STAGE - REBUILDING TWELVE
you are just separated it is normal to be extremely fearful
of sex. However, during the adjustment process, you can develop
your personal morality to express your unique sexuality.
The single subculture emphasise authenticity, responsibility
and individuality more than rules. So you can discover what
you believe rather than what is expected of you. The great
difference in attitudes is that male and female sexuality
appears to be a myth. But your adjustment could be complicated
by the major changes currently taking place in female, male
and same sex identities.
Being separated and Middle aged is:
Not taking the rubbish for fear you'll miss that obscene phone
Standing out in the middle of the dark parking lot and shouting
"Hey you muggers, the muggee is here."
Telling the guy who frisked you and demanded your money that
you have no money but if he'll frisk you again, you will write
him a cheque.
Putting a sign on your gate that read
'All trespassers will be violated."
Looking under the bed and hoping someone is there.
Comments by Lois group member exercise content.
What was your attitude to those swinging single people when
you were in a relationship? Did you wonder if they were sexual
athletes that they were rumoured to be? And did you fantasize
what it would be like to have a date with a different and
exciting person each night of the week?
Now you are single look at the people around you. Many are
spending evenings in alone. Many are out pretending to have
fun at singles events when in reality they are bored stiff.
Many times you spend an evening with a person that makes your
ex look attractive and desirable, and you never thought anyone
could be worse than your ex. And then everyone is going with
someone and then a short time later breaking up and you can't
even keep track of who is dating who. The contrast between
your fantasy of the wild single life and what it actually
is adds to your isolated and lonely feelings.
Take heart this part of the journey can be one of the most
difficult but it gets easier as you become accustomed to being
single. You have not been out on a date in years and the first
person you ask turns you down. You attend various events anxious
that someone will not approach and chat you up and equally
petrified that someone will. If someone should make a pass
at you then the thought is enough to make you stay at home,
There are three stages in this rebuilding
block. Each of these three stages of sexuality affects
us personally a great deal as we go through the adjustment
You had an available sexual relationship for all those years
and suddenly the long term committed relationship is not available
anymore. You are faced with all of the emotional and social
adjustment of ending a relationship including what to do with
your sexual desires.
The first step of the process,
while you are in deep grief, is lack of sexual interest or
maybe a complete inability to perform sexually. Women tend
to be completely uninterested in sex, men often are impotent.
Just when you are feeling a great deal of emotional pain,
the fact that you are uninterested or unable to perform sexually
adds to the pain. Many people would come to me saying,
'I was already hurting so much, and now I find that I can't
perform sexually. It feels like hitting rock bottom.'
When they learn that it is perfectly normal and natural to
be uninterested in sex while in deep grief, they feel greatly
Somewhere along the divorce process, perhaps near the end
of the anger rebuilding block, you get through this stage
of not being able to perform sexually.
second step of the process.
Now at the next stage, you will probably go to the other extreme
and reach the horny stage. Your sexual desires are greater
than you have ever known in your whole life. It is almost
frightening because you feel almost out of control most of
the time. Peter described this stage as 'delicious torture.'
Because the needs and desires of this stage are so overwhelming,
it is important to understand the feelings and attitudes as
much as possible.
Among the many feelings present in the horny stage is a need
to prove that you are OK, personally and sexually. It is as
though you are trying to solve not only your sexual problems
but all of the other rebuilding blocks as well, using sex
as a method. You behaviour at the horny stage may be somewhat
compulsive because of this. You are trying to overcome loneliness,
to feel lovable again, to improve your self concept, to work
through some anger, to develop friendships and all of these
things are concentrated in the sexual drive. It is as though
your body is trying to heal itself through sexual expression
night stands are a popular way that people try to solve this
high sex drive stage. We see this portrayed in books and films
about ending of relationships. The need to go out and 'prove
that you are OK' may be great that you will do something sexually
that you had never done before.
