This is one way it may have happened. You worked hard to overcome your shock and disappointment from divorce. Slowly, you mustered up the courage to begin socializing. A chance meeting at Starbucks, a dedicated search of online dating candidates, clubbing, blind dates, and then voila, you met a man that rekindled heat in the nether zone (ala Weeds, on Showtime). Or you bounce back from divorce with a vengeance to skip the grief and hit the scene meeting a man who made you laugh and served up alcohol, fun, and all kinds of lovely life distractions that kept you afloat for a dreamy period of time. The scenarios can come in a multitude of flavors and special effects, but after the drama has played out, you are left with a relationship that ends. Whether you pulled the plug or he left you naked, wet, and towel-less, the result is your feeling; NOT AGAIN!!

Recovering from a love post-divorce is brutal. Is there anything positive that can be culled from its agony? For those of us who believe in the adage that their MUST be a pony around here somewhere, I think if we sweep out all the manure we will at least find hoof prints.

I have a couple of theories on the “transitional” relationship. Both of which do in fact serve a purpose even if they are harsh lessons.

When we suffer a significant loss, our brains try to rectify the loss. Our brain is accustomed to patterns we have established. Using a pop-culture expression, after a loss we are pushed out of our “comfort zone”—the above mentioned established patterns. Our poor little brains don’t know what to do with these prefabricated nerve routes that no longer serve any purpose. As my very wise, then18 year old, daughter told me following my divorce, “Mom, you have all this love you are used to pouring into dad, and now you have no place to pour it into. PLEASE, don’t monsoon all over me!” Bingo.

What happens next? A man comes along. Let’s call him Receptacle. Basically that is what he is. He becomes a container for all of our leftover patterns of expressing love and other habits of our former relationship. One hitch, this man may not be the same size and shape (get your mind off sex, I am not speaking anatomically here, this is a figurative metaphor) of our former receptacle. So what happens? Either the new man cannot contain all of the behaviors you pour into him and he overflows and heads for the hills to avoid drowning, or he is a bottomless pit that if you fed him relationship patterns from now until the earth boils from Global Warming, he would not be an adequate partner for you.

So you break up—he with you or you with him. Either way, there is another huge disappointment to overcome. It is time to for you to retrace the steps of grief. If your grief journey was speedy following your divorce, you may find this trip more arduous. If your grief following your divorce was a thoughtful period of growth, you may have a better perspective to handle this breakup. The main thing to keep in mind is that this transitional relationship does serve a purpose. This pain is not for naught. In order for you to be of prepared mind and soul to meet your true partner in life, you have to filter out all of the qualities (yours and a potential partner) that DON’T WORK.


There are two ways to look at relationships. Which one would you choose?

First, we have two people who are attracted to each other and feel the call of love. They are not very similar in personalities. One likes hockey—to play and watch—one prefers long walks in the park. Each detests the others past time activities. Or one person is a saver, one is a spender. Does this mean that they are doomed? Of course not. But for this relationship to work there needs to be a lot of compromise or independent time without penalty to the relationship. If one quality they both share is independence, this could be the perfect match.

The second relationship is one where there are many shared interests. Both love sailing. Both love to save money. Both love making whoopee with the lights on. Sounds like a sure deal right? Not always. Maybe one person believes in the core of their being that monogamy is a myth. The other believes a relationship cannot survive without it.

We all know that any relationship requires hard work, daily—sometimes hourly—nurturing and attention. But some relationships are inherently easier than others to sustain. I believe the difference between them are knowing who we are, what our acceptable standards of giving and receiving in a relationship are, and getting to know—not assume—what a potential partners standards are for the same qualities. I would never tell anyone that the relationship they have chosen is doomed or unmanageable. But I will tell them they have their work cut out for them. That the woman involved most likely will have to bite her tongue, curb her needs, and make other sacrifices. I choose not to do this ever again. I choose to find a mate that stands toe-to-toe with me on my values of human kindness, grace, spiritual need, generosity, forgiveness, romance, money, and most important to me, family.

If you have suffered through a disappointing transitional relationship, count your blessings. How much better is that than to have married him? Or spent a decade on him?

Here is Patty’s rule of compatibility; when you fall asleep at night next to him or waiting to see him the next time, are your thoughts of peace and contentment or are they “tomorrow I am going to try…[insert what you feel needed to be done to improve the relationship]”

I wish you peace.


And whatever you do or have or have lost, don’t give up on love EVER. If you really want it, if you really know yourself and what you need in a partner and what you have to bring to a partner, you will have a beautiful relationship with someone you haven’t met yet. Don’t waste a lot of time on the wrong person, on feeling lost and alone. Enjoy every day, because this one thing I can absolutely guarantee you, tomorrow will be different. It may make today look like fantasy land we wish we could return to or have us feeling like we won the lottery. Whatever exists today is not going to exist forever; so you might as well not anguish over it too greatly or take it for grant it, ever. Get those spirits rallied ladies, and get out there. Life is waiting for you. Dish it up!!

Author's Bio: 

Patty Swyden Sullivan
Author, Speaker, Mediator

Exploring the complexities of families, relationships, and love with a unique blend of pathos and humor, Patty Swyden Sullivan speaks not only from the heart, but from a wide range of personal experiences laced with expertise from leaders in consulting and counseling fields. Sullivan examines the nuances as well as blatant aftermaths of life-altering events that women and men experience--especially during mid-life as they face ; evolving dynamics in their families and themselves. Sullivan's recurring theme is to lean into the curves of life with curiosity, and most of all, exhilaration.

Patty Swyden Sullivan is a trained state- approved Domestic Relations Mediator in Kansas. Sullivan studies the nature of divorce and post-divorce progress including remarriage. She rallied from her divorce following 23 years of marriage and is thriving in a blended family of five adult children, three grandchildren, four dogs, five cats, and until his recent demise, a frog named Steve. Oh, yes, and a husband who listens with his heart and advises with insight--except during KU basketball games when the only sounds heard are "ROCK CHALK, JAYHAWK, KU."