After going through a divorce, it’s only natural to wonder if you’ll ever find love again. You might be tempted to get back on the horse as soon as you can. But is that a good idea? How long should you wait before dating after divorce? Is it OK to date before your divorce is finalized? Are you even ready to move on?
Dating After Divorce FAQ’s
We’ve spoken to some leading marriage guidance counselors to answer the most pressing questions surrounding post-divorce dating.
How Long Should You Wait Before You Start Dating After Divorce?
There’s no definitive answer to this question. The circumstances of your situation play a defining part in determining when you’ll be ready to date.
Marriage guidance counselor Leann Glover assured us that “There’s no equation that lets you calculate when it’s OK to start dating again. What’s important is to take time for yourself to grieve the end of your marriage.”
“Even if you instigated the end of the relationship, it can still take months, or even a year, to process the end of one life and the start of another. It may take a while before you trust yourself to make the right romantic decisions.”
Is It OK To Start Dating Before Your Divorce Is Finalized?
“Going on a few dates while you’re going through a divorce isn’t going to be a defining moment in your life.” continued Glover. “Though you need to be prepared for some mixed emotions and unforeseen thoughts and feelings as the reality of the end of your marriage presents itself.”
What seems like a nice distraction from the upheaval in your life could prove to be mentally taxing as you simultaneously balance the start of a new relationship with the end of an old one in what Glover likes to call “emotional juggling.”
It’s essential that you’re mindful of your reasons for getting back on the dating scene, says Glover, “Is it a distraction from the discomfort of your marriage ending? Are you looking for no-strings-attached sex? Does your ego need a lift? Or are you just looking for confirmation that love is real?”
Look to your friends and family who know you the best for support while transitioning from your marriage to the dating life.
Follow our tips if you plan on dating a divorced man in his 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s.
Dating After Divorce – Dos & Don’ts
Even if you feel that you are ready to start dating after your divorce, you can run into some common pitfalls. In order to reduce your chances of encountering those pitfalls, we’ve put together this helpful list of dos and don’ts when dating after divorce.
1 – Take Time Out To Grieve
Many people mistakenly assume that you only experience grief when someone you love dies. In actuality, grief is experienced when you suffer a loss within your life. Even if you decided to file for divorce, it’s still possible that you’ll suffer from grief.
It’s not only a partner you’ll be losing, but also all the little things you took for granted.
“You’ll need to spend some time coming to terms with the loss of your marriage before you’re ready to date. You don’t want a series of unexpected and unwanted emotions catching you off guard when you’re in a new relationship,” warned Glover.
2 – Don’t Date Until You’re Ready
Before getting back on the dating scene, Leann Glover outlines some areas in which you should be able to act positively to ascertain that you’re ready for a new relationship.
Understand your role in the breakdown of your marriage and how to avoid similar scenarios in the future.
Be able to objectively discuss why your relationship broke down and be empathetic to all parties.
Be able to talk about your previous relationship without experiencing a severe emotional reaction or any adverse reactions towards your ex-partner.
“Be honest with yourself,” continued Glover, “and if you genuinely be positive in all these situations, you’re ready to start dating again. As ready as any of us really can be, at least”.
3 – Work On Yourself First
When you’re thinking of looking for a new relationship, it’s critical that you continue to focus on your own needs. “Fully realizing what you’ve been through in previous relationships and that the thoughts and feelings that came with them don’t belong in future relationships is of utmost importance before you start dating again,” points out relationship counselor, Scott McCormack.
Writing a journal or talking with a trusted confidant about the emotions connected to your ex-partner and your failed marriage is an excellent way to reflect and process previous issues and keep them consigned to the past.
4 – Learn From Your Mistakes
“Without understanding what it was you did wrong in your marriage, you’re more likely to repeat your behavior. Spend some time reflecting on your marital issues and your part in them before going on any dates,” states McCormack.
There’s an old saying, ‘those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it’, and that’s perfectly applicable as far as relationships are concerned.
5 – Know Your Self Worth
Many relationships falter because one or both parties don’t value themselves before entering into the partnership. Leann Glover reiterates the importance of knowing your self-worth before beginning to date again.
“If you don’t value yourself, you’ll live in a perpetual state of fear of rejection, which is not conducive to a healthy relationship. If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, consider speaking to a therapist to help build your confidence. Self-worth plays a critical role in relationships because it enables you to focus on the future rather than the past”.
6 – Consider Therapy or Counseling
“Whether you realize it or not, going through a divorce is incredibly taxing on your mental health,” continues McCormack “seeking therapy or divorce counseling in the early stages of your separation could be beneficial to your long-term mental wellbeing.”
There’s no embarrassment in talking to a mental health professional; in fact, talking to an unbiased individual about what you’re going through can provide some much-needed perspective and balance.
7 – Own Your Past
After dipping your toe back into the dating water, it’s essential, to be honest with any potential partners. “We all have a past,” Glover reminded us, “and while you might not be proud of everything you’ve done, sharing the details of your life not only paints a broader picture of yourself to your date but also signals emotional maturity. Own your life.”
