Happy Valentine's Day, First Wive's World.
Even contemplating dating after divorcing a narcissist is emotionally exhausting. You’ve been through the ringer, your self confidence level is at an all-time low, and the only thing you want to do after work is to curl up in front of a chick flick and eat chocolate fudge ice cream. The idea of letting your guard down, even a little bit, is so frightening that it’s nauseating. It takes courage to start dating again after narcissistic abuse and divorce.
So, are you destined to live the rest of your life as a cat-lady?
No! You have courage. Just look at all you have been through and all you have successfully put behind you.
Take It Slow
I have to be honest with you. I did not take my own advice here. I met someone before my divorce was even final and it didn’t take long for me to know that it was right. I kept looking for narcissistic symptoms but none ever showed up. We married about 13 month after my ex and I separated.
Saying that, normally you’ll want to take any new relationship slowly. If the guy in the corner office asks you out for coffee you should go. Talking to another adult when you are separated is a special treat, or at least it was for me. You don’t have to put a lot of pressure on yourself to be fascinating and gorgeous just take it for what it is – a chance to enjoy some adult time.
Understand that the most impossible thing for anyone who is dating after divorcing a narcissist is to trust anyone. No matter how nice the guy is you are going to be looking for lies, deceit, and ulterior motives. If he says he’ll pick you up at 7:30 and he isn’t there at 7:35 it’s likely that you’ll decide that he isn’t showing up and when he does show up fifteen minutes late you’ll be angry, hurt, and rejected for no reason other than you’ve based your responses on past experiences.
Here’s why you have to take it slow. You’ll need to be able to control your emotions so you can see clearly when you are responding to past experiences and when your responses are appropriate to the situation. It takes time to build trust, especially when you have be betrayed.
The best thing you can do is to be honest about your feelings. Let’s face it, the entire time you were with the narcissist you hid your feelings, deceived yourself, and blamed your propensity to be a “drama queen” for your meltdowns.
There will be times when the new guy does something that smacks of the old guy and it will raise old fears. If you are anything like me you’ll just clam up and hide behind your wall. The new guy can easily see that you are pulling away but he is in the dark about why. If you aren’t honest about what happened in the past then you’ll be creating a weakness in your new relationship which can ultimately lead to a breakup in the future. It’s not the way to go.
The way to go is to communicate how you feel and why. Since you’ve always dealt with narcissists you may not realize that normal people can empathize with someone else’s hurt and pain. Instead of hiding behind a wall of silence try explaining your hurt feelings and responses. You might be surprised at how understanding the new guy really is.
It’s important in any relationship that you are comfortable to be yourself. If you are having to put on a mask to be accepted then it isn’t you that is being loved, it’s the character that you’ve created. When you got together with the narcissist you learned to read him constantly and adjust your actions to what you thought was expected. You learned to be instant in season – turning into whoever he wanted you to be. You probably did this so much that once the divorce was final you didn’t even know who you really were anymore.
When you begin dating again be yourself. If you don’t like Italian food don’t pretend you do because the new guy takes you to an Italian restaurant. Be gracious of course but don’t be dishonest about how you feel.
When He Does an About-Face
The possibility exists that once it gets out that you are dating someone you’ll suddenly be irresistible to your narcissistic ex. He suddenly sees value in you that he hasn’t seen before.
He’ll come back, text, call, or whatever to let you know that he has realized the folly of his ways. He’ll say things like he didn’t appreciate you enough, he didn’t realize how important you were to him, and on and on. The stuff he says is going to sound great and may stir up your feelings for him again. That’s what he’s hoping for, anyway.
If that doesn’t work he may even threatened suicide.
The truth is that nothing has changed. You are most valuable to him when you are unobtainable. The moment you are part of his life again he will back to the same tricks.
At some point you have to choose to step out and trust someone again in order to move on.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Click Flash Photos
At Some Point You Have to Trust
At some point you are going to have to trust your new guy. It’s hard, it’s scary, and opening yourself up for wounding again is one of the hardest things that you’ll ever do. The thing is that if you can’t trust someone then there really is no relationship.
My biggest two areas of trust are financial and relationship. Since my ex lied to me about virtually everything and cheated on me from the very beginning I had a hard time trusting in those two areas. It had been my experience that the person who had sworn to love and protect me did not actually have my best interests at heart.
When I married my second husband I brought those issues right into the marriage. I did try to be honest about it but it was a struggle. Since we each had separate source of income I was very stingy with money and kept our finances separate. He, on the other hand, is one of the most generous people you’ll ever meet. He was not offended by it although he did get frustrated with me when I stressed about how to pay “my bills”. He waited patiently for three years for my walls to crack in that area. I watched him provide for me and the kids financially and put off things that he might have wanted for himself. He was always honest about everything and when he said he would pay a bill it got paid. The breakthrough for me was when we got a tax return. He told me I could have it when it came in and he really did let me have it. He could have used the money for something else that he needed but he was true to his word. The last brick in my financial wall cracked at that point.
I still get nervous and we still have separate finances but I am open about what I have coming in and what I have to pay. I think that more and more we are working as a team.
As far as the infidelity part of the trust issue? Well, I struggle with that and maybe I always will. He has never done a thing to make me feel that he would cheat but he and his ex-wife have a great relationship and I do get intimidated by that. There is nothing weird going on, please understand, but I struggle so much with my feelings of inferiority and unattractiveness thanks to the narcissist that it is very uncomfortable for me.
She is absolutely a sweetheart, one of the nicest people I have met so I know that this is my issue not theirs.
When You Move on You Win
I don’t know about you but when I think of my relationship with the ex there is always a winner and a loser. When I move on, make healthy choices, and have strong relationships then I win. It’s as easy as that.
If you want to win just take the steps you need to take in order to move on. You’ll need support and encouragement from others that have gone through it. Join First Wives’ World today and get that support.
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: HypotekyFidler