By Laura Lifshitz
People talk about raising the bar, but what does that really mean, other than being a cute and memorable catchphrase? To me, it means expecting more from yourself, others and your life. It means setting goals and going beyond them. It means believing in yourself and others just a little more than you would normally.
After divorce, a lot of people talk about how their marriages were subpar…below the bar. Like, way below the bar. It’s rare to hear someone say how amazing the marriage was and then suddenly…screech, tires grinding to a total sh*tshow, although that does happen as well.
So, after you’ve rolled around in the murkiness of your bad marriage, how do you not then proceed straight to jail, do not pass go, (oh, sorry…Monopoly tangent) and raise the bar a billion levels both personally and romantically?
Here are 5 ways you can raise the bar in your love and personal life and never, ever, ever go back to the dirt and muck of seedy, bad and toxic relationships and situations.
1. Recognize That What You See Is What You Get—With Everyone
Don’t go out on dates and imagine how someone would be “if only” he or she did this or that. Don’t make friends and figure, “if only” he or she doesn’t act like this or do that…we can still maintain a friendship.
No, no and no!
What you see is what you get: if you cannot live with a person romantically or as a friend exactly how the person is today, you cannot be involved. You can’t get seriously involved with a man or woman thinking the person will change. You need to ask yourself if in all honesty, you can handle this person, baggage and all.
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And if you meet a friend and this person sets off your toxic or discomfort radar, you need to ask yourself if you can handle that kind of seepage in your life.
People don’t change. So, you accept them as they are or you decide to cut ties or not pursue a relationship or friendship with the person. Too many people date expecting or hoping someone will change, only to waste time getting involved with the wrong person. Don’t be a fool twice!
2. Learn How To Say No
Women are horrible at saying no. They can’t just say “No.”
Nope, instead, they give one hundred different excuses or apologize incessantly for essentially saying no. This is wrong and unhealthy. Saying no doesn’t make you a “meanie;” it just means you know how to set boundaries, respect yourself and prioritize your time.
When you learn to say no, you will stop putting up with a lot of BS and nonsense that is unhealthy. People will respect you, from co-workers to lovers. People will truly understand your needs and priorities, and this will help all of your relationships.
3. Accept What You Need, Consider What You Want, & Go For It!
We all have a pretty decent size want list, but the reality is when it comes to love, work and friendships, we need to realize that our wants matter…but we have to also be realistic.
In general, after your divorce you better know a few things, like:
What are your actual needs? In order to be involved romantically, what are your deal breakers and “musts?” For work, what things do you need in place to thrive? Know your needs because these are must-have’s in order to be happy and thrive.
What are your wants? You will have many, but you need to prioritize and know what things are bonuses in work, love and life, and what things must be there for you to have any kind of longevity with anyone romantically, personally or professionally.
Then, set the standards! Once you know the wants and needs and recognize the differences between the two, you can set standards…and stick to them. Don’t go crawling back to a scummy date from the past. Don’t go forgetting your career goals and putting off applying for your graduate degree. Set goals and standards for yourself and hold yourself accountable!
4. Know Your Weaknesses & Address Them
We all have weaknesses…what are yours? Are you an emotional eater? Are you attracted to narcissists? Do you avoid commitment? Are you lazy at work? Know your weaknesses well and then, accepting these weaknesses, make a concrete game plan to address them, manage them and eliminate them, if possible.
For example: if you love narcissists, have a committee of friends who are there to point out the narcissistic tendencies in your dates and tell them to hold you accountable for cutting anyone off who screams “Raging Narcissist!” Also, make an appointment with a therapist.
Another example: the emotional eater…this is when you join a support group on Facebook. This is when you have a buddy you can call or text before going on an eating spree. This is when you join a therapy group or speak to a nutritionist, or all of the above.
The point I am making is you need to know whom you are, where you tend to struggle, and then set a plan to support yourself so you can improve and put the past behind you. Often, we don’t replace our bad habits with good habits or simply, we continue to make bad choices just saying, “Well, it’s who I am,” but that’s ridiculous. You can change if you really want to. Instead of making excuses, make changes even if they are just small changes each day in order to really raise the bar and make your life how you want it, after divorce.
5. Be Patient For Your Goals To Happen & Tenaciously Work Towards Them
You want a better job, a new partner, a better butt and a bigger savings…
Unfortunately, those things don’t come overnight. The reality is you have to be patient for these things to happen and also, work hard at getting what you want. And sure, you may not be able to “work hard” at meeting the love of your life, but you can be patient, and you can go on many dates and keep your mind and heart open.
This is one of the hardest things to do! I struggle with being patient all the time, although I am incredibly tenacious and persistent.
You have one choice: to repeat the same crap you did in your last marriage, or to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and say “I learned my lesson and I am doing it differently the next time.”
Well, guess what? It’s now “next time,” so get off your butt and get to work. There’s a happy life to be had!
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.