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Category: 3. Prepare for the Future

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 5 – The Marital Relationship

 

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Why do over 65% of re-marriages fail?”

Much of the hard work is done over the first 4 steps in building your next long-term relationship. You feel like you are crossing the finish line of a marathon when you get re-married. Guess what? You’re not. Your work has just begun. Will you be able to ferret out and destroy the biggest cause of marital failure? Is your new relationship doomed to fail again?

(This is the 13th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

For a relationship to culminate in a successful long-term, committed union, a five-step relationship-building process must be acknowledged, understood, and completed.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The path to an ultimate, new long-term committed relationship traverses five separate steps in relationship building: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship. (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008).

This article addresses the fifth and final step in the relationship-building process, Step 5: The Marital Relationship.

The Marital Relationship Is the Time for Change!

What?! Isn’t this the time when things settle down and you can finally relax and enjoy some stability?

Well, yes and no. True, you no longer must struggle with the uncertainty of finding a partner with whom you have chemistry and who also will meet your requirements. However, pick  your favorite bumper sticker: “Nothing stays the same.” “Change is the only constant.” “Men get married hoping their partner won’t change, but they do. Women get married hoping their partner will change, but they don’t.

However you cut it, getting married is not a promise of boring, monotonous predictability. Successful marriages not only endure, but invite and relish, change in each other.

A Marital relationship is one that has matured to the point of making it formal with public vows of commitment. Attention now shifts to both parties allowing and encouraging each other to grow, develop, and change in order to fulfill each person’s life vision and purpose.

Goal and the motivating question. The goal of a marital relationship is to keep the relationship alive by encouraging growth and development.  The driving question that motivates this relationship is: “How can WE help each other fulfill our personal dreams?”

The roles you and your partner play.  You are expected to be a husband/wife and a cheerleader for your partner’s efforts to “be all you can be.”

The nature of a committed relationship. A common misconception is getting married is like crossing the finish line in a marathon, requiring no further action. The “marathon” part is right, however, the “finish line” image couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you are now standing at the starting line of a life-long “super marathon” and a whole new part of your thinking will be challenged.

The common belief is that when we get married, who we are at that moment in time is frozen, like a marble sculpture. We no longer can, or need to, change our shape, size, beliefs, dreams, or vision.  A more apt picture at the wedding ceremony is not of a marble statue, but of a sculpture made of Silly Putty. While we may look like a marble statue when we say, “I do,” our actual shape, size, beliefs, dreams, or vision can, and inevitably will, be molded and altered again and again to our personal specifications as our life progresses.

The Back Doors to a Marital Relationship

“Back Doors” are ways that allow one to “escape” from the relationship.

Commensurate with the increased commitment marriage brings, the difficulty in ending the relationship is also elevated. In a marriage not only is there an extraordinarily strong social/psychological contract involved, but also a legal contract is created as well. As you well know, not only is the financial cost of divorce significant, but also the emotional pain runs deep and wide. The effect is to force us to try everything we can to prevent a breakup and use divorce only as a last resort.

Potential Problems in a Marital Relationship

The marital relationship requires the two partners to help each other grow and develop. But what happens if they can’t, or won’t, do this? The relationship suffers and failure, read “divorce,” is possible.

Among the  most common ways we fail at the marital step are:

(1) Taking the relationship for granted and expecting the other partner to do all the work,

(2) Trying to do all the work yourself and excluding your partner,

(3) Treating a “want” as a “requirement,”

(4) Being unwilling to compromise,

(5) Refusing to learn and use the problem-solving, conflict management skills necessary for any committed relationship to work,

(6) Refusing to accept change in your spouse as not only acceptable, but desirable, as he/she pursues their life’s purpose,

(7) Believing the person you are when you get married is the “final product” needing no subsequent alterations or adjustments for the rest of your life, and

(8) Believing love means your partner must accept you forever, just as you were back when you got married, no matter what.

(9) Failure to complete the previous four steps in the relationship-building process, especially Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship.

So, What’s the Point?

Don’t be lulled into complacency by the apparent “finality” of “getting married.” Make no doubt, your work is not done.

You are not only are capable of change, but the very essence of a successful marriage demands that you should change. Your challenge is twofold: Can you make the changes you need to make in order to fulfill your life’s vision and purpose? And, can you support, even encourage, your partner to do the same?

