The divorce rate—as high as it is—isn’t an accurate barometer of the failure of romantic relationships because the vast majority of them end without there ever having been a formal marriage. That makes it virtually impossible to even guestimate what the relationship failure rate really is.

There are many reasons that fledgling relationships don’t take full flight and never make it to that happy sunset 50 or 60 years later. And, like most things we write about in this space, there’s a direct correlation to grief and to recovery from loss. This is especially true when the recovery component is missing.

The absence of recovery sustains the divorce and break-up rate at painfully high levels. Painful because every break-up produces grief, even if there’s some relief at the ending with the cessation of bickering and other recurring problems. But without recovery, the unfinished emotional business left behind becomes the breeding ground for subsequent relationship failures.

Interacting with thousands of people who were grieving the end of a romantic relationship, it was inevitable that we’d observe some patterns. We could give them a label: the breakup/incomplete grief/pick poorly or too soon/guaranteed to sabotage the next relationship syndrome. It is a syndrome, isn’t it? If not, it probably soon will be if the DSM 5 folks have any input.

What emerged from those interactions is the clear and obvious fact that most people at some point after a break-up start to feel lonely and amorously inclined. A high percentage of those people tell us that as the immediate pain associated with the end of the prior relationship begins to subside—whether or not they’d taken any formal actions to deal with the grief caused by the ending—strong feelings of loneliness come up for them along with equally strong sexual urges.

Real, Yes—Reality, Not Necessarily!

Not surprisingly, many of those people also told us that the new relationships that had been spawned by the loneliness they’d felt had crashed and burned very quickly. After the fact, they realized that although the loneliness and sexual urgency they’d felt may have been all too real, those feelings didn’t necessarily represent current reality. They’d incorrectly interpreted them as an accurate sign that they were ready to start dating and enter into a new relationship.

Simply put, feeling lonely or sexy are not reliable indicators that you have done what you need to do to be emotionally complete with your prior relationship, and that you are now emotionally available for a new relationship.

Time can’t heal emotional wounds. Only correct actions within time can create completion for you. Make sure you have taken actions that will help you complete what was left emotionally unfinished in your last relationship, and even those before it. Then you’ll be able to trust the feelings that compel you to start looking again.

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