Life After Divorce . . . Are You in a Bad Relationship?

By Lindy Earl


Sometimes we find ourselves in a bad situation without evening realizing it. My daughter and I were once driving in Savannah, and I guess we took a wrong turn because suddenly we were in a very sketchy neighborhood.  If you add low fuel to a scenario like that, stress builds rapidly.  But when you’re with others, especially a child, you can’t acknowledge it and certainly can’t comment on it.

When my marriage ended and I began sharing some stories that I hadn’t shared before – not that I had intentionally kept anything hidden, I just never shared – I learned that what I thought was normal, married behavior was actually not.  Interesting.  Since I have only been married the one time and that began when I was 26 and lasted 25 years, I didn’t know better.

So the question is, are you in a bad relationship and may not even realize it?  Physical challenges are easily recognized.  No person should ever raise their hand to another. I’ve heard of men being physically attacked as well as women.  The physical attacks may not leave bruises, but being manhandled is still wrong and abusive.

I believe it’s the emotional and psychological misuse that confuse us.  They meant well, right?  They’re trying to help me be a better person, aren’t they? Are they?  Or are they controlling and manipulative?  Passive-aggressive is real and damaging.

Do you find yourself running around just before they arrive, to ensure that things are just so?  It reminds me of the scene from the movie Sleeping With the Enemy, where Julia Roberts’ character has to check the alignment of cans in the cupboard.  It may be ensuring lights are on or off and doors are open or closed.  Are there words you aren’t allowed to use or topics you aren’t allowed to discuss?  Bad sign.

When compliments are given, are they backhanded?  Maybe something like, “You could be attractive if you lost weight”. . .  or, “We could have more friends if you understood current events.”  These comments are intended to manipulate and control you.  You starve yourself to lose weight and read everything you can to be an interesting conversationalist, but it will never be sufficient.

When you are in a conversation, anything you share is somehow wrong.  Have you ever shared a news story and found yourself defending the story?  Oh my gosh.  So you wonder why you brought it up in the first place and you decide to not do so in future, but then you’re back where you began.  It’s a vicious and painful cycle.  And all the time, things appear fine from the outside.  You’re Barbie and Ken in appearance.

Good relationships, in fact, can and do exist.  I’ve seen them!  I’ve watched as one person elicited the opinion of their significant other, because they really cared and wanted to hear their opinion.  Yes, opinions are sought, not dictated. Can an opinion be dictated? I found it so.  I once wanted to buy a pair of britches but was told I didn’t like that style.  Silly me, I didn’t buy them, even though they were exactly what I had been seeking.  Or if you share your opinion and it is ignored, and items are bought despite your dislike of them, that’s a bad sign!

Your thoughts should be sought.  Your partner needs to be interested in your day and how you feel about things.  There are certainly lines that can be drawn.  If one person is simply better at finances, it’s okay for them to make decisions, especially minor decisions.  If one person has dietary restrictions and does the cooking, it makes sense that they are choosing the menus.  Common sense is appropriate in all relationships.

If you find yourself nervous or unhappy, however, then you may not be in a healthy relationship.  Both partners don’t need to be working traditional jobs, but both should be contributing to the relationship.  I was a stay home mom for 20 years.  Moms work hard–enough on that topic as it has generated tons of research and dozens of books, so need not be discussed here.  If, however, one person is working and the other is lying on the couch, this is not healthy.  If one is home, then they should be handling household responsibilities.  It’s okay if it is or isn’t traditionalism, if it works for you and puts you in a healthy relationship.

If you find yourself looking forward to your time alone, all the time, then you may not be in a good place.  Why do you need so much alone time?  If being alone is better than being with your significant other, then you have the wrong SO.  You should want to, even long to, be with your partner.  If you find yourself happier alone, then take steps to make your wish come true.

You should be consulted about plans, whether it’s a trip or a new vehicle.  You can say that it doesn’t matter to you, but you should still be consulted.  A team relies on one another and seeks ideas from one another.  A team counts on one another.  Can you count on your partner?

Expect respect.  Even when challenges arise, and they always do, communication should be kind and respectful.  Just because you aren’t called a name does not mean you are being treated with respect.  Does your partner leave you feeling good about your thoughts and ideas and yourself?  Are you given a chance to share your views, even during a fight?

You should have friends and see people other than your romantic partner, people who enjoy your company and are supportive and encouraging.  If you find yourself enjoying time with them more than your SO, there could be a problem.

Just because your partner comes home at night and pays the bills does not mean you are in a healthy and happy relationship.  You only live once, and you should live as happy a life as you can.  If you’re in a bad relationship, get out.  Do not worry about how you’re going to pay the bills or where you’re going to go, or where your partner is going to go if they are the ones to leave.  It sounds cliché, but it really does work. I’ve been divorced for five years and have not held a traditional job in that time.  I’ve tried, but it seems that contract work is my life.  I dislike it, and finances is one of the reasons I stayed in a bad marriage.  Not allowing money to rule my life, and keep me in a bad situation, was the right decision.

Being in a relationship just to have a relationship is a very bad idea.  You will truly be happier and healthier alone, with more self-respect, than with the wrong person. I’ve seen couples stay together, or return to one another, just because they were comfortable in their roles.  Comfort is no reason to stay.

In fact, growth often comes when we are not comfortable.  When you’re lost you are forced to pay attention and engage your brain, whether it’s on the streets of Savannah or in a relationship.  As you find your path, you may experience some scary areas, but you have a destination in mind, of happiness, even if happiness means living alone.

And you can’t find a happy and healthy relationship if you’re caught in, or keep returning to, a bad relationship.

That’s Life After Divorce.

                 Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant.  Contact her at or find her on Face Book.