life after divorceHave you been in a marriage or long-term relationship where you were not valued or seen for who you are or where trust was violated? It can be difficult to believe that you can have a true reciprocal, loving relationship. Opening your heart again takes courage. After all, the word courage comes from the Anglo-French curage or coer, which means “heart.” Breakups and divorces are painful. But you can learn to love again. It will take some inner work, but wouldn’t you rather love again than remain alone in your fortress of pain and hurt? I believe the emotional risks are small compared to what a true loving relationship can add to your life. There are some important steps that you’ll need to take in order to open to love again.

10 Keys to Opening Your Heart to Love

1)  Remember that you are lovable. Find two good friends and ask them to tell you what they love about you. It helps to remember that you are lovable after someone breaks your heart. Any good relationship begins with your own self-love.

2)  Identify your love patterns. Talk to a good therapist or relationship/dating coach and get some perspective on why your relationships didn’t work out. Do you keep attracting the wrong type of person? Identify your love patterns and get support on how to break old love paradigms.

3)  Get fit. After the initial “grieving” period, don’t stay home and mope. Get out and exercise. The endorphins will make you happier, and you’ll look and feel better. Your confidence will increase, which will make you a far more irresistible date (when you’re ready to date again).

4)  Do what you love to do. Is there a hobby you’ve neglected? Now is the time to take that photography/painting/horseback riding class you’ve always wanted to take. You will become busy with things you enjoy doing, which will take your mind off of your ex. It will also make you a much more interesting person. Plus, you’ll have a life that you love, without depending on a mate to “complete” you.

5)  Take your time. Don’t jump right back into dating until you’ve healed. If you were dating or married to your ex for a year or more, wait at least a year. I didn’t understand the importance of a year until I was divorced. I actually waited two years before dating again. I was building a new career, taking care of a house, and making sure my kids were okay. I was also doing the inner work to heal myself. If you date again without properly healing yourself emotionally, you will probably make the same mistakes on the rebound. You’ll fall for someone for all the wrong reasons. Healthier you = a healthier relationship.

6)  Pay close attention to your intuition. When you’re ready to get back out there and date again, pay attention to your brilliant intuition. If you feel something is off, it probably is. All my failed relationships were the result of pushing my intuitive hits under the rug. Look for compatible values and impeccable character vs. the external package. It’s easy to be charming. It’s much more difficult to be ethical and kind, especially during the challenging times. Actions are much more important than words. Pay attention!

7)  Know your relationship standards. Make a list of five things that are not negotiable in the next relationship. Use that list in finding a great relationship. If your religion is very important to you, don’t get involved with someone who doesn’t respect and honor your beliefs. Don’t fool yourself into the belief that you can change his/her mind over time. Your heart is likely to get broken again. Suppose you meet a great guy who lives across the country and neither of you are willing to relocate? It’s not going to work, no matter how strong the attraction. Use that list to filter your dates before you get involved in a relationship.

8)  Take small steps. Don’t have two-hour phone conversations before meeting for the first time. Don’t send lengthy emails before you’ve met. Show that you respect yourself by reserving the most precious parts of you until you’re ready to reveal them. Don’t let yourself feel pressured into anything you’re not comfortable with. When you progress at your pace, you won’t dive into something that you might regret later.

9)  Don’t become sexually active until your head is ready. Once you sleep with someone, your expectations change. Your heart can become much more vulnerable, especially if you’re a woman. We release the hormone oxytocin during sex, which is the same hormone that gets released during nursing. The hormone that bonds women to their babies will bond them to the man they sleep with. I have seen too many women whose hearts were broken because they deluded themselves into thinking they were in a relationship just for casual sex. Without realizing what was happening, they bonded and found themselves falling in love, while their guy was okay with the casual sex. So please make sure to deepen your relationship before you take this next big step.

10) Talk about your feelings and needs. One of the biggest mistakes I see women making in relationships in midlife is suppressing their needs in a relationship. In the attempt to be the cool or nice girl, they don’t assert what’s important to them during the first few months of a relationship. In a healthy relationship, you will develop enough trust with your partner so that you feel comfortable talking about the important stuff. You respect each other enough to listen compassionately without getting defensive. This is not easy. I’ve spent the past 10 + years working on my communication skills so that I could speak up when my feelings were hurt. I find this to be one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship.

A good relationship is one in which you feel mutual trust and admiration for each other. It’s one in which you feel that you are learning as much as you are teaching each other. If those components are not there, keep looking. Take time to choose wisely and gradually build a trusting, loving relationship. A slow build will prevent the crash and burn of a hot and heavy relationship that you enter with wishful thinking and closed eyes. True love is possible if you take the steps to heal and rebuild after heartbreak. I am lucky enough to witness this over and over again in my practice as a dating coach. It can happen to you. Trust me!

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