Phase six: He is happier at work, he is fit and he is living in his own place. He has the ex reasonably under control.
He does not suffer an anxiety attack every time her name features on his cell phone or in his inbox. (He has dubbed her The Complainant.) He has learnt to cook. He is tired of socialising with his single buddies, because they drink too much and he finds it meaningless.
There must be more to life than that. His other buddies are doing exciting and interesting stuff with their girlfriends and they get sex. He does not get sex and he does not do exciting stuff, like weekends away. He actually realises he is a bit lonely. He misses the camaraderie that a marriage is supposed to bring. He would not mind seeing a girl, perhaps a girlfriend. Just for a while. As long as she does not get serious, or bossy, or expects him to report to her. So he starts dating again, discerningly.
Phase seven: Then one day, he meets a woman. He falls in love. So does she. He gets lots of sex. He is all over her. He is “catnipped”. He loves pursuing her, feeling like the hunter, like a man. He loves being someone’s hero again. He makes her laugh and they make love. She responds to his extensive attention and she assumes this is a relationship that may lead to something more permanent. And she mentions the L word… and he runs like hell.
Back to the cave
Phase eight: So he is back in the cave. He digs up all the pain of The Complainant. Because loving her brought him pain and admitting he actually may love the new woman, leads him to remind himself that he can get hurt and become the anti-hero again. So he sits in the cave reminding himself why it is a bad idea to be with the new woman he has fallen in love with. He hopes if he avoids her and keeps busy, the feeling of being in love will go away.
Meantime, the wise girl will not follow him into the cave. I asked a man what a woman should do when a man retreats into his cave. He said if she retreats and becomes distant herself, he will experience her as unreliable or tell himself that he was right to leave her because she is not interested anyway. If she follows him into the cave, she is needy and persistent and an insecure stalker. He will just retreat deeper into the cave or attack her. If she keeps herself busy doing nice exciting things, but he is not invited, she may revive his interest, depending on his level of healing and maturity.
Where he sits there in the shadow of his cave, he can see her dancing among the butterflies in the sun. If he is ready and healed, he will come out and join her. If he is not healed and still attached to the pain of the previous relationship ( I say attached to the pain, not necessarily attached to the woman who caused it) he will watch the new woman, but not join her and tell himself she deserves someone better. He may lose her, he may even lose the love of his life, but we have already been through that discussion.
Hopefully he will man-up and take her, because at this stage of his life he should realise that the right woman, who has also been tempered by life, might just be the best thing that can ever happen to him. It may just be the right woman at the right time, but he is so scared to take the plunge and risk it. He missed out on the love of his life before, does he really want to do it the second time? You do the maths. Last chance at happiness, Odysseus, wake up, nobody is perfect.
Getting back to the process of divorce
Seldom do both parties agree to a divorce simultaneously. Usually one party wants a divorce and the other does not. They may benefit from marriage-termination therapy. Few people realise divorce implies an emotional divorce, a financial divorce and a lifestyle divorce.
Emotional divorce implies that the person you relied on is no longer there. The person feels betrayed, angry, sad, lost and perhaps hopeless. This may lead to vindictive, desperate and irrational behaviour. (One woman removed the light bulbs every time the father spent the weekend with the children in the house. He retaliated by disconnecting the geyser.) Years later, people are embarrassed about how they acted out during a divorce.
Many women remain emotionally dependent on their ex-husbands. They still expect him to come to the rescue when they encounter problems and many women actually create problems to force the men to come to the rescue. They still expect him to come and help when the car breaks down. (Call the AA).
Some men remain emotionally dependent on their ex-wives and need her approval on every major decision he makes. Part of the emotional divorce is to learn to cope on an emotionally independent level, to deal with the loneliness and to find new meaning in life, cultivate new friendships and eventually to re-establish and redefine a different relationship with the ex, especially if there are children involved. It also implies establishing some sort of relationship with the ex’s new partners, respectively.
Financial divorce implies maintenance, setting up trusts, changing wills, transferring ownership of cars, title deeds, selling and buying properties and disentangling often enmeshed financial arrangements. Divorce usually means a lowering in the living standards of all involved. Financial implications also imply some of the women who were dependent on their husbands, now have to learn to manage their own finances and retirement portfolios. It may imply setting up her own medical aid, car and house insurance, bank accounts, etc. This may be daunting at first, but ultimately liberating too. It may also imply returning to or entering the job market.
Lifestyle divorce implies breaking up the home, and resettling the various parties into new homes. It is sad to lose communal friends and the in-laws, who may have become cherished during the marriage.
Making new friends and socialising is often hard work and difficult. Separate single vacations and negotiating Christmas and New Year’s alone are milestones. Pets may be lost and missed. Learning to make decisions on your own, without consulting a partner, but also without needing the approval of a partner can be frightening, but also a relief.
Even the simple daily routine of waking up and finding there is no one to share coffee with, is a major adjustment.
BUT people do survive this, and they get over it, and they move on with their lives and they do find happiness or at least new meaning in their lives.