Some folk leave their marriage or long-term relationship with elegance and grace. Some of us have catastrophic break ups that leave us cowering under the covers for months, if not years.
When we move on to a new relationship, we bring with us a truck load of heavy baggage. And as our new relationship turns into something long-term, the doubts begin to creep in.
“I’ve fucked this up once, I’m going to do it again.”
“My track record with love is abysmal. I’m crazy to think this will ever work.”
My marriage was brutal and messy. Our breakup was volatile and damaging. The experience left me broken, wounded and doubting everything I thought I believed in.
But in spite of that, here I am coming up on six years in my second significant relationship. Here are some of the things I have learned about how to navigate the terrain between a disastrous relationship and a delightful one.
The Past isn’t a Blueprint for the Future
Even though you have had terrible experiences in the past, there is no reason to expect the same thing in the future. Our destiny isn’t written in the stars — and if it was, it would be handwritten with twinkling points of pleasure and joy.
Teach yourself to live in the moment, appreciating what you have right now without worrying about an eventual disaster which will probably never arrive. When panic arrives at 3am, whisper to yourself, “My past has no influence on my current or future life. It is finished and complete. I let it go.”
Forgive your ex-partner for being a dick. Forgive your friends for taking his side. Forgive your mother for saying, “I told you so.”
Most of all, forgive yourself. You did the best you could at the time, even though you might do things differently now. Failing at a relationship doesn’t mean you’re bad, or flawed, or unlovable, it just means there came a time when you changed your mind about what you wanted.
Be the Love You Never Received
Call to mind all the ways you felt unloved and invisible in your previous relationship and use that data to behave different with your new lover.
If your ex-husband never listened to you, make an effort to be a great listener. If your ex-husband gave you the silent treatment, try to say how you are feeling when you feel hurt or upset. If you ex-partner never touched you, be warm and affectionate. Give out the kind of love you’ve always wanted to experience.
One thing terrible relationships show us is how painful and cruel our circumstances can be. If you have to compare your past to your present, search for the differences rather than the similarities.
Be thankful for all the small things your new lover does for you – texting, putting out the bins, picking you up from work, kissing you goodbye. Never let small acts of love go unnoticed, or taken for granted. Say thank you to your lover and to the Universe for the good things in your life.
Use a Light Touch
Now you’ve got the most important, “till death us do part” relationship over and done with, you can relax. You’re allowed to have any kind of relationship you want now – it’s totally up to you. Be light and playful with love — quick to give it away and slow to expect everything in return. You are no longer defined by the title of wife, so enjoy the freedom.
Even if you decide to marry again, there is no need to struggle under the weight of expectations. The stakes have been lowered.
If it doesn’t work out, it’s not that big a deal. You’ve survived once, you’ll do it again. Enjoy being part of couple but don’t make it the entire focus of your life. The paradox is, the more you let go of control, the better your relationship will be.
Second-time relationships don’t have to be repeats of the first time around. You’re older, wiser, more battle-worn, and less likely to put up with bullshit. All that experience has made you an expert on what you want and what you don’t want. Put that expertise to good use and make this relationship or your next relationship the best one you’ve ever had.
Have you moved on from your first “till death us do part” relationship? What is your advice?