Another important understanding about the horny stage is that
there is a great need for touching during this stage. As you
through the relationship separation process, you will probably
experience a heightened need to be physically touched. Touch
has remarkable, healing qualities. Depending upon the warmth
and closeness of your relationship, you likely received much
physical touching when you were together. Suddenly that touching
is not there anymore. Many people will try to meet their need
for physical touching with sex, not realising that there is
a very real difference between physical touching and sexual
touching. Although the two are entirely different, you can
resolve much of your need for sexual contact by getting the
physical touching you need.
You can resolve the needs of the high sex drive stage by methods
other than direct sexual contact if you understand that a
part of the compulsive drive behind this stage is to prove
that you are OK, and to feel good about yourself again, then
you can work directly on that. Building your identity and
self-confidence, and understanding that you are lovable can
overcome the loneliness and take away some of the pressures
of the high sex drive stage.
The stereotype about the separated person being sexually an
easy mark results from the high sex drive stage. During this
period, the separated person is an easy mark. The sexual drive
is tremendous. Many people going through the separation process
have sexual relationships somewhat promiscuously.
The third step in this process.Eventually
to you will overcome this stage and enter the third stage
of post separation sexuality in which your normal sex drive
Not everyone going through the ending of a relationship process
goes through these three stages of sexuality. Some people
do not go into the celibate stage and some do not experience
the high sex drive stage however the stages are very common
and need to be recognised.
During the early stage of sexuality you are doing what you
should do, and then you go through a stage of ding what you
want to do. Most people going through such a process experience
the evolution of becoming free sexually in the sense that
they are suddenly aware of who they are and what their sexual
nature is. Essentially sexually monogamous in their committed
relationship some people when the relationship ends have many
sexual relationships before finally deciding on a monogamous
relationship because that is what they want.
We have blown sex out of proportion in the western society
perhaps because we hid it and denied it for so long. With
so much emphasis on sex now, it appears to have lost some
of its reality. Advertising is full of sex in order to sell
products. We revere youth and the supposed beauty, aliveness
and sexuality of youth. With such a daily overdose in the
media, it is tough to keep a proper perspective on sexuality
when it comes to relationships.
Usually missing from popular presentations is the spiritual
dimension of human sexuality. Sex is one way of transcending
our normal means of expressing ourselves, and it allows us
to show our love and concern for another person in a very
special and positive way. Sex can be a method of transporting
oneself to levels beyond the everyday, to become something
greater than what one normally is.
But this spiritual dimension that is present in sexuality
is also present in overcoming anger, in our ability to communicate,
in learning to like another person, and in learning to accept
and deal with all of the human emotions. Sexuality, when placed
in perspective, may be seen as only one of the many amazing
things that occur in our expression of connection with other
We have covered a lot of ground and there is much we have
not explored. Sex is often a stumbling block for the single
person so be sure to explore these issues at this all important
rebuilding stage. Here are a few pointers for assessing your
1. I am comfortable going out with potential partners
2. I know and can explain my present moral attitudes
3. I feel capable of having a deep and meaningful sexual
relationship if it were appropriate
4. I would feel comfortable being intimate with another
5. My sexual behaviour is consistent with my morality
6. I am satisfied with my present dating situation
7. I believe that my personal sexuality expresses my
individual and unique morality
8. I feel satisfied with the way I am meeting my sexual
9. I take responsibility for my interaction with others
10. I have learned that male and female sexual attitudes
and value may be more alike than different
11. I feel comfortable being with a person I am attracted
12. I am secure enough to behave the way I want even
if it does not conform to the expectations of others
13. I am not letting the compulsive needs of high sexual
drive control my behaviour
14. I am solving the neediness of my stages of high
sexual drive in a manner that is acceptable to me
15. I understand and accept that many people will have
no desire and may be unable to perform sexually while grieving
for a lost relationship
16. I am receiving my quota of hugs each week
STAGE REBUILDING THIRTEEN
- Relating as
Adult to Adult
committed relationships that end in separation where out of
balance in terms of responsibility. One partner was over-responsible
and the other was under-responsible. When couples try to change
this system of interaction, it is often the beginning of the
end of the relationship for some people.
Feelings and attitudes within us keep us operating in the
under-responsible or over responsible style; one may have
to make some major changes in order to come from an adult
flourishing relationship view. Equal responsibility relationships
are more flexible and able to adjust to stress and change
and therefore are more likely to last.
