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Newly divorced man needs healing time, reality check

I am 26 and recently divorced. I met a very cool girl last week and have talked to her a couple of times since. This has brought a lot of my internal contradictions to the surface. I am still in love with my ex-wife, but I want to date other people, and I dream of starting something new. I am terrified of marriage, yet, I long for female companionship and physical affection.

I know I am a gentleman and a great friend for a woman to have; yet I desire affection and sex. I have no idea how to reconcile those things in a way where I feel completely fulfilled and happy with my life.

— S.T.,

Franklin, Tenn.

 

You speak of "contradictions." For example, you are still in love with your ex, yet you long to date. You are terrified of ideas such as marriage and relationship, yet you long for love.

I don’t see this as a contradiction, any more than I would see as contradictory the feelings of a star quarterback lying in traction with broken bones. He’s seriously injured. It doesn’t matter how he feels, because he can’t get out of bed by himself! His only "work" right now is healing/convalescence.

Next, he’s afraid. Specifically, he now sees that the game makes him vulnerable to blind side blitzes. And there’s nothing he can do about that. Not if he wants to be a champion. His fear is reasonable. Sometimes, you get mowed down in a way you never see coming and it hurts. Such is the game.

His passion to play makes him restless. His heart didn’t get the message that his body just got run over by a Mack truck. But again, not a contradiction. The longing hurts, but the longing is a precious thing. It means the devil didn’t succeed in closing his heart.

Of course, S.T., you’re the injured quarterback. And, right now, you can’t "get out of bed by yourself" as regards readiness for building significant ties to any woman. Men in the first six to 12 months of divorce ought to come with a warning label staple-gunned to their forehead: "Warning to women! Run away as fast as you can!" And not because a divorced guy is a bad guy. Just an injured guy. A guy whose injuries gravely impede his ability to participate meaningfully in potential romances.

You say, "I know I am a gentleman and a great friend for a woman to have; yet I desire affection and sex."

S.T., don’t you see that the very way you are asking this question feeds the split/contradiction that’s driving you crazy? It’s not either gentleman/great friend or desire for affection/horndog! You are not two men; rather, one! Someday, the very way you will be a gentleman and a friend to some lucky woman will include bringing her your shameless need for affection and your generous, passionate horndog self.

You say you want to "feel completely fulfilled and happy with (your) life."

Tell me you’re kidding! Take a deep breath. Throw back your head and laugh out loud the way we are set free when we laugh. Laugh with the relief that you can’t believe you could even construct such a sentence, let alone type it.

Completely fulfilled and happy with your life? If you take those words literally, there are only two possible interpretations: either your ultimate goal is to be dead, or to be way cooler than the rest of us, because I’m thinking that those are the only two possible roads that could ever lead me to be completely fulfilled and happy with my life.

Here’s a page from the devil’s playbook: Yes, sometimes he tempts us to be bad. But, I think just as often, he tempts us to be good. In fact, it’s his favorite thing to say to me. "Be good, Steven … be completely fulfilled and happy with your life." And that admonition makes me feel like crap.

Get a new outlook, S.T. Try this: Be loving, patient, nonanxious, nonreactive and merciful toward my broken, imperfect, sack-o’-sin-on-a-meathook friend S.T. My friend who’s just like me. Who, in spite of everything, has a genius for love, a restless vision of wholeness and a heart still open to hope.

Oh, yeah, and he still likes sex. Which means he’s still alive. And that’s a good thing.

Originally published in View News, Jan. 5, 2010.

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