The approaches that people take to post-divorce dating vary widely. Some people are shell-shocked after a divorce and can’t imagine dating, while others want nothing more than to jump right back into the dating world.
If you’re just entering post-divorce life, be prepared to receive a wide range of dating advice from your friends and family. This advice can be even more confusing if the last time you dated was before the advent of online dating, texting and social media, as websites, blogs and an expanding range of apps will promise you a formula for finding the partner of your dreams.
If you are divorced, you already know how hard and complicated relationships can be, that there is no perfect partner and that all relationships take work. You also know that you want things to be different in your next long-term relationship (even if you haven’t completely defined what different means).
While your post-divorce dating journey will be your own, here are some things to consider before you get started:
Understand why your marriage ended
It’s easy to blame your ex entirely, but it’s more effective if you do some soul-searching. How did you choose him/her? What other relationships have had similar patterns? How did you contribute to the breakdown of the relationship? Did you stop communicating? Did you avoid conflict? Did you put up with behaviors far too long without giving feedback? In the vast majority of marriages, both parties contribute to the unhealthy dynamic. Understanding your role will allow you to make different choices moving forward.
Mourn the loss of your marriage
This may sound strange, especially if you were the one seeking the divorce. Even if a divorce was what you wanted, it is still a loss. The loss of your spouse, the loss of your shared history, the loss of the future you imagined together. Being able to acknowledge your grief and mourn these losses is important.
Evaluate all aspects of your life
Take some time to consider what you want your life to look like moving forward. Romantic relationships are one just aspect of your life, don’t ignore personal, family, professional goals and the dreams you have for yourself. It can be appealing to get a new partner to try and fill the holes in your life, but this strategy tends to backfire over time. Taking the time to know and develop different aspects of yourself will help you stay more centered and solid for when you do decide to date again.
Once you feel ready to date, consider the following:
Beware of games
We all remember the dating games from high school and college: how long to wait before calling, how to play hard to get, etc. These are only more complicated with social media. Let go of these games because when you are engaged in them, it means one or both of you is ambivalent about dating. If you are ambivalent, then you need to understand why. If the person you are dating is ambivalent, then you need to consider if that is something you are interested in pursuing.
Beware of patterns
Pay attention to your relationship patterns, especially if they start feeling familiar. This goes back to really understanding why the marriage ended. If you find yourself repeating patterns that have been problematic in the past, then it could be really helpful to seek therapy to understand why those patterns are so hard to break.
Everyone deserves happy and healthy relationships in their lives. All this soul-searching might be difficult at times, but the hard work will set you up for success in the long run. It is worth the energy to create the type of relationship you want.