Dating and romantic relationships can be both an adventure and a challenge at any stage of life. But after a divorce, entering the dating scene, and trying to find your way back into a healthy relationship, with its wide range of emotions, can seem like a daunting and confusing journey.
Today, so many people wonder how they’re going to step into post-divorce dating while they’re navigating the ups and downs of grief, of significant change, and the loss of their marriage, which is such an essential long-term relationship.
Starting over can be challenging, especially if you’ve been married a long time. Initially, you may not even know what you want. Are you ready to seek a committed relationship, looking for a more casual but happy relationship, or something entirely fun and non-committal?
There are no timetables for those dealing with the aftershocks of separation and divorce, and no set of guidelines to follow to help you decide exactly when to enter the dating scene again, or exactly how to go looking for a quality post-divorce relationship.
It’s normal to have worries. You may be anxious about your age, your knowledge of current dating trends, your income or social status, your situation with your kids, whether you can even find a high-quality relationship, and much more. These are common to countless men and women walking through the effects of divorce. It’s okay to be nervous. But everyone struggles through this time. The pain and confusion don’t last forever, and the excitement of a new opportunity will bubble to the surface soon enough.
A lot may have changed. Over the past several years, online dating has taken over, and this often works differently than traditional dating. The speed, the frequently impersonal or “shoppers” mentality sometimes associated with digital dating, and the anxiety of having so many “choices,” even while you feel you have less of them, can make the pursuit of future relationships, or even just a fun night out, seem like a completely foreign idea.
You have the freedom to take things at your own pace, and to seek advice and counsel from those who care about you, your closest friends, work colleagues, even your family therapist. No matter who you confide in, make sure they are someone you trust with the deeper parts of your life, those with experience, wisdom, and your best interests at heart.
With this in mind, let’s look now at 10 important tips to navigate dating after divorce.
1. Give Yourself Time to Heal
Before, and even during a new season of dating, it’s important to give yourself ample time to fully grieve your loss and ease into healing. This kind of separation brings with it a unique collection of pain and shifting emotions. And these things do not heal overnight.
Even in the most amicable divorces, or one where you’ve been looking forward to the change, there is still a lot to process. Don’t feel compelled to rush into anything. Get to know yourself again. Spend time on your own, with loved ones, and in counseling, working through difficulties and establishing your own identity once more. You’ll be glad you took advantage of this opportunity.
2. Consider What went Wrong in Your Marriage
One way you can protect yourself from repeating mistakes is to take stock of what went wrong in your previous relationship. Be honest and willing to ask yourself some difficult questions. The answers may not always be comfortable, but they will reveal a great deal of truth and empower you to rethink the kind of relationship you want to have the next time around. Some great questions to ask yourself include:
- Were our communication styles radically different from one another’s? And did this affect our ability to work through issues and solve problems?
- Did either or both of us avoid conflict?
- Was there an ongoing imbalance in the dedication level of myself or my spouse? For example, in overall effort, in chores, caring for the kids, disciplining the children, work habits, spending, and more?
- Were there issues of abuse or neglect within our relationship, and were these confronted properly?
- Did we struggle with ongoing issues of trust, betrayal, and jealousy?
- Did our goals for life, marriage, work, kids, and purpose differ from one another too much?
3. Think about What You Want in a New Partner
Following divorce, every person’s dating goals will be a bit different. Some may be looking for something more serious, while others just want to relax and experience some casual encounters. It’s even common to not really know what you want yet. It may take time to figure that out and that’s totally fine. Some questions to consider include:
- Do I want something more serious or casual right now?
- How important is the level of similarity within our goals?
- What age range am I looking for?
- Is income a concern or not?
- What about children? Am I okay with them already having kids? Do I want to have more?
- What are my non-negotiables, problems, or habits that I simply won’t put up with?
4. Sign Up for an Online Dating Service
Of course, this isn’t a must, and many people still don’t prefer it. But with the number of people online and using these services, your chances of meeting a wider range of potential partners goes up substantially.
The thing to remember, though, is to not treat it like window shopping. No one is perfect. Use the service to pursue potentially meaningful connections, not to shop for your theoretically “perfect” ideal.
5. Ask Loved Ones to Help You Make a Connection
Yes, I know, this can often be fraught with annoyances and disappointments. Asking your mom or dad, your sister, or cousin, to set you up with someone can really make for an unpredictable and possibly uncomfortable evening.
Still, if your relative or friend knows you well, respects your individuality and desires, and truly wants the best for you, they may actually be able to recommend someone good.
