Tag Archives: Adapt

Guest Post: How to Adapt to Dating After Divorce

The key to dating after divorce? Adaptation.

The key to dating after divorce? Adaptation.

NOTE: This is the first in a series of guest posts scheduled to run while I’m out of town getting a little R&R with friends and family. This post is from Lisa Arends, author of the book and blog “Lessons From the End of a Marriage.” I asked Lisa to guest post because divorce recovery is a central theme of MBTTTR, and I don’t believe anyone can bring more to the discussion than she. I can’t impress upon you just how important I think her story is for people dealing with divorce or the end of a meaningful relationship. And if you’re one of those people, I hope you’ll visit Lisa’s blog and immerse yourself in those stories. Healing and enlightenment live there. Thank you, Lisa, for your generous contribution.

When change happens,

You can complain.

Or you can adapt.

Guess which one the dinosaurs chose?

One of the trademarks of marriage, especially long ones, is that we become comfortable. We know our environment and we know how to survive within it.

And then divorce changes that environment as surely as an asteroid stripping the earth bare. The behaviors and habits that once served us well become vestigial or even maladaptive.

It makes me think of Darwin’s finches, stranded on islands with plentiful food and yet no way to access the sustenance as their beaks had evolved for other food sources. Some of the birds never changed and they failed to thrive, bloodlines becoming extinct. While others, slowly and over time, adapted to their new environments, their beaks changing to reach the available nutrition. And those are the finches that have thrived, their offspring populating the islands to this day.

Divorce treats us like one of those birds, suddenly abandoned on an island that may possess the resources we need to survive, yet we are unsure how to access them. Our metaphorical beaks developed for the married life, with its unique demands and challenges, not for the suddenly single world that we now find ourselves in.

And we have two choices.

We can either complain.

Or we can adapt.

Adaptation occurs when you use your experiences and environment to create change and continually modify your approach based upon your circumstances. Adaptation is a process, not a state. It is ongoing, responsive. It is imperfect; using trial and error to make the tiniest steps forward. It challenges us, requiring growth outside our comfort zone. It forces us to continually reevaluate our self-image and assumptions.

Change is hard.

But it’s reality.

And we have two choices.

We can either complain.

Or we can adapt.

I first became acutely aware of the need for adaptation not too long after my husband left. I started dating relatively quickly, probably from a combination of wanting to be more healed than I was and wanting distraction from the hell that was the legal system.

I didn’t have a problem finding men or attracting them. But I had a major problem with dating them. You see, I was adapted for marriage, with its intimacies and vulnerabilities. I knew how to be married, but I had no idea how to date. Those first few men (apologies, guys!) found me, almost upon introduction, acting as a wife.

It wasn’t intentional. I certainly wasn’t looking for a husband. But I was maladapted to the dating world, so I reverted to what I knew. And what I knew included being way too open too soon. Looking to my date to fill the role of life partner before I even knew his life story. And making plans for the next step before the first one was even taken.

Needless to say, that behavior didn’t work out very well.

So I adapted.

I learned to recognize my wife-like behavior and stop myself before I asked a man after a first date if he needed anything from the grocery store. I committed not to a single man but to practicing dating until I could get it right. I looked for clues to determine if my approach was appropriate or not. I looked to others who were more adept than I at dating and I used them as mentors, imitating what I observed.

I erred too far on the other side at first, going from wife-like to almost clinical detachment, keeping dates at a pro basketball player’s arm’s length. I would initiate a date with the proclamation that I was moving out of town within a few months and that I was doing just fine on my own.

Needless to say, that didn’t work out too well either.

So I continued to adapt, eventually finding a balance that led to a new marriage.

Where I then had to adapt again. Because one relationship isn’t like another. I may have known how to be married to my ex but that’s different than being married to my new husband.

Change is a certainty.

And we have two choices.

We can either complain.

Or we can adapt.

You are more malleable than you realize. You can adapt to conditions that, at first glance, seem unable to support life. You can adjust and readjust until you have developed strategies that allow you to conquer your circumstances. You can use change, even unwanted change, as an opportunity for growth.

And it begins by truly seeing your environment. Look with your eyes, not your assumptions, at what is around you. It’s scary to face change. We often want to put our heads down and run through it as if it’s not there.

But it is.

See your new world. Feel it. Accept it.

And then try something new.

You may fail. That’s okay. Remember that adaptation is a process. And failures help us learn what works and what doesn’t.

Keep trying. It took Darwin’s finches generations to adapt. You can be patient with yourself.

Use imitation. Mimic the success of others, modifying it to fit your needs.

Slowly, ever so slowly, you’ll learn what works. And you’ll begin to adapt to your present reality.

And that island that once felt so barren and inhospitable will be teeming with possibility.

Control is an illusion.

Choice is a certainty.

And you can choose to complain.

Or you can choose to adapt.

Lisa Arends works as a math teacher and a wellness coach. After using her own sudden divorce four years ago as a catalyst for positive change, she now helps people navigate their own divorces and transform stress into wellness. She loves to lift heavy weights and run long distances, and she is still learning how to meditate. She can be found at her blog, Lessons From the End of a Marriage and on The Huffington Post.
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