If you’re divorced and have moved on to a new, meaningful relationship, the prospect of moving in together can stir up a lot of fear related to your past marriage and its demise. Anyone who has gone through a divorce will tell you that it takes some time to get over it and move on (understatement of the year.) If you didn’t leave in order to be with someone else, then you have to begin dating, and then you hopefully find a new, special person with whom you want to give love another chance. That sounds pretty healthy and like it’s going in the right direction right? Then why do you hit a wall of fear when it’s time to take the new relationship to the next, deeper level, such as moving in together? Suddenly what seemed like a wonderful idea – spending more time with the person you love, sharing your life, and even building a new life together – has become terrifying. Doubts now creep up everywhere, whereas before you decided to move in there were none. You start to wonder if you really love this person. Does he or she really love you? Are your spending habits compatible? Are your food habits too different? What if you run out of things to talk about? You may begin to act out in small ways that somehow delay moving in or you may get tense about things that should be fun, such as picking out furniture together. But why? A week ago, before you decided to move in together, everything was fine and you were thinking that this person was the one you wanted to have in your life for a long time. “What’s really going on here?” you wonder in confusion and frustration. Well a lot of fears related to your past marriage and resulting divorce have popped up because moving in together is the first step toward something more serious. More serious as in may result in marriage again. And, marriage again could result in divorce again. Some of your fears may sound like this: “Will I be able to handle it this time? What if I screw up again? Have I actually changed, or am I the same person who couldn’t make marriage work before? My marriage failed, what makes me think this relationship won’t?” (BTW, “failure” is not how I see divorce, but I’ve heard enough people use that word to describe their divorce to think that you may see it that way too.)
Well there is no guarantee that this relationship will work out better. But the best chance you can give yourself and your new partner is to understand what happened in the old relationship. That past relationship was created by two people and there’s no getting around that reality by thinking that your ex was the only one who made mistakes. Frankly, most divorced people are able to see the truth in this. But the effort you’ve made to understand how you contributed to the end of your marriage will only help your new relationship. How? Well this new relationship will push your buttons just like the old one did. Why? Because they are your buttons and any partner will unknowingly, and hopefully unintentionally, push them from time to time. But if you know yourself enough and understand where and how you could have handled things differently, then you can feel more confident about not repeating the same mistakes. That’s where therapy comes in. Therapy isn’t about beating yourself up for past mistakes, but about understanding why you behaved in the way that you did, gaining some compassion for yourself, and learning how you can handle things differently. So when it is time to move on to a new meaningful relationship, you may still have fears about your past marriage pop up, but you are able to honestly look at yourself and say that you now know better. You can comfort and quiet your fears with some compassion and self-forgiveness that say, “I did the best that I knew how at the time, but now I know better.” As the saying goes, “When you know better you do better.” Will you go on to make some new mistakes in your new relationship? Sure. But they’ll be different because you’re now different. You’ve learned, and that knowledge alone can calm those “moving in” fears when they come up, allowing you to more confidently enter a new, important stage in your life.
Did you experience this kind of fear when you moved on to a new relationship?