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Looking inward

“Marriages end for a variety of reasons – but at the heart of most divorce is an incompatible lifestyle. The greatest cause of marital breakdown remains betrayal and emotional or physical abuse of some description,” explains psychotherapist Hanlie Raath.

“The divorce process inevitably initiates a process of self-reflection and inner growth. The person becomes more acutely aware of what is not only lovable, but livable. They are more aware of their compatibilities and incompatibilities and will inevitably be more aware of their likes and dislikes in the next relationship.”

Self-reflection is important at the end of any relationship and Raath has the following tips to help you through the process:

  • It’s important to establish what the attraction was to the person who you married and if that attraction changed?
  • Did you drift into marriage because it was the next best thing to do? Were there factors that made it convenient to marry eg, familiarity; pregnancy; a ticking biological clock; long period of relationship drought?
  • Were there any warning bells beforehand that you didn’t heed?
  • Establish your own reasons for the divorce, so that you don’t feel like a victim – self-doubt arises from a position of victimhood, where one feels harmed or hard done by.
  • Ask yourself what you have gained from the relationship you have left – and remember what was good and true, and beautiful – ironically it helps one let go.
  • Also remember what you learned about your own values in the divorce process eg, that integrity, accountability, ideas around fun/spirituality and problem solving mechanisms are central to your way of being.

Guy and kid - croppedMeeting the kids

As mothers we need to be as protective of our kids’ emotional lives post divorce as we are of our own hearts. So handling your introduction to the dating world sensitively is crucial. “Firstly, it is important to tell your children that you have started dating,” says clinical psychologist Teboho S Monyamane. “This also gives them time to get used to the idea of you dating before you get to the stage of introducing them to someone.” She says that you should only consider this once you and your partner have decided that your relationship is serious and you want to take it to the next level. Raath agrees, adding: “If the relationship seems like it’s becoming more serious, discuss with the new person whether he is ready to meet your children. Once the green light is given, then establish whether you and your children are also ready for the introduction. Take your time.” The last thing you want is a stream of people in and out of your children’s lives.

Children react differently to being introduced to a new person and to the idea of their parent dating. One cannot predict this. It is important to listen to your child, put them first.

“It is also important to make this clear to the person you are dating, so you agree on the significance of the introduction,” says Monyamane. “Children react differently to being introduced to a new person and to the idea of their parent dating. One cannot predict this. It is important to listen to your child, put them first by explaining to them that they will always come first but that it is also important for you to interact with other adults,” she says.

Raath says that it’s preferable for the children to get to know your new partner through your experience first. “Children may want to influence the process to go in one or the other direction – and may put pressure on the situation – one way or another.” Equally, it must be explained to your partner that they are not replacing the children’s’ father.

“If you see that your child is struggling to adjust, spend some time with them, talk and reassure, while explaining the importance of you dating. If your child continues to have difficulty and you are worried about their ability to cope, it is advisable to seek the help of a professional during this transition,” says Monyamane.

Adds Raath: “Sometimes children will idealise the new person, and also ‘fall in love’ with them. Try to minimise this by clarifying your caution – and excitement, and the need to take it slowly. Contact with children should only increase when the couple are sure that they have a commitment in place.”

To read more about this story go to page 132 of the September 2013 issue of DESTINY