How do you know you’re ready to date after divorce? What steps should you take to overcome fear? What can be done to prevent past mistakes and set you up for future success? This week I sat down with certified life coach, Suzy Garber to discuss how to thrive during (and after) life’s transitions.
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Sara Stansberry: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and why you started your coaching business, EmpowHERful Voice.
Suzy Garber: I’m still figuring out who I am—I don’t know that I will ever know the definitive answer as I’m still growing, learning and evolving and it keeps me going! I was adopted at birth by two parents who couldn’t have loved me more. I always knew I was adopted, but never felt it made me different on the inside, but it did make a lot of difference on the outside. I didn't look like anyone in my family and that message carried with me into adulthood.
I was a pleaser who always played by the rules; I played it safe not pushing the limits on anything. Once I married I had the house in the suburbs with the picket fence, the SUV; the picture perfect kids and a full life from the outside. Inside I was constantly putting out fires to keep up appearances; it was awful and during the process I lost me. Our family’s normal was not normal at all, but I put up with it and continued to stay in our ‘picture perfect’ dysfunction; I couldn't face the thought of failure at something I held so dear. It wasn’t until I discovered that he was having an affair with another (much younger) woman that I took action. It took me listening to that little voice, which was now a shout. It was time to fight for me, for the boys, for every woman! I sprang into action while he was on a business trip. On the day he arrived home he was served with papers—I was done! Devastated, but Done.
I had my world rocked and started over at 50, but in hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got my life back!
There was a lot of transition happening during this time: divorce, empty nest, death of a family member and turning 50. It propelled me into trying to understand why. Why me? Why my family? Why? I decided from that point on that I would help other women find their why and their own ‘Happily Better After.’ I’ve always been the friend everybody comes to with problems or for advice; I’ve always been a good friend and listener.
EmpowHERfulVoice is the result of my own interpersonal work, intensive study to become a coach through an accredited program and the desire to help others that is just part of my why.
SS: From what you’ve learned in your work, what are three factors preventing people from future success after a transition?
- Being stuck in the story is the biggest thing that keeps people from moving on when their life is in transition. The need to tell and retell the story just to be heard or sympathized with is really not productive. It keeps you stuck and prevents you from moving towards your next. ‘You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one!’
- Unwillingness to embrace the change. During life things change even though we don’t want them to. But trusting the process and believing that things happen for a reason is a key to moving forward.
- Not being completely honest with yourself about your part in the story. Every story has three sides: yours, theirs, and the truth. You owe it to yourself to take a good hard look at your part in the story.
SS: Tell me a little about moving from functional to optimal.
SG: We all ‘function’; it’s what we do when we are just going through the motions of life. We are on autopilot not really living - we’re just doing what we have to do to get through the day. When we are our optimal selves, life is richer, fuller. We are able to savor the moments and live with purpose and clarity. Working on ourselves, understanding what motivates, inspires and excites us makes life (and you) much more fulfilling and purposeful. Doing what it takes to live an optimal life is an investment in you.
SS: What is the best way to overcome fear?
SG: I spent a year ‘under the dining room table,’ my expression for how I felt about the divorce, my life and my future. I did emerge after the divorce was final, but I was beyond afraid of what was next.
I finally realized that fear is completely normal, it’s what makes us human.
SS: I know you coach a lot of women through divorce transition. What is the #1 fear of getting back into the dating game?
SG: The biggest fear tends to be—who is going to want me? Many of the women I work with feel that because they've failed once already, the odds are against them; they're afraid they might be alone forever. It’s completely understandable that someone would feel this way after such a traumatic life event.
SS: How do you help women overcome these fears?
SG: We work together to identify and then understand just what the fear is about. What is holding you back? Is it a belief that has been ingrained in you by someone or something else? Is it that little voice that plays old messages inside your head? Knowing what you’re afraid of or worried about is freeing--it’s a part of self knowledge and a way to move out of the story and to move on with your life.
SS: What are the first three things someone should do before dating after divorce?
