21 Feb 6 Steps to breaking the ‘unlucky in love’ cycle
‘Poor Jen’ can’t keep a man. Divorce number 2 under her belt and, despite all her Hollywood success, she ‘just can’t get it right’ when it comes to relationships.
If you ‘feel a bit Jennifer’, you are not alone. But, you can unlock the secrets to a successful, lasting relationship and avoid becoming another divorce statistic like the former Friends star.
When the headlines about Jen and Justin broke recently it was sadly no real surprise. Celebrity couples have the odds stacked against them. Recent research by The Marriage Foundation found that celebrities were 50% more likely to separate within a few short years than the average UK divorcee.
These are faceless statistics in the light of divorce being one of the most devastating experiences a person can go through – celebrity or not.
But this is Jen’s second divorce and follows on from numerous reported short term relationships. There are more than celebrity divorce rates being stacked against her here.
The Friends’ star has been called ‘unlucky love’. Less kind reporters have written: ‘Poor old Jen, why can’t she keep a man?
Even though we can’t possibly know the truth behind the break up of her latest relationship, one thing seems very clear: Jennifer Aniston either struggles to find the right man for her or doesn’t know the secrets to forming a lasting relationship – or both.
This, is not an A-list problem.
As a Dating and Relationship Coach I work with many women who are ‘getting back out there’ after a big breakup or divorce. I help them through their own healing process and to get ready to date again. Many of my clients have married after a string of short term unsuccessful relationships. Some have seen marriage as a solution to the serial dating disasters or short term failures they have experienced for most of their adult life.
I don’t judge these women – mainly because I was one of them. My first marriage ended in disaster and, through my work, I now understand that it was destined, maybe even inevitable to do so. I wasn’t ready for love and my pattern for picking men that were not right for me was deeply ingrained in my psyche.
I didn’t think anything was wrong; I was just ‘unlucky’.
How wrong could I be.
My own journey saw me on the floor – literally – after my divorce. All I could think was: ‘Why me?’ I had no problem attracting men but time and time again I could not develop the attraction into a meaningful, lasting relationship.
So I stopped and took a long hard look at the underlying issues. I researched the keys to successful relationships and unlocked secrets to dating success. I became so passionate about what I discovered that I quit my job and re-trained as a Dating Coach. Last year I won Dating Expert of the Year.
Many of the women I work with may not be celebrities on Jen’s level, but my clients are high-profile, strong, smart and successful women who do not in any way identify with the ‘unlucky in love’, ‘poor Jen’ or ‘desperate divorcee’ stereotypes. They have success in other areas of their lives, but for one reason or another they don’t have that success in their love lives. I help them figure out why.
Some are hindered by their own professional success that may be overshadow that of their now ex-husband. Some have outgrown their first marriage because they’re taking their lives and careers to the next level. But as one of my clients said to me this week – “if women like Jen or Kylie can’t find a love that lasts, what chance do I have?”
It’s hard to avoid the deeply personal questions around our own value and what we seem to be doing to ‘fail’ at yet another relationship when things go wrong. But I know through my work that we can all have the relationship we want and make a success of it.
I am now happily married again, but when I got divorced in my mid-thirties it truly was the most painful time of my life. I could not see a way out of that abyss. Even now, I would say it’s almost impossible to do this without a little help.
It’s no surprise, then, that many of my clients come to me and have already decided that they will never get married again.
But developing a new relationship – one that is 100% right for us and our life – can change all that and a second marriage can become a real opportunity for lasting success. Of course it’s important to realise that a second or third marriage (or even a new long term, committed relationship) will face challenges that weren’t present in a first marriage. It’s all about having the right Relationship Toolkit.
It may be early days for Jennifer but there is no right or wrong time for when you should get back ‘out there’. If you are thinking of dating again after a painful divorce or break up, here are the powerful lessons I’ve learnt through my own experience and from working with my clients.
Six steps to breaking the ‘unlucky in love’ cycle, getting back out there and avoid becoming another statistic:
Are you ‘date ready’ or ‘relationship ready’? Work out the difference!
As you may well know, the dating scene is in no way an even playing field. Sometimes you won’t know whether you are ready or not until you actually start getting out there or seeing someone new. But I also know for sure that there are many people who are dating that are certainly not ready for a relationship. Being ready to date and being ready for an actual relationship are two different things altogether
I know of people who move on really soon after their divorce and turn their next relationship into a new ‘mini-marriage’ – often while the legal process and all the fallout of their divorce is still going on. While there can be exceptions this is really not the best start for a new relationship. A rebound relationship or the first post-divorce breakup can often exacerbate the unresolved pain someone is carrying and hurt just as much. By all means get out there and have fun, but don’t date with a view to finding The One until you have taken a long hard look at what went wrong last time.
