There are many heartbreaks that happen during a divorce. The first heartbreak occurs during that gut-wrenching moment you know you are getting divorced: either you both realize the best option for you as a couple is to split, or your ex blindsides you with a conversation that starts with, “Honey, we need to talk,” and then tells you he/she wants a divorce, or you’re the one who knows you need to leave. But there’s another major heartbreak that I hear so often from divorced people: “My ex moved on immediately; 3 seconds after getting separated, in fact.”
Women do it too, but I cannot count the number of calls and emails I get from women, where the conversation starts out, “You are not going to believe this…” Through tears, they tell me the story of how “My ex moved on immediately…” they just found out that the person they split up with 2 weeks ago is already seeing someone, or that someone they know called and told them they saw the ex’s profile on a dating site. Or the worst one, the ex is already in a serious relationship.
It doesn’t matter who left who, finding out “my ex moved on immediately” (or even worse, in a serious relationship) hurts like hell. It happened to me, and 11 years later, I still vividly remember the raw pain I felt and the burning anger and feeling of injustice I felt when I found out my ex had a girlfriend. It still upsets me to think about, only because I thought she was my friend. But the thing is, he wasn’t cheating, he wasn’t lying, and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. We had decided to get divorced. Still, it killed me.
Why? Why? You might thinking. Why did it kill you if you were already getting divorced? Ask any woman and she will say, “It just does.” I guess it’s because you can’t believe that your ex can move on that quickly, and the reality of the divorce hits home. You are really doing this. It also feels unfair—like why does he get to be happy and enjoy a new relationship, while I’m sitting home bawling every night? There is so much anger and resentment, mixed with sentimental feelings of the old days, when the two of you were happy and in love.
So, why do some people rush into a relationship or to dating when their separation is still so raw? I can think of a few reasons:
1. They are lonely.
Usually when two people separate, they have been unhappy and disconnected for quite awhile, so they feel like they’ve been alone for a long time. When they get separated, it’s like getting a license that allows them to either have sex with someone else, or even just enjoy the company of another woman. Loneliness is a terribly painful emotion, so in that respect, I do understand a man (or woman’s) need to start dating.
2. They want to validate that they still have sex appeal.
Do I still have it? That’s the question I think men want to know. Does my equipment still work? Am I attractive to other women? Can I still turn heads? Am I desirable to women and to what kinds of women and what age? To get this validation, they seek out other women.
3. They’re angry and want to hurt their spouse.
There is a deep-seeded anger in some men that might drive them to date other women. The person might even be doing it on a subconscious level, but they are so pissed that their wife wants a divorce, that the best way to get revenge is to show her that you will be just fine, that she is making a huge mistake and that she is going to regret splitting up your family.
4. They want to numb their pain.
I am completely guilty of this one. Having fun with someone new, and having a physical relationship temporarily soothes or takes away the pain of what you are going through. It’s like any other Band-aid: drugs, alcohol, etc. any quick fix to take away the stress and the pain of all the crap you are dealing with in your divorce.
5. They are in denial that any of this is their fault.
This pertains to the guy who has zero self-awareness and plays the victim. His wife just left him and he has no idea why she wasn’t happy. He was a great husband, he wasn’t a drunk, he provided financially, and he wasn’t abusive. So, why did she leave? He can find no fault in himself. Therefore, SHE becomes the problem.
Maybe she begged him to go to counseling and he refused. Maybe he didn’t listen to her when she tried to talk to him but he thinks she is just dramatic, a spoiled brat. Nothing is his fault. So, he is “moving on” with his life and is going to be with a woman who truly appreciates him. In other words, the problem isn’t him, it’s his soon to be ex wife.
In closing, whatever the reason is that so many men get a girlfriend 3 seconds after getting separated, it drives the ex-wife crazy. It is the biggest punch in the stomach you can give your soon to be ex. (Which again is one of the reasons some men do it.)
I’m not saying a woman is justified for feeling this way, and I’m not even saying a guy shouldn’t date when he is ready. I’m saying that this it is shocking and beyond hurtful to a newly separated wife to know her husband has chosen to sleep with another woman (or women plural.)
I think, generally speaking, that men and women grieve in very different ways. Women tend to take things more slowly and wait to get involved with other men after a divorce. (of course, there are many women out there who cheat and leave their husbands for another man, or who date immediately.) A lot of men use dating as a way to cope with the end of their marriage. Nothing is right or wrong and every situation is unique. But that’s my answer to a question I think countless women really want to know.
If your ex has moved in quickly and is in a relationship, I know this sounds crazy, but don’t take it personally. It’s about HIS need to do that for whatever reason. I know it’s hurtful, it’s painful, it’s infuriating, it’s sad, and it might even make you regret the decision to divorce.
The best thing you can do is focus on YOU and how YOU are coping. How are you coping? Here are some healthy ways to cope: Get into a support group, get into therapy, hire a divorce coach, get physical (whether that means yoga, exercise, meditation…), sign up for a class pertaining to a hobby or passion you have, READ (my daughter who has severe anxiety started reading novels a couple months ago and I have seen a drastic change in her anxiety level), stay social, eat healthy, I could go on and on, but the main thing is, take care of yourself and whenever your mind goes to that place of thinking of your ex with “her,” shift your thoughts back to you and YOUR life and YOUR kids.
It’s going to be fine, I promise!