Dating again after divorce can seem like you’re back in high school with the drama that can entail. You may have forgotten what it is like to have a crush on someone – and hope that they feel the same way about you, too. Or you feel like running in the opposite direction from someone when you have zero interest in them, but you don’t want to be rude or hurt their feelings by being truthful. You can find yourself in many tricky dating situations post-divorce, and you may feel ill-equipped to deal with them. The following tips should help as you start to dip your toes back into the dating pool.
Tips for Dealing With Tricky Dating Situations Post-Divorce
1. Do not feel coerced into going on a date. You do not owe them anything: except perhaps the simple human courtesy of canceling in advance instead of standing them up. The same goes for accepting a date out of pity.
2. If you disregard Tip 1, you could find yourself in a much bigger mess when trying to break free down the road.
3. Have some stock phrases ready for turning someone down. When there was a frequent customer at work who I realized was on the verge of asking me out, I bounced a few ideas off my girlfriends on how to say “no.” So when he did ask me out, it didn’t catch me off guard so I was able to turn him down – kindly, but firmly. Ask some friends about what would get the message across without being unnecessarily hurtful.
4. If on the fence about going out with someone, have a coffee date. You arrive separately and can talk for two hours if you hit it off, or make a hasty retreat if you do not. There is less pressure in this casual setting. Friends who meet people on Tinder revealed that their first date or two are over lattes. One can get a sense of character over the short time span.
5. Beware someone who is making plans for the two of you right out of the gate. A friend was asked out by a well-traveled, intelligent fellow. They had much in common and he suggested a coffee get-together the following week. So far, so good. But when she explained that she had houseguests to entertain before work, he said since the coffee shop was next door to her place of employment, he was sure she could make it so he would be there waiting. He hoped – insisted, actually – that she could make it. She did not like that he clearly thought that she should spend time with him rather than with her guests. She was glad that her first (and last) date with this controlling man was for coffee instead of a long dinner so she could escape as soon as she felt the shift from charming to controlling.
6. A painful part of dating is when only one party feels a strong attraction and the other does not. It is a delicate dance whether or not to share that you are attracted to them. The other person may reveal that they also feel a spark. Or they may look like a deer caught in the headlights with a look of fright on their face. When someone states that they want a friends-only relationship, accept it. Contrary to many romantic movies out there, you are very unlikely to be able to change how they feel about you. It can be tempting to think, “If I lose/gain weight, whiten my teeth, or take up tennis (or whatever), they will find me irresistible.” In this case, it is clear that dating is not on the horizon. Be honest about whether you can have a platonic relationship with your crush; if not, it is better to cut ties and move on.
7. You may not be aware that you are giving off mixed signals. This can be confusing to your date. Here’s an example: two male friends told me to stop wearing rings on my wedding finger. When I protested that the jewelry was ethnic looking, they said “Yes, up close, but from across a room, they look like wedding rings on that finger. That keeps a good guy from approaching you. You don’t want to attract the men who are only interested in married women.” This goes for men, too. A woman sees the flash of silver or gold on the wedding finger and assumes it is a wedding band.
8. In public venues (e.g., a nightclub) potential dates may talk and compare notes. My male hairdresser says his female customers routinely complain about going to venues and not getting asked to dance. These women say the first guy or two who approached them to dance was too fat/skinny/short/tall/bald, etc., so they declined. After that, no one else came near them. Other men notice when women say “no” frequently and leave them alone. Guys tell their buddies that those ladies do not want to be bothered (less-evolved men might suggest that they “must be lesbian” or they would have said yes). Get up and dance with those less than perfect guys! The same goes for men: if a woman has gotten up the courage to ask you to dance (especially if she had to wase through your buddies to do so), say yes.
9. Be truthful about your situation. Don’t claim to be divorced if you’ve only just separated, and don’t lie about not having children just because they’re with you co-parent this week. I was about to break up with a long-time boyfriend when a doctor I worked with asked me out. I wanted to date him, however, I was not yet available. Instead of being truthful about my situation and letting him know that I was interested in dating a bit later, I said an abrupt “no.” He never asked again. When I was single again, a mutual male friend confided that this doctor had told the rest of them not to ask me out. Again, word gets around.
The bottom line is that you should listen to your intuition when someone seems a bit off or a situation does not seem right. Be truthful, and take your time getting to know a potential romantic partner to avoid finding yourself in tricky dating situations post-divorce.