When my marriage ended but we were still living together, my ex moved on so quickly that after only a couple of months he was moving in with his new girlfriend. I know because she came to our house to help him to pack his things. And that was it, he was all ready for the new relationship. On the other hand, some time later, I met a guy who told me he was so hurt after his breakup that he could barely stand women who weren’t part of his family. Nothing personal, but he wouldn’t speak with me.
These two men couldn’t be any more different, right? So, when is the right time to start dating after divorce? Do you fight fire with fire? Or stay away from the opposite sex forever (more or less)? How do you know if you should wait to date or if you’re ready to move on? Well, obviously, it has nothing to do with your official marital status. It’s more about divorcing in your heart and saying a real goodbye to that stage of your life.
Easier said than done, though. Let’s have a look at the most common DON’Ts regarding moving forward with dating after divorce. And let’s also talk about a few DOs. Not to try to stop you from dating, but to see what stage you’re at and what the potential consequences could be.
Here are five reasons to skip dating after divorce.
Reason 1. You’re Feeling Worthless and are Afraid to Trust Again
Does this describe you? You feel like there is absolutely no way this attractive, wonderful (wo)man could like someone like you.
What’s behind this feeling? Your heart still hurts, your wounds fester, you might feel guilty and blame yourself for the broken marriage
Why not date? If your heart’s still bleeding, you’re vulnerable, even if your new partner is very sensitive and tender. It’s a very special time. Easy to get hurt, unintentionally. You might feel emotionally unstable. And if you breakup with this new person, you’re going to be left much worse off than before.
What to do instead? Take care of yourself, be very kind to yourself, like you would to a person you’re in love with. Let it be YOUR time. Work on your self-esteem.
Reason 2. You Believe Men are Monsters or Women are Wicked
Does this describe you? You’re not able to say a single good thing about your Ex. On the contrary, you can easily give five detailed examples of (wo)men being nasty pigs. If your Ex put on twenty pounds and was dumped by his/her new partner you’d call it karma doing good job.
What’s behind this belief? Anger – or even rage and fury – at your ex.
Why not date? Do you know how it is to talk to someone who’s agitated and shouting back at you ‘I am calm!!!’? Yeah, same thing here.
What to do instead? Get your anger out! Use screaming and hitting to get your fury out. There’s no need to let it grow inside! Get the crap out!
Reason 3. You (or Your Friends) Think you Should be Ready
Does this describe you? Friends suggest you should start dating again – or you see your ex and his new girlfriend’s pictures on FB, all happy and in love, and you feel maybe you should move on, too. Not that you’re eager to jump into this dating thing, but you think maybe you ought to.
What’s behind this thought? You haven’t closed this stage of your life yet. Easy, sometimes it really takes time.
Why not date? By giving false hope, you may accidentally hurt someone who really doesn’t deserve it.
What to do instead? Make a goodbye ritual in order to leave the past behind. You might take your time and do nothing, as well, but on the other hand… don’t waste too much of your life…
Reason 4. You’re Jaded, Bitter, and Suspicious
Does this describe you? You’re looking for red flags, even if s/he gives no reason to worry. You’re so afraid you’ll get hurt again.
What’s behind these feelings? Lack of trust in yourself, others and life. That’s a very natural feeling after a divorce. But having said so, it’s extremely hard to build any relationship on distrust.
Why not date? Your anxiety will only rise. Expecting another hurt might work like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What to do instead? Work on building your self-worth. It’s a very long process, but it’s doable. Your divorce has certainly taught you a lot. You are able to choose the right person for yourself. And even if it doesn’t work out, you are strong enough to deal with it. You just need to believe it.
Reason 5. You’re Picturing a Future Together on Your First Date
Does this describe you? On the first date, you ask her how many children she wants to have, or you’re assessing whether he would make a good husband. In your mind, you’re already choosing wallpaper and furinture for the house you two will share.
What’s behind this sense of urgency? Who are you? Besides being a spouse, who are you anyway? You can’t go back in time, but in order to move on you need to rebuild yourself. Discover yourself again.
Why not date? Hold on! Maybe he’s a nice guy or she’s an interesting girl, but – do you know them at all? What situations have you seen them in? How do they react, when stressed? What do they say when a waiter brings you burnt steaks? What are their priorities? And do you have a chance to be in the top three? What are they like with family and friends? I understand the connection is special, but it’s just hormones. Enjoy this feeling like a teenager. But the decisions – make them as a grown up.
What to do instead? Rebuilding yourself takes time. You need time to discover who you are first. What do you like, what are you priorities, values? What are you like now?
Okay, enough of DON’Ts. Let’s have a look at when to say “yes” to dating after divorce. Here’s a quick checklist. Be mindful about how you feel when reading the sentences below. You might want to read them out loud for better effect. Remember, the truth always feels light in your heart.
- I don’t blame all men (women) for one of them hurting me.
- My marriage was a hard lesson, but I made it. I’m not angry anymore. There used to be something special between us. I even wish him/her luck in life. I wish the same for me too, of course.
- I like myself, I know I am a worthy person. Actually, I am doing pretty well!
- I’m interested in other people. I’m open to others. I know people make mistakes. I prefer a decent guy who makes mistakes over a prince of perfect.
- I’m getting to know myself again. I know there are things I am never going to agree on again. There are also some really important things to me. I am able to name them.
- It would be nice to meet a worthy guy/woman. But I can live an exciting life by myself instead of waiting for someone who makes my life interesting.
Tricky thing, this dating after divorce. Exciting. Confusing. Even harder to start dating again after so many years being part of a couple. Whatever you decide to do – to take your time, or jump back into dating – be mindful about your needs. And trust yourself – you’ve got the wisdom inside you. After all, you weren’t born yesterday, right?
Monika Gorecka writes for people who grieve after the divorce. I help them to get through the pitch black tunnel. When something like a divorce happens to us, we need to know WHAT PRECISELY can we do in order to get better. And WHY does it work. I draw from my own experience, which means all I write about I have done myself. Join. Cope. And lope. Into a better life. CopeAndLope.com