In my first marriage I took care of him.
In my second marriage I let my partner take care of me.
Maybe next time I will be able to have an adult relationship.
Have you noticed how there are some people who seem to like
to carry others, fuss over them, and help them make lunch?
They seem more interested in taking care of others in contrast
to looking after and caring for their own needs in equal balance.
Of course it takes both kinds of people to make this work
for there are others who are always wanting someone to take
care of them. They do not seem able to make it and 'need help'
from someone else.
also the 'Sergeants' ordering everyone around and acting as
though they know how things should be done. They are heard
saying 'You should...' or 'You ought...,' and
are critical of people in life. The people they order around
and criticize tend to be either helpless and obedient or rebellious
Experience has shown that 99 per cent of people attending
seminars discover that they had an imbalance of responsibility
in their relationships. This appears to be a major cause of
marital breakdown because the responsibility is not equal;
the relationship is not flexible enough to adjust to stress
Take moment to look back at your relationship. Where you the
over-responsible helper, the dominating person? Or perhaps
you were the under responsible, 'helpless' or rebellious partner?
If either of you tried to change this pattern, the relationship
became troubled -and that was maybe the beginning of the end
and the person who tried to change this rigid structure of
responsibility into a more flexible adult relationship is
often looked upon as the bad person who upset the apple cart.
I hope you can start simply describing what happened instead
of needing to label people as good and bad people. Life is
a process of changing and the person who instigates change
may simply be a part of the life process.
Using my work from transactional analysis what I am talking
about is similar to the terms parent and child ego states.
One aspect of the parent ego state is the over responsible
part of the personality, and the child ego state is the under
responsible part of the personality. Sigmund Freud also used
similar terms when he talked about the super-ego (the potentially
over responsible aspect of personality) and the id (the under-responsible
part of personality).
The under and over responsible parts of personality not only
come into play when we interact with others, but are important
within ourselves and how we dialogue with these aspects of
Berne's model is one where he created the following elements
which I have used in countless settings when working with
individuals and groups in my career:
Critical Parent -
Most of my clients over the past thirty five years who have
worked with me were having an internal war between the over
and under responsible parts of their personalities. This internal
strife was consuming much of their emotional energy. They
were looking for the internal peace of mind. Either the over
responsible part of the personality is winning the war leaving
them to feel guilty, drained, inhibited, controlled and driven;
or the under responsible part was winning and they were impulsive,
violent, irresponsible, helpless. Whichever side is winning,
the losing side is continually striking back and the war goes
on. Some participants in my seminars report the major emotional
issues were not in their relationship and between their partner
and then but within themselves, and their partner was the
spectator and not the participant.
Not resolving this inner conflict can have serious consequences
for one's relationships.
one seminar, Charlie began to introduce himself to the group.
'My name is Charlie and I have been married for 31 years...'
At this point, he broke down and cried. Later during the discussion
session at the end of the evening seminar Charlie asked if
he had been the over responsible helper in his marriage. When
one of the group said they felt he had been, Charlie asked
my being over responsible have anything to do with her dumping
A woman in the group stated profoundly,
'Kids grow up and leave home, Charlie.'
This graphic description allowed Charlie to see beyond the
blaming and guilt.
The vast majority of participants in my seminars call themselves
over responsible. I was puzzled by this: shouldn't there be
an equal number of over or under responsible people taking
this seminar? To find the answer, I went to work to better
understand these over responsible people.
A close look at the two types of over responsible people shows
that they are not just giving others a hand when it is needed
to make it through a difficult time. They seem to be busy
finding people to rescue so that neither the rescuer nor the
person being rescued makes good progress. They seem to enjoy
looking after the other person rather than being responsible
for themselves. It seems obvious that they need to get on
with their own lives.
These people are great at giving to others, but have difficulty
taking gifts, compliments, help from others. They learned
at an early age to get their emotional kicks and rewards by
taking care of others.
Frank was ten when his father was seriously injured. Frank
took over the responsibility for running the home and not
only did the physical work but he also made the decisions.
