Monday, October 20, 2008

Marrying on the rebound

On the subject of internet dating, my friend Cathy met her second husband online. Her first husband had walked out to move in with his girlfriend, and Cathy was blindsided. She was so distraught that for the first six months she was heavily sedated and took to her bed, didn't go to work, couldn't pick up her kids from school. After six months she began seeing a therapist who insisted she kick-start her social life. So she signed on to an internet dating site, met a few guys, and within weeks fell in love with a man who was, like her, recently separated. It was a fast, whirlwind love affair, and within a year she was sporting a huge rock and they were building a new house on the beach in North Carolina.

It took them a few years to get their divorces and complete the beach house. Once it was built, Cathy sold her New York home, left her job, and moved with her fiance to North Carolina to throw a splashy wedding and start their new life. They both found jobs, took wonderful trips together, and seemed idyllically happy and devoted. While I always suspected that they had rushed into their relationship -- with each clutching onto the other to avoid the pain and loneliness of divorce -- time proved that they were the rare exception to the usual fate of rebound relationships.

But three years into the marriage -- and eight years after they first met-- the rebound effect reared its ugly head. It turns out her new husband had a dark side that Cathy hadn't known about, and she asked him to move out. They are in the process of settling their divorce.

I felt terrible when I heard about it. But it helps explain why the divorce rate is so much higher the second time around, and it underscores the central message of our book: You have to go through the whole miserable process -- pain, anger, loneliness, transitional relationships, and the satisfaction of building a new life -- before you can pick out Mr. Right and be in a mature relationship that's not based on need. Blindly seizing on somebody doesn't work. I thought Cathy had lucked out, but it seems there are no short cuts.

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