What stands in your way? Lurking in the shadows is the ever-present Resistance to Change! So, your ultimate challenge is to slay that resistance so that your marriage has the sustenance needed to grow and flourish.

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 4–A Committed Relationship

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Why is a committed relationship more complicated than it looks?”

The “holy grail” for many divorced people is to find a new long-term, committed relationship. Among the losses suffered in a divorce are the familiarity and comfort of a partner in life.  Finding someone new to commit to a shared life together holds the promise of “paradise re-found.” The high divorce rates of subsequent marriages suggest all too often the reality is “paradise lost – again.” Why might that be the case?

 

(This is the 12th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

 

For a relationship to culminate in a successful long-term, committed union, a five-step relationship-building process must be acknowledged, understood, and traversed.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The path from initial introduction to a long-term committed relationship goes through five separate stages of relationship: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship. (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008).

This article addresses the fourth step in the relationship-building process, Step 4: The Committed Relationship.

The Committed Relationship Is the Time for Both Partners to Pull Together

The previously completed  recreational and pre-committed stages targeted the individual’s chemistry and logical analysis, respectively. The committed step changes the focus to the couple as a team itself in relationship with each other.  No longer is the focus on “I” and “Me.” Now the focus turns to “Us,” “Our,” and “We.”

A committed relationship is one in which both partners believe their personal individual requirements can be met in the relationship. Their attention now turns to the future, and specifically how they, as a couple working together, pledge to make the relationship between them work.

Goal and the motivating question. The goal of a committed relationship is to develop ways to constructively solve problems and manage differences that arise in any relationship. The driving question that motivates this relationship is: “How can we as a couple make this work?”

The roles you and your partner play. Typically, the partners in a couple refer to each other as “my  fiancé” and are very public about their relationship. Conversation focuses on making plans for their future together.

The nature of a committed relationship. The “feel” in the committed stage is one of  close-knit teamwork. A sense of “we are in this together” around shared values for how each person wants to spend the rest of their lives together.     This is the first time the couple, working together, is given responsibility in the developing the relationship. Up until now, the issue has been up to the individuals to do the work, separate and apart from their partner. Now the couple works together to figure out how WE can make this relationship work.

Both you and your partner are expected to be team players who are willing and able to compromise for the sake of making the relationship work. Note that, at the committed relationship stage, all the individual requirements of both partners have been settled in the previous pre-committed stage. Hence, any compromising for the sake of the team is in the area of wants, not non-negotiable requirements.

The Backdoors to a Committed Relationship

“Backdoors” are ways that allow one to “escape” from the relationship.

The backdoor to a transition, recreational, or pre-committed relationship is relatively simple, even easy. They can be ended with some version of “This is not working out for me,” and then you take your leave à la the Paul Simons song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I know this is oversimplifying a complex, highly emotional situation. Still, there is no legal contract to void and only a moderately strong social/psychological contract holding the couple together.

On the other hand, ending a committed relationship is more difficult. Still there are no legal contracts, but the social/psychological contract is extraordinarily strong. Time has been spent creating plans together for a future as a couple. Expectations run deep and wide. Often wedding plans are in process.

One client of mine ended a multi-year relationship two weeks before the wedding causing a rift in her family. Ten years later her siblings are still so angry and resentful that they refuse to have relationship with their sister who was only preventing a major mistake from being made by ending the relationship.

Potential Problems with a Committed Relationship

The Committed relationship requires the two partners to work together using their interpersonal skills to solve problems and manage conflict. Common potential sticky issues include where to live? Who works, doing what? When, if ever, to start a family? How many children? How and how much money to save? How much to involve in-laws in your life? The list goes on.

But what happens if they can’t, or won’t, find answers to questions like these? The relationship suffers and failure is possible.

Among the  most common ways we fail at the committed step are:

(1) Taking the relationship for granted and expecting the other partner to do all the work,

(2) Trying to do all the work yourself and excluding your partner,

(3) Treating a want as a requirement,

(4) Being unwilling to compromise,

(5) Refusing to learn and use the problem-solving, conflict management skills necessary for the committed relationship to work.

So, What’s the Point?

Making a commitment to another person to live life together as an intimate couple is a serious, life-altering decision. It involves more than chemistry and confidence that the requirements of both parties can be met. In the three previous relationship stages, the major part of the relationship development lies with each individual making calculations about “What’s in it for me?”

However, in the committed relationship stage the stakes are greatly increased. Now the issue becomes can the two people, working together, make the relationship successful and last over time? Equally important, do they have the will to put in the effort and learning that is required to make the relationship successful?