6. Join Activities Clubs and Attend Social Events
There are countless groups out there, dedicated to a range of activities like hiking, camping, cycling, movies, photography, wildlife, concerts, painting and other art forms, cooking, and much more. These can be wonderful opportunities to meet a variety of new people who often have similar passions.
7. Consult Your Therapist
Counselors certainly aren’t there to tell you who and how to date. But they are there to help you process your own emotions, work through long-held anxieties, and limiting beliefs, and give you tools for better decision-making, better communication, and healthier relationships.
Their guidance and advice can not only prepare you for future relationships, but give you the clarity, confidence, and wisdom you need to make better choices in your current dating habits.
8. Ease Into Things with Your Kids
Your children will be dealing with their own grief and confusion from the divorce. They may even secretly hold out hope for you and your ex to reunite. Don’t lie about your life, but be considerate of where they are at when you’re thinking about bringing your new relationship into your kids’ lives.
Don’t rush into presenting them with a new person. They can feel angry, betrayed, and hurt. They need to know that they come first, and that you take their concerns seriously. It’s also not recommended to do the “Hey, this is my new friend so and so.” Kids are smart. They pick up on way more than we give them credit for. Don’t pretend your new love interest is just a friend. The kids will find out anyway and then feel betrayed by your lie.
If you’ve moved incredibly fast (which we don’t recommend), or you think your children aren’t ready for it yet, wait to introduce your new partner to your kids. Get a trusted babysitter, a friend or extended family member to spend time with and watch your kids while you head out on some dates. Once they’ve had more time to heal and adjust, and when you’ve finally come to a place in your new relationship where it becomes clear that both of you are serious about it, then you can make introductions.
9. Stay Safe
This isn’t about being nervous, anxious, or hyper-vigilant. It’s about making sure you communicate with loved ones, making a plan for your own security, and trusting yourself if you aren’t feeling good about a situation.
Let your friends know where you’re at and who you’re with. Create a safe word that you can text to them if you need immediate help or a good excuse to have them call you with an “emergency,” so you can leave right away.
Most people, of course, are going to be just fine. But there are unhealthy individuals out there and the rise in online dating apps has increased not only the positive aspects of increased access, but some of the negative ones. Make sure several people know how to get a hold of you, come find you, and that you prepare yourself to leave easily if the need arises.
10. Focus on Quality
It’s never a bad idea to prioritize higher-quality relationships. Even if you’re not ready for a serious relationship and just looking for some casual dates, there are plenty of people who want to do casual the right way – to remain classy, respectful, and open about who they are and where they’re at.
There are many options out there. You don’t need to take the first thing that comes along, or everything that presents itself. Hold to your standards without looking for perfection and remember you are worth it.
Dating is always an adventure. No matter the season of life, it will always brings to the table its own set of challenges and rewards. Though, dating after divorce can seem especially difficult, given the intensity of your emotional struggles, your children’s well-being, and your concerns about the future.
Take time to get to know yourself again. Ease into things but don’t be afraid. Surround yourself with people who love and care for you, and continue to get the counseling you need to heal, grow, and prepare for this next stage of life.
Torrone Law helps individuals and families find resolution and peace of mind in divorce, custody, and adoption cases. Connect with us today with all your questions and find out how much better life can be with Torrone by your side.
To learn more about dating after divorce, check out our frequently asked questions below.
How do I know when I’m ready to date again?
There’s no perfect answer. But you often recognize it when it comes. The important thing is to focus on yourself and your kids for a while. Give yourself space and time to heal, gain perspective, and rediscover who you are apart from your marriage. Work with a counselor to move through heartache or frustrations and to better prepare yourself to make healthy relationship choices in the future.
When you do begin dating, don’t rush. Ease into things. Focus on quality people even if you’re keeping things casual. After a while, you’ll know when your head and heart are ready to get more serious.
What should I remember when reentering the dating scene?
- Take time to heal.
- Prioritize your own healing and your kids’ emotional and mental health.
- Maintain your standards without seeking perfection.
- Get to know different people by joining activities groups and attending social events.
- Partner with a counselor for wisdom and advice.
- Stay safe.
- Consider what went wrong in your marriage and work with your therapist to help you avoid the same mistakes the next time around.
- Figure out what you want in a partner and in a relationship.
What are some great ways to meet new people?
- There are many ways to find a good partner or even just an enjoyable night out. Consider the following:
- Sign up on dating apps.
- Ask your family or friends if they know someone.
- Consider a colleague at work.
- Join activities groups.
- Attend social and networking events.
- Consider someone at your church, community center, or fitness club.