The One-Dimensional Match

What do these stories have in common? They may seem very different, but they are all examples of having one dimension in mind as a trigger for concluding, “I have found the right one. I am ready to remarry.” Sheila was searching for the illusive soul mate. This thinking focused her on a limited dimension of a prospective spouse—someone whom she would immediately “recognize” as her soul mate. This kept her from examining all aspects of her relationship with Phil. How could she be aware of any negative factors with him after concluding from the start “he’s the one”? When you jump to a conclusion that fast, you are assuming all other aspects are irrelevant or will magically work out.

Andy and Joyce identified one important aspect in their lives that they had in common—others thought they were losers. They had become convinced themselves, and so immediately decided to huddle together against the world. Anyone who is feeling so incomplete and inadequate should not consider marriage in that condition. If you already feel like a failure, there is nothing worse than to jump into another marriage, get another divorce, and “prove” it to yourself all over again. You don’t have to have the intense mental problems Joyce had. The normal emotional stress of a divorce can place you in the same condition. This story is not a case of rescue. It’s a case of believing you should marry someone because he or she is in the same predicament you are. Misery loves company.

When you divorce, you immediately look for the culprit. With a lot of time passed, you will see things differently. You will learn what you contributed to your marriage failing. Time helps us see more clearly when the anger and grieving are past. If you don’t wait for that time to elapse before doing a post-mortem on the marriage, you are likely to conclude something very narrow like Belinda did: The divorce occurred because her husband had children. Armed with this “fact,” she set out to find a childless husband replacement.

The Perfect Person

We have heard many other versions of this story—where a divorced individual has a “perfect” person in mind. The ideal usually relates to one attribute—often the reverse of what the ex-spouse had. He doesn’t drink. She won’t be such a religious fanatic. He won’t travel in his job. She won’t have an ex-husband who lives in town. From these examples, you can write the story about what happened in the previous marriage. Is it wrong to be concerned about issues such as these, especially if they were a problem in your past marriage? No, of course not. The problem is one-dimensional searching: When you are so focused on one issue you tend to ignore other things. Because someone you date has or doesn’t have the characteristic you are looking for is no guarantee of success in marriage. You still have to do the hard work and allow the time to make sure he or she has other good qualities and not any horrible ones. You also have to be observant of the dynamics between you. How do you two interact in various circumstances? What does he do that causes conflict? How does she behave when under pressure? To gauge all of this takes time, an open mind, and an objective attitude. It sounds cold and calculating, but remember, divorce is painful and affects your entire family.

Sign of an Unhealed Divorce

Another reason that single-dimension searching is a problem is that it is a sign of an unhealed divorce. Think about it. Sheila sought a soul mate believing that was what was missing in her prior marriage. She was frantically dating. She was frustrated and desperate. Does this sound like a woman who has allowed time to pass and worked through her problems to become healthy and independent?

Then we have Andy and Joyce, two people who needed to get their own acts together before putting their problems on each other. They were each still struggling with low self-esteem from childhood, which was reinforced in their previous divorces. Andy was still living at home with mom. Joyce was unable to control overeating, a clue that she was not well.