He became an over responsible young man, receiving recognition
for how grown up he acted. Unfortunately, even in his relationship
he never was able to develop the fun loving 'irresponsible
child' part of his personality. After his separation he was
able to go through his teenage development and to become a
more complete whole person. Many over responsible helping
people are nurturing others because they need to be nurtured.
They learned to take care of others to compensate for their
feelings of loneliness, lack of emotional nurturing, and feelings
of rejection. Simply, how can you reject someone who is taking
care of you?........
In her relationship, Mary was always very responsible with
the money. She decided how to spend the money, even though
many times Carl would criticize how much money she was spending.
She usually also set the alarm clock before they went to bed,
would shut if off in the morning, and always made sure Carl
got up on time to make it to work. One day Mary realised she
had three other children and she was tired of being married
to a child.
She began to change things so Carl had to take more responsibility,
such as sorting out the money and getting himself to work
in the morning. Shortly after that he began an affair with
As another example Karen was reluctant to take the seminar
because she wanted a course that would help her children.
After we discussed how the over responsible person is a good
giver but poor taker, I asked if I could give her a hug. She
jumped at the opportunity, came rushing over to me and gave
me a hug. I backed off and pointed out that I would give her
'I'll try to take a hug,'
she said, and stood there stiff as a board, stiff and uncomfortable.
After about two seconds she said, 'I can't stand it anymore!'
and grabbed me again. Since the homework for that week was
for the nurturing person to take, I emphasised to Karen that
she needed to work on her homework.
Next week she came back and shared with the group how she
had worked at letting her children give back to her. It was
such an important change in her behaviour and she shed some
tears while talking to the group. I again asked if I could
give her a hug and she said 'yes', whilst waiting for me to
come to her. I hugged her and she broke into uncontrollable
sobbing and shared with the group that this was the first
time she had really been able to emotionally take since she
was a child.
If you scratch the surface of an over responsible helping
person, you usually find a child part of that person that
needs to be loved unconditionally.
Are you one of these over responsible helping people? If so,
do you realise how easy it is for you to continue in that
role when you enter another relationship? Remember the example
earlier of Margaret liked to bring home stray cats and nurse
them to good health. She grew up, brought home another stray
cat and married him.
She knew he drank a little while they were 'courting' but
she had no idea he was an alcoholic. She was able to leave
and divorce him, but she found, after several more relationships,
that she was continuing the pattern. If you don't change yourself
internally, you will probably find yourself continuing self-defeating
patterns. You too could be 'bringing home stray cats!'
Now to some suggestions for you to explore in creating change.
Here is the homework that we use in the seminars to help people
begin to change this pattern of giving and never taking.
The first is to say 'no' next time a person asks you to do
something. The over responsible style which transactional
analysis calls 'nurturing parent behaviour' is to always say
'yes' to anything anyone asks of you. 'You can always depend
on old Mary to do a responsible job.'
But saying 'no' is only part of the homework. The second part
of this assignment is to ask someone to do something for you.
Do not pay for it, do not promise to do something in return.
Don't cheat and explain that it was suggested as part of your
homework. Just ask.
Are you now aware of your fear of being rejected? Most of
you learned to be the helping person to compensate for feelings
of rejection, so this homework not only attempts to change
the giving and never taking style that drained you emotionally,
but it also forces you to deal with the possibility of rejection.
The more extreme you are in this helping role, the more difficult
this homework will be for you. I can almost hear some of you
can't ask anyone to do something for me!'
have had many people over the past twenty years in my seminars
who said this. My response is:
of you may not be strong enough to change at this time. Maybe
you'll be able to even if you think you can't. Give it a try,
maybe it will be easier than you think.'
Some people hold the sexist view that it is only females that
become over responsible helping people. I believe that our
society does encourage women to play the helping role saying
in many ways that a 'woman's role is to help and support her
husband.' But in my seminars males are just as often over
responsible helps, so it appears that development of the over
responsible helping personality has to do with other factors
than whether you were born male or female.
