A divorce can be stressful, and it can often feel difficult – or overwhelming – to think about the prospect of starting to date again; not to mention, this timeline will be different for everybody.
But something even more important is what you do during that time. You need to make time for self-reflection, and mourn the loss of your relationship in a sense, and learn what you can do better or differently the next time around in a new relationship.
Once you’re ready for action, here are some tips that will make the process smoother for you:
Get Your Priorities Straight
What exactly are you looking for in a partner? What do you consider deal breakers? What kind of values need to align with yours? Consciously knowing these things in the first place will save you from wasting time with a person who probably won’t be an ideal match for the long-term.
Set Reasonable Expectations
Dating someone new doesn’t need to be a marriage ultimatum! Alternatively, you can view it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the new life you want to create for the future.
One mistake that I see so many people making in their first post-divorce relationship is assuming that the relationship won’t have its own unique challenge! You also need to be very careful not to compare your new partner to your ex-spouse; or think that this new person will necessarily be happy and fulfilled if you do things differently
Ask Yourself if You’re Doing It for The Right Reasons
Jaclyn Friedenthal, of the Thrive Psychology Group says: “If the “why” is to avoid painful feelings like hurt, anger, or loneliness, then it may be helpful to take some time to heal before jumping back into dating. If the “why” is because you have taken time to heal, you now want to date more than you feel like you need to date, and you’re willing to feel all the emotions involved in dating again, then it’s a good sign that you’re ready. Dating requires a certain amount of vulnerability, tolerance of uncertainty, and willingness to feel a range of emotions in the hopes of making positive new connections and relationships.”
Take Things Slowly
Don’t think that you have to dive head-first into an intense and exclusive relationship with someone. Chat over the phone frequently at first, and go out on a number of different kinds of dates. Experiment by doing different activities, talking and getting to know each other better, and using opportunities to see that person in different types of settings and environments. Some dates can even involve both of your friends, too!
Wait Until Your Divorce is Final Before Starting To Date
Although you may know 100% that your marriage is truly over, you still need to give yourself a certain amount of time and space. There’s no set time frame after which someone is magically ready to date again (and it’ll be totally different for everyone) — but I typically suggest that you should give yourself at least 6 months to a year. Divorce can be a physically, emotionally, and mentally draining time. You might feel momentarily better with newfound positive attention from another person, but this kind of distraction can actually stop you from doing your inner healing work that is necessary for you to move forward with someone in the future — in a healthy way.
Don’t Rush into Things Too Quickly
Do you have kids? If so, this can often prove to make dating even more tricky. Just as with everything else, it takes time. Before making the decision to introduce a new partner, make sure that you spend at least 6 months getting to know the person before introducing them to your kids. Bringing someone into the picture with your kids too soon can be confusing for children, and may even cause them some anxiety. First, ensure that you know this man or woman well enough, and give them the chance to prove that they’re in it for the long-haul!
Allow Yourself To Experience Emotions
You may feel guilty, nervous, or excited; but remember, whatever emotions dating brings up for you are totally okay! Give yourself room to experience a variety of different emotions. Getting out there again is not always easy, but just hang in there! Be patient and compassionate with yourself, and trust the process. Remember: your intuition knows best. It’s entirely natural to have wants and needs.
Inform Yourself About Online Dating
The truth is, some online dating sites are better than others; so you really need to do your research first to choose terms of what you might want. For example, Tinder might be better suited for those who are looking for a casual fling; whereas sites like NextLove are specifically designed for people who are dating after divorce; and possibly looking for a more long-term partner. Take a look at this article for more insights about the pros and cons of online dating!
Take Your Kids into Consideration
Make certain that your children feel assured that they come in as number one in your heart. Speak to them about their feelings. Let them know that it’s fine for them to feel angry, nervous, or upset about your new relationship. Foster an open and encouraging environment whereby they’re able to ask questions and outwardly express their concerns to you at any time.
Be Open and Honest About Your Past
When engaging with your new partner, never be misleading when it comes to details about yourself, your life, your interests, or your kids! YOu need to be upfront about everything from the get-go, because at some point, the truth will always come out. But, on an even more relevant note, you should want to find someone who shares the same values as you, and will accept you for who you are.
Be Committed To Growth
Don’t forget: dating always requires effort — even in the “easiest” and most natural connections! Perfect relationships do not exist, and the ones that last in the long-term take work. You need to allow the dating process to be a source for your own personal growth and healing — almost like a kind of therapy. Besides, the most healthy relationship experiences will increase your self-awareness in unparalleled ways. If you heal yourself, you’ll attract fellow healthy partners!
Trust Your Gut
If you ever experience “bad vibes” towards someone — simply move on. Keep in mind that the dating process is also like an interview process. Never be scared to end a date or stop dating someone if you sense some kind of a red flag. Note: stay wary of people who blame their ex-partner for all the problems!