I have been dating this woman for two years while she was
separated from her husband. She recently divorced him. We have been pretty
much in love for the last 18 months, but after divorcing, she feels her
feelings for me have cooled down and she needs some space, maybe even to
date other people. Is this a normal set of feelings after a divorce?
Unfortunately for you, this is a very familiar story. I am glad to
have the opportunity to address this issue in print. Perhaps my response
will help many others who are experiencing what you are going through.
When people are in the throes of divorce, their emotions are in a state of
turmoil. There is a mixture of pain, hurt, anger, sadness, anxiety, and
fear, to mention but a few of the common feelings. Sometimes they are
suffering from a loss of self-esteem for having a failed marriage. They
often feel needy of affection, companionship, intimacy, support, and
friendship, in addition to sex and love.
A new relationship frequently provides all of the above and offers a feeling
of comfort and a respite from the anguish and upset of divorcing. The person
on the other end of the relationship, in this case you, is viewed as an
oasis. However, you are getting only part of the divorcing person. She is
not totally available to you. Part of her is still invested in her marriage,
albeit the dissolution of it. You are only seeing a part of her; the needy
part, the hurting part, the part that is seeking comfort.
By the same token, she is only viewing you through the eyes of someone who
is leaving an unhappy relationship. Therefore, by comparison, you may look
very good. You are what psychologists call a "transitional object." This
means, a person who is available to assist in the separating process to whom
a great many feelings are transferred.
By analogy, when you are starving and go to a restaurant, the food may taste
especially good. However, when you go back to the same restaurant, order the
same food, but are not particularly ravenous, the food does not taste quite
as good. Nothing has changed, only your appetite. Likewise, when someone
is leaving a marriage, they too are hungry. They have certain needs which
are primary at the moment. Once those needs are met, however, or the pain
subsides, their needs change. Such is the case with the woman you describe.
It is not that you are not valued, but her needs have changed. She is no
longer starving and wants to try her wings to see what other restaurants are
Getting involved with a divorcing person is risky business. There is a high
probability that you will get hurt. My advice to people is to avoid becoming
seriously involved with someone who is in process of divorcing for just these
reasons. It is better to wait until the divorce is final so that you can
meet the person on a level playing field, when they are available emotionally
and physically to be involved in a new relationship.
Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist,
Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing
psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years.
He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation,
couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and
assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing
Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.