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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Take a break after breaking up
 
Published Thursday, November 3, 2011 10:00 am
by Ryanne Persinger

W.D. Smith was married for 17 years.

When she found herself single three years ago after a divorce, she didn’t realize how attached she had grown to her husband.
PHOTO/RYANNE PERSINGER
Relationship counselor W.D. Smith suggests newly-divorced people take some time before jumping back into dating.

“I had been with him the same amount of time I spent with my parents,” Smith said. “I thought I had healed after a year. As I started dating again, I realized in my thoughts that I was always measuring others against my ex-husband.”

Smith, a former Raleigh resident, recently relocated to her home state of Pennsylvania.

“In my opinion it really doesn’t hit you until it’s final,” Smith said about divorce. “It’s not until it’s done that the healing begins. In my opinion I would say to wait at least six months to a year before dating again. You have to get into the routine of being by yourself.”

Smith, a Christian relationship counselor and author of “Women and Womb: A Journey Through the Transfer of a Destiny,” started dating four months ago.

“After coming out of a divorce you become a different type of person because in a marriage you are essentially two people,” Smith said. “When you get divorced you really need to search and see what you want before you date again, otherwise you end up dating the same type of person you were married too. You’ve got to date yourself for a while first.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey conducted in 2009 and released this past August, men averaged between 9.3 to 10.9 of divorce rates per 1,000 in North Carolina, while women accounted for 9.8 to 11.0 per 1,000. Marriage rates in North Carolina for women ranged from 17.7 to 20.3 per 1,000 and 19.2 to 25.7 per 1,000 for men.

Lennie Ross, a Los Angeles-based dating blogger, says women and men deal with divorce and dating differently.

“Men feel like they are giving everything away and it’s kind of emasculating for them,” Ross said. “They feel very raw and vulnerable in a way.”
Ross said divorce hits men harder than they realize.

“Men want to approach things in a business way and don’t realize how hard it is for themselves,” Ross added. “I’ve noticed with men that it really takes them time to get their brains wrapped around a divorce. It’s takes them longer to recover from the process of it.”

Smith agrees to some extent.

“Men don’t have as much guilt about a divorce as women do,” she said. “Women are emotional. Women tend to think they didn’t do something right or believe if only they had lost weight, hadn’t paid so much attention to the kids or changed their hair, that things could have been different. We’re so fixated with how did this happen. Men don’t pay attention to those types of things.”

However, Smith said men tend to not acknowledge that they need to heal from a divorce just as women do.

“Men will say things like ‘I can move on,’“ Smith said. “But then when they get with the next person, they have a tendency to compare the new person with their ex-wife.”

Micki McWade, a New York based psychotherapist and a collaborative divorce coach since 2002, says the spouse who initiated the divorce gets over it faster whether it’s the man or the woman.

“Nobody just wakes up and says ‘I want a divorce,’“ McWade said. “Usually people spend a year or two thinking about a divorce. The one who initiates the divorce usually moves on faster and the other one is stunned by the announcement.”

But, McWade says, since women are the ones who set the social calendar and usually have closer friends, they are less likely to jump into the dating scene as fast as men.

“Men try to avoid being alone,” said McWade, a divorcee who remarried in 1997. “Women have a better social network and they will be able to deal with not dating for longer periods of time because they have closer friends. Men feel like they are alone and so they try to replace that feeling.”

For that reason, Ross warns women not to be a replacement to a man who has freshly acquired an ex-wife.

“My rule of thumb that I always say is there’s a two-year period to date a man after his divorce,” Ross said. “If you date a man who is going through a divorce it’s likely to be a roller coaster. Men need time to lick their wounds and to feel good about themselves financially.”

Ross, who has never married but had a couple of long-term relationships, says men who are dating a recently divorced woman should ease into it.
“Women tend to have that nesting instinct even if they don’t have children,” she said. “I think they have the tendency to want to jump into a relationship again and be committed to another person right away.”

Ultimately, Ross says dating should be fun not an interview process.
“You don’t want to go back to dating your ex-husband or ex-wife,” said Ross, the author of “Blow Me.” “Dating is supposed to be fun and wonderful. Try not to bring all of those worrisome things into your new dating environment.”

Smith says prayer is key.

“When you’ve been away from the dating scene for so long, it’s foreign to you,” she said. “Trying to get back into the swing of things is a lot different. There’s always that fear of not wanting to get hurt again.”

For Smith, who has a child in college in Durham, said there is life after divorce.

“Even as a Christian, some people will shun you if you’re divorced and single again,” she added. “I’ve been through all of the emotions and God healed me. Wait on God and he will bring you together with someone else.”

McWade, also an author who penned the book “Getting Up, Getting Over, Getting On: A Twelve-Step Guide to Divorce Recovery,” said no matter what, divorce is painful and harder than anybody ever expects including for teenage or adult-aged children.

“I encourage people to really figure out who they are and what kind of life they want after a divorce,” McWade said. “And if you have kids, don’t introduce them to a lot of people when you’re dating. Wait and do it gradually because if you end up marrying or living with this person and it didn’t start off on the right foot, the kids are never going to like this person. In the end it’s a wise investment if done the right way.”

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