No matter how long a divorce has been in the making, the idea of actually dating again is going to feel a bit surreal, at least in the beginning. It’s been years or maybe decades since you’ve socialized romantically with anyone other than your ex; chances are, you never expected to do so again.
So where—and when—do you start?
The first order of business is simply to take your time. Divorce is an enormous adjustment, almost akin to mourning the death of a loved one. You need time to grieve, heal and get back on your feet emotionally. Some say this can take up to two years, but everyone is different and the only healthy timetable is the one that works for YOU. It also depends on the circumstances and your frame of mind. If the divorce was relatively amicable, you might be ready sooner than someone who feels bitter or betrayed by the breakup of the marriage.
Your expectations will also come into play. If you just want to get out and enjoy meeting new people in general, or find someone with whom to share an occasional movie or dinner, that’s one thing. But, if you feel driven to go out and find the next Mr. or Mrs. Right because you are uncomfortable being alone, you’re probably not yet ready to enter into another relationship yet and fear of being alone is not a place from where one makes the wisest decisions about relationships. It’s better to spend more time first getting acquainted with your post-divorce self—who you are, and can become as you start to move forward.
Whenever it does feel right to start dating again, there are two very important things to keep in mind: If you have children, they come first
Your kids have already been through a lot in the divorce, even under the best of circumstances, so proceed with caution to make sure your new foray into the dating world does not hurt or confuse them. The simplest tip is not to introduce them to men or women you are only casually dating, lest they expend needless energy sizing up potential suitors. Even if you think a relationship is becoming serious, proceed with caution: if your children like this person and develop their own expectations of where the relationship is headed—and what role your new suitor might play in their life—they’ll only suffer more if the relationship does not work out.
Regardless of if or when you introduce your dates to your kids, this is also a time to be mindful about how you speak of your ex. Showing respect for your children’s mother or father—no matter how well or poorly you’re getting along with them at the time—is always best for the sake of your kids. When you are seeing other people, it’s even more important.
Learn from your past
Remember how you said to your friends, as the marriage was headed south, “If only I knew then (when we got married) what I know now…” Well, this is your chance. You do know more now. Chances are you have matured immeasurably and have a much better understanding of what you want (and don’t want), and need, from a relationship. Use that knowledge to make decisions about your new relationships going forward. Learn from past mistakes, and allow this transition to be a period of growth.
Think about some of the problems that undermined your marriage and what contributed to them: Did you tend to undermine your own self-worth? Did you often say what you thought your partner wanted to hear rather than what you really thought? On the other hand, were you on the opposite end of the spectrum, tending to domineer your ex to the detriment of the relationship? Either way, you might benefit from some time in therapy to understand these aspects of your behavior and how they affect relationships before entering into a new one.
Only then will you be ready to test the waters and enjoy the benefits of starting new relationships with your eyes wide open. Post-divorce relationships that are approached after a reasonable time and with a healthy attitude will benefit from the knowledge gained from past mistakes. Don’t let it go to waste!
If you have been through a divorce and need help transitioning into the next phase of your life—including dating again—please give us at a call at 949-393-8662 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the Relationship Center of Orange County are here to help you.