Dating after divorce can be a minefield for the midlife woman. Perhaps even thornier than pondering what to wear on a date, where to go, who pays — not to mention how you even find people to date in this brave new world of Internet match-ups — is getting over your reluctance to take a stab at it. Why is it so hard? A divorced woman may feel very vulnerable at this stage, in part because she used to have a spouse to 'protect' her and now she has to go out into the world on her own, says Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor's Guide to Lasti So how can you make post-divorce dating — whether you're looking for a good time or a good (relationship-minded) man — less daunting? Read on for tips that will help you get back in Cupid's good graces.
Dating after a divorce is a big step for many people. It can signify healing, transition, and the willingness to start something new with someone new. After being in a long-term relationship such as marriage, though, it can be difficult to know exactly when you’re ready to start dating again. Only you can tell when you’re ready, but some good indicators include taking time to let yourself heal, freeing yourself from regular thoughts about your ex, opening yourself to new social experiences, and feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Getting into the right mindset before you start dating can help make moving on from your last relationship and starting a new one much easier and more fulfilling in the long run.
Take a length of time. How much time you need after a divorce will vary greatly from person to person, but most experts suggest taking time for yourself to heal and recover before you begin dating again. Wait until you feel stable with your home and family life before you try to date again. • Some signs that you might have taken a reasonable about of time include feeling comfortable in the routine you have established for yourself and your kids, and not feeling a sense of longing for your past relationship on a daily basis.
However, keep in mind that the grief you experience after the loss of a relationship is different for everyone. • There is no set amount of time it will take for you to recover. It may take weeks, months, or years, all of which are fine. Consider joining a divorce support group as a way to connect with other people navigating this process. • Putting yourself out there too soon could cause a bad experience and make you reconsider dating, in general. Take the time you need to get right with yourself first.
Stop blaming yourself. It’s common to feel a sense of guilt after a divorce, with thoughts that you are hurting your family by separating. Regardless of validity, these thoughts are natural, but they can also be toxic to a new relationship and your self-esteem.
A good sign that you are ready to start dating again is that you’ve given up guilt surrounding ending your last relationship. • When you feel a sense of guilt, remind yourself of the reasons you ended your marriage and evaluate why they were in the best interest of you and your family. Make this list of reasons when you are in an upbeat mood rather than when you are feeling down, and be sure to review the list often.
• Give yourself gentle reminders every day that there is nothing to feel guilty about until you genuinely stop feeling the need to blame yourself. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Clear out thoughts of your ex. If you still regularly think about your ex or have become preoccupied with how they might be spending their time, your mind is not open for the experience of a new relationship.
Wait until you can move on from consuming thoughts of your ex to develop a new relationship. • You may also want to consider professional counseling to help you work through these thoughts.
• You likely would not want to date someone who was emotionally unavailable and preoccupied with someone else. Offer others the same respect and make sure you’re not caught up on your ex before you start dating. Get excited to go out. After a divorce, it is natural to want to take some time and focus on your home life. It can be hard to start dating again from home, though. Try going out to dinner or a movie with friends or family to get comfortable being social again before you start dating.
• You may also want to try taking yourself on self-care dates, where you do something you enjoy on your own. This could be anything from seeing a movie to taking a dance or photography class, or anything else that makes you happy. • When going out and being social in general terms feels more comfortable, it may be a sign that you are better equipped to start dating.
Consider your motivation. Open yourself up to the idea that there are a number of different relationship styles, and think about what you want as you start dating. Do you want a casual relationship, someone for long-term companionship, someone to try to build a new family with, or something else?
• Your dating goals may change over time. This is common and in no way a bad thing. Knowing what you want now is still important, though, as it will help you determine who you are and are not ready to be with.
Decide if you can handle a bad date. It’s a simple fact of life that some dates are going to go poorly. That doesn’t mean all dates will be bad, but if you are not in a place mentally or emotionally where you feel you can recover from a bad date, listen to your instincts. • Ask yourself, “Would one bad date ruin dating as a whole for me?” Be honest with your answer.
There is no right or wrong, and it is better to wait until you can handle the experience than to force yourself into something too soon.
Think of things to talk about. It’s ok to let a date know that you are divorced, but your entire conversation should not hinge on your past relationship. Think about what you could talk about with a date, including things like your children, your work, and your hobbies. • If you do not think that you can reasonably get through a date without divulging all the details of your previous marriage, then you may need some more time to heal.
• Practice making small chat with friends and family, and have them help coach you if you think you need it. Put your best foot forward. Your relationship with yourself does a lot to dictate other’s relationship with you.