Making a commitment to another person to live life with each other requires courage, determination, and the humility to admit you don’t know all the answers and are willing to learn. Your life is changing. Will you have the courage to dissolve your resistance to the changes that a committed relationship brings and make yourself vulnerable to another person so that you can co-create the relationship of your dreams?

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 3–A Pre-Committed Relationship

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What is arguably more important than listening to your heart for determining the success of a long-term, committed relationship?”

Our culture does not teach us the importance of understanding what we expect to receive from a long-term relationship. The pre-committed stage in relationship development is supposed to remedy that oversight. Unfortunately, the pre-committed relationship is the step that we screw up most often. Consequently, our choice of a partner for a long-term, committed relationship is left up to hormones and “what feels right.” No wonder the divorce rates are so high.

 

(This is the 11th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

For a relationship to culminate in a successful long-term, committed union, a five-step relationship-building process must be acknowledged, understood, and traversed.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The path from initial introduction to a long-term committed relationship goes through five separate stages of relationship: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship. (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008). For the classic description of a pre-committed relationship, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008, 301-319).

This article addresses the third step in the relationship-building process, Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship

The Pre-Committed Relationship Is the Time for Logical Analysis

While the recreational relationship spotlights the contribution of your heart and intuition, the pre-committed relationship highlights the role logic plays in building a relationship.

A pre-committed relationship focuses on systematically determining if your basic requirements for a long-term relationship will be met.

Goal and motivation. The goal of a pre-committed relationship is to decide if someone is a “good fit.” The source of motivation that drives a pre-committed relationship is the question, “Will a life with this person give me what I require in a long-term relationship?”

The roles you and your partner play. Both you and your partner are expected to be a girlfriend/boyfriend who is willing and able to talk openly about what you each need in a long-term relationship.

The nature of a pre-committed relationship. The “feel” in the pre-committed stage is one of focused thoughtfulness and logical analysis. You get crystal clear about what your non-negotiable requirements are for a long-term relationship and determine whether the relationship with your partner can meet all your requirements.

Requirements for a Relationship

The heart of the pre-committed step is knowing and communicating your requirements to your partner.

A requirement is something that must be provided by your partner if the relationship is to work. Steele uses the analogy for a requirement of air, water, and food as requirements for maintaining life in the human body. The absence of even one of the three would result in death. Likewise, the absence of even one thing you consider a requirement for a relationship will sooner or later kill the relationship. (David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008, p 90)).

Potential Problems with a Pre-Committed Relationship

The two most common ways we fail at the pre-committed step are (1) we either do not know what our requirements are or do not realize how important it is to respect their necessity, and (2) we simply skip this step altogether and go straight to the committed relationship step, as if we can intuit each other’s needs. We can’t.

Failure to identify and test out your non-negotiable requirements. After I got divorced the first time, a friend wanted to “fix me up.” She asked me what I wanted in a potential partner. I told her I needed (1) someone who had been divorced before – so she could empathize with what I had been through, and (2) someone who had kids – so she would not be threatened by my parental love. That list of two requirements turned out to be a good place to start, but it left off another 5 or 6 that I was unaware of at the time and which ultimately caused my second marriage to fail.

Skip it altogether. During the recreational relationship everything feels right. It feels like you are in a committed relationship. It also feels like you are so in-tuned with each other that a discussion of your requirements is not needed and, in fact, raising the issue would be downright insulting to your partner. So you never even broach the topic. You just ride the euphoria telling yourself you have found the perfect partner, your soul mate, and skipping the pre-committed step poses no problem.

This is a dangerous roll of the dice. Occasionally it works out. Most of the time it doesn’t. To never discuss requirements or to jump from a recreational relationship straight to a committed relationship, seriously threatens the success of your relationship.

So, What’s the Point?

Make damned sure you make the time to identify your requirements – all of them. Then be doggedly insistent about both of you sharing them with each other.

Then, and this is the hard part, spend an extended period of time together (often 12 to 18 months) to make sure that you and your partner’s requirements can actually be met in a relationship with each other.

This is where most marriages that fail can trace the cause back to. Take the pre-committed step seriously. Your relationship future depends on it.

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 2–A Recreational Relationship

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question,  “If it feels so right, how on earth can it be wrong?”

