After Divorce, Learn to Love Again
Life Coaching: Can You Trust Your new Love? 10 Tips to Attract the Right Person
When Amy Schoen found the receipts she felt relief. She wasn’t nuts after all. At the same time, she had that really sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you find out the nightmare you hoped you were dreaming is actually a real life drama with you cast in a starring role. Schoen’s husband, Mark, was having an affair. “He left signs,” Schoen says. “He wanted to be caught.”
At that point, Schoen had been married for ten years. With an MBA from Georgetown University, she had established herself as a successful entrepreneur. An image and wardrobe consultant, Schoen worked out of La Petite Classique, an upscale clothing boutique she owned in Bethesda, Maryland. She saw her work as one of giving people self-confidence — “helping people discover their best image gives them the confidence they need to accomplish their goals,” Schoen says. Life was good in many ways. Yet, Schoen’s own self-confidence was about to take a direct hit.
For the last year or so, Mark had been distancing himself from Schoen. First, there were weekends where he wasn’t where he’d said he’d be. Then, there was the job he’d taken in another city a considerable distance from home. That meant a long-distance marriage, which made it easier for him to hide an affair. While he denied that anything was going on, Schoen lived with an unsettling niggling that something wasn’t right. “It was a crazy time,” she said.
Finding the receipts for gifts Mark had purchased for the other woman moved Schoen to action. She sought out a therapist and began to work through what had happened. “It was a very hard and tumultuous time,” she says. When they first find out about an affair, many wounded spouses take a lot of blame on themselves, and often internal dialogue runs through their heads. (For example, “If only I had been a better partner both in bed and out of it, maybe my spouse wouldn’t have cheated.”)
Through therapy, Schoen sorted through the confusion and pain and began to realize that what had happened wasn’t about her at all. “Infidelity was a bigger sign of what was already going on,” she says. Mark wanted out of the marriage but didn’t know how to get out of the marriage. So, he did something that he could do that would cause Schoen to sever her ties with him. “Mark knew infidelity was something I couldn’t live with,” Schoen says. He was right. Schoen filed for divorce. Mark was a free man, and Schoen was left to pick up the pieces.
PERMANENT PAIN IN RELATIONSHIP
Sociologist Dr. Edward Lauman has found that infidelity is often a sign that, for at least one party, the relationship is already over. Over the past 12 years, Lauman, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, has co-authored a number of studies on human sexual behavior. Included among those studies is the landmark National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), considered the most comprehensive survey on American sexuality.
According to Lauman’s NHSLS research, 90 percent of Americans believe that infidelity is always morally wrong. “So, if you do, in fact, have an affair, it’s often a sign you’re already on your way out the door,” Lauman says.
In another study conducted in Chicago in 2004, Lauman and his researchers interviewed more than 2,000 area residents and found that every year 4 percent of the region’s spouses woke up to realize that the person they trusted to forsake all others had, in fact, forsaken them. When researchers asked married people the question, “How many sexual partners have you had in the last year?” they found that 4.5 percent of the men and 2.5 percent of the women said, “Two or more.”
“That figure was pretty constant, no matter what the age of the respondents. So, whether they were 27, 33, or 44 about 4.5 percent of men and 2.5 percent of the women were annually defecting on their partners,” Lauman said.
“Even marriages that had not ended due to adultery had been affected by it. When we asked married people, ‘Have you ever had sex with someone other than your spouse during this marriage?’ 25 percent of the men and 15 percent of the women said, ‘Yes,'” Lauman says. That meant that one out of four Chicago wives and one out of six Chicago husbands had, at one time or another, grappled with the devastation of betrayal.
A feeling of outrage at having been led down the garden path is common among betrayed spouses. “They say, ‘I lived with him/her for 10 years and it was all a lie,'” Lauman says. “They’re very angry that they were misled. Violation of trust is a very, very big story and it’s the destruction of trust that makes it so hard to restore the relationship.”
While some marriages manage to limp along, it’s Lauman’s opinion that adultery often causes permanent pain in a relationship. “Traditionally, men have had the financial wherewithal to end that pain by exiting. Today, women have the same option. In the old days, women had to look the other way because they were economically dependent on the men. Today, they can pick up and move on. Therefore, the expectation of a commitment is easier to enforce,” says Lauman.
