We've all heard that famous quote from philosopher George Santayana, who said, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." It may even seem like a cliché, but people just don't learn. Many divorcees go back out and find another abusive, alcoholic, or self-centered spouse and then they wonder why they have the same problems in their future relationships. Learning from your mistakes takes discipline and effort, particularly in matters of the heart.
Why do people choose the same type of partner every time?
According to an article in the Huffington Post's divorce section by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. ("Learning from Your Mistakes"), people usually underestimate the power of the "familiar," and they find themselves attracted to the same type of person they married the first time. As a Colorado Springs family lawyer who works with several divorced clients who have remarried, I see many of them experiencing the same problems in their second marriage as they had in their first. The truthis, unless you strive to look for different qualities in a spouse the second time, you may find that it's just a rerun of the first.
Consider these tips before starting a new relationship:
1. Take time to heal. As hard as it is to be single, it is still much simpler than going right back into a painful relationship, followed by another divorce. Why not take advantage of this solitary time and get to know yourself better? Self-awareness is an important step toward taking care of yourself and preventing future heartaches.
2. Stop trusting your instincts. Until you fully understand where you went wrong in your first marriage, it isn't smart to rely on simple "attraction" in a new relationship. You may unwittingly "attract" charming narcissists who are only capable of loving themselves. The reasons for this could be rooted in your earliest relationships, such as with a father who was aloof and self-absorbed. Could there be a part of you that is unconsciously longing for approval from a narcissistic partner? This scenario can be played out with many other personality types, and it cannot change until you recognize it. Do the work that's required before you start dating again.
3. Step outside of your comfort zone. No matter what the issues were in your first marriage, it will be an unfamiliar feeling to take care of yourself. It may feel awkward at first to insist on being treated well or to have an equal say in a relationship. Perhaps you find it easier to choose another domineering partner, but if you want to move forward, you must give yourself the gift of doing things differently.
4. Get some therapy. If you find yourself making the same mistakes again and again, maybe it's time to see a therapist. Remember, just because it feels like you are dating the same person over and over does not mean all men/women are just like your former spouse; it just means you fell into the same trap. Therapists can help you gain new insight into why you are vulnerable in this area, and help you rebuild your damaged self-esteem. Talking to someone regularly can be a great source of encouragement and a faster way to recognize unhealthy relationship patterns.
5. Enlist your friends for support. Even if you have a hard time recognizing your unhealthy relationship patterns, friends have a way of making it clear to you. Ask a good friend to keep you accountable in choosing the right partner next time, and to provide you with valuable feedback even if it hurts.
It may seem easier just to "fall in love again" after a divorce, but divorce attorneys will advise this. Take the time to evaluate what went wrong in your first marriage and work hard to avoid making the same mistakes again. When you do start a relationship, take it slow and avoid getting serious until you really get to know the person.
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