Take a good, long, honest look at yourself. Make sure that you know who you really are and what you really want in another person. Be clear.
Define your values-those things that you hold near and dear-and decide which ones you just won’t compromise on; for me it’s honesty, family, etc. But we’re all different.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you’re ready: Are you dating because you're lonely or to get revenge? Are you dating to feel better about yourself or to be validated? Are you able to be vulnerable and open your heart to another person or do you still feel the need to hide from yourself and others for fear of being hurt again?:
SS: I’m assuming if you answer yes to the first two, you might want to consider refraining from dating?
SG: It’s always empowering to know just who you are during and after a life transformation. Life has changed and it’s important to understand how that shift has impacted and changed you. If you don’t have good self-knowledge you won’t have a clear idea of who you are and therefore what you’re looking for in another person. A date that consists of someone endlessly bashing their ex isn’t exactly comfortable or fun. We all have our stories and how someone tells theirs can show you just how far they’ve moved on from their past.
Trust your gut! When you’re ready to begin dating it’s a leap of faith, but it has to feel ok in your gut. I knew I wasn’t ready when a friend dragged me out one Saturday night, I knew that I was her wingman, and I found myself in a club, clutching my drink as the room moved around me. I was so out of my comfort zone that I was paralyzed with fear and dread as she worked the room. I promised myself right then and there that I would never feel that way again. It took me another 4 months before I ventured out again—and that was okay, it was what worked for me on my timeline!
SS: Is there anything you should never do?
SG: I’m a big believer in not introducing children to people that you are dating unless it’s a solid relationship which means you've been dating exclusively for several months, you have had lots of open and honest conversations about the path of the relationship and your children are open to meeting someone new. My boys were 16 and 20 when my divorce happened and the LAST thing they wanted was for someone new to enter the picture. It took me a while before I introduced them to someone and that first someone was NEVER welcomed or accepted—turns out they were right!
SS: What about dealing with the baggage another person brings into a relationship?
SG: Who doesn’t have baggage? We all have it, some of it has a name! The key is to find someone whose baggage is compatible with yours. Take a good look at yourself. What are you attracting in your life? If all of your friends suck the life out of you and use you is it that you’re giving too much of yourself away? If there is a pattern that has developed with the type of person you’re attracting, choose what works for you, be honest with yourself and stop.
SS: How can someone prevent making the same relational mistake twice?
SG: Values are huge here—if you hold family near and dear as one of your top values, someone who has cut off their relationship with their parents wouldn’t be a good fit for you. Listen for clues and you can save yourself a lot of grief and heartache.
SS: What were your biggest challenges in getting into a new relationship after your divorce?
SG: My biggest challenge was my self confidence. I had messages playing in my head from when I was a child. My ex also played on my insecurities and made me feel as if I was worthless and undesirable. I had to find my own voice and realize that people liked me for who I was. I got to the point where I was ready to meet people. I took baby steps—just showing up at a blind date was a huge accomplishment. I decided to be open to opportunities, reduce my judging of others and just try. There were a lot of frogs, some actually interesting people-but not third date worthy and then I found my prince who has made me a better person. I’m still working on my inner voice that can hold me back sometimes—it’s a process.
About Suzy Garber
Suzy Garber is a certified professional life and transition coach who empowers women to find their own voices when faced with everyday and mind - numbing life cycle events. She is also an adult adoptee which gives her a unique and empathetic way to engage with all members of the adoption triad; adoptee, first/birth parents and adoptive parents.
Suzy is a Certified Professional Coach trained at iPEC, one of the top training programs accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), she’s been trained by the best.
Using Core Energy™ coaching, Suzy works with clients to tackle the root cause of their challenges to create success quickly including:
Inner blocks of beliefs and emotions
Identifying goals and overcoming roadblocks
Recognizing the beliefs that hold you back
Re-engineering those beliefs to achieve success
Pinpointing the root cause of challenges and begin to perceive all challenges as opportunities
Suzy is offering all readers of Unchained a free coaching session - sign up here.