“The possibilities are numerous
once we decide to act and not re-act.”
George Bernard Shaw
Do you think you’re ready for a new relationship or ready to embark on dating because you’ve been divorced for a couple of years or you’ve been separated for two or three years? The paperwork has been filed, an agreement has been signed. You’re just waiting for that certificate that says you are divorced. You think “yeah, I’m good,” then you realize that you ARE NOT.
I thought I was ready. I wanted to make new, fun memories. I wanted to meet new people. What happens is that you think you have a handle on your past life, and it will have no negative bearing on your new life. After all, the new people you’ll meet will be very different from your past. You think you’re going to move forward and not make the same mistakes. You’re wrong! Well, I can say, I was wrong. Even though you can intellectualize the fact that you should be acting differently, years of acting a certain way becomes engrained in you. So, I reverted to reacting. It’s like learning to drive standard when you’ve been driving automatic all your life. You know you have to put your foot on the clutch, you know you have to shift gears; however, your reflexes are those of someone who has been driving automatic. The switch is not easy. It takes practice.
To paraphrase Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, between stimulus and response there is a space, and, in that space, we have the ability to choose our responses and, in those responses, lie our success and happiness.
Sometimes, we must recognize that those responses are on automatic pilot and we revert to what we know. It’s not right or wrong, it just is. However, we must be aware of it. One of the 6 Conscious Principles is Recognition. We have to recognize our patterns; the behaviors that are based on our past pain and struggles. I may not have recognized certain patterns of behaviors as quickly as I did, had it not been for the person I met. He had more experience in the world of post-divorce dating and was able to show me that I had a pattern. But more importantly, I was open to receive that feedback. I saw it as a gift, not as a criticism. If we are not open to having those in-depth discussions, we are not going to grow; we are not going to move forward. Life is about growing. As they say, if we don’t grow, we die. So, think about that for a moment. Are you reacting to your new life in the way you reacted to your old life? Are you subconsciously stuck in your past?
Guilt is a rope that wears thin
Your stomach is in knots; you feel anxious, you feel shame either for something you did, something you think you did, or something you didn’t do but are thinking of doing. You might even have felt guilty because you think you could have helped someone more than you actually did or because you think you are better off than others. You may not even know which of the five reasons mentioned above is making you feel guilty, but you do know that knot in your stomach is making you uncomfortable.
At one point or another, most of us have felt guilt in our relationship. Has it happened to you? Were you able to relieve the guilt by offering a sincere, appropriate apology? (now, that’s a topic for another blog…). If you did, great! But, what about when it becomes chronic, and you constantly feel guilty? Perhaps you no longer want to be in your relationship and don’t know how to approach your partner, or you feel the relationship is going too fast and you feel trapped. It could be as simple as you not wanting to participate in an activity you partner loves. You feel bad for letting them down, but you just can’t force yourself to go to one more monster truck show or painting class.
Identifying what type of guilt you’re feeling and where it’s coming from is crucial. Otherwise, it can paralyze you or harm your ability to be authentic, try new things and, in the long run, sabotage your relationship. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to try things you do not want to do if they make you uncomfortable. You know what you like and what you don’t like. As a conscious partner committed to growth, you would have discussed these things with your partner, and they would have done the same and agreed to allow you space, to a certain extent.
You do not need to feel guilty for being who you are. Because guilt is an emotion (a negative one) and emotions are created by thoughts…change the thought, change the emotion. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. This is the thing; your brain loves guilt! You might be surprised to know that guilt can be ADDICTIVE. Neuroscientist Alex Korb’s research showed that in the short term, guilt makes us feel good. Without going too much into the neuroscience of things, you should know that when you feel guilty, the reward centres of your brain are activated. Feeling guilty can make you feel good! No wonder, sometimes, we wallow in feeling guilty. For example, if we know something we do hurts our partner, we feel guilty about it; why do we keep doing it? Wouldn’t it make sense to stop? Or if we really want to continue doing it, and we are honest with ourselves and our partners, why do we still feel guilty?
What can you do about it?
Try to narrow down from where those negative feelings are coming. Once you realize why you feel uncomfortable and guilty, in certain situations, you will be better able to act. Korb also suggests shifting the focus to rewire your brain because the stem portion of your brain is activated by feelings of gratitude and releases the neurotransmitter dopamine (affectionately known as the feel-good hormone). The good thing about this is that you don’t even have to have something for which to be grateful. The mere fact that you are thinking/searching for something to be grateful will activate your brain. So, don't let guilt sabotage your relationship. Change your thoughts and seek gratitude!