Now that Labor Day is past, it's officially cuffing season, the time when any-age people's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of who to snuggle on the couch and watch football with. The days grow shorter and the weather gets chillier and even those of us who are happy to be single during the summer start wanting to be cuffed to someone for the snuggling, for the sex, and for the companionship during the holiday season.
Cuffing season can be especially hard for people going through or coming out of divorce. After years of being cuffed during all seasons you're suddenly single or trying to re-enter the world of dating. It can be lonely and make you feel like you're the only one who isn't paired up when the nights are longer. During the summer you're out and doing fun things with friends, but when fall rolls around and school starts up again there are fewer distractions from your single state.
So instead of just ignoring it and suffering through, or, even worse, responding to one of those "Hey girl" texts from your college boyfriend or the guy you saw at your high school reunion who you know it didn't work out with before (or being the guy who sends one of those texts!), here are some ways to survive cuffing season with your heart and your morale intact.
1. Get cuffed. It's a little obvious, obviously, but you could actually start a relationship with someone. The trick is to make sure it's a positive relationship and that you have the time and energy and emotional stability for it. If you're not ready for that (and by ready I mean that you know exactly why you got together with your ex-spouse, why the marriage failed, what you needed but didn't get, and what things you're attracted to for negative reasons) then move on to one of the other tips here. But if you've done all the analysis and are clear with yourself and can bring your honest and stable intentions into a dating relationship (whether it's casual or serious), then go for it. But be very clear about who you're with. Returning to an ex is tempting, but there's a reason (or many) why you didn't work out the first time. If nothing's changed, respect both of you enough not to go back into that conflict. Choose someone who has the same goals you do for the relationship and who can come into it as openly as you do.
2. Get honest with yourself. Your future happiness depends on figuring out what happened and how to make sure it doesn't happen again, and who you are and what you're capable of. Now is the time to do a deep dive into yourself and your own needs, especially if you haven't been focusing on figuring out the dynamics of what happened. Read Uncoupling by Diane Vaughan to see how it all unraveled. Read Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendrix and do all the exercises in the back of the book to figure out why you got together with your ex-spouse, why it ended, and what your core needs are that got you into a bad relationship so you can avoid getting into another bad relationship. Talk to your friends, especially your high school and college and early 20s friends, and ask them why they think you dated people who were wrong for you and what patterns they see you reenacting. Once you've figured out why it happened, start working on giving yourself what you need and designing the future you want.
3. Go deep. Pick something to get interested in, and get into it. Choose reading, and read all those books you've been making lists of for years. Choose English Premier League football (soccer), and you'll have your Saturday and Sunday mornings covered and an entire week of internet debates and fantasy league maneuverings. Choose American football (college and/or NFL) and spend Saturday, Sunday, and Monday watching your teams. Choose a foreign language and dive into Duolingo.com to learn it. Start running and work up to 5k or even 10K by the holidays. Whatever you choose, if you start now you can get really good at it by the end of the year.
4. Be creative. You've always wanted to write. Or brew beer. Or paint. Or build a computer from scratch. Now's the time. Spend a week researching how to start, another few days gathering materials, and then jump in. (A reminder that the next Writing Through Your Divorce workshop starts September 30, if you want to use writing as catharsis.) By the time winter overtakes us you could have finished a novel, rebuilt a car, mastered the art of pickling, or any number of creative endeavors and be able to touch your creative output.
5. Pull people close. Yes, everyone's busy. Yes, you might feel like everyone else is paired off or occupied with family time. But people will make time to deepen relationships if you invite them to spend time with you. Pick three people--family members or friends--that you'd like to deepen your relationships with, and deliberately make regular contact with them and invite them to spend time with you. You don't have to do anything intense or meaningful when you're talking or hanging out. Just spending time with each other and paying attention to the other person will help you develop a closer, more supportive relationship. Having a few strong, supportive relationships with people you can rely on will improve your life in ways you can't imagine now. Don't wait for these friendships to happen--work on them.
While you're doing one of these things you may feel sad. Or angry, or scared, or any of the other completely normal emotions associated with being divorced. Let yourself feel the emotions as they come, and know that they're normal, and that by letting yourself experience them you're getting to the essence of who you are. And that's always good.
You can, and will, do this. All of it. Courage.
Writing Through Your Divorce with Deesha Philyaw and Magda Pecsenye begins September 30 and runs through the middle of December. Flourish Through Divorce, an online workshop that gives you the structure to pick up the pieces and move into a happy new life, starts November 4 and runs through the end of the year (so you'll have support through the holidays). Information and registration for Flourish Through Divorce is here. Magda writes being a parent advice at AskMoxie.org, and writes about co-parenting after divorce with her ex-husband at When The Flames Go Up. She thinks you're the best parent for your child. And that it gets better.