STARTING OVER AGAIN
Your new rules for "ex" communication
A continuing series on getting on with your life
copyright 1997 by Harlan Jacobsen
YOU MAY NOT HAVE MARRIED A PERSON, YOU MAY HAVE MARRIED THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE...
The idea of marriage and the images it brought up, the vine covered cottage and living happily ever after, are all tantalizing parts of stories, movies, plays and other fantasy that you accepted as your programming. It all sounded so good and feasible and readily attainable. It is what you wanted. So you had the chance and you got married, you married the institution. After a while it became apparent that you were married to this person and you didnít have all those things that were supposed to come true when you were married. So you blame the person you were married to and you get divorced. But...
YOU ARE STILL IN LOVE WITH THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE...
You feel out of love with the person but you are still in love with the institution. You feel it was the person that failed you, not your unrealistic expectation of marriage. So what you do is buy a wash and wear wedding gown and just keep trying... Either you get your expectations eventually in line with reality or you are going to be constantly disappointed and disillusioned. You got divorced from the person, you also need to get divorced from your fantasies about marriage and the institution itself.
SOME DECIDE THEY ARE NOW NOT MARRIED...BUT NOT SINGLE EITHER...JUST SORT OF ON HOLD...
As a matter of fact you may never be married again. You may never be married again because you were not in the right place at the right time and you didnít meet the right people. You may lose your health, become too fat or otherwise undesirable. Or...believe it or not you may eventually decide there is no need to be married again, you have found a better alterative.
KNOW THAT BEING SINGLE IS A-OKAY...THE "IN" WAY TO BE
Right now one out of every three adults is single, and the other two are married to each other. The percentage of the adult population that is single is growing rapidly. Soon over 50 percent of the adult population may be single. People are getting married later, they are staying married for a shorter time and are no longer in a rush to get remarried. The percentage that have opted to stay single is increasing rapidly and it is possible that the old programming that everybody should be married will become "only a few" should be married. The advantages of being single are becoming apparent and when people learn how to lead happier more fulfilled lives as a single person, it is going to become more and more the "in" way to live your life. Already, the married are looking enviously over their cage at single peopleís freedoms and life style. The Noah's Ark syndrome where it used to be, if you were not part of a pair you were not "in", is no longer true. It is rapidly becoming, if you are tied up, you are already out of it...
RIGHT NOW, YOU ARE A RELATIONSHIP ADDICT GOING THRU WITHDRAWAL PAINS...
Yes, relationships are addictive, and the longer the duration, the more addictive. When your long term relationship ended you went thru or are currently going thru withdrawal symptoms that are not unlike those of a person going off a drug they have been addicted to. It makes no difference that you knew the drug was destroying you and you are now off of it, you still have to go thru withdrawal. Quite often an addict finds the withdrawal so painful that they go back on the drug, rather then go thru the withdrawal pain. Or like a cigarette smoker giving up the habit goes back and sneaks a few puffs. You too will find it hard to not go back and mix it up with your old drug, your poisonous relationship. Rationally you know you shouldnít but like an alcoholic subconsciously knows that if he can keep sneaking enough more drinks he doesnít have to go thru the hangover.
ADMIT IT IS PAINFUL...DONíT DENY THE PAIN...IT IS NORMAL...
Nobody said ending relationships was easy. So go ahead, go home, climb into bed, assume the fetal position, turn your electric blanket up to high. You are now-having your rainy day. Donít deny the pain, donít try to mask it or run away from it. The more you can get into the pain, of withdrawal the more miserable you can stand the quicker you will get thru it.
TAPERING OFF A RELATIONSHIP USUALLY DOES NOT WORK WELL...QUIT COLD TURKEY
You will be miserable for a long period of time. Quitting cold turkey you are extremely miserable but it gets over with soon. It is like pulling off adhesive tape very slowly. The total of all that small pain is excessive and unnecessary. A quick very painful yank and it is all over. Cutting off a relationship a little at a time is like cutting off a dogs tail a little at a time so it doesnít hurt so much.
DONíT TRY TO ESCAPE THE PAIN, WALLOW IN IT, EXPERIENCE IT...
Everybody else is going to try to help you pretend it isnít there. Your doctor will give you Valium or some other drug so you delay the pain. Your friend says lets get a few drinks and it wonít seem so bad. You try to drown the pain and find you only irrigated and have more added. Someone else tries to keep you so busy you wonít have time to notice or get into the pain of withdrawal from a relationship. Delaying it does nothing for you, it only complicates it.