Most survivors of divorce, somewhere around 90%, would like to find a new, committed relationship. This time around we hope it will be one that actually works and survives. Accepted wisdom tells us to just start dating, trust your feelings, and when you find Mr./Ms. Right, “you will know it.” So then you get remarried and live happily ever after. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were all that simple! Spoiler alert! It ain’t.

(This is the 10th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

Five steps are required to build a long-term relationship. Each step in the process builds on the previous step. Done right, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The relationship path from initial introduction to old married couple goes through five separate stages of relationship: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3:  The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship.  (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008). The discussion of the pre-committed relationship is particularly good.)

This article addresses the second step in the relationship-building process, Step 2: The Recreational Relationship.

The Recreational Relationship is a Time to Play

A recreational relationship is one you enter into for the sole purpose of  enjoying being single again. An added benefit is the re-establishing of confidence and validation that are almost always bruised in the divorce process.

Goal and motivation.  The goal of a recreational relationship is to have fun. The source of motivation that drives a recreational relationship is the question, “Do I enjoy myself when I am with him/her? Is he/she fun to be with?”

The roles you and your partner play. Your partner is expected to be a friend, buddy, pal, playmate  – whether it is sexual or not. Likewise, your role is to also be a friend, buddy, pal, playmate.

The nature of a recreational relationship. A recreational relationship is meant to be light, exciting, superficial, and fun. You go out and do things together. You simply enjoy spending time with each other. No-attachment sex can be a part of the fun if both of you agree.  Life is good. You enjoy being alive.

Hooked on Hormones

The recreational relationship is the time for hormones and hope to run rampant. Unfortunately,  our culture gives us well-intentioned, but poor advice about how to handle the euphoria.

But It Feels So “Right.” You’ve heard it a thousand times in a thousand ways. Your friends say it, your parents say it, the TV says it, music lyrics say it. It is everywhere. It is non-stop.  “Follow your heart,” “You will know when you’ve met Mr./Ms. Right by the way you feel.” “If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”

What you are feeling is just chemistry doing what chemistry does. Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and relationship researcher, conducted a series of illuminating studies on the brain chemistry of love. Specifically, she found that the chemicals triggered during the initial phase of “falling in love” (that is, massive amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine )  are the same chemicals that make us feel euphoric when on a cocaine high. (Helen Fisher, “Lust, Attraction, Attachment: Biology and Evolution of the Three Primary Emotion Systems for Mating, Reproduction, and Parenting.” Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 25,2000, 96-104).

Statistics Tell a Different Story. While, no one would advise anyone to make major life-altering decisions when high on cocaine, that is exactly what our culture (in the form of our friends, relatives, music, and TV) does when it tells us, “If it feels good, it must be love!” Of course, disaster ensues in the form of 42% of first marriages,  67% of second and 75% of third marriages failing.

This is not the fault of chemistry. In fact, physical attraction is one necessary requirements of a good relationship. And, during a recreational relationship we determine if chemistry exists between you and your partner. What is misleading is our culture’s obsession with dopamine-infused, romantic love as the only predictor of long-term relationship compatibility and happiness. It isn’t.

Three Rules for Handling the Intoxication of a Recreational Relationship

Your recreational relationship will feel like the real thing. So, why shouldn’t you go ahead and “lock in” the partner of your dreams before someone else does? Why? Because it’s a ticket back to divorce court.

The following three rules are designed to prevent you from acting impulsively, to “hit the brakes” as it were, even though you may think you do not need to.

My Hands Are Broken Rule. The My Hands Are Broken Rule says do not sign any legal documents with your partner for at least twelve months, and preferably eighteen months. Just don’t.

The 6/7 Rule. This rule says for the first 6 months, do not plan to do anything with your partner  over 7 days in advance. This rule also says, for the first 6 months, do not discuss any future you might have with your partner that exceeds 7 calendar days.

The 6/30 Rule. This rule says after the first six months of dating your partner, do not plan to do anything together more than 30 days in advance and do not talk about your life together that is more than 30 days in the future.

The joy of the recreational relationship lies in its focus on the present, not the future. For now, enjoy the freedom that comes with ending a problematic marriage and allow yourself to bask in the pleasures of the present as an uncoupled, single person. As your relationship progresses through the remaining three steps, you will have plenty of time and opportunity to decide if this relationship has a future.

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 1–The Transition Relationship

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What is the first step to take in finding my next long-term relationship after my divorce?”

