The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Dating After Divorce

How can I want to date again after leaving an abusive relationship?

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Sue, you’ve been divorced?


Sue:                 Yes, actually twice. I was married 17 years each to each of my marriages and my first marriage was, he was an ex-Vietnam vet and drank a lot and we had three children together. I basically left because of that. And I did remarry to someone who had three children of his own, so I raised six children and I’m planning for the future with our retirement and he decided he wanted to be with his bar. So we all worked at the same place together.


Dr. Kenner:      Oh, so you must feel very betrayed.


Sue:                 Yes. I dealt with a physical abuser and then went to a mental abuser. Didn’t realize what mental abuse was.


Dr. Kenner:      Give me one example of mental abuse that your second husband gave you.


Sue:                 I didn’t realize that it was mental abuse. Not talk until you’re yelling and couldn’t talk to you without raising their voice. And didn’t really downgrade, he just didn’t talk to you.


Dr. Kenner:      So he treated you as invisible. This is a key word, Sue, that the essence of any genuine romantic relationship is feeling important, feeling valued, feeling cherished, feeling wanted, feeling adored by your partner. Now that’s not going to happen 24/7 in any relationship. You’re going to have spats. But you need methods to resolve those spats in a loving manner rather than the silent treatment or the wall of anger, because that is very dismissive of you, your whole psychology. It’s saying, “You are not worth my time. I don’t need to talk with you. And you can’t reach me because if you do, I’m going to give you a tsunami of anger.”


Sue:                 Yes. Well, I did go through therapy for it, and I’m going to bring this through you. You’re going to come through this very quickly. I came to it quickly, but you still have the residue. I’m carrying that anger, but it is hard. I guess I’m still hurt and I’m kind of standoffish of not wanting to get involved with another relationship with so many men out there and I guess women that just want to go out to have sex. They call it benefits.


Dr. Kenner:      Friends with benefits, right.


Sue:                 That’s not me.


Dr. Kenner:      So you want a genuine romantic relationship, and is your question, what is your question? How to go about dating again?


Sue:                 How to go about dating because the therapist informed me that I’ve had two bad marriages with the abuse and not to get involved. It’s very likely that I would get involved with another abuser.


Dr. Kenner:      It is likely that your selection method is putting yourself down and trying to please the other person and staying with them without being able to hold your own. Without being self-valuing. You need knowledge. I have written a book with another author called The Selfish Path to Romance. The word selfish doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to teach you how to be “my way or highway” gal. It means that you’re going to be able to value yourself, to maintain your self-esteem, your self-respect. You’re going to be able to nurture yourself. And that’s genuinely in a very healthy way concerned with your own self-interest, which is selfish. You’re not hurting anybody. You never would hurt anybody else. But you’re not going to let them hurt you. You’re not going to be the doormat in life. One of the first things we emphasize is, when you meet a new person, you need to have the right approach to that. You need to know what you value in yourself, so that you don’t find yourself saying, “Will he like me? Oh my God, am I good enough? Am I pleasing him and doing what he wants?” That’s the wrong approach. When we go shopping for dresses, we don’t go in and say, “Will the dress like me?” We say what?


Sue:                 Will I like the dress?


Dr. Kenner:      Exactly.


Sue:                 Does it look good on me?


Dr. Kenner:      Exactly. So when you’re shopping for a lifetime partner or at least companionship – you may decide not to marry, might decide to play it safe for a little while – but you need to know a person from all angles. You need to put on that dress or be with that new person and look at it in the mirror from every angle, the way we do when you try on a dress. You need to see that person under stressful situations, see how they handle a waiter who spills the meal on them. You need to see them when they’re late for an appointment. You need to observe the person and constantly think about the responses they’re giving you. If they’re nasty, if they’ve got a quick temper but they’re always nasty to you but nasty to somebody else, that’s a red flag, isn’t it? Because they could be nice to you until you tie the knot and then that nastiness, that sharpness, can be turned toward you very quickly.


We talk about how to engage your mind and not just go by emotion, but to analyze what your emotions are, whether you’re feeling angry, whether you’re feeling putt off, whether you’re feeling invisible, and knowing what you want too is really important. People vary in everything. You’ll have different interests from the people you’re dating, different tastes, different values, different habits, different attitudes toward fitness, what you like to do for leisure. So there are some things that are okay, that you can trade off. There are things my own husband is interested in me that don’t interest me and so be it. It doesn't affect our marriage, and the same, there are things I’m interested in – I like to go to theater maybe twice a year and he doesn’t enjoy that – and oh my God, I love him so dearly that I don’t care if he doesn’t go to theater. That’s a trade off. But there are moral things. If I felt invisible with my husband or if he felt invisible with me, we would need to go to counseling or we would need to have a long talk. We would need to figure out where did the rupture occur in our relationship and is it reparable or not? So when you’re meeting someone, we go in detail in the book, part three is all about finding your soul mate. Part two is making yourself lovable. Part one is talking about visibility. What is the essence of a romantic relationship? It’s not just friends with benefits, as you’re saying.


Sue:                 I was just going to say, it’s so different from the first to the second because I’m older, and my ideas have changed, but I will say this – it’s so hard for me to come home to an empty house. That’s my other thing. I raised his kids, my kids, my grandchildren. He’s got a new wife and I come home and it’s like … I’m so empty.


Dr. Kenner:      Right. I know we’re right at the end of time so let me sum it up with this – you want the value of companionship and you need to choose well. The way to choose well is to be very thoughtful about it. There are so many skills in our book that I highly recommend that. It’s on Amazon. Listen, thank you so much for the call and I wish you some wonderful romantic happiness.


Sue:                 Thank you so much. Bye.