Are You Dating Another Version of Your Ex?
Are you dating someone since divorcing who’s bringing you down? Are you ignoring the warning signs that this person is WAY too much work — kind of like your ex-husband/ex-wife was? Has it ever crossed your mind that perhaps you’re so programmed to putting out relationship fires and compromising who you are and what you want, that you’ve unconsciously chosen another version of your ex?
Take Bill for example, a 40-year-old divorced man who recently wrote me asking for counsel. Bill has been dating a woman for about a month now. But although he’s very taken with her, to his chagrin, she doesn’t like oral sex — giving or receiving. He tried talking to her about it a couple of times, but she immediately closed down the conversation. She said oral sex is overrated and he should consider himself lucky because she’ll never make him do it to her either. “You’re off the hook,” she said with a wave of her hand.
Making matters worse, he says that sometimes they will be in the same room for hours and she recoils if he tries to cuddle or show affection. She wants NO physical contact at all. What are your thoughts on her behavior, Delaine? he asked in his email to me. “What can I do to make things better?”
I told him that when it comes to a woman’s sexuality, many factors may be at play, and without knowing her, of course, I could only try and guess. I suggested that perhaps her disinterest in oral sex stemmed from a really bad past experience. Perhaps she’d even been sexually abused. And as for lack of physical affection, maybe it would grow over time as she got to better know him and trust him. All in all, however, given the newness of their relationship, I smelled trouble.
But Bill wasn’t interested in my opinion. He reiterated that he was determined to “fix her”; change her. And that’s when I heard alarm bells. “Bill,” I wrote, “Since this is the first woman you’ve dated since separating, do you really think your time/energy is best spent trying to ‘fix’ someone? And by the way, you can’t fix or change anyone; she has to want to do it herself.”
Still, he ignored me – he was convinced that if he DID or SAID something specific, these issues, HER issues, would go away.
I probed deeper,asking about the dynamic between he and his wife during their marriage. No surprise, he said he spent his marriage trying to please her, sexually and otherwise, yet always felt he came up short; that despite his ongoing efforts, nothing he said or did was good enough to meet his wife’s needs or expectations. He was accustomed to feeling inadequate and unworthy both inside and outside the bedroom.
Thus, I use Chuck’s case to caution those who are new to separation and dating again: even though you swear you’d never date someone like your ex again, you can unconsciously end up in the same kind of dynamic yet again, even if on the outside, your new relationship looks very different. That’s why it’s imperative you make the time to consciously keep doing your ‘inner work.’ Your marriage trained you to be and act a certain way, probably for a significant part of your life – and you’ve probably grown accustomed, possibly even addicted, to feeling crappy about yourself in many ways while in a relationship.
So remember to put getting to know YOURSELF at the top of your list as you get back out there and date. Be curious about YOU, pay close attention to what things do and don’t make you truly happy, and be aware of any triggers or sore spots when you’re in someone’s company. And if EVER you start contemplating what YOU can do or say to change someone else, give your head a shake. You did NOT go through all the pain of divorce just to end up in another unhappy relationship, whether it lasts for three weeks or three years.
Mars Venus Coach; Sex, Dating and Relationships, Calgary, AB
Author of The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom; books/movies like 50 Shades
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