Consider whether you are not only able but excited to dress up, talk about all your good qualities, and make a good general first impression. • If your self-esteem is not totally in place yet, that is completely understandable. Take the time you need to build a good relationship. • If you need to, try working with a professional such as a therapist to help you recover your relationship with yourself before you start dating again. There are a number of practices that specialize in helping divorced individuals do just that.
Listen to your instincts. You don’t owe anyone anything, including a date. Listen to your gut. If you feel that you are ready to meet someone new, put yourself out there. If you don’t think you’re there yet, it is in your own best interest to wait. • Starting to date again will likely be somewhat intimidating regardless of when you do it.
But only you know when the idea goes from truly frightening to frightening but exciting. • Keep in mind that some of your well-meaning family and friends will encourage you to date before you are ready, but don’t put yourself on anyone else’s calendar.
You will know best when you are ready.
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You’ve been through a divorce and it’s over now. You are single again and might be wondering when it’s the right time to start dating again. You don’t want to be alone forever, but at the same time, you don’t want to jump into something new too soon. How do you know when you’re ready to date after divorce? 1 Listen To Yourself You may have well-meaning friends who will try to “get you back into the game”.
They might tell you to put yourself out there and it might sadden them to see you alone. However, you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, there are things you need to sort out in your mind and life before jumping into anything.
So don’t give into pressure before you are ready. If well-meaning friends or relatives start to question when you’ll start dating again, be kind but firm in stating that you’ll date when you’re ready.
It can take months (sometimes years) before you feel strong enough to put yourself out there again. Also don’t look at your ex, and think you need to keep up. So what if he’s already in a new relationship?
That’s his thing, you have to find yours. If you feel comfortable sitting at home with a book or a girlfriend on the weekends, do that. Don’t mope or wallow in self-pity, but also use the time to rediscover yourself instead of feeling pressured to paste a smile on your face and head into what can seem like a den of lions. 2 You Really Want To There is no time limit, no deadlines, or schedule of what is considered “normal” when dating after a divorce.
There may come a time when you’ll feel the need to give yourself a little ‘push’ when it comes to dating, but the desire to date should come from you.
It’s normal, after not having dated for some time, to feel some apprehension about what you’re about to do. But you still want to; that’s the key. If you don’t want to date yet, don’t. You need time to heal, you need time to get your bearings, and you might want to pamper yourself a bit and enjoy your single life for a while.
It’s not at all unusual to go from being married to needing a good deal of “me-time”. 3 You Know What You Want Often, a marriage is based on all the things you thought were “right”. You were happy, you were in love, things worked out and took a natural course. Now you find yourself single and perhaps reevaluating what you thought of as “perfect”. You may very well decide that for now all you want is to hook up and have really good sex.
Maybe you want to find a “friend with benefits” without having to think about another relationship. Maybe you want to put yourself out there without going the traditional way of dating, letting fate take its course without pressure—if it happens, great, but you’re not really “looking” right now. Or maybe you have very specific ideas of what you want in that you don’t want anything short of another relationship in order to get over the one you were just in.
You’re not willing to “settle” for casual dating, you’re looking for the real deal right away. Whichever way you decide to start dating again, it will help if you do know exactly what you want and not just the type of relationship you want but roughly the type of man too (without being too fixed in your ideas).
4 You’re Comfortable Dating should be fun, with no pressure or demands on either of you. If you’re uncomfortable you won’t be having fun and it’ll backfire. You’ll start to see dating as just another source of stress in your life. Your confidence has probably taken a knock, so it can help to work on that. Some women find it helps to have a bit of a makeover, maybe change hair color/style, buy new clothes, or try something new like going on a vacation alone. Knowing you can survive alone can help you, but it can’t harm you to look a million dollars too!
Make sure you’re comfortable with the whole idea of dating. You should be comfortable enough that you don’t bring your divorce into every conversation and make sure you don’t still “feel married”. If you feel like you’re cheating while dating, you’re not ready yet. 5 You Know Who You Are We all have our own identities but during marriage you will often have been introduced as your husband’s wife and you will have taken on that role at least some of the time in public.
Now, it’s all about you alone, and you need to be clear on who you are at this point in your life before you start dating again, so that you can talk about your work, your interests, your dreams and your life as an individual. Men are going to want to meet you as you are now, not who you used to be. If you still feel incomplete without the “wife status”, you’re not ready to date again. If you think you’re ready to socialize with your new single status, start off slowly. Find out how you react to meeting new people without the dating pressure.
Make an effort to discover what you like to do on your own, what things are still painful to do because of memories, and make sure you’re healing well before entering into the dating world.
