The following is part two of a three part series: an excerpt Tamsen Fadal’s book, The New Single: Finding, Fixing and Falling Back in Love With Yourself after a Breakup or Divorce
“It’s better to be alone, than lonely with someone.”
I got Page Sixed. In May 2012, the New York Post printed the first details of my divorce. Then came one article after another. If the first one was bad, the next few were rock bottom: details about our bickering and our blowups, my ex-husband’s other alleged woman and, as Page Six put it, his other, other woman.
On one particularly painful night, I was master of ceremonies at a star-studded event. In between my hosting duties, and conversations with celebs I was bringing onstage that night, I was fielding e-mails and phone calls from the press while bawling my eyes out in the corner because I knew that more lurid, personal details were about to be made public.
The next morning at the television station people were gathered around the newly delivered newspaper, reading about the lowest point of my life. It was understandable. It was shocking and unexpected to them. And because I had done such a good job of keeping my private life hidden, the details made public were that much more exciting to people, and devastating to me.
That’s when I realized my marriage was not going to avoid being a statistic. After a lot of tears, fake smiles to cover the pain, rude questions from curious parties, and bank accounts that weren’t nearly as balanced as they used to be — from mediators to separate apartments to the slashing in half of a once-shared business — I realized I had to face the fact that I was no longer a “we,” and I was back to being just “me.”
But who was I?
There hadn’t been a “me” in a very long time. It had been years since I had functioned as a singular unit. Dinners, parties, holidays, even nights alone on the couch hadn’t actually been nights alone. He had been there, even when I didn’t necessarily want him to be. But having someone seemed easier than having no one. I had no idea how to be by myself. If only I had had an experienced, honest, and impartial voice to offer up advice about surviving this emotional train wreck.
Because I ran a matchmaking business in New York City, I had no shortage of opinions about the single life, from both the male and female perspectives. I had clear proof that there were available guys out there, but in my post-divorce personal apocalypse, I had absolutely no interest in dating any of them. Instead, I chose to do what many women do following a breakup or divorce: I went back to an old flame.
My first love, to be exact, and the polar opposite of my ex-husband: Professor Henry Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle. The man who taught me how to travel, cook, enjoy fine wine, and experience the world. The one that I thought “got away.” The one that wouldn’t commit to me when I was younger. And, as it turned out, the one who wouldn’t commit to me later, either. Of course, Eliza outgrows Higgins, too. So, there I was, going to extremes, repeating one toxic pattern in order to avoid repeating another. This was not progress.
When I did finally start to date “new” men, because of my years in the matchmaking business, you would think that I would go out with nothing but Manhattan’s most amazing bachelors. You would think. But, you would be wrong. For all the matches I had made, I knew what most of the people sitting across the table from me were made of, but I wasn’t certain what I was made of anymore. Since then, I have spoken with countless women who felt the same way after their separations: disillusioned, and lost.
You name a twisted marriage scenario or dating nightmare, I’ve lived it. But haven’t we all? From the stay-at-home mom who lost her husband to a younger woman, to Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling,” whether we were publicly shamed or privately embarrassed, all of our stories are the same, even when all of our stories are unique. There are plenty of books out there about dating. I wrote a couple of them. This is not another one of those books.
Tamsen Fadal is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.