This time around we hope it will be one that actually works and survives. The first step on the path to a new relationship future is a “transition relationship.” As the name implies, you are in the midst of change. Being able to accept the need to fix the things your divorce broke is the key to a successful new relationship.

 A Story of a Transition Relationship

A client of mine felt guilty about going outside of his marriage, even though his spouse had broken, and refused to reinstate, an especially important, fundamental agreement they made prior to their getting married.  He talked incessantly to his girlfriend about his displeasure with his ex and his unhappiness with his marriage. His partner reassured him his happiness was the most important thing.  She encouraged him get help from a divorce recovery coach. He did.

He worked with the coach, resolved his feelings of guilt, and formally ended his marriage. Without the support and reassurance from his girlfriend, and  his willingness to make the necessary changes in his feelings about his divorce, he would have stayed in an unhappy marriage and resented his spouse and himself for years to come.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

To build a new, long-term relationship, you must navigate five separate steps in your  relationship with your potential partner: (1) Step 1 – The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2 – The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3 – The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4 – The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5 – The Marital Relationship.

(For a discussion on recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008). The discussion of the pre-committed relationship is particularly good.)

Each relationship has a unique goal and a specific underlying question that motivates action at each stage. Done right, this process is a marathon, not a sprint. This article describes the first step, the Transition Relationship.

The Structure of a Transition Relationship

A transition relationship is one in which you enter into either before your committed relationship ends, or shortly thereafter, for the sole purpose of easing the process of getting uncoupled.

Goal and motivation. The goal of the transition relationship is to get released from the baggage of marriage and re-experience validation. The source of motivation that drives a transition relationship is the question, “Can he/she help me release my attachments to my ex and my relationship with my ex?

Roles. The role of your partner is to be a helper, listener, intimate partner, and truth-teller. Your role is to be a willing listener, learner, and to be amenable to changing those beliefs and behaviors that make a new, positive relationship impossible.  Your partner wants to  “Help you feel good/single again.” Your job is to pay attention to your partner’s observations and make the necessary changes that will make it possible to feel good about your life again.

The Nature of a Transition Relationship

Two things distinguish a transition relationship: (1) A euphoric sense of hopefulness for the future based in having found your soul mate, (2) Constant discussions about your ex and your marriage to you ex.

I’ve found my soul mate! A transition relationship is a heady, euphoric experience with seemingly unlimited hopefulness. You have found the “perfect” partner – someone who can give you everything your spouse couldn’t or wouldn’t.

You conclude, “At long last I have found my soul mate! I am in love and we should be together until death do us part.” No you haven’t. Hold on! This is too much too fast. You’ve only found someone who can validate you in ways that your spouse couldn’t or wouldn’t.

My ex still lives in my head! Another common element of a transition relationship is the tendency of the divorced partner to hold on to and talk about memories of the ex, especially memories of the recent drama around the divorce.

Even though there is just you and your new partner in the room, you are never completely alone as a couple. There is always a third person with you. Who? Your ex who still lives an active life in your head! Your ex is there with you all the time when you eat, shop, watch tv, make love.

As result, you talk about, even obsess over, your ex and the drama of your marriage. Your brain’s death grip on your ex is leading you to disaster. No new relationship can thrive as long as you continue to invite your ex into your life.

Your transition partner is there to help you usher your ex out of your head and out of your life. One client likened his transition relationship to a life-preserver; it kept him afloat and alive until he could reach the shore and solid ground and wipe his ex from his brain permanently.

So, What’s the Point?

The point is, if you are in an early relationship, that is, one that began before or shortly after your divorce is final, chances are you are in a transition relationship. First, you must acknowledge that fact, even though your new relationship feels permanent, not “transitional.” You also must acknowledge that your marriage and subsequent divorce has left you with some things that are broken and need fixing. Be open to your new partner’s suggestions that some beliefs and behaviors need to change, even though you may not agree.

Also, the habit of talking about your ex needs to end. Your ex is part of your past. Like someone said, “The past is history, the future’s a mystery, and today is a gift. That why we call it the present.”   Your challenge is to leave your marriage and your ex in the past so you can enjoy and thrive in the present.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The prescription is to dissolve your resistance to your new changed life situation. Only then can you have confidence that your life after divorce will be happy and successful.

____________

This is the 9th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after a breakup depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that such a traumatic life event imposes on our lives.

Divorce Recovery, Early Dating & Transition Relationships: Shift Happens – Or at Least It Should

                                                                                                                    

                                                                             By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What is the biggest threat to the success of early dating?”