Let's look again at why so many participants in my seminars
are helping people. One answer is that they are continuing
the pattern of being over responsible; they take the seminar
because that would be a responsible thing to do. But underneath
I believe there is another need operating. Because the seminar
is emotionally warm and supportive, people take the seminar
to get the nurturing they need. Signing up for a one to one
is equally affirming as a connection to having your needs
me in terms of being heard, witnessed as well as exploring
ways of changing which are for you and you only.
The past pattern of interaction leaves them feeling emotionally
drained and hungry for nurturing. It appears that one step
toward overcoming the pattern of parental, over responsible
helper is to become an under responsible taking child for
a time. Filling our own needs helps us to become balanced,
which lead to adultness and to equal responsibility in our
What is the difference between over responsible helping people
and those spiritually concerned people who are caring and
concerned about others? I use the classic 'fish story' to
illustrate the difference. One way to help a hungry person
is for the rescuer to give him or her a fish. The next day
the hungry person comes again and the rescuer gives another
fish. Pretty soon the hungry one is 'hooked' (the person not
the fish). An adult helper teaches the hungry person to fish.
The rescuer has need to take care of others so giving the
fish meets his or her needs more than it does the hungry person.
The adult becomes the teacher and finds the satisfaction from
seeing the other person learn to meet his or her own needs.
Let's switch now to the other type of over responsible person
the critical and domineering 'Sergeant'. Barbara told the
seminar that she always felt little and helpless with her
husband. When she started to stick up for herself and not
give in to Sam's domination, the marriage began to crumble.
Barbara felt guilty 'like the bad person' but the group helped
her to see that it is better to simply describe change and
how it affects the relationship, rather than labelling people
as good or bad.
Barbara has trouble understanding why Sam is having such a
difficult time adjusting to single life. He keeps coming back
to her like a lost puppy does searching for his master. 'He
dominated me all the time and so why does he appear to be
so lost and needy?' can you imagine, Barbara, said how this
was how the Sergeant would feel it the platoon of recruits
that he has been ordering around were all suddenly gone.
Over responsible people, whether the helping or dominating
type, need someone to take care of as part of their identity.
It is as though they have to be carried on the shoulders of
another person in order to be tall. When it happens that submissive
peoples leave their old relationship, either physically or
emotionally, the dominating partners crumble like a house
of playing cards. They easily become vulnerable because they
are so fragile.
Have you thought how difficult it is to be perfect? How hard
you strive to please? How hard you are on yourself? Those
years of criticism in childhood are bound to result in some
insecure, anxious, fearful feelings. Many people compensate
for these feelings by striving to be perfect in order to feel
loved. Others push those close to them to 'do better' through
criticism and by creating demands that can never be satisfied.
The alcoholic personality has a large part that is self-critical.
Drinking first diminishes the power of the parental and critical
part of the personality, then the rational, adult part, and
then sadly the fun loving child part, and the process finally
results in unconsciousness. Many alcoholics drink enough to
diminish the critical part of the personality; that is an
important cause of their drinking; allowing the 'child inside'
to have fun but then the child is no longer present. Wouldn't
it be nice to learn to have fun and be ourselves without having
to drink to do it?
Here is some homework that has proven to be effective for
people in my seminars. If what you are really trying to do
is to become perfect, realise that no one can be perfect,
and stop trying.
Next week, stop all compulsive behaviour that you feel you
A good example for most critical people; stop making your
bed every morning. 'Oh, I can't do that. I can't leave that
room without making the bed. The room looks so messy. I'd
sooner be late for work than leave the room messy.' Think
about what your compulsive behaviour is. What is it that you
think you have to do every day? Is it really 'critically'
important to your life?
George, who attended a talk about relationship rebuilding,
started thinking about that and he adopted a new motto for
life whilst adjusting to his ending of his relationship 'it
doesn't matter.' In letting go of the parental and critical
part of our personalities, we have to become somewhat irresponsible
in an almost childlike way. Many people have to go through
a 'childish' stage in order to leave the parental position
and reach adultness.
