Coupled With D&S

Real, nonjudgmental advice about dating, sex, love, and life from a thirty-something couple that has seen it all over thirteen years.

Trust us. We live in Brooklyn. (Joking. Kind of.)

Divorced and Doomed?: “I’m Afraid I’m Never Going to Find Anyone Else”

City Square

Giacometti’s sculptures are doomed to be alone forever. Real people aren’t.

The Question

A divorced straight woman in her early 40s wrote, “I love my ex husband, and I’m so sad that we didn’t work out. I would get back together with him now, but he says he’s done. I’m still confused as to why that didn’t work out. We both love each other so much. I have been dating a lot for two years now, and I have yet to find a guy that I really connect with. I wonder if I’m doomed to be single my whole life now that I’ve lost my ex husband. Do you have any advice to give me other than ‘soldier on and I’ll eventually meet someone’?” We do, of course, have some advice, and the writer included a link to her OKCupid profile, which figures into our response.

Sorry it’s been so long since our last update; work and life have kept us very busy.

Sally Says

It sounds like you really need to create closure with your ex-husband. You say you both love each other, and you also have children together, which probably means that you have fairly regular contact. For those two reasons, you have some leverage to get an honest and fair answer from him about why the relationship ended. You need to tell him that when a person breaks up with someone and refuses to explain why, it does enormous psychological damage. (If he doesn’t listen to you, show him this post!) You, no doubt, have imagined all sorts of terrible reasons why he left you. Whatever the truth is, at least you won’t be constantly second guessing your behavior, appearance, personality, everything…as you try to meet someone new. He really does owe you an answer, and you should be a bit aggressive about pursuing it. Perhaps put the request in writing if you feel like it will be difficult to state your case strongly enough in person.

I read your OKCupid profile and I thought it was great- warm, welcoming, and inviting. I loved that you got a male friends perspective on why you are awesome, especially because all the reasons he gave are good ones! However, there are a couple of small things that could be really killing your chances with men. I fully appreciate your desire to move offline and into a real relationship with someone special, but you need to keep the tone of your profile consistently light and positive rather than focusing on what you don’t have/don’t want at the end of your profile.

Don’t say any of the following: you might want more kids, you’re good at mommying, you want to get off OKcupid, and you’re not interested in guys who just message to hook up (every woman gets those annoying messages, just delete them). You should make the part about wanting to meet someone for a serious relationship more positive, and honestly, more coded. For example, instead of saying (to paraphrase) You should message me if….“you want to save me from the misery that is online dating!” say, You should message me if… “you want to meet the person who you love to wake up next to every morning and cuddle up with every night.”

However, don’t just rely on OKCupid. Online dating is most successful for those looking for less commitment. Get your friends and family in on the search, and get involved in activities like volunteering, outdoor meet up groups, parent’s events–wherever you think you might meet other nice single people with the same goal as you. All that said, everyone out there finds dating frustrating because it takes so much time and is so emotionally bruising. To an extent, you just have to be dedicated to the effort in order to see payoff. Odds are, if you don’t meet a lot of people you won’t meet the right person, so you have to keep working at it to succeed.

David Says

I feel more strongly than Sally’s “you need closure” and don’t want to give you dating advice yet. You’re not doomed overall, but you are doomed until you find a way to accept your divorce. You’re not ready to date again, which is why you haven’t found a connection. Even without knowing many details of your relationship, you’ve given a lot of signs that you’re not yet there. Here’s what I noticed:

  • You still love and want to get back together with your ex husband. That means that you haven’t accepted and worked through that very difficult loss yet, even if it happened years ago. If you are reporting his words and feelings accurately, it seems that his communication with you has a lot to do with holding you back. Whatever else he’s saying to you, he tells you that you’re “done,” which is the loudest thing he can say. You need to listen to that and close off hope for him.
  • Even if you were no longer in love with or desiring of your ex, you’re not sure why that relationship didn’t work, which alone could make it hard to move on to someone else. I could imagine the anxiety: What’s wrong with me that I don’t know about? What about me caused my relationship to fail with someone I love and who claims to love me? If I’m that bad, then how can I let myself connect to another person? I don’t think these things are true, but even subconscious anxieties like this could prevent you from throwing yourself into making new connections.
  • Your profile has a lot of anti-dating/anti-OKCupid stuff in it, which is self-defeating, such as: “I’m really sick of OKCupid. I want to find a boyfriend. Get me off of here and you’ll earn my undying gratitude.” I’m sure you have plenty of company among other frustrated OKC users–men and women alike–but you’re more likely to alienate (even sympathetic) suitors than make a match this way. It’s like trying to bond with someone at a party by hating on the party. This might be a defense mechanism that you’ve put in place to actually prevent yourself from meeting someone else because you don’t really want to be dating other guys. You’re still in love.
I’m not sure how long you and your ex were together, but it can take years to get over the end of a long term romantic relationship–and that’s after both sides have accepted that it’s over. You should talk with him, as Sally suggests, but he might never give you the closure you need. The fact that he won’t give you a reason for the divorce says that he’s being dishonest with you out of a misguided attempt to save your feelings (best interpretation) or to control you and keep you in his life (worst interpretation). I see two options that might lead to closure: he tells you exactly what went wrong so you can close off the relationship for good, or he fails to inform you what happened and you realize that he’s being a horrible person, blow up at him, and figure out that you’re better off without him. At this point, don’t wait for him to deliver the end. You might have to cut him off as much as possible, even if you have to deal with him around the kids.

The Consensus

Here are the facts we agree on: You and your ex husband are over, and you need to accept that. Once you’ve put closure on your marriage and can put all your romantic focus on finding a new person, you’ll make a really amazing date! We have a lot of thoughts about dating in your 40s, your profile, and so on, but we’ll think you’ll be good at those things and we don’t want to put the cart before the horse. Lots of luck, and please talk to your ex immediately!