1. Have sex (frequently).
You have spent years in a faithful and monogamous relationship. You have had no interest in others, nor attempted to interact with someone you found attractive at a social event or some public setting. You had very little time for those sorts of exchanges. You were committed to someone and perhaps you thought briefly of it, but you didn’t act on it.
It’s time to desire and be desired.
I have a high appetite for intimacy. I hadn’t explored this until after my marriage.
You need to be able to feed your most vital and primal needs without the weight of a relationship as you are healing and reclaiming your individuality. It is also one of the ways to discover what you want and what you don’t want in a partner—sexually and romantically.
Make sure you understand the difference between love and lust, and what fulfilling both of those acts get you. What is it like to just have sex purely for pleasure? You are not a slut or a man-whore, you are not being irresponsible—you are having experiences and learning from them. Allow yourself to do so.
This is also your chance to befriend your body and become comfortable in your skin. Trust me, your body has been waiting its entire life for you. Acknowledge what turns you on and arouses every part of you—but also what turns you off. Be a daring explorer—try new positions, role-play, be the sex god you are afraid to have a partner lust after.
Learn what it means to have a conversation with someone. To connect with someone. Get butterflies, be anxious, feel what it’s like to be vulnerable and free—to tell your life story to someone who has no clue about who you are.
When we make ourselves vulnerable and exposed, we are the closest to our authentic self—this is where love is found within and recognized by others.
Also know that some people will contract when coming into your presence, and others will expand when in your presence. Be able to see this in people.
3. Be celibate for a period.
Be wild…then tame yourself. Let your spirit be and experience all the things it needs to after a breakup. It’s like letting a horse out of a stable. She has been kept passive and her soul would need to experience her hair in the wind and being free. Let her out, let her gallop. She will tire eventually, return to a trot, and then go back to the stable to rest.
You will need time to process all of your experiences, so being alone and focusing on yourself is an organic progression on this path.
Don’t lose your sexuality during this period. Get yourself off as you need to. But do it by yourself. And then curl up to the loneliness almost to the point you forget, yet miss what it’s like to have the weight of another feeling you, and just enough time, to feel content in your solo life; that you contemplate staying single forever, but know you could never become a priest or a nun.
4. Go away by yourself.
Even if you have kids, get someone to watch them. If you work, take a three-day weekend.
Do not make excuses about why you cannot go away by yourself.
Drink a bottle of Merlot in your robe at 3PM on the balcony of your hotel room. Read a good book. Go to restaurants and eat foods you would never have eaten before. Try messy street foods or fine dining. Sit in a coffee shop by yourself for an hour at least. Read a book. Observe your surroundings. People-watch. Feel any feeling which comes up. For god’s sake, leave your phone behind. Be romantic with yourself and explore your surroundings. Explore a new city or a new country. Go lie on the beach all day and get sunburned. Go to the mountains and hike until panic starts to set in and you think you are lost. Sit at a bar—or a park—and strike up a conversation with someone about nothing. Be friendly and exchange a smile. And then be on your way.
Only when we are completely alone do we realize how much we isolate ourselves from the world when we aren’t alone—when we are part of a couple. We hyper-focus on the other person.
Build an intimate relationship with adventure and the people you meet along the way; they all have learnings to impart.
5. Take on something new.
Sign up for something. A class. A social group. Get a new degree. Apply for a job you would like to have but never thought you would be hired for. Quit the job you hate.
You will find your passion because you are looking for it.
This will open you to changing up your life and allowing it to take on new directions and new passions.
6. Expand and contract your friendship circle.
For those who were married for extensive periods of time, friends of the opposite sex were relatively nonexistent. There is value in platonic friendships with men and women. They offer a different perspective, which is necessary as you explore the single life.
We have a tendency to keep distance in our friendships when we are in a relationship or marriages, because of our priorities and lack of time to do it all. You now have the space and time; turn to your friendships and give them your time. The bond amongst groups of women or groups of men is invaluable. After this, you will never take them for granted again.
Divorce is like ripping off a blindfold–you will come to realize who your true friends are immediately. The way to know if a friendship is true is to make mistakes, hit rock bottom, or get divorced.
The ones who stick around—those are your friends. Keep them close. Look for the love they show you and give them love back.
7. Experience being in a relationship with someone.
When you are ready, try being in a relationship with someone again. Observe how you feel. Fall in love and be prepared for heartbreak.
The first person you fall in love with after your marriage is as intense as your first love. They are usually the complete opposite of the person you were married to. When you are in this relationship, discover yourself and your needs and boundaries, mess up, do all the wrong things and see what works and what doesn’t. Express yourself as you see fit.
For me, this is a rite of passage. There is always that person, the person you meet in your transition from your old life and into your new life, who teaches you the most about yourself. This person will prepare you, for you so you can move on entirely and start over again.
If you are anything like me, you missed out on your early twenties–the era of dead-end dating, one-night stands, failed relationships, and a cupboard full of wisdom to wear.
Dive right into all of this and just know you will always come out the other side, no matter how painful it is.
8. See a therapist.
Talk to an objective person who has a degree to back it. Someone who isn’t a friend or a family member. And preferably has a minimum of 15 years’ experience.
Every one of us has baggage and unresolved trauma, even if we don’t think we do. We all need someone objective to sit and listen, offer advice, a healthy perspective and validate our perceptions. Therapy guides us through our emotions and processing.
You will need and want to process the experiences you have on your adventures.
9. Open yourself and let down your guard.
I swore off dating certain types of people and guess what? The person who is perfect for me turned out to be all the things I said I never wanted (because I didn’t know what I wanted; I didn’t know who I was).
Open yourself, let down your guard, and be prepared for anything. This willingness to accept things or people you never thought you would will expose your heart and invite love in you that you never knew existed.
There is no expiration date for this journey. We don’t need to hurry. We are allowed to move at different speeds.
I am not sure if I will ever marry again. At first I swore off marriage. Then I met someone who made me believe in it again. And I realized that it shouldn’t be a destination to achieve, but rather a destination that is on the cards only in the right circumstances.
Enjoy this adventure while it lasts, because life will surely settle in again. You may even get married again, and look back on this space between as the most precious time—when it was just you. You married yourself, became your own partner, held your own hand, consoled yourself after crying an entire day, went to the movies with yourself, traveled with yourself, shared meals with yourself; you became your own date.
Maybe you will reflect on the time you spent alone as the most petrifying and liberating period in your life.
I sure do. It was all worth it. No regrets.