Can we really fall in love again after experiencing loss and disappointment? This was the question I cynically asked myself seven years after my first marriage ended in divorce.
To be clear, in the years immediately following the divorce I wanted nothing to do with finding love again. I wanted, and needed, to recover from the heartache and turmoil that occurred during my pre-divorce years. I was more than happy to focus on my family and just avoided dating. After several years of that mindset, though, I was ready for a new relationship and entered the dating world. There were many ups and downs (and more than a few humorous stories) yet I did not find what I was looking for. In hindsight, perhaps I didn’t know what I was looking for. I became lost in the maze of online dating sites, along with well meaning friends and family members trying to play matchmaker.
Now, after fifteen and a half years of being single, I’m preparing to be married in just a few short days to a wonderful man named Greg. Clearly the answer to the question for me is yes, it is possible to find love again. Finding love, however, in the second half of life has been nothing less than surprising, sometimes challenging, and ultimately deeply enriching. It has been a walk of faith, following nudges that didn’t necessarily make sense at the time, and trusting in a divine plan for my heart.
I wrote about my journey and unexpected love story in my coaching book, Lost and Found: Discovering Strength in Love and Faith. I shared the confusion, searching, and lost-ness I experienced, as well as the eventual finding of my heart’s desire. And now the story continues as Greg and I prepare to wed and begin the next chapter (pun intended) of our great love story.
As a life coach, I’ve spoken to many people who have shared their own stories of being lost and discouraged. I’ve learned that it is, in fact, a common experience.
We cannot get through life without experiencing losses and most can probably relate to knowing what it’s like to lose something that is important to us. We misplace tangible items like keys, wallets, and cell phones. We also know what it’s like to lose intangibles like our perspective, confidence, patience, or humor; the list could go on and on. In fact, many of us have exclaimed, whether in frustration or with irony, that we’ve lost our mind!
In addition, we know what it’s like to experience major losses such as a loved one, a job, a home, a marriage, etc. Yes, loss is familiar to us.
To expand upon the idea just a bit further, we also know what it’s like to be lost. Even with GPS, we can get off-track and turned-around, ending up where we don’t want to be. It’s a disconcerting feeling to be lost and often creates anxiety until we find our way once more. Beyond being physically lost, we can get off-track in our careers, relationships, and faith which may lead us to ask ourselves, how did I get here?
Let’s face it, we don’t need help in becoming lost! We’ve got that down pat. What intrigues me most is how humans get back on track to reconnect with the stability or structure that they need. What tools and techniques do they use to re-stabilize a disoriented or off-balance life?
In Lost and Found, I share the strategies and practices that I learned to regain a healthy sense of well-being after my first marriage ended. Despite the painful feeling of being a huge failure, my divorce was a catalyst for tremendous personal growth and evolution. I was determined to learn as much as I could about who I was and/am and what makes me unique. In time I found that with greater self-awareness, knowledge, and acceptance, I felt more whole. I did not feel as empty and needy as I had before. I was okay just being me and less concerned about what other people thought of me. This, in time, prepared me for the loving relationship I now experience with Greg. I came to our relationship as more of a whole person ready for a partner to complement me instead of complete me.
I am not a love expert by any means, however, there are three tips I would give to others who are hoping to find love in the middle of life.
- Be You – I like the saying: Be You; everyone else is already taken because it’s true! We are meant to be unique creations. The media, however, leads us to think we need to look or act like everyone else in order to be happy. I disagree. Happiness lies in being more and more who you are. Get to know your talents, build upon your strengths, embrace your idiosyncrasies. Be you! The more you know and accept yourself (while continually growing into more of your ideal self) the more you have to offer another person. Your sense of grounded-ness and self-confidence will be attractive to others. People will be drawn to the positive energy that you cannot help but exude when you love and embrace who you are.
- Be Open – Back to the word surprise. I was not expecting love to find me where, when, or how it did. In fact, I was busy looking in an entirely other direction when it appeared. I almost missed it. If not for friends redirecting me I would have overlooked it because it did not look the way I expected it to. Greg is unlike any man I’ve ever dated. Left to my own judgments, I may have passed him right by looking for someone familiar, yet unhealthy, for me. My advice is to be curious and non-judgmental. Investigate new places, people, and activities and learn about the differences between you and others. Even if it does not lead to love it will surely broaden your experiences and may likely bring you new friendships.
- Be Brave – It is so easy to stick within our comfort zone. Many of us like to surround ourselves with people and things that are familiar. This Be Brave tip builds on the last one to step out and try new things. Go to new places and meet new people. My own awakening happened on a trip to Germany. I had no sooner said, “I don’t think I will fall in love again” than God figuratively hit me on the side of the head and woke me up from a complacent slumber. Just when I thought the door was closed to me, it was clearly opened in a dramatic moment that could only have been divinely orchestrated. My mind was open, but my heart was still guarded behind walls designed to protect me from further loss. It was important to bravely open my heart to the possibility of love; to risk being hurt again in order to find a deeper, more fulfilling love. God worked with me even though I bravely stepped out with a very guarded heart. With repeated courageous baby steps on my part He led me to eventually find love again.
In closing, I encourage you to listen and follow the call of your heart, believe that there is a bigger plan for your life and trust the nudges you receive to explore, grow, and become all of who you are meant to be!
Love can be found again.
Love of self, love of others, love for a short time or love for a lifetime. It’s out there. Now go find yours!
Want to hear more about Lost and Found and Carol’s journey through love and faith? Listen to the podcast at the Wholistic Woman site with Carol, Coach Kelye, and Coach Laura. Click here.