Since over responsible people need to learn to take responsibility
for their own behaviour instead of that of others, they find
this homework assignment helpful: when you notice someone
close to you is acting in a rebellious manner, monitor your
own behaviour and determine if you are setting this up with
your style of interaction.
I mentioned earlier that there are relatively few of the under
responsible types of people in my seminars. Usually these
people learned at an early age that all they had to do was
play helpless and someone would take care of them. Typically
their vocabulary is 'I don't know how', ''I need someone to
teach me' I feel so frightened that I can't do it.' These
people have trouble balancing their bank statement, seldom
if ever make their beds, always leave decisions up to the
over responsible person. Some of them, those who really believe
they are helpless, have so little confidence in their capacities
that they are unwilling to try to be self-sufficient. The
rebellious ones, on the other hand, go through life intentionally
irresponsible and carefree, and if something goes wrong they
take no responsibility: 'It's your fault!' Embarking on self-work
is the last thing in their lives that they would ever consider.
It is easy for me to give under responsible people some homework,
but they either comply, which leaves the responsibility upon
me, or are under responsible and do not do the homework rationalising
that it was far too hard. So my suggestion for you under responsible
people is to figure out your own homework. If you really want
to change, you will find ways of becoming more responsible.
And I will listen to your behaviour rather than your words.
I have heard the words many, many times.
Isn't it interesting. To change any behaviour, the person
first has to become responsible for her or his own behaviour.
It is often believed that the over responsible person, with
a more parental behaviour style, is somehow more mature. Under
and over responsible behaviour are both immature, and there
is little difference between the two in this respect. Maturity
is a process of becoming more responsible for one's own behaviour;
adultness is a state of assuming responsibility in a mature
Incidentally, an important goal is to allow ourselves flexibility
in taking responsibility. When we come home tired from a difficult
day at work, it is appropriate to allow ourselves the luxury
of being cared for. (The over responsible person becomes more
so when tired; and the under responsible person becomes more
that way when tired.)
allow someone to bring you a drink, to hold you, to listen
to you share your troubles of the day. One the other hand
you may become over responsible when another is sick, when
one has a need to 'play little,' to be cared for. With flexibility
you can adjust and function at an appropriate level of responsibility.
This flexibility is adultness; you choose the type of interaction
rather than allowing it to choose you.
are flexible within yourself as to how responsible you are
in a situation, and you are also flexible in your interactions
with others. This flexibility allows the adult relationship
to adjust to change and stress that occurs as a part of the
process of life and living it.
Here is a brief exercise which may help you to more fully
understand these different types of interactions, so that
you may monitor your own growth. As you read through the six
situations, note that each has three different responses;
illustrating over and under responsible, and adult behaviour.
There is no 'score' for this exercise; simply note the way
each style shows itself in everyday situations.
1. The single mother is leaving on a
date. Her oldest daughter's farewell comment is:
A: 'be sure to get
home early tonight, Mum'
B: 'I'd like a phone
number where I can reach you if I need to'
C: 'Wow, kids, will
we have fun tonight while Mum is gone!'
The wife makes these comments after she has been informed
by her husband that he wants a divorce:
A: 'I never was good
enough for you'
B: 'Maybe we should
discuss our problem with a marriage counsellor'
C: 'You should learn
to take responsibility for your life instead of running away
like a child'
3. Your son, aged 13, says, 'You're
without doubt the worst parent a childlike me could ever have.'
'I can see that you're angry with
me and wish that I would act differently'
B: 'I've don't everything
I could possible do for you; about time you grew up!'
C: 'So - big deal!
4. The woman asks for an unreasonable property settlement,
and the man's response is:
A: 'I'm going to hire
the meanest solicitor in town to teach you a lesson'
B: 'I think we should
talk to a third party to help mediate this dispute'
C: 'I'm tired of fighting.
You have everything you want'
5. A noncustodial father has taken the
children to visit him while a new girlfriend is present, and
the mother's response is:
'You chose to be with that woman instead of me, so my children
are never going to be around while she is there'
B: 'Do you think I
want my children seeing their father acting like a teenager?'
