Life After Divorce…Exclusivity vs Commitment

By Lindy Earl

Dating changes after a divorce.  We are no longer teenagers.  We do not have curfews and we have all been around the block a time or two.  Whether you were married for a few years and divorced in your twenties or married for 20-30 years and divorced in your 50’s, you are not the same person when you re-commence dating after your divorce.

My memories suggest that men in their 20s did their best to avoid commitment.  They wanted to be free and play the field, to use a very old adage.  Sex was taken much more seriously back then and virgins walked among us.

Fast forward a few decades and I find that little of that is true.  I have found that men are quick to want a conversation about exclusivity.  I wondered why and learned that one reason is that exclusivity opens the door to sex.  None of us are virgins anymore but sleeping around is still not respected. 

Exclusivity suggests commitment, but is it really?  I do not believe that exclusive means commitment.  Exclusive does not necessarily mean the relationship is right as much as it means it is right now.  I have seen people come and go in exclusive relationships that last six months to three years. 

There are people out there who just enjoy serial dating.  They meet someone and quickly become exclusive with them.  They have a one-on-one, exclusive relationship that tends to last several months, even a few years.  Then one gets too serious, and the relationship is over! They move on to another relationship where they will be exclusive for as long as it lasts, then they will be gone. They were exclusive in all of the relationships, but never committed.

Exclusive just meant you weren’t dating, or sleeping with, someone else. Commitment definitely implies exclusive, but so much more.  Commitment means you will be there for your partner, whatever happens.  A friend from high school recently learned that her partner has cancer.  Whether they are married or not is immaterial. She is committed to him whether or not there is a ring on her finger. They are dealing with the situation together.

Some people enjoy dating around, or dating a few people at a time.  I was actually counseled to juggle three men after my divorce.  This woman I met told me it was so much fun!  It may be, but I know from my teenage dating years that dating around is great for some people but I’m not one of them.

Some people are simply happier in a one-on-one relationship.  They crave a partner.  They want to be half of a whole.  They are not wired to play around.  It is just not who they are.

So we all need to know, at this moment in our lives, are we seeking exclusivity or commitment?  Do we just want someone for the fun but with some safe precautions? Or do we want to be there for someone and have them there for us?  Once you know what you can give, then you can begin seeking the same. 

Make the distinction between exclusive and committed.  When two people are seeking an exclusive relationship, where they have each other for a while, then they can enjoy one another’s company without any jealousy or long-term issues.  When two people are looking for a commitment, and find another seeking the same, then exclusivity will naturally ensue.

That’s Life After Divorce.

Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant and currently accepting new clients and speaking engagements.

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