Divorce leaves us broken. Always. Regardless of who wanted it. A transition relationship acts like an emergency room doctor who helps us heal. Want to know how that works?

You just got (or are getting) divorced. You are ending a relationship that, at the end, had more negatives than positives. That is a good thing. However, divorce also skews our perception of the world and wounds us emotionally. In the vernacular, divorce leaves us screwed up.

Divorce Messes with Our Head and Threatens Our Future

What we believe and why we feel the way we do after a divorce is, at best, less than congruent with reality. Hence, if we are to have any hope of developing a new, healthy long-term relationship, we need to make some changes.

If we don’t do this, we are not fully prepared to start a new committed relationship. In fact, failure to adjust our beliefs, feelings, and behavior after divorce is a big part of why 66% of 2nd marriages and 75%  of 3rd marriages fail. In other words, we gotta change.

A Transition Relationship Can Help Us Make Those Changes

Early dating, that is, dating before or shortly after the divorce is final, typically results in a “transition relationship,” even though the two people usually are not aware that that is what it is. The purpose of a transition relationship is to help you make the conversion from being coupled to being uncoupled with your ex. It will allow you to re-experience validation and realize you are still lovable. It will also help you change the flawed beliefs and feelings caused by divorce that  now hinder your forming successful, new relationships.

We Need to Make Some Changes

Normally, several shifts or changes need to occur. Some shifts involve how we look at our transition relationship itself. Other changes involve what we believe, how we feel, and how we act because of our divorce.

           Shifts in the agenda for the transition relationship itself. The initial elation fanned by the exhilaration of heaven-sent validation feels like this new relationship is a long-term, permanent bond leading to marriage between two willing and independent equals in which there is no need to change. Aren’t we told that love is, “to accept you as you are?”  We are convinced this is it! We have found our soul mate!

This is way too much, way too soon. Right now your transition relationship can only help you let go of your attachments to your past life with your ex, not plan out the next several decades. “Accept me as I am” is a romantic fantasy. Your job is to institute the changes in you that will make a successful long-term relationship possible.  It is too soon to know if it will last. You have plenty of time. Use it to get settled from the divorce and get prepared for the future.

         Shifts in beliefs. Typical defective beliefs that survive divorce include: “I need an apology from my ex.” “I need an explanation from my ex.” “My ex is the villain here.” “I will never find true love again.” “I am unattractive and unlovable.” “I am unworthy of the relationship of my dreams.” “I am too old to have the relationship of my dreams.”

Shift in feelings. Some normal, damaging feelings include guilt, anger, hate, shame,  embarrassment,  invalidation, resentment, revenge, victimization, etc. The transition relationship offers a setting to trade in those hurtful feelings for more useful ones like being grateful for what the marriage and breakup has taught you and excited and hopeful about what the next chapter can bring.

Shift in behavior. Some common behaviors that make early dating difficult include checking out your ex’s Facebook page, asking friends about your ex, talking frequently about your divorce and your ex with your current partner. Other problematic behaviors include talking, texting, and emailing with your ex and treating your new partner the same way you treated your ex. Some discussion of your divorce is normal, but when it becomes a routine topic of conversation with your current partner, it is a problem worthy of change. Do different things with your new partner that distracts you from the situation such as going to cooking classes dc. Take your mind off your old relationship.

However, We Don’t Want to Make Changes

We almost never “feel the need” to make a change. The relationship feels like the real thing. Neither partner thinks it is a temporary “transition” relationship, preferring to believe it is the beginning of the next long-term, committed relationship. So, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

And the Point Is…

It needs fixing, anyway.

You got divorced. And divorce gives all of us some dysfunctional beliefs, feelings and behaviors that threaten our future happiness. Any hope of finding a new healthy relationship requires that you fix what the divorce broke. This means you must change. Then, and only then, are you a safe partner for someone else seeking a long-term, committed relationship. Then, and only then, can you have confidence your next long-term relationship will not fail.

How do you do this? Dissolve your natural resistance to change.

 

Divorce Recovery, Early Dating, & Transition Relationships: Isn’t This Another Name for an Affair?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What good is a transition relationship if it is just another word for an ‘affair?'”