C: 'Our children will
need a lot of time and attention from you while they're visiting
you. Will you be able to give them the quality time they need
while your girlfriend is present?'
times in ending your relationship you did not respond at an
adult level with your former partner. While you are ending
the relationship, I strongly suggest that you try to remain
as adult as possible when talking and communicating with your
ex. Otherwise it will be easy them to hook you into being
under or over responsible, with resulting arguments and bad
Communication between the two of you is enhanced if you can
have adult interactions, and it is valuable practice for other
relationships as well.
Awareness, understanding, and knowledge lead us to more adultness
both in our behaviour with others and within ourselves. What
you have explored can help you to become more adult. Here
is a check list for you to evaluate your development of more
1. I can identify my behaviour as to over or under
responsibility, and adultness.
2. I can see the over and under responsible behaviour
in my past relationship, both in myself
and my partner
3. I believe that past patterns of interaction can
4. I am doing the homework suggested to change my behaviour
toward more adultness
5. I am building adult relationships at this time
6. I am allowing myself flexibility, to behave with
whatever responsibility is appropriate
7. I expect to continue to build adult relationships
in the future
part one - 14 minutes
part two - 14 minutes
STAGE RE-BUILDING FOURTEEN
you emphasize investment in your own personal growth rather
than in relationships. A period of singleness enables you
to build confidence in yourself so you can experience and
enjoy being single as an acceptable alternative lifestyle
and not as a time to be lonely.. It is easy to become stuck
in this rebuilding block as a means of avoiding another intimate
I've become aware that living as a single person is an
affirmation of strength and self - not embarrassing admission
I'm more relaxed in the company of others - I no longer am
wasting emotional energy being a social chameleon.
Post-marital guilt, self-doubts, and questions like 'Will
I ever love again' are greatly diminished.
I am happy as a single person- something I had not thought
possible before. Larry
Many people never learned to be single people before they
entered a committed relationship. They went from parental
homes to sharing a home with their partner, never even considering
that one could be happy living as a single person, and never
questioned the myth that once in a committed relationship
they would live happy ever after life.
Carol lived with her parents until she married Joe. She went
from pleasing one man, her father, to pleasing another man,
her husband. So, when Joe talked about leaving, she clung
to him because the thought of living alone as terrifying.
She had never learned to please herself. She had always been
a dependent person; and now the thought of being independent,
although challenging, was frightening. She was embarrassed
because it really sounded silly to her that a woman of 25
did not know her own mind, or know what to do with her life.
Gradually she adjusted to being alone. At first she searched
for other relationships, something/someone to lean on. As
she became more and more confident, she began doing more things
for herself and enjoying it. She wallpapered a whole bedroom;
sawed the boards and pounded the nails for a new patio fence;
went to a film by herself while the children were with Joe;
and even enjoyed stumbling alone in the dark trying to find
a seat. She invited the whole neighbourhood in for a party.
These activities left her feeling exhilarated, knowing that
she did not need anyone. She was a good example of a woman
Jim represents the male side of this same coin. He had been
well cared for by his mother. The clothes were always washed
and ironed, meals were on time, and even his room was kept
clean. He could devote his time to study and then later his
job. When he entered university he lived in student accommodation.
Again his meals were provided and he a minimum of housekeeping
chores. The he married and Janet who did all the things that
his mother had always done. He felt independent and did not
realise how dependent he actually was. But he found out when
he left Janet.
was helpless in the kitchen, even in preparing the simplest
meal. He had very little understanding of how to wash his
clothes and ended up with pink underwear when he put them
in the wash, He could pay for car maintenance on his wage,
but it is difficult - and very expensive - to hire a full-time
cook and housekeeper.
Gradually Jim's self-prepared meals improved. Initially he
got brave enough to invite a female friend to his home to
eat, and she was delighted with the meal he prepared. His
clothes began to look more cared for. He was very pleased
and proud when he learned to iron his own shirts. He felt
that learning to care for himself was like growing up - each
accomplishment left a feeling of success and achievement.
But the singleness I am talking about is much more than learning
to do the tasks that someone else has done for you. It is
a whole way of life. Dating and relationships are a good example.
