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What It Takes to Love After Divorce

Photograph by Twenty20

It's been six years since my son's father and I dissolved our romantic relationship and boy how time flies. I never thought I would spend this many years so fearful of being hurt again that I'd distract myself with flings to avoid love and being vulnerable.

There was a time when I idealized the state of being married and envisioned it as a constant state of bliss. Real-life marriage changed all that and helped me realize how much honesty, self-awareness and communication is needed for a marriage to succeed. It takes two to succeed, and at various times in my first marriage I was not willing to compromise, listen or consider the needs of my partner.

However, now that I'm many years away from that relationship and hoping to find a lasting partner, I've learned to get real about what it takes to create a lasting relationship.

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1. Self-awareness

Self awareness is the ability to see oneself clearly and understand one's motivation. In my past relationship, I was so hungry for love that I ignored signals that we were not emotionally secure and were making decisions from a desperate place. When we see ourselves clearly, we can find the courage to make healthy decisions.

2. Maturity

Maturity is being able to take full responsibility for myself, my feelings and the choices I make.

Being mature has nothing to do with the number of years we've lived on the planet. For me, maturity is being able to take full responsibility for myself, my feelings and the choices I make. It also means being able to communicate my needs and desires, first to myself and then to my partner.

3. Blamelessness

Divorce is often fueled by blame, and I'm realizing that blame is poison to any thriving relationship. I shouldn't take a person's behavior as personal to me. Our partners need a safe environment to be themselves, just as we do. That begins by ending the blame game. Start changing destructive "It's your fault" attitudes to understanding the other's perspectives and where he or she is coming from.

4. Vulnerability

Vulnerability demands that we allow ourselves to be seen fully—this includes our neediness, joy, passion and flaws. Love is not love if it excludes our truest expressions. I've been teaching myself how to be OK with my feelings being stronger than a partner's feelings, without needing him to reassure me.

5. Staying Present

When things get complicated or difficult, I must keep showing up until a resolution comes. In the past I'd get so scared when things got messy emotionally that I'd hide out or do my best to cover my truth. I'm learning that loving again means being peaceful with the challenges and working through them to the best of my ability.

6. Knowing Your Worth

It's important to know we are precious and priceless in the lives of those we love. We cannot be replaced.

Divorce can be so devastating that in the throes of separating we forget how valuable, smart and beautiful we are. We can't love again and be happy if we don't reclaim our sense of worth and value. We bring goodness and joy to the lives of those we love. We are necessary to them in ways we can't even imagine, and that they may not have words for. It's important to know we are precious and priceless in the lives of those we love. We cannot be replaced.

7. Have a Life

The biggest mistake I made in my first marriage was not having a life of my own. I had spent so much time desiring relationships that my raison d'être had become the pursuit of love. When love arrived, I didn't have passions outside of the relationship. And so when love ended, the center of my world collapsed. Now my life is centered around my work, my child and my own fulfillment.

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I've discovered that, as trite as it sounds, you can't love another if you don't love yourself. Sadly, in my experience, I find that most of us do not know what self-love is. I know I didn't. Self-love is the act of caring for ourselves, listening to our hearts and meeting our deepest desires to the best of our ability. For me, loving after divorce is loving myself again.

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