LEARNING TO LOVE AGAIN
While easier divorce laws and greater financial security for women may make the expectation of commitment easier to enforce, those leaving a marriage due to a spouse’s infidelity, still have a lot of pieces to pick up before they can really move on. “Often, the ten-ton piece that has to be picked up is the ability to trust yourself again; because, after all, something really big went down and you were oblivious. You constantly question yourself because you think, ‘How come I didn’t know he was cheating on me?’ I wasn’t sure I could trust myself again,” Schoen said.
Part of learning to trust again was stepping back from the blame and shame so she could see things from another view. “I had see Mark’s perspective,” Schoen says. “I had to realize that he married the wrong woman, and it wouldn’t have mattered what I did, I couldn’t give him what he needed. We were just mismatched from the beginning.”
Schoen also realized that she had married too young. “I was only 25. I didn’t really know myself and what I wanted out of life,” she says. Today, Schoen recommends people wait until 30 to get married. “People are changing so much in their 20s. Yet, they’re making career and relationship decisions that they’re going to have to live with for the rest of their lives,” she says.
When Schoen was ready to get back into the dating game, she entered a frenetic time she dubs the hummingbird phase. “I dated a lot and I made every mistake in the book,” she says. Gradually, she slowed down the pace of dating and developed a strategy for finding the right man. As part of that strategy, she hired a personal coach to help her “get it right this time.” The decision to hire a coach gave her critical tools for finding a fulfilling relationship. It would also prove to give her a fulfilling new career path.
GETTING IT RIGHT THIS TIME AROUND
When Schoen met Alan, he didn’t immediate register on the top of her radar as a potential spouse. “We spent a lot of time talking and getting to know each other. He grew on me gradually,” she says. What sealed the deal for her was the way Alan helped her get through 9-11. The day the Twin Towers came down, Schoen was in New York City on business. She was walking through Times Square on her way to an appointment when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower.
As she was seeking safety, Schoen and Alan talked on her cell phone until the line went dead because the cell towers had gone down. Alan immediately went to work, finding a way to get Schoen out of New York City and finding someone to take care of her cat until she could get home. “He showed me what kind of person he was,” Schoen recalled. In so doing, he earned her trust.
Within three months, they were engaged. Deciding they wanted to go into their relationship with eyes open and no stone left unturned, the couple worked with a life coach to learn each other’s triggers and how to communicate with each other in non-threatening ways. Today, they have been happily married for five years, and Schoen is using her life experiences to help others. Certified in co-active life coaching, Schoen is the founder of Heartmind Connection Coaching and uses her writing skills and a mix of life coaching, relationship building tools and business consulting tips to help single professionals.
Schoen was also a contributing author, along with top experts such as John Gray and Jack Canfield, to 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Vol. 2. Her new book, Get It Right This Time: How to Find and Keep Your Ideal Romantic Relationship, uses her Thrive Model to help readers sort through what they need and want most in a relationship and then develop a strategy to achieve it.
She asks clients to make at least a three-month commitment of one-on-one coaching sessions for $1,995. The other option is a 10-week Motivated to Marry tele-coaching program that includes ten teleclasses, three one-on-one coaching sessions, help developing an internet dating profile and a copy of her book Motivated to Marry. The cost is $995. During their coaching sessions, Schoen works with her clients to do an in-depth values clarification and make sure their lives are in balance. “A lot of times professional people don’t make time for dating,” she says. “You have to look at dating and your life from a holistic perspective because dating doesn’t happen in isolation.”
“Part of balancing client’s lives is clearing away their roadblocks, both the internal stuff such as limiting beliefs and stinkin’ thinking,’ and the external stuff, such as toxic jobs and really bad relationships that they’re holding on to. Once the roadblocks are cleared away, really wonderful things happen,” Schoen says.
In addition, Schoen helps her clients learn how to focus on what they have to offer the world. “Dating again makes you feel the insecurities you felt the first time around. Well, back then, you were just a kid,” says Schoen. “People need to learn to see all they have to offer now. Instead of thinking I’m not this and I’m not that, they need to start saying BUT I am this and I am that.”
