By: Lara Farrokh, MSW, LCSW
Full Disclosure: This writer has never been divorced. But I truly love working with people who are experiencing divorce especially those identifying as women. Please also note, I write this from what I have learned working with the cisgender/heterosexual population but I am hoping that it resonates with all people.
“Who would want me now?” is the statement I hear most when I approach my clients with the prospect of dating after divorce. As a therapist, this often hits a part of me I can feel right in my chest. Also as your therapist, I hold you in such positive regard, I often think “you are such an incredible treasure of a human, who wouldn’t want you?!?!?!” But I also totally get it. Our culture and society puts a premium on the young and chaste, that women who have experienced divorce often feel like potential partners will see them as “used goods” — as if women are like cars which devalue with age and use. This is truly disgusting and I could write a whole book on how this is absolute garbage meant to sell us age-defying face cream, but I need to keep your attention on helping you as you embark on the dating venture.
So … here are some tips that may help you on your journey to finding a relationship after your divorce:
- Get to know your Attachment style
Attachment is a complicated process of how we get our needs met and is the foundation of every relationship in our lives. The upside here is you already know what needs weren’t being met in your last relationship. Depending on which theory or which book you read, there are basically 4 types of attachment patterns: secure, anxious, ambivalent, and avoidant. I recommend reading Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller to start and move on to Healing Your Attachment Wounds by Diane Poole- Heller (I do not get any royalties from these recommendations but maybe I should). Knowing your attachment style will help you to understand what you need from a relationship and will help you to better identify what others are looking for as well. If you want to really understand your attachment style and build more insight into your patterns, find a therapist who will help you deep dive into the glorious world of your own past relationships. It is not as scary as it sounds. Promise.
- Get to know how you view, understand and cope with feelings of rejection
I always think of this guy in college who literally asked out every girl in our class and did not bat an eye when he was flat out rejected. This, being my nightmare, I asked him how he continued to go forward after being rejected by most of the girls he asked out. He simply said “rejection doesn’t bother me, but losing an opportunity does.” MIND. BLOWN. You mean to tell me that not everyone avoids rejection? That if someone doesn’t like me, I don’t have to generalize that I am a hideous evil troll who will never find love? Listen, I know it is more nuanced than that. Those with trauma backgrounds and diagnoses like Generalized Anxiety Disorder and ADHD struggle more with rejection than others. But if you don’t face your relationship with rejection, you will avoid these feelings or allow them to hijack your brain, you may miss out on a great opportunity.
- Confront the negative self-cognitions which you have internalized from your last relationship.
Divorce is traumatic and what we know about trauma is that we often internalize a negative belief about ourselves. Here are some examples I hear a lot. My ex-partner told me or treated me like I was: too needy, too emotional, not sexy enough, not good enough, crazy, ugly, not able to meet his needs and/ or told me that I have no sense of humor, I am annoying…” You may have internalized these messages and if you take nothing from this blog, HEAR THIS: It’s time to re-write your story. Those things are probably not true and they may not be true to someone new.
Lastly, remember that dating is an act of extreme courage and vulnerability. Finding love and forging new relationships is the fabric of life. Congratulate yourself for daring to go on this intense but rewarding journey.
About the Author:
Lara Farrokh (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 15 years of experience working with vulnerable populations, especially those that have walked the path of trauma, addiction, anxiety, or loving someone that has had struggles with an addiction. In addition to being an EMDR-trained trauma therapist, Lara also facilitates Untying the Knot, a divorce support group for womxn navigating the unique challenges of divorce and/or separation.