It’s an exciting feeling when you finally feel ready to start dating again post-divorce. You’ve been through heartbreak, you know deep pain, and you’ve healed, learned, and grown as a person who is ready to take on a healthy new relationship. But how do you set yourself up for success as you begin dating again? The answer: Align your head and heart to avoid unrealistic expectations in relationships.
Here are the Top 8 Unrealistic Expectations in Relationships Post-Divorce, and how to flip the script to avoid falling into the same traps as you did with your ex.
1. “We’ll want to do everything together.”
You’re likely coming out of a toxic marriage where for years you and your ex didn’t like spending time together and had been growing apart. This happens before divorce, and sometimes goes on for years. You know now that healthy relationships broker a mutual state of thriving independence for each person.
In your next relationship, don’t assume you’ll want to spend all of your time together. In fact, be wary of a man who is trying to commit to you too quickly or wants to spend all of his time with you early on. You have a new lease on life post-divorce and you did a lot of work to ready yourself for a new, healthy relationship. Pay attention to the men you’re dating who offer you autonomy to continue living your best life, those who come along to enhance the already wonderful you.
2. “He’ll be able to read my mind and know exactly what I need.”
Your ex-husband may have left you feeling neglected, as though you were on your own to fulfill any of your emotional needs. In your next relationship, you want a man who will just know you and “get you” instantly, one who doesn’t need an explanation, right?
Clearly, this is one of the unrealistic expectations in relationships after divorce. The person you date should indeed “get you” and care about fulfilling your needs, especially once you’re in a committed relationship. However, you need to speak up and advocate for what you need. The ability to do this shows maturity and strong communication skills. So, speak up and be sure he knows what you need. Equally important, are you hearing him and what he needs from you?
3. “He’s not going to make the same mistakes as my ex.”
How many times have I made the same relationship mistake either with the same guy or with different guys? I admit it, I’m guilty! Think of your new man as a work in progress, just like you are. We don’t always show up as our best selves, especially when we’re under stress, so if you see your new man making similar mistakes to your ex, just observe it. This is not necessarily a deal breaker.
For example, when I fought with my ex-husband, I was “ready to rumble” instantly whereas he needed to step away and gather his thoughts. This drove me nuts! Now, my boyfriend is the same way. He needs to step away. While it initially sent me spinning, I realize this is a far cry from a deal breaker.
Unlike my ex, when my boyfriend came back after gathering his thoughts, he had insights into his behavior and real solutions on how we would work through the problem together. The same patterns aren’t always bad, so just observe them and reflect on how you feel.
4. “He’ll never be attracted or notice other women.”
If you have suffered through infidelity in your marriage, my heart goes out to you. It is an incredibly painful experience no matter the circumstances. In your next relationship, the most important work you will do is in trusting yourself. When we experience infidelity or any kind of break in trust, the only real way to start trusting others is to build trust with ourselves.
When you’re dating someone new, pay attention to how he makes you feel and give the trust bond time to form. Your new man probably will notice the beautiful woman at the park, or your bombshell friend that all the men fawn over, but that doesn’t mean he will cheat on you like your ex did. Continue building the trust with yourself, believing in yourself as a person capable of judging someone trustworthy over time.
5. “He and I will never argue like I did with my ex.”
If you’re divorced, you’ve lived through some real arguments. You’ve probably suffered through many fights, disagreements, and lots of drama in between. We all know that fighting is a natural part of being in a relationship. I actually think it is unhealthy to avoid fights. Sharing your life with someone openly requires conflict-resolution skills. Arguments happen, it’s just part of navigating the world together.
If you are worried that you’re having arguments in your new relationship and they remind you of your ex, pay close attention to how you’re working through the problems together. You may fight about the same thing in a completely different way with a new person. The goal in a healthy relationship is not to avoid fighting, rather to work together to come to productive solutions with more ease.
6. “We’ll always feel close, passionate and connected.”
This is a goal I’ve heard many women state for their next relationship. Maybe we learn this from the movies, from fairy tales, and TV shows? Perhaps while you were suffering in a toxic marriage you saw these unrealistic relationship models in popular culture and just wanted it so badly?
In real life, every relationships ebbs and flows through periods of connection and dissention. I would like to think that if you can look back at your entire time together and say 70-80% of the time we are really connected, that’s a big win. People stay in relationships for lower percentages, for long periods of time. You may have had a bad year with your ex, even a bad handful of years. In your next relationship, pay attention to the averages over time. Are you mostly feeling connected? Early on in a committed relationship, that’s healthy.
7. “I won’t have to make the same compromises or sacrifices.”
Every relationship requires some level of compromise. We all make sacrifices for the people we love. In your previous marriage, you may have gone too far in compromising things that are critically important to you and now you just don’t want to do it anymore. I get it. You’re not alone.
In your next relationship, pay attention to how you feel in making sacrifices and compromises. Are you feeling disconnected from yourself as a result? That’s a problem. Are you making concessions for the good of a stronger relationship? That could be a good thing. Expect to make small changes, and be wary of being asked to change too much too quickly.
8. “He will change for me.”
Don’t fall into this trap–perhaps one of the biggest unrealistic expectations in relationships. You may be a “giver” or a “fixer” naturally in the way you interact with others in close relationships. This is a common trap many of us can fall into while we’re trying to make a relationship work. You may have fallen in love with the idea of this new man you’re dating … If only he could change this one thing. Right?
Pay attention to how you talk about your relationship with your friends and family. Are you justifying something about him you hope he will change? While we all can make small changes in life, fundamentally as people we are stuck with ourselves. Think about what you’re trying to change and why. Reflect on the reality of staying in the relationship if that one big thing about him doesn’t ever change? Be honest about it and walk away if it’s a deal breaker.
Above all, remember that working on yourself — particularly avoiding unrealistic expectations in relationships, is the best way to avoid falling for your next ex-husband. When you do your internal work, reviewing all the patterns that landed you in your previous marriage, you will come to know what will be better for you the next time around. Healthy relationships are possible with realistic expectations. Happy dating!
Andrea Javor is a CDC© Certified Divorce Coach & Career Development Coach who specializes in helping professional women move forward with confidence and conviction so they can intentionally create their happily better after. She’s the creator of The Dating Post Divorce Workshop, helping women move to “future-proof” their relationship status. Known as The Better After Coach, she has spoken at Fortune 500 events and has been featured in Money, Coveteur, UpJourney, Authority, and various news and podcast programs.
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