Get clarity about what your next relationship will look and feel like
At the time that I met my second husband, I was absolutely heartbroken that I didn’t have a biological family of my own, and I didn’t know how I really felt about becoming a ‘stepmom’ to his two boys. Since he already had two children, I wasn’t sure about whether he would want any more, while I still had hopes of becoming a mom. I was certainly not at an age where I felt I could spend a few years figuring it all out. Regardless of how I felt about him at the time, I had to have some serious upfront talks about our future together before I could get involved with him at all, and I’m so glad I did because it avoided a huge amount of misunderstanding and unmet expectations later on
So much of what leads to relationship and marriage breakdown has to do with us carrying unhelpful or destructive habits, patterns and beliefs about love, intimacy and commitment from one relationship to the next without taking the time to figure out what is really going on underneath the surface. But taking the time to understand yourself and how you really function in a relationship, what you truly need and how to ask for it will set you up for success in your next relationship.
Take responsibility for your part in your relationship or marriage breakdown
One of the key signs of being ready to move on to dating or a new relationship is when you can calmly and without blame get to the point of accepting your part in the breakdown of your marriage. This can be exceptionally hard to do, especially if the reason for your divorce was an extramarital affair or various kinds of unreasonable behaviour concerning somebody other than you.
When you get to the point of having a neutral attitude towards your ex you will have made a huge amount of progress and they will no longer have the emotional hold over you and your new life that they once had. This also puts you in a much stronger position in your new relationship. The other side of this particular coin is practicing forgiveness, for our ex-partner, but often for ourselves as well.
Use your baggage for good
Once you’ve been through a divorce there are things that will never be the same again. We all have baggage in some way, and I believe it can be a good thing – but only if we’re aware of it and we’ve dealt with it in a constructive way.
Being in a new dynamic will push your buttons and trigger you in ways that you can’t predict. What I’ve learnt is that when a marriage breaks down, it isn’t entirely disconnected from the reasons our relationships prior to the marriage broke down either. And if you are still carrying unresolved issues from your part relationships that may have spilled over in your first marriage, it will come up again.
Something I’ve learnt in my second marriage is that I often assumed there were a problem between me and my husband, while on reflection it was very clear that we were projecting unresolved issues from our past relationships onto each other. We would have the same kind of arguments over and over that were actually not about us at all until we figured this out. We had to teach each other the new rules of our relationship over time and stop comparing or competing with our pasts.
One decision we’ve made, for example, is to never use the word or threaten ‘divorce’, no matter how heated an argument may get. It’s simply not allowed and we both know that it’s not an option.
Prioritise your healing
Everybody deals with it differently, but family breakdown and divorce is a traumatic experience and the impact of it should not be underestimated, no matter how strong you as an individual. The mental health impact of a divorce is well documented and in cases where there is a high level of conflict, or for example the process of extracting yourself from a marriage to somebody with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for some.
Allowing yourself to go through the various stages of grief can also be very difficult when you’re a single parent trying to keep everything together for everyone else with little time and space to process your own feelings. Even when it feels impossible at times, find a way of prioritising taking care of yourself in a way that can help you move forward in small steps. Whether it’s exercise and taking care of yourself physically, reaching out to friends or seeking professional help, do whatever it takes. Healing can feel like a big word and it is. Ask friends for help if you need to. They can be helpful to keep an eye on the way you prioritise yourself – or not.
Take your time to rebuild your life and thrive on your own first
This is about much more than just getting ready to date and perhaps getting into a new relationship or marriage. Your long term relationship or marriage breaking down may be the worst thing that has ever happened to you and you may doubt yourself and your ability to ever find love again.
But in time you may come to see it as one of the catalysts in your life that spurred you on to finally do the things you always wanted to do, revive lost dreams and follow your true passions.
If you allow it to happen you may reinvent and redefine yourself in ways you never thought possible. The conflict and stress of keeping an unhappy marriage together, for whatever reason, takes its toll.
Once you’ve drawn a line and are able to move on a new phase in your life can open up and it is possible that you may be happier than ever before.
This I know for sure.