Life is all about change and transitions into new things. While encountering change and the challenges that generate stress, it’s important to remember the resources we have that allow us to successfully navigate change and grow as people. The ability to adapt to new situations and things is a valuable skill.Whether you’re thinking about stepping out and testing the waters, just getting into a relationship, deepening your commitment, or moving out of an existing relationship, a change in status brings many things in its wake, such as anxiety, a sense of joy, and freedom, sadness, and anger, and other complex human emotions.
Human beings are complicated, and our relationships are similarly multifaceted. So, when it comes to dating after divorce, some will need to do some processing before they are ready to take that step. Not only that, navigating dating after divorce is a different creature from dating before you were married, so plunging right back in without giving some thought to what you’re doing may not end well.
The story of each person’s marriage and the circumstances of their divorce is unique. Some marriages end badly, with arguments and acrimony that leaves both parties wounded and bitter. Some marriages end with mutual consent, and the two former spouses are on good terms with one another.
Tips for Dating After Divorce
Your journey toward divorce isn’t easily mirrored in someone else’s story, and so when you come to that place where you’re willing to wade out into the dating pool again, your fears, hopes, and desires will also be unique to you. What follows isn’t so much a how-to guide to dating after divorce, but a few pointers to keep in mind as you do so.
Take it slow
As with most things in life, exercising a little bit of patience goes a long way, especially when you’re trying to get a handle on something slightly unfamiliar. To be sure, dating after divorce has complications of its own, some of which we’ll discuss later. Rather than rushing into it, take your time and give yourself the room you need to explore, grow, fail, and get back up again.Just like dating before you got married, there are great dates, there are dates that go nowhere, and there are dates you regret ever going on. That much hasn’t changed and having that awareness will help insulate you somewhat from undue disappointment.
One thing to carefully consider when you’re thinking about dating after your divorce is why you want to date, and what you hope to get out of it. For example, getting “back in the saddle” through dating isn’t something you should do to “get over your divorce.” It’s possible to use dating and sex as means to get over your ex or any hurt feelings you may have, but that can lead to unhealthy situations and places.
You get over your divorce by taking care of yourself and getting therapy to help you process and grow as a person. Instead of using dating as a form of therapy, take the necessary time to grieve and process your divorce before you begin dating.
You may be experiencing extreme feelings due to the divorce, and it’s good to have worked through these before you initiate another relationship. The last thing you want is to bring unresolved baggage from your previous relationship into your next one.
Additionally, you should take it slow especially if your situation isn’t fully resolved yet. If your divorce is still in process, you and your ex are separated with the possibility of reconciling and getting back together, or if you’re still harboring hopes of reconciling with your ex, it’s probably best not to start dating until that’s resolved.
This is important for you, your kids (if they are in the picture), your ex, and any person you’re thinking of dating. You want to make sure matters are resolved before entering a potential emotional entanglement with someone else because it can get messy for everyone involved.
When you start dating again, be wise regarding when you introduce your new partner to your children and family. Doing it too soon before you know what’s what and whether this is for the long-term can be confusing and painful not only for you but for your children.
Lastly, taking it slow may also mean being willing to end a date or to stop dating an individual because you see a few warning signs. Take any red flags you see seriously, and if it just won’t work out, walk away.
Things are different now
When you’re thinking of getting back to dating after divorce, you must recognize that things have changed. You have changed, and the world around you has changed. You’re likely not the same person you were before the divorce, and what you want in a partner has likely changed since getting married and going through a divorce.
Perhaps the qualities that drew you to your ex are still attractive to you, or maybe upon reflection, you’ve decided that other things are more important in a relationship. Either way, you’re likely not the same person you were before you got married and being aware of that can help you appreciate the new situation you find yourself in now.
It’s also a change in gears to go from being married to dating again as there’s a difference between dating as a single and dating as a divorced person. Having that relationship history can make things complicated, and while it’s up to you how you want to address any questions about your divorce, it’s important to be honest so that you don’t waste your own time.Additionally, the world around you hasn’t stood still since you got married and left the dating pool. Depending on when you got married, how people date may have changed, including the introduction of new apps and the shifting landscape when it comes to dating, sex, and commitment. Not all dating apps or websites are equal – some services are scams, while others are used with an unstated assumption that it’s for a “casual connection” and nothing long-term.
You may need to take time to educate yourself about these things. The culture has long since shifted toward both parties taking the initiative when it comes to dating, and that may be a challenge for those coming from or drawn to a more traditional background where there are well-defined roles.
Your divorce doesn’t define you
As previously mentioned, whether and how you disclose your divorce to other people is up to you. But know that if you intend to be serious with someone, sooner or later they need to know where you’re at and what your circumstances are. As you begin dating again, your divorce can impact you in profound, sometimes obvious but sometimes subtle ways. You need to give yourself room to grow and the grace to fail and try again.
One way that divorce can influence you is that it can make you apprehensive about committing to another person again. This is understandable. It’s tough getting back out there and starting the process all over again of finding someone to build a life with. However, your divorce doesn’t define you or your prospects, but it is an experience that you can learn and grow from.
The first two suggestions (taking it slow and recognizing that things have changed) should help in dealing with some of these concerns that attend dating after divorce, including any lingering sense that you “failed” at relationships or are somehow “damaged.”
Going through a divorce doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from enjoying other relationships and finding happiness in them. Be patient in the process and extend compassion toward yourself. If you take the time to learn about yourself and your part in ending the marriage, that growth will enable you to enter your next relationship on a surer footing.
“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Hunter Newton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Laughing Couple”, Courtesy of Ralph Labay, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple Holding Sparkler”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Piggy-back”, Courtesy of Jakob Owens, Unsplash.com, CC0 License