GETTING INTO A NEW RELATIONSHIP NOW, IS LIKE GETTING ON A NEW DRUG SO I DONíT HAVE TO GO THRU WITHDRAWALS FROM THE LAST ONE
This is like a heroin addict being switched to methadone. You are still hooked and when you get off methadone you are still going to have to go thru withdrawal pains. If your ex-spouse went to another drug (relationship) instead of going thru the withdrawal of your relationship you very likely feel jealous that they are doing fine and you are in great pain. Donít worry, they have only postponed it. When that relationship ends and they usually do, they will have to experience the same thing you are now going thru, only worse. We find that splitting couples that both were going thru pain have had one go on Valium and the other handle it without. At the end of 6 months, the one that went thru the pain is doing great and getting on with a new life. The one on Valium is still on Valium and getting nowhere. The biggest drug problem in the country today is not alcohol, it is Valium and there are more Valium related deaths than any other drug. Of those that have immediately gone into another relationship, when that ends, the people we interview say it is far worse than going thru the original divorce pain. Do not postpone the pain, really get into it and get it over with. Further on, we will tell you how to work thru that quickly.
WHEN YOUR MARRIAGE FAILS, WHAT DO YOU DO? GET DIVORCED. WHEN YOUR DIVORCE FAILS, WHAT DO YOU DO? GET BACK TOGETHER
That is the wrong solution, watch out for this trap. Almost without exception, one or the other or both are bombing as a single person, they remember all the good parts of their marriage and compare it with how they are doing as a single and decide they would be better off if they were together. So they try it one more time (some go thru this 3 or 4 times even). Then they remember why it was they came apart in the first place and it seems to get a little worse each time they come apart. It is crazy making. One of the things that happens when a relationship starts to go bad originally is that sex becomes poor, bad, or nonexistent. Sex is normally sort of a barometer of the relationship. Some say, well I got out of the relationship because sex just wasnít any good anymore. Actually, the sex wasnít any good anymore because something else had gone bad, resentments, loss of respect, etc.
AVOID HAVING SEX WITH YOUR EX NO MATTER HOW HORNY YOU GET
Now that you are apart, the old resentments, disappointments are diminished. When you get together for sex it will be terrific again, (especially since you may both be sexually deprived for some time and horny as all get out). You will think, hey, this is really good why are we apart and missing out on all this, denying ourselves when we could be together. Lets forget all those other differences and get back together. Once back together the old bugaboos that build up are there again, sex becomes no good again and you split one more time. This is all crazy making. If you must have sex with your ex for whatever reason (some think I will get a better divorce deal if I keep 'em happy) keep in mind if you decide to go back together the sex will go sour again. Another thing about having sex with your ex is it keeps you from getting on with your new life. Some we have interviewed are still having sex with their ex up to two years after divorce. Almost without exception, their happiness quotient is not too high and they have not advanced much on getting on with a new life. Our recommendation...resist the temptation and figure out new ways to fill your sexual needs.
CUT OFF ALL UNNECESSARY CONTACT WITH YOUR EX...HERE ARE "EX COMMUNICATION RULES"
When you must have contact with your ex regarding children, your settlement, etc. use the following rules. 1. Set up an agenda of what is to be talked about and refuse to discuss anything else. 2. Agree to meet in a neutral public place such as a restaurant. 3. Take along a mutual friend who is smart enough not to take sides. 4. Conduct the meeting on a business like basis. When your ex wants to call you on the phone, refuse to discuss the past or anything at all that has nothing to do with the children or divorce settlement. Tell them you are letting go of the relationship and you would appreciate it if they would stop contacting you or talking about anything other than what is absolutely necessary. You may have to do this several times to get them to stop. You do need to use the meat cleaver approach and cut off all strings. You say, well I want to keep on their good side, I want to keep it friendly. Keep it friendly by telling them you need to cut off contact so you can get over the relationship.
BURY THE MARRIAGE...CRY...MOURN OVER THE DEATH OF THE RELATIONSHIP...
Get it over with. Then get on with life. The widow has an advantage. She knows the relationship is over. She cries and then gets on with life. The divorced person never knows for sure. Something might happen and they might get back together. So they take a long time to get on with life because they held out hope that something might happen and they MIGHT get back together. An extreme case of this that we have heard about is the divorced woman who 2 years after the divorce, she and the children are still setting a place at the table for him because they expect he "may come to his senses" and come back anytime. This is not so bad until you hear he has been remarried to someone else for over a year. You must let go. You must say goodbye before you can get on with life. Even the widow has this problem. One widow that I interviewed said that she had been alone for 2 years, that she had worked thru all the emotional adjustment she thought and was getting along fairly well as a single. Then one day she said, with no explanation or reason for it she said she found herself driving to the cemetery. She got out she said, went over to his grave and she said goodbye. It was like taking a great weight off her shoulders she said and everything got much better for her immediately. You too, must say goodbye to your relationship. Admit it is over. However long it takes you to do this will determine how long it will be before you can get on with a great new life. You must say goodbye, before you are ready for a new "hello." You must say goodbye before you are ready to get on with a great new life.
Your divorce is literally killing you and aging you before your time. Next issue we will talk about that and how to get out of the miseries and why you need to right away.