you with an "I miss you. Can we talk?", you're beside yourself with hopefulness and glee. You feel like this is the miraculous moment you've been praying for. Here's your chance to make it right and get back together.
Not so fast!
In my work with divorcing couples, and being the veteran of two divorces myself, I've learned personally and professionally that no matter what your lonesome heart is telling you in this moment of vulnerability, it's critical to remain rational, take it slow, and most of all, keep your eyes open. I can promise you those unresolved problems will rise again, once the hormones and excitement settles down and you're back in your comfort zone.
If you both truly want to use this as a second chance at creating a happier, more successful and secure relationship, make sure you can both clearly answer a resounding "yes" to the following relationship well-being stabilizers before calling your attorneys and jumping back in. Please note that the operative word here is "both."
1. We have a plan of action in place to deal with disappointments that may occur. It is important to have a "rough waters, this is shaky territory" game plan for how to handle your responses differently this time around. Discuss the problem areas that you had in the past and the needed changes. Having some strategies in place will eliminate some of the shock and disappointment that occurs when you realize not much has magically changed during the time apart.
2. We have no secrets, no masks and are willing to speak our truth. Many times we hide our true selves in order to keep the peace and win approval, attention and love. But then, we never feel completely known or seen. To make it work, you need to have the following agreement: No secrets. No masks. I am really me. You are really you. No lies, no games.
3. We won't bail when things get tough. There has to be a firm commitment to stay together while you are making new and permanent changes. Create a love contract that declares your willingness to hang in there and hold hands when the inevitable problems, fears and regressions arise.
4. We are prepared to take it slow and rebuild again. This is a second chance for love. Take it slow. Don't fall prey to the lure of ex-sex. While the desire to jump into bed may be strong, give yourself the time to learn about each other anew and see each other with fresh eyes. Go on dates, talk and build trust. Become friends. Be gentle and nurturing with yourself and your partner. Notice how safe it feels to really be you. Are your needs being met? How loved and accepted do you each feel?
5. We have the same goals for the relationship. It's problematic if one person wants to move quickly and the other wants to take it slow. Or one of you wants children and the other doesn't. Don't reunite before you are sure the timing is right and a mutual commitment of goals is agreed upon.
6. We are ready and willing to forgive the past. If you truly want to repair and rejuvenate your relationship, you'll have to resolve the negative feelings and come to a place of forgiveness and understanding with yourself and each other. As the barriers melt and a renewed sense of safety and relief replaces hurt, your hearts will be free to truly love again.
Let's face it, no relationship is problem or disappointment free. The real strength and cohesion between you is often revealed in how you deal with the problems and frustrations that arise. This time around, make sure you have a plan in place, especially for your hot button issues. Decide in advance how you'll solve problems as a team, not make issues exclusively a "me" problem or a "you" problem. When problems do arise, the best question to ask is "How would love respond?" Loving actions brings caring solutions.
A breakup isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it can give a relationship the healthy shake up it needs. Like a brush with death, splitting up can breathe new life and love back into a relationship that has lost its luster, grown lonely, built up a shopping cart of unexpressed resentments, or got caught up in the spin of too many distractions. Suddenly, in the midst of this rebirth, you value being together more and realize how much you really do love each other.
This could be a second chance to have that great and enduring relationship your heart desires, or it could be the necessary completion you need to fully move on. Whatever the outcome, the willingness to choose love over fear is a worthy journey no matter how the relationship ultimately ends up.
Sheri Meyers, Psy.D is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, and author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love, and Affair-Proof Your Relationship.
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