For divorce recovery to truly begin and for the deep healing to commence, one must first get uncoupled. On the one hand this rates a “duh” from Captain Obvious. Isn’t “getting uncoupled”  exactly what divorce means? On the other hand, in reality this is never easy and often a major issue for the person wanting out of the relationship. It is very common for a partner in a marriage to put off, or actually freeze at the prospect of, seeing the lawyer.  This article describes a very effective, intuitive “workaround” for those stuck in that miserable purgatory of wanting out of the relationship but balking at the reality of formally killing the marriage. They need a “boost.” Could a transition relationship provide the very support they need to make that happen?

Early Dating

Early dating refers to dating before a divorce is final or dating very soon after a divorce is final.

Reasons for early dating vary: (1) Sometimes the motivation for dating before the divorce is final is to add to one’s relationship experience and/or the euphoric feeling of being intimate with someone new who genuinely wants to be with you, at least in the short term. (2) Other times the motivation for dating before the divorce is final is to save the emotional health of a marriage partner by giving him or her the courage to end the marriage. (3) Still other times the motivation for dating soon after the divorce is final is to begin healing and to help the person let go of how life used to be which is preventing him or her from taking advantage of the potential good in their life after divorce.

A transition relationship can be very helpful in the second and third situations above, but not the first situation. Whether the motivation is to summon the courage to end a marriage or to assist in healing and releasing the baggage collected in a past life during a marriage, a transition relationship can be useful. This article addresses the issue of summoning the courage to formally end the marriage.

Our Culture Does Not Like Transition Relationships

Often the uncoupling process involves having one or more “affairs.” This practice is almost universally looked down upon. Our friends and relatives, the most direct dispensers of cultural Do’s and Don’ts, discourage us from having affairs. Presumably, the affair damages the trust at the core of the relationship, which is the glue that holds the relationship together which will lead to infidelity recovery treatment.

However, what if the trust at the core of the relationship has already dissolved away? What if we are looking for the courage to end the marriage formally? What if we want to end the marriage – but are having trouble contacting an attorney to get the ball rolling legally? What if we are needing someone to throw us a life preserver as we struggle and flail in the deep end of our marriage?

More often than not, we are left to our own devices about how to think about a transition relationship. Guilt over having an “affair” is common. At the very least, we are doing something that practically everyone thinks is a bad idea. It is hard not to be defensive.

How is a transition relationship different from an affair?

An affair gives you some fun; a transition relationship gives you a future.

A person having an affair is like a train pulling off the main track to take a side trip on a pleasant, exciting excursion. You get off the main line of marriage and engage in something new and enjoyable. But, if all goes according to plan, you almost always intend to rejoin the trip with your spouse back on the main line sooner or later.

On the other hand, a person having a transition relationship wants a fundamental switch in the train’s direction and destination. You know the train on the main line is scheduled to forge straight ahead. However, you actually want to get off at the next station and board a different train heading in a different direction. Your problem is you are having trouble buying the ticket for a new destination. You could use some help in getting on the new train.

My Ex Is My Hero – How She Saved the Emotional Health of Both of Us

After deciding the marriage is over and you cannot do it anymore, it is time to find a divorce attorney and begin the administrative process to end the marriage. Easier said than done.

For example, after eight years of marriage, my first wife and I decided our marriage was over. However, out of fear of being single again, we put off taking any legal steps for almost two more years.

Then my wife began dating someone. Neither of us would have described it as a “transition relationship” at the time. I believed it was an affair. She believed it was her next long-term, committed relationship. At the time I was hurt, devastated, and all the other emotions that go with finally acknowledging the death of a relationship. She was optimistically looking forward to a bright, new future.

Regardless of the labels used, it did provide the necessary support she needed to finally see a lawyer and get the legal ball rolling.  In retrospect, it was an act of courage on her part that we both benefited from.

To be clear, this was in no way a “sordid affair,” as some of my friends believed. It was a very healthy attempt to summon the courage to end our marriage so she could move on with her life. It was a textbook transition relationship.

To this day I am grateful to her for having the guts to initiate the transition relationship and end our marriage. It enabled each of us to move on in our lives and find new partners to live with and love.

Her act of heroism saved the emotional health of us both.

Divorce Recovery and Transition Relationships: Could A Last-Minute Wedding Cancellation Be a Godsend?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What is a Transition Relationship and how can it set the stage for making a smooth divorce recovery?”

It takes courage to get married. It takes more courage to get divorced. And it often takes even more courage to confront and master the demands of making a successful recovery from divorce. Sometimes we can summon the courage and wherewithal to handle these issues on our own. Other times we need a little help from a divorce lawyer. The transition relationship often provides that help and courage we need.

