I'll admit it, after my divorce I drank a lot and sought the approval of women. I know it's cliché and goes against all of the advice found in self help books and therapy, but I did these things anyway. I heard all the advice suggesting I 'give myself time to be single,' 'let myself feel the pain,' and not 'avoid grieving.' I get it. But I didn't care because I knew better and I'm smarter than that. Or so I thought.
The drinking came easily because I love craft beer and own of a small microbrewery. So I convinced myself that I was contributing to my business by developing my palate. The five or six varied high alcohol craft beers I was drinking every night were consumed for 'market research'. Though I was learning a lot about beer styles and varieties and developing an excellent tasting capacity, I was also drowning my sorrows and developing a real addiction.
All that drinking, coupled with the grief of losing a marriage, put me in a major depression. My ego had taken a pretty hard hit, and the combination of grief and low self-esteem led me to seek any sort of affirmation I could find. I was horrible at affirming myself, so I sought the approval of women. Having lost my wife to another man, I guess I was looking to fill that hole in myself by getting the attention of other women. I needed to know I was attractive and desirable.
I understand now that the booze was about covering up my grief. While it worked to a degree, it also prevented me from moving beyond the grief and left me with a lot of hangovers. Grief has to be experienced and integrated into our lives or it will persist. Sure, I could chase it away for a few hours before bed, but it was right there the next morning cloaked in a heavy blanket of headache and nausea. It wasn't until I stopped drinking that I could feel the pain and incorporate it into myself. I had to forgo my coping mechanism and learn how to cope on my own. I had to develop a NEW SET OF SKILLS that no one has until they need them. We do not come pre-packaged with grief management abilities - we learn them by doing them.
In addition to using alcohol to mask my grief, I used online dating and flirting to esteem my ego. Infidelity and a rough marriage left me with poor self esteeming abilities. I felt undesirable, unworthy, and that I would never find love again. Rather than (re)learning to esteem myself, I sought the attention of women. I learned early on that I was not a one-night-stand kind of guy, as much as I wanted to be, but that I needed a level of intimacy to enjoy sex.
So rather than seeking sex, I was seeking approval. Online dating is great for that. I wanted girls to find my profiles appealing and attractive. I wanted women to choose me from the vast array of other men. I wanted to be better and worthy and desired. I found myself going on a lot of first dates and then losing interest. My self esteem was feeding on the initial experience of being chosen. Rather than wanting to pursue a relationship, I wanted to go back online and be chosen again.
It took me a while to figure that out that I was dating for the wrong reasons and that I was essentially unavailable to the women who chose me. I feel some remorse and guilt for my behavior, but I also accept that it was not intentional on my part. I stopped seeking esteem from other people and began to DEVELOP THE SKILLS TO DO IT MYSELF.
I imagine it is pretty common for men who experience infidelity to take the path of booze and women. I am not proud of myself for taking this path. But I eventually saw the error in my ways and learned from the experiences without causing too much harm to myself or others. Looking back, I think my experiences were necessary and probably couldn't have happened any other way. I am proud I redirected my behavior and discovered what people mean when they say that divorce is an opportunity. I accept that sometimes we have to make mistakes to get it right. Don't beat yourself up if your post-divorce path takes awkward or cliché turns, but keep your eye on the prize of healing.