8 – Set Boundaries, Be Clear on Your Standards
While you don’t want to appear demanding, setting clear boundaries and standards leaves little room for confusion in a relationship. If you’ve learned your lessons from your marriage, you’ll know what kind of behavior is and isn’t acceptable.
Making potential partners aware of your boundaries could save much heartache down the road.
9 – Trust Your Instincts
“Your instincts are usually referred to a ‘gut feelings’ because you feel it in the pit of your stomach,” pointed out Glover. “This feeling is your subconscious letting you know something isn’t quite right, and you know it because you’ve experienced it before, whether you remember it or not. Trust yourself”.
If something your date says or does makes you feel uneasy, trust your instincts because they’re usually correct.
10 – Be Upfront About Your Needs & Fears
“There’s nothing wrong with expressing your desires and fears right out of the gate,” states Scott McCormack. “In fact, this type of honesty can quickly sort the wheat from the chaff and can help avoid potential issues in the future. Though you’ll need to express your needs and fears appropriately, without coming across as creepy.”
11 – Open Your Mind
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” wrote Albert Einstein. If your previous dating methods or preferred “types” have been unsuccessful, maybe it’s time to open your mind and try a new approach.
12 – Be Aware of Narcissists and Emotional Vampires
Narcissists prey on the emotionally vulnerable, and going through a divorce can make you a target for their attacks. Narcissists are experts in manipulation and will know precisely what to say to lure you into their trap following your divorce.
Learn about narcissism and the strategies they employ. Once you’re aware of the methods they use to control people, they’re easy to spot. These emotional vampires are often found stalking the dating scene.
13 – Patience Is Key
Don’t rush. While some people can dive into a new relationship without skipping a beat, that might not be the case for you.
Though you may feel lonely or sexually frustrated, you may need to exercise some patience while you’re dating. It’s not uncommon for romantic feelings to remain dormant until you’ve been on several dates.
Dating After Divorce With Kids
When divorce occurs between a couple who have children together, the separation comes with a complex set of challenges unique to this situation.
Add new relationships into the mix, and you have a powder-keg scenario unless you handle it appropriately. There’s no “one size fits all” strategy for dating after a divorce, but if you have children with your ex-partner, you may want to take a little extra time.
We’ve compiled some suggestions for you to contemplate if you have children and are going through/have been divorced.
Your Children Don’t Need to Meet Your Dates
Having an open communication channel with your children is a healthy way of maintaining your parent/child relationships. But they don’t need to know everything.
If you’re dating someone new after a divorce, you don’t need to introduce this new person to your child. It’s not until your relationship becomes serious that a meeting should take place.
After the upheaval of their parents splitting up, introducing your children to different partners could be potentially damaging to them as they wonder if they’re the reason that people keep leaving.
Explain to your kids the difference between dating and relationships and answer as honestly and appropriately as you can any questions they might have.
Don’t Pressure Your Children or Partner Into a Meeting
Should your new relationship become serious, you might feel that the time has come for your partner and children to meet.
However, just because you feel ready for the two parts of your life to get to know each other doesn’t mean they’ll be ready too. Talk to your children and partner to gauge their feelings, and if one party still feels uncomfortable, postpone the meeting until they are OK with the idea.
Your children especially shouldn’t be coerced into a meeting. Have discreet chats about whether they’d like to spend the day together at a park or maybe a home-cooked meal. Any objections should be listened to.
Don’t Feel Pressured Into a Meeting
On the flip side of the coin, it’s possible that your partner or children could be eager to meet each other, but you’re hesitant. Your feelings are equally valid, and if you don’t feel ready for the meeting to happen, it’s essential that you make your feelings clear.
Prepare For The First Meeting
Once you’re sure that the time is right for your partner and children to meet, do some groundwork and lay the foundations to make sure that everyone is as comfortable as possible during this potentially anxious time.
Talk to your kids about your partner, what you like about them, and why they make you happy. Fill your partner in about your child’s hobbies and interests, so the conversation flows smoothly.
Don’t Expect Miracles
Even the most meticulous plans can come unstuck. You may have followed all our suggestions to the letter, yet your child and partner still don’t get along. This situation is a significant change for everyone, and it could take some time for each party to adjust.
Let your child and partner forge their own relationship, and don’t force the kind of relationship that you want them to have.
Talk To Your Ex
While the topic might be uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to tell your ex your plans about your child and partner meeting. Not only is it an opportunity for you to discuss the best way to proceed for your child, but it also prevents your child from unfairly having to keep secrets from their other parent.
Patience is a Virtue
The most critical takeaway from all our suggestions is “patience.” It’s essential that you’re not only patient with your child as they come to terms with their parent’s separation and your new love interest, but also show your partner patience, too, especially if they don’t have children of their own.
But it’s equally important to show yourself patience because though it may feel like your responsibility to make sure everyone is comfortable, you need to take everything at a pace that’s comfortable for you.