Because I'm the Mom

How mothering pervades all relationships in life.

Why Post-Divorce, Second Chances at Love are the Best

Forget doomed second marriage stats: Midlife love do-overs are hot!

I know it can feel – and can be – brutal “out there” in post-divorce dating land. I get it. And we have all spent a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about the considerable downsides.

But somebody said something to me yesterday that stuck: It’s not scientific, not official, not guaranteed and, in fact, there are statistics that make a lie out of it. But there is truth IN it and it’s that truth that I’m thinking about today.

My source is in his 80s, an educator for more than 60 years, a brutal skeptic and about as pragmatic and unsentimental as a human being can get. But he knows lots and lots of people and, for whatever odd reason, people tell him a lot about themselves. They confess their truths to him.

What he said was this: The happiest couples he knows, like, actually happy together, are those in second marriages who really took the time to choose carefully the second time around; who used their first marriage as a wake-up call, a teaching moment (or decade or two).

I started asking around, asking women in second-time-around relationships what made them better, or at least smarter. It’s unscientific, merely anecdotal information. But it makes sense. And it offers a lot of hope.

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New rules

Everyone I talked to said something to the effect of: All bets are off. In a new relationship after a tough marriage, you get to rewrite all the rules. If you were passive or felt pushed around in your first marriage, you can start off, right from the beginning, in a new role. You can make the plans, get your voice heard, assert whatever it is you couldn’t in your first marriage. Women who married in their 20s, 30s, 40s, have lots of new priorities, wants, skills, passions, goals, and traits. So much has changed. If you and your first partner couldn’t or didn’t grow and change in compatible ways, finding someone new can be liberating from all those parts of yourself you have moved away from, grown out of or simply chose to release.

A new mindset

Another theme that came up in almost every case was exhaustion, hopelessness, and despair in first marriages that make change feel impossible. It’s so much easier to reinvent yourself in a new relationship dynamic. A hard marriage grinds you down. It’s exhausting, depressing and after so long can feel like (and be) impossible to make any inroads into change. In a new relationship with a new person (with a new set of challenges, neuroses, downsides, of course) but if you choose more healthily, you can shed the hopeless habits of mind and being. You can try out all new ways of being in love, of being a partner, of allowing yourself to be cared for and for opening your heart to care for someone in a far deeper way.

Transform yourself from the inside

Anything truly is possible. If you know what worked and what didn’t before and you are mindfully listening to your instincts and thinking about what got you in trouble in the first place.

I am here to tell you that old, midlife dogs can learn all kinds of remarkable new relationship tricks. You can be vulnerable and open for the first time in your entire life. You can get your groove back in all possible ways, ladies. I will not go into too much detail here but I heard a lot A LOT of good news from women who rediscovered their sexuality and sensuality in new relationships. They reported a new ability to make peace with their imperfect bodies for the first time, well, ever, because they were being cherished in entirely new ways.

If only I lost the baby weight……NOT!

This was a surprise to me. According to all of the ladies I talked with, their new loves and lives helped them see clearly all of the self-imposed obstacles from their first marriages. All the things you thought needed to happen HAD TO HAPPEN before you felt better (if I lost the baby weight; if I had a fulfilling job; re-did the house; lived closer to my family; lived nowhere near my family; got a full lift; got that degree; had more money; found just the right vacation spot……blah blah blah blah….

None of that has to happen. You can literally get a do-over. And you can choose to get what you need and give what you want.

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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