A typical comment from a recently separated person might help,
'I'll never make it as a single person; I need another relationship.'
During the singleness stage, the same person might say, 'Why
go into another committed relationship? I can come and go
as I please. I can eat whenever I feel like it. I don't have
to adjust my daily living habits to another person. Being
single really does feel good!'
Before the singleness stage, one may be looking for the 'lost
half.' But during this stage one reached the point of comfort
in going out alone. No longer is a 'date' necessary to avoid
embarrassment or feeling a failure. The quality of relationships
improves, since one now chooses who to go out with spending
time together sharing rather than needing. Other people may
be encountered and enjoyed for who they are, rather than as
a potential lifetime companions.
One of the homework assignments in our seminars has to do
with developing new interests in the singleness stage. Many
have spent their free, recreational times in the past doing
what the partner wanted or what they had learned to do with
their parents. The assignment is simply to take the time to
develop a new interest, or to pursue something that one may
have wanted to do for a long time.
In the last session write up I discussed adult responsibility
and parent-child behaviour. Perhaps now you see how the singleness
stage allows us to change these roles. Because the roles we
act out in our relationships are so closely related to our
internal attitude and feelings, we change inside as we change
our external roles. It is easier to do this in the singleness
stage than when we are in a permanent relationships. A neutral
environment facilitates both internal and external changes.
The singleness stage is a key period to make the internal
changes in attitudes and feelings necessary for personal growth.
Parenting is difficult during the singleness stage. In earlier
stages parents frequently bend themselves out of shape trying
make sure they are lovable, datable, and okay in many other
ways. The children suffer; their needs are put on the '; back-burner
in the singleness stage, parents usually are more responsive
to the needs of the children. Susan had been volunteering
in the seminars because she 'needed' to feel worthwhile by
helping others. When she began to reach the singleness stage,
she resigned as a volunteer because she wanted to spend more
time with her children. Parents in the singleness stage have
begun to rise above their own emotional needs.
It often takes a great deal of inner security to handle to
the singleness stage successfully. Much of the discussion
in this section concerns the internal feelings present in
the singleness stage. As you have worked your way with me
through the earlier rebuilding blocks, it is likely that you
are able to experience the peacefulness and calmness that
occurs in the singleness stage. You may become slightly upset
about the attitudes of others, but you will feel strong enough
to handle them.
We learn from the external prejudices and use them to become
more secure in our own internal feelings and develop some
assertive responses for the most common put-downs and discriminatory
acts. You can also help to educate others, while maintaining
your own integrity, by responding firmly and you will feel
better inside, too, rather than going away fuming.
Singleness can be one of the most productive stages you go
through the journey, in the sense that the old wounds can
really be healed. Dealing with the external discrimination
may help you to become stronger inside.
The singleness stage is an easy stage in which to become stuck.
If you have not worked through all of the leftovers concerning
relationships and intimacy, you may use the singleness stage
as a place to hide. It may sound like the singleness when
you hear someone say 'I'll never enter another relationship
again.' But in many ways that is the opposite of genuine singleness.
Fear of intimacy, avoidance of feelings and opposition to
future relationships as though it were the worst experience
in our society all indicate that the person is stuck. The
goal is to be free to choose singleness or to enter another
relationship, not to stay single for ever.
Singleness has become acceptable alternative in our society.
Earlier a single person was looked upon in communities as
somewhat weird, one who just did not quite make it to the
altar. Attitudes have changed and after a talk I gave recently
where a woman wanted to know why we had to keep talking about
relationships. She said was it not just as valid to talk about
remaining single? Did we have to keep looking toward being
a relationship as the ideal?
are some items to check through at this stage.
1. I am comfortable being single.
2. I can be happy as a single person.
3. I am comfortable going to social events as a single
4. I am becoming a whole person rather than a half
person looking for my other lost half.
5. I am spending time investing in my own personal
growth rather than looking for another relationship.
6. I can look at my friends as people I want to be
with rather than as a potential partner.
7. If I have children and family, I can spend time
enjoying being with them rather than begrudging the time they
take from my personal life.
8. I have found internal peace and contentment as a