Once your divorce is inevitable, you’re probably going to start thinking about the possibility of another relationship. And these thoughts will stir up all kinds of emotions – fear, disbelief, curiosity, confusion, frustration, intimidation and excitement – as you progress through making your divorce final.
Dating after divorce is way different than dating was before you got married.
Not only has dating itself changed (say hello to Tinder, eHarmony, Match, OKCupid, etc.), but you’ve changed. Marriage, parenthood and divorce tend to do that to a person.
So before you run full tilt to embrace dating as part of your life after divorce, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a few things in order.
1. Are you really ready to date? You’re probably not ready to date if you’re not healed from your divorce. It’s really hard to have a good time dating if you still cry when you tell the story of your breakup because it will come up – usually on the first date.Being healed from your divorce also means that you understand why your marriage failed and your part in it. (Yeah, it really does take two for a relationship to bust. Sure your part may just be that you chose to marry your ex, but you gotta take some responsibility for it.)And finally, being over your divorce means you can talk about something else besides your divorce or your ex or your child support or … well, I’m sure you get the idea. Being ready to date means that you’ve spent some time creating a new post-divorce life that you are enjoying.
2. Why do you want to start dating? Not everyone dates for the same reason. Maybe your goal is hooking up, validating that you’re desirable, companionship, finding a relationship, or searching for your real soul mate.Although it is possible to pursue more than one goal at a time, you’ll have the best luck if you can narrow it down. Each of these goals require a different type and quality of focus.I mean really, if you’re looking for a hook up you probably won’t be that picky about who you go out with. But if you’re looking for the next love of your life you’re going to look for someone who’s able to make more of a commitment. You follow me?
3. What type of people do you want to date? Yes, this does follow closely with the idea of deciding what your dating goal is, but it’s also more than that.After divorce (or even a bad breakup) most people approach dating with their ex in mind. Either they accept that their ex is their type or they decide they want nothing to do with anyone who reminds them in any way of their ex.The truth is that since you’re a different person from the one that married your ex, chances are you don’t really know who’s going to be the right type of person for you now.So, start off by making a list of desirable qualities and deal-breaker qualities. Doing this exercise will help you both narrow down the field and expand it too because you won’t be a slave to thinking you’re only attracted to a certain type.
4. Can you honestly say that you love yourself? OK, you can make the silly sexual jokes about “loving yourself,” but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Well, not completely.The last thing you want to do when you’re dating is appear desperate. Desperation is a HUGE turnoff.So do what you need to do to feel good about you and your post-divorce life. If that means going to the gym and getting fit, do it. If it means getting a makeover, do it. If it means masturbating, do it.Confidence is attractive. Personal style is attractive. Knowing that you’re a wonderful person is attractive. And attractive is definitely what you’re going for when you’re dating (and when you want to keep a relationship vibrant).
5. Can you be patient with the process? Unless hookups are your only dating goal, then patience is a virtue. Rushing things will only get you more heartache. (Yes, mine is the voice of heartbroken experience.) You also don’t want to settle for someone just because you’re tired of being alone.Take your time choosing who you’ll spend your time with. Your time is valuable. You love and respect yourself too much to waste it on people who don’t deserve you.
6. How do you feel about dating 2-3 people at the same time. I know this may sound funny, but it goes hand-in-hand with the idea of being patient. You aren’t going to know everything about someone immediately and it’s really helpful to have others to compare and contrast them with.It takes time (and Google) to learn about who you’re dating. You’re going to want to ask lots of questions. You’re also going to answer a lot of questions and the more honest you can be the better off you’ll be able to evaluate whether or not you want to continue seeing someone.
7. Are you ready to have fun? Dating should be fun! Be flirtatious, laugh and smile a lot. Stay positive and look at dating as a great big adventure.But if it starts to feel like work or begins to take up too much of your time, then you need to step back.Reevaluate the place that dating has in your life and make sure you’re spending the time you need on the rest of your life – working, parenting, taking care of your home, doing self-care, and spending time with your friends.
Look, I know there’s a lot here and you’ll probably ignore at least some of these tips. (I know I did when I started dating after divorce. I threw all of them out of the window and wound up having my heart and self-esteem crushed – again – in my first attempt at dating.)
But just because your post-divorce dating starts off a bit bumpy doesn’t mean you should give it up and decide to be celibate for the rest of your life. (Although, if that truly works for you, go for it!)
When I finally got dating after divorce right, I was looking at it as a series of experiments. Each guy I agreed to meet was a new experiment. Sometimes things clicked and I’d agree to go out with him again, but most of the time they didn’t.
And when they didn’t, I didn’t see him again because he definitely wasn’t right for me and we didn’t need to waste any more time hoping things would change.
Dating is just you experimenting and testing both yourself and each person you go out with. Sometimes you’ll have a lot of fun. Sometimes you’ll be ready for the date to end before you’ve finished saying “Hi.” Regardless, dating can be an incredibly enriching (and fabulous) part of your life after divorce.
Originally Published on DrKarenFinn.com
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