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How do I stop dating (people like) my Ex?

Dating after separating and divorce can be hard and at times it can feel overwhelming. Having been in a partnership with someone for a long period of time creates patterns, establishes roles and molds behaviours. Sometimes it can feel difficult to even know who the person is that you’ve become, when you look back to where you began. This new identity has been an evolution of adaptations, growth and perhaps survival in the life that you created, however, when your partnership situation changes, it’s a great opportunity to evaluate the person you’ve evolved into and decide if that is a fit for who you want to be and the new partnership you want to attract moving forward. Goodness knows the relationship ended for a multitude of reasons (and it’s important to know your role), yet the last thing you probably want is to repeat the patterns of this failed relationship with someone else. Different face, different name, same dynamics, no thanks!

So what can you do to break out of those patterns and move forward into new relationships with a clean slate, leaving the past in the past?

The first step in the process is to ask yourself who are you today? What do you value, what is working for you in your life and what do you want to continue welcoming in? There are excellent online values exercises if you’re having trouble identifying the key things that are important to you. Brene Brown has a great worksheet that will help you work through this: Spend some time and make a list of your top 5 values so that you can have a clear picture about who you are and what’s important to you today. Keep in mind values may change over time; what was important you at 20 may be quite different for you in your 40s. Time, life events, people and personal growth all contribute to what we value.

Step two is evaluating the characteristics of yourself that you’re ready to move on from. Reflect on times in your partnership when you felt out of alignment, when feelings of frustration, overwhelm and anger came up for you. Was it that you didn’t feel you had a voice? Was it that you were in a role in the relationship that you were tired of maintaining? Was it that you engaged in behaviours (fighting, not-communicating, retreating) that you would like to change as you move on with your life? Identify what triggers you; is it that you have sensitivity around money conversations, how you spend your leisure time, that you want to change what your roles in the relationship are; do you want to be the nurturer, the bread-winner, the house-manager (and yes, you call be all of these!). You just need to get clear on what the “yes pleases” and “no-gos” are for you as you move forward.

Once you know what doesn’t work for you, step three is picturing your blue-sky relationship, also known as your ideal partnership. Describe in detail the way you will show up, the way you will interact, the way you will feel in good times as well as when there are challenges within your partnership. What are the things you would like to incorporate into this new relationship? Perhaps you reflect back on a time in your life when you felt joy, ease, flow. What did that look like? Was there laughter, activities that you enjoyed, a certain type of connection? This is your opportunity to create the life you want moving forward, so don’t be shy; include all of the characteristics of the blue-sky relationship that you want. In addition, contemplate how you will manage when YOU are feeling stressed. How will you show up for your partner when THEY are feeling stressed? What conversations will you prioritize, how will you communicate? What roles do you see each of you having in the relationship? How will you create balance, foster empathy and maintain understanding for each other? Write a letter to your fictional new partner clearly depicting all of the above and what this relationship will look like. If you can be very specific on what would be your ideal situation, you will have a better opportunity to attract it to you. It’s also a great way to remind yourself as you go down the path of dating or being in a new relationship if what you envision is on track.

Let’s face it, you can never be 100% certain of someone’s character until you actually get into a relationship with them (and even then they may surprise you!). Who people are in a profile or even what they say in a first meeting may not give you the whole picture. However, by examining your previous relationship and understanding the role you played, you will have the upper hand in not repeating the past. Through knowing your values, identifying the no-gos (or red flags) and creating a clear road-map of how you want to show up in a new relationship and what you want that to look like, you will be on a path of welcoming a positive partnership into your life.

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