Divorce batters us. Often into submission. Our feelings of control and self-esteem are replaced by helplessness, doubt, shame, and/or self-loathing. Our sense of validation can be totally squashed. Our hope of finding true love again is dashed. We look at ourselves in the mirror and think, “How did it come to this?!”  We are a mess.

Being in such a state of anguish makes it difficult to make a clean break and move on with the next chapter of our life. We often need help in making the transition from being married to being single again. A common tool used to help us make that transition is what I call a “transition relationship.”

What Is a Transition Relationship?

A transition relationship is a relationship whose sole purpose is to help at least one of the partners make the transition from “being married” to “being single again.” It is not necessary for either partner to know that that is the goal of the relationship. In fact, seldom are folks aware they are in a transition relationship because it feels identical to the early stages of a regular relationship. Quite often it is that very lack of awareness that dooms the long-term success of 75% to 90% of transition relationships and leaves the partners worried that they are doomed to never find true love again.

The main emotion-based result delivered by a transition relationship, and what makes it so wonderful, even euphoric, is a renewed sense of validation.

Carol’s Story – A Transition Relationship to the Rescue

Carol (all names have been changed), a previous client of mine, grew up in Seattle. She had been in a relationship with Robert, also from the northwest, for nine years. They had been living together for the last seven in what was, in essence, a de-facto marriage.

Robert wanted to get formally married. Carol was hesitant. She described her relationship with Robert as “perfect, except he would not express his feelings.” Furthermore, she desperately wanted a partner who would talk about how he felt. She asked him several times to tell her how he was feeling. He refused. Then she begged him over and over to tell her how he was feeling. He continued to refuse. She even threatened to breakup if he would not talk about his feelings. To no avail. She finally concluded, “That’s just how all men are,” and went ahead with the wedding plans.

Then she met Archie. It was innocent enough. Just an evening out with her girlfriends at a bar. Archie asked her to dance. Afterwards they talked and talked until closing time. All innocent and above-board.

He asked to see her again. She accepted. This time they had some privacy which allowed them to talk about more personal things. To her astonishment, Archie was perfectly comfortable in expressing his deep-felt, personal feelings. She was hooked.

She now realized the fallacy of her belief that all men were incapable of expressing their feelings. She further recognized that she could have a relationship in which the sharing of feelings was possible.

Only problem was, what to do about the wedding? After all, she and Robert had been living together for almost seven years. Invitations had gone out. Wedding gifts were accumulating in their living room. The minister was lined up. The reception hall was rented. The flowers were ordered. The videographer was retained. The caterers were hired. She had bought her wedding dress. The bridesmaids had been fitted for their dresses. Out-of-town guests had purchased non-refundable airline tickets. Friends and family liked Robert and were looking forward to the ceremony. How could she disappoint them? How could she hurt Robert so? But also, how could she settle for less than she now knew was possible?

How a Transition Relationship Can Transform a Person’s Life

The job of a transition relationship is to help someone let go of a relationship, including the attachments to the past that are associated with it, that they no longer want but are having trouble actually releasing. Carol was having trouble getting uncoupled from her relationship with Robert. She wanted to breakup with Robert but felt doomed by inertia. Then Archie tossed  her a life preserver.

Based on what Archie had demonstrated to her, and with the confidence she and Archie would become a serious couple, Carol bit the bullet and, with the ceremony only two weeks away, cancelled the wedding. Her relationship with Archie enabled her to make the transition from “being married” to “being single again.” Her transition relationship had come to the rescue for Carol and now she could look forward to having the relationship of her dreams.

The Outcome of Carol’s Transition Relationship

The data tell us that 75% to 90% of transition relationships fail to blossom into a successful, long-term relationship. Such was the case for Carol and Archie. Carol told me, “I wanted a relationship in which my husband and I could exchange our feelings. But not all the damned time! He just wouldn’t stop talking about his feelings. He told me his feelings morning, noon, and night. I finally said, ‘Enough already.’ I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to break off the relationship.”

Was the Transition Relationship a Success or a Failure?

Was her transition relationship a failure? Absolutely not!

The function of a transition relationship is not to find your next life partner. Its only job is to help you get uncoupled from a relationship you no longer want. Her transition relationship with Archie enabled her to leave Robert with the knowledge that it is possible to have a partner that meets all, not just some, of her requirements for a spouse.

Mission accomplished!