Her clients find their ideal romantic relationships in their own time. One client took two years. However long they take, Schoen’s program seems to be working. So far, six of her clients have married and one more is engaged. Plus, she has a number of clients who are in long-term committed relationships. “Once you learn how to see your own magnificence, others can surely see it,” she says.
“When we’ve been burned in a relationship, we go into new relationships a little more wary. That’s a two-edged sword,” says relationship coach Amy Schoen. “While being street-smart can help you avoid making the same mistake the next time, It can also keep you so hyper alert to possible problems that you don’t give yourself to a relationship,” Schoen says.
10 TIPS FOR ASSESSING A POTENTIAL PARTNER’S TRUSTWORTHINESS.
1. Time is on your side.
For the trust-wary, there is no substitute for time. You have to see someone in many different situations over a long period of time before you know what kind of stuff they’re made of. While letting a new love interest know you need a lot of time to get to know who they are and who you are together before you’re ready to commit, Schoen believes the right person will appreciate where you’ve come from and won’t push you.
2. Is this person available for family events and holidays?
If not, they may have already a family they’re not telling you about.
3. Do they frequently work late/weekends/take business trips?
Proceed with caution.
4. Did they tell you the important stuff right up front or do you find yourself being blindsided by deal-breakers?
Telling the whole truth, whether it’s about sex or health or money problems builds trust. “I had a client who found out her fiance had huge debt. If he had told her about the debt early in their relationship she probably could have worked through it. As it was, she began to wonder what else he was hiding. In the end, she decided not to go ahead with the marriage,” Schoen says.
5. Are they sincere or do they placate you by telling you what they think you want to hear?
While this tip is closely related to tip number 3, it’s more about how they operate in the present than whether they’ve messed up in the past. Learning to ask for what you want and need right now, rather than merely parrot back what you think the other person wants you to want and need, allows you to be transparent in a relationship. Transparency builds trust.
6. Are they reliable?
Do they call/arrive when they say they will? If they say they’re going to do something, do they actually do it? This shows respect and consideration for other people. Remember: reliability is job one and very, very sexy.
7. Do they share their emotions?
If so, they’re comfortable in their own skin. A good sign they have nothing to hide.
8. Do they remain rational?
No ranting, raving, yelling or screaming, please. Such out of control behavior is a smokescreen and what’s behind that smokescreen isn’t something you want in your life.
9. Do they think in terms of “me” or “we?”
In the world of the narcissist, everything is about ME and that leaves no place for YOU or WE. You want someone who is over themselves. Look for someone who can focus on, care about and make choices based on the well-being other people while at the same time, honoring their own needs.
10. Are they willing to earn your trust?
New relationships are new and wonderful opportunities to find love don’t hold them captive to the sadness of the past. At the same time, once you decide you’re willing to consider trusting someone, remember: he/she has to be willing to earn your trust.
1. Settle the past.
Work with a therapist to understand how and why you picked your failed marriage. Realize you can make a choice.
2. OK. Something bad happened.
You are not a victim. You can and will move on.
3. Learn who’s safe and not safe and how to be safe.
Once fooled, twice smart.
4. Learn the early warning signs that someone lacks integrity.
Construct proper boundaries to keep people like that far from your heart.
5. Get clear about your expectations.
What do you want for yourself? What are you moving toward? Know what your values are and be clear about what you’re looking for in a relationship. Then, be bold about not settling for less. Realize there are wonderful people everywhere.
6. Uh huh, you ended up with a world class schmuck AND the world is full of really great people.
Learn where to go to meet people who enjoy the same things you do. If you like to dance, take dance lessons. If you like to hike, join a trail club.
7. Hold off on the sex. Give yourself time to get to know someone before jumping in the sack.
Research found that 85 percent of couples had known each other at least 30 days before having sex and 45 percent waited at least a year. (“Remember: God gave man a penis and a brain and only enough blood to operate one at a time.” -September 28, 1998: Robin Williams)
8. Check out their fit.
How are they around your family and friends? How comfortable are you around theirs?
9. Pay attention to their overall behavior.
Is this person an easy keeper or is your relationship full of drama? Are there periodic temper tantrums? Regular flake sessions? If so, next!
10. Listen to your gut.
You have a built-in radar that alerts you when something is up. So, listen to and honor your intuition.