Divorced—and Depressed about Dating
By Keith Ablow, MD
Q: “My recent breakup has devastated me. It’s been over a year now, and my girlfriends all encourage me to “get back on the horse,” so to speak. Seriously, I can’t even imagine getting into another relationship. At the same time, I dread spending the rest of my life alone. What’s wrong with me?” —Eliza K., Birmingham, AL
A: You’re grieving. Grief has it’s own pace, depending on the individual and the circumstances. If yours has continued for over a year, that means that there are almost certainly unresolved emotional issues from earlier in your life that the end of your relationship stirred up.
The key to moving on is to identify what other relationship from your childhood or young adulthood might be connected to your breakup. Did it reawaken feelings of abandonment by a parent? Did your ex-boyfriend remind you of any other important figure in your life who violated your trust? Did he shake your self-esteem by intensifying any self-doubt you lived with long before you met him? Who and what does he and the loss of him remind you of?
Moving on may well require revisiting the chapter of your life that this very recent one reopens. While you’re doing that emotional work, keep in mind that you shouldn’t wait for a time when it feels good or natural to start dating again. Starting is the point. It’s okay to acknowledge that your next date or your fifth date from now might feel sad or anxiety-provoking. That’s natural. You’ve been deeply affected by a loss. But your feelings don’t have to entirely dictate your behavior. And once you begin socializing again, that momentum may well carry you into your next relationship.
Finally, doing all this on your own can be a tall order. Don’t be afraid to get a little counseling to help get you to the next step in finding a new relationship. Having someone listen in to your life story can make the next pages a lot easier to plan.
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