Heartbroken

Friday, August 18, 2006

Question

Last November, my husband of eight years and mate of 15 decided to have an affair. We are separated now, and I'm waiting anxiously for a divorce. It should be in effect in January. Is it too soon for me to find another relationship? How do you know it's not a rebound relationship? Obviously, I have trust issues too. How can I gain some of this back?

Answer

The right time to find a relationship is when you meet somebody who seems intriguing and good-hearted—provided you are single or in a nonmonogamous relationship. I don't think anybody can quantify this in terms of months or years. Of course you are going to feel some grief about the end of a long relationship, and when a person is mourning, their heart is closed. In the depths of that emotion, you wouldn't notice a handsome man if he put his arms around you and kissed you.

When you start to feel your libido stirring again, and when you start to feel rather lonely, your heart (and the rest of your body) is telling you that it's time to seek companionship. Thank goodness we are no longer in the Victorian era, where you'd be expected to wear nothing but black and segregate yourself from other people for years and years.

Trust issues are a more difficult question. Resolving them probably has a lot to do with the problems in your old relationship and your husband's motivation for having an affair. How badly was your self-esteem rattled by those events? Do you feel that you trust yourself to be able to pick a faithful mate, given what happened with him? I would guess that you are at least a little dubious about this. So you have a problem trusting yourself, as well as questions about how to be sure you can trust somebody else.

Unfortunately, there's no quick fix for this. Since this is the beginning of a new phase of your life, if there's anything you want to change about yourself, it's a great time to do it. You deserve to treat yourself to a makeover, whether that means a trip to a large department store's cosmetic counter or a trip to graduate school or a spiritual retreat. Take dating one step at a time. See if you can trust a new man to show up on time for a date. Does he listen to you? How does he treat other people in his life or speak about his exes? Do you feel safe with him? (Please do not mistake a controlling man for a loving one!)

Luck, after all, plays a huge part in this business of hunting for romance. You may meet the love of your life within six days of finalizing your divorce. And it could, unhappily, be six years. All of us give up certain things we really like once we get involved with a serious relationship. Think about what you miss doing and pursue those activities. This greatly increases your chances of meeting somebody who will be compatible. And it will help you to feel less desperate or lonely. It's also a good time to renew and deepen your friendships. Because that kind of love may be the most reliable of all.