Of course, you might feel ready and then have something occur during a date which brings up memories. If you know yourself, though, you’ll be able to get past it with grace rather than freaking out inside. 6 Anything Else? For a few more pointers think about those things that would make you think a man you were dating hadn’t got over his divorce yet and therefore wasn’t really ready, and see your own circumstances through the same criteria.
See for the things to look out for. Over to you: Have you been through a divorce in the past? How long did it take you before you were ready to date again? Did you jump back into the dating pool too soon? Please share in the comments below. I honestly wasn’t ready to date after my divorce, but my daughter had a mind of her own and soon introduced me to an uncle of a friend. 🙂 I wasn’t certain I wanted to date so early, but I went out with the gentleman.
To make a long story short – he is now my husband of 17 years. Even though I wasn’t ready to date again, it was possible for me to find love and be happy again. It’s not about what you THINK, but how you FEEL. So yes, follow your heart and if there is anything that puts up a warning signal – RUN, don’t walk. 🙂 Bonnie Gean recently posted… Thanks for sharing your story Bonnie and congratulations on 17 years 🙂 I love it when someone finds love when they are not even looking for it.
I think that probably happens more often than we think it does. And I agree with you about the warning signals – so important but so easy to ignore when love is in the air. Ana recently posted… I dated a man while he was in the midst of divorce. I suggested he keep “dating” vs. getting involved again so quickly.
However, he disagreed and we began to see one another. Alas, about a year into the relationship he “woke up” and said “I want to start dating.” Guess I should have followed my intuition when I first met him. There’s a long story that follows, but I won’t pursue it here. Bottom line – follow your instincts and trust your heart.
Debra Jason recently posted… Ana, Boy does this article bring back memories for me. It was a long time after my divorce that I didn’t date.
But when I started dating, I realized I was better off without doing so. The quality of men I met weren’t worthy of my time. Not to say that I’m “all that, ” but when you take the time to invest in yourself and see yourself for how truly valuable you are, you won’t settle for less. Personally, I think depending upon the person and their circumstances, it’s a choice left up to them. I think it’s best to give it time though. No one should rush into a relationship out of loneliness or desperation.
Totally agree, you have to listen to yourself. I went through a divorce several years ago and I have to admit, the first few weeks were absolutely amazing. I found myself again without worrying about dating or having to please someone else. It was all about me. The best thing you can do for yourself is to start over a new relationship with yourself and then later once that relationship is healthy and strong, then think about letting someone else in again. As for me, I only waited a few months and the time was right so I let a new man in and married him 3 years later.
The time was just right! Misty Spears recently posted…
Every marriage is different, every separation is different and every divorce is different. How soon is too soon to start dating again depends on several factors, including your emotional state, your ex-spouse's emotional state and your legal situation. Dating while separated can be just what you need or the last thing you need. Don't Start a War You don't want to make your ex angry before the divorce is final, unless you're willing to deal with a protracted battle and a potentially expensive settlement, instead of an amicable no-fault divorce.
Your ex might be willing to accept that the marriage just wasn't working out -- the divorce might even be her idea -- but if you start dating before she's ready for it then she can make things very difficult for both of you. If you have children together, it's especially important not to provoke unnecessary conflict with your ex before custody arrangements have been fully worked out. If your relationship with your ex isn't emotionally resolved for both of you, then it's a bad idea to date before the divorce is final.
Don't Scare People Off If you're still seething with negative emotions about the end of your marriage, it's going to be hard to hide that fact from anyone you're interested in dating.
No date wants to hear all about how evil and crazy you think your ex is. Too much negative talk about your ex is unappealing on its own, but it can also make it sound like you hate all women. That's probably not the impression you want to give, so you should hold off dating until you are past the anger and the need to vent. Don't Rush Yourself It isn't easy to know how you're going to handle a new relationship until you try.
You might believe that you're completely over your ex and ready to meet someone new, only to panic and disappear as soon as the new relationship starts to get serious.
That wouldn't be fair to the other person, so be sure to give yourself some time to heal before starting anything serious with a new romantic interest. The longer the marriage was and the more intense the emotions associated with the divorce, the longer you should wait. When It Works There are a few situations where it makes sense to start dating before your divorce is final.
One is if the relationship has been effectively over for such a long time that both you and your ex have moved on emotionally. Another is if you separated to see whether you wanted to end the marriage or not, and dating other people was part of the arrangement.
If that's the case, you'll need to communicate openly and honestly with both your ex and anyone you might be dating to avoid misunderstandings. If the divorce is truly only a formality and the marriage really ended a long time ago, then it can make sense to start dating again as long as you're careful with both yourself and everyone else involved. About the Author Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction.
His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.
Love Advice after a Divorce!