The process of divorce is one of the most difficult things someone can experience during the course of one’s lifetime. Divorce is a very confusing time in the life of a family as well as those that love them. For many of us when we hear that a couple is divorcing, several thoughts flood our mind, i.e., “They were so perfect together”, “They always seemed so happy”, “I didn’t know they were having problems”, “They always seem to work things out”, etc.
Going through a divorce can be a major life transition, affected by how partners engage with each other following the decision to divorce, individual perceptions about why the divorce is happening (who is thought to have given up on the marriage, infidelity). It throws us into a major life transition that is colored by intense feelings and emotions that can be debilitating. I believe that fear is the main culprit that holds us back from not only healing and letting go of our pain, but also from moving forward into a new life, with new possibilities, and new people.
Although fear can be destabilizing, it can also serve as a positive motivator for change. Unresolved fear can act as a paralytic agent that can force us into stagnation or lead us to the uncomfortable feeling of being “stuck”. When we are feeling stuck, we remain in a fixed position, we cannot move backwards, nor will we have the opportunity to progress forward. Fear has the ability to consume our thoughts, creating self-doubt, rendering us unable to fully confront or process our feeling appropriately.
Divorce is one of the most frightening, confusing, depressing, and anxiety-invoking experiences one can ever experience in life. Divorce is associated with an increase in depression -- people experience loss of partner, hopes and dreams, and lifestyle. The decision to end a relationship can be traumatic, chaotic, and filled with contradictory emotions. There are also specific feelings, attitudes, and dynamics associated with whether one is in the role of the initiator or the receiver of the decision to breakup.
Dating after a breakup or divorce can be a difficult decision to make, a decision that should not be entered into lightly. The decision to date after a divorce is a personal decision to make, one that should not be prompted or insisted upon by friends and family. Healthy dating requires openness, flexibility, and self-confidence to ensure better dating outcomes. Those who are not comfortable with themselves and their direction in life will find it extremely difficult, or almost impossible, to find happiness with someone else.
Make sure you are dating for the “right reasons”. Ensure you are not dating to avoid being alone, are uncomfortable being alone, or you are trying to fit within some time frame of when you “should be” dating.
Ensure you have fully processed and resolved any underlying issues regarding your former spouse and the divorce.
Accept yourself as an individual, no longer as part of a couple.
Identify and accept dating practices may have changed during the time you were married, so you will need to adapt to the changes.
Dating can be scary. Allow yourself to explore any and all fears surrounding dating, the dissolution of the marriage, and any betrayal that may have led to the divorce.
Avoid negative thinking or ruminating about past failed relationships.
Determine your dating/love intention, i.e., are you interested in casual dating, or dating with the opportunity for long term and commitment.
Do not act desperately, i.e., dating anyone, accepting anything, or overlooking potential red flags this person may not be the right person for you.
Do not assume the first person you date following a divorce will be “the one”. Everything and everyone that has come into contact with you has changed your life in some way, i.e., you are not the same person you were before you got married, so your taste in people, desired attributes, personal appearance, etc. may have changed.
If you feel you are ready to date, do not let anything stop you. Do not be side-swiped by people or children that insist there is a specific time frame to start dating following a divorce.
Explore multiple dating options to increase your options, i.e., blind dates, online, dates arranged by friends or family, etc.
Do not beat your date over the head with what went wrong in your prior relationships or marriage.
One of the most important things to remember when dating is to have fun and enjoy the dating process. Do not try to force a relationship; if a romantic connection is present, the relationship will evolve.
Keep in mind not all dating experiences will become romantic relationships, as you will find that you have more of a social connection than a romantic connection. If a dating relationship does not turn into a romantic relationship, you may have acquired a new friend.
Like most negative things in life, negative experiences can be turned into a positive. Following a divorce, former spouses can use their divorce as an opportunity for personal growth and maturity. Former partners can take inventory of their life, mistakes and all, and devote time and energy to discovering who they are, what they want for their future, and who they want to spend the remainder of their lives with.
Processing a divorce takes time, patience, and dedication, but in the end, former partners will be able to put their divorce behind them. They go on to be centered, stable, self-assured, capable people who find the happiness they felt they had lost.