A friend of mine whom I’ll call Claire just went through a horrendous divorce from her businessman husband of 23 years. After nearly six months of legal wrangling, she emailed to let me know that they had finalized the divorce. I took her out for a celebratory lunch, where Claire insisted that she’s ready to move on. “I’m so happy to get that $#@!*% out of my life,” she said. “Every time I think of him and what he did I want to scream.”
For all the Claires out there, here’s something important you should know. As long as you are harboring such intense feelings for your ex—positive or negative—it will be nearly impossible to find a satisfying relationship with someone new.
That’s a finding from my landmark study of marriage and divorce, which has been following hundreds of married and divorced individuals for more than 27 years. My new research discovered that divorced individuals who were able to say “I don’t feel much of anything for my ex” were more likely to find a successful long-term relationship than those who were grieving, held grudges, or worse—were still in love.
How do you know if you’re holding on to strong feelings about your ex that hinder your dating prospects? Here are some signs: You still have photos, mementos, and favorite tchotchkes from your marriage around the house. You occasionally “peek” at your ex’s social media sites to see what he or she is up to. You have strong negative reactions when his or her name comes up in a conversation. Or you panic when you discover that your ex will be at the same event you’re attending.
My study supports the idea that once you are able to feel nothing, or very little, about your ex, you will be more mentally and emotionally prepared for meeting a new person, choosing new patterns, and discovering a new life. When you’re ready to put yourself back out there into the dating world, here are a handful of ways to keep strong feelings about the past from sabotaging your success in the future. So forget your ex—and move on!