Going through a divorce is one of the most painful, stressful experiences that you will ever have. Much like grieving the loss of a loved one, getting a divorce can often feel like a death, as it severs not on a relationship, but family connections and the love that you once thought would last forever. And while the process is stressful (and expensive), once the paperwork is officially signed, you’re challenged with the task of building your life again. From figuring out how you’ll spend your solo time to making new life goals for yourself, who you become post-divorce is often a better version of who you were in an unhappy marriage.
After some time has passed, you might even start to consider dating again, only to quickly realize that it’s not quite how it used to be. “For many, the hardest part of dating post-divorce is understanding the current way of dating. For someone who hasn’t dated in over 20 years, the times have changed and so has societal norms. This can be very stressful for someone back on the dating scene. However, it’s a good opportunity to have conversations with friends who are also dating and learn new ideas or approaches to dating,” sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST says.
If you find yourself interested in getting back into the game and putting yourself out there, let these relationship experts share their helpful insights to give you a fighting chance of moving on and truly finding love again. Perhaps even a love that will really last a lifetime:
How Long Should You Wait?
You probably won’t be scheduling a Tinder date for the evening your divorce papers were finalized. And depending on how intense or exhausting, emotionally and physically, your divorce was, it may be several months until you’re in the mood to meet a new person. It’s OK to give yourself as much time as you need because you not only want to be ready to welcome a new person into your life, but you want to also heal from those deep wounds caused by your divorce.
“There is no specific rule with dating and divorcing. Dating is not only a way to find a partner or future spouse but is also a way for men to connect with women or create a social group. In my practice, I do encourage all clients to take time off from serious dating or jumping into a new relationship immediately after ending a marriage and allow time for them to focus on self-growth including how they want their next relationship to be different than the last or any former relationships,” Geter says. “On the other hand, I also encourage men to be social with others, which may include casual dating. I do encourage men to be upfront with dating partners about their relationship status and their intentions for the present moment.”
Signs You’re Ready
As much as you might be craving affection in the immediate aftermath of the divorce, now’s not a great time to start dating. No one wants to go on a date with a guy who spontaneously cries on a first date, one who drinks too much or one that talks endlessly about his ex-wife. When you’re finally inching toward being ready to date, you’ll start to shift both your mentality and your expectations, paving the way for you to be a good date to a prospective partner. Here, relationship experts share the subtle signs that you’re ready to mingle:
You’re Actually Interested In Dating
If your relationship ended because she cheated or you slowly started falling out of love with one another, the period after a divorce is often one that’s marked with extreme sadness. And when you’re feeling down? You probably aren’t even thinking about dating and you likely don’t notice other attractive women who express an interest in you. But when you’ve moved on? The world will light up in color again, and it could feel a lot like spring.
“One sign a man is ready for serious dating post divorce is showing interest in women and dating. For some, a divorce can be a loss and trigger grief or short term depression. Part of depression is the loss of interest in pleasurable activities including dating or socializing. Therefore, when the depression or grief subsides, interest in activities or socializing will return. This may be a great opportunity to move from casual dating into more serious dating if that is the man’s prerogative,” Geter shares.
You Have A Good Attitude
Way back before you were married, can you think of any of the bad dates that you went on? While some were lackluster because you weren’t attracted to your date, others were negative experiences because the girl was just no-fun to be around. When you’re trying to determine if you’re prepared to get back out there, Dr. Dawn Michael, Ph.D., relationship expert and author says to take a look in the mirror and consider what type of date you’d be for a new woman. If you’re going to be cranky and upset the whole time, that’s no way to begin a new relationship. But if you’re curious and light hearted? That’s recipe for a great first date. “A man is ready to date again when he has a good attitude about dating. When he’s ready to have some fun and get out there and meet new people and be open. Dating with a bad attitude will only result in bad dates,” she shares.
You’ve Processed Your Relationship
There’s never just one person to blame for the end of a marriage, and for some, that can be a tough pill to swallow. Since relationship are push-and-pull, ebb-and-flow, yes-and-no, it’s important to digest what happened in your previous marriage and truly process every feeling you have. A healthy place to do this is in therapy, where an expert can help you navigate your emotions, overcome anger and let go of resentment and pain.
“A man may be ready for dating when he has gained insight into patterns in previous relationships, and he can talk about these patterns including how they contributed to the dissolution of the relationship. Blaming someone else for negative situations is much easier than taking responsibility for how our actions impacted the situation,” Geter explains. “When a male client can discuss how his behaviors impacted the marriage and show empathy toward the ex-spouse and relationship, this is a good sign he can approach new relationships in a different manner and understand reasons the prior relationships ended.”
How To Get Started
So now that you’ve done the tough work to prepare yourself to meet someone new… where do you meet her? Looking out into the vastness of the dating pool, carrying your baggage in tow can be super-daunting. And while it might be difficult at first, remember that you’ve got this.”Getting back in the dating scene can be difficult if the man was in a long-term marriage, because dating has probably changed quite a bit since he was single. It can be intimidating all of the new technology, dating sites and how to ask someone out again,” Michael says. “But with time, it’ll get easier — and even fun!”
Here’s where to begin your search for a new love:
Give Online Dating a Shot
Though you probably don’t want to download every online dating app imaginable, signing up for an online dating membership is a low-key way to dip your toe into dating. “Online dating can be tricky but it certainly is an avenue where you can meet people as well as make new friends. Find a dating site that is right for you and try it out one at a time and see how it goes,” Michael says. With this type of dating, you don’t want to set your expectations too high because you’ll likely have to weed out several duds before finding someone who could be your match. You also want to be mindful of not chatting endlessly, but actually going out on dates, too.
Join An Activity Group
If your ex-wife was never into running and wouldn’t go out on a Saturday morning with you to exercise, consider this: now you can meet someone who will. Or, if it bothered you that your ex-wife wasn’t interested in traveling, you can be rest assured that you can find another woman who will collect passport stamps with you. The only hurdle in your way is getting out there and finding people who share your same interests. “A great way is to join a meetup group and go hiking or an activity he enjoys doing. This will get him out of the house and he can meet new people and that can lead to dating slowly. Join a club or group meeting and get involved in something that moves you inspires you and you have fun doing and meet people that way,” Michael says.
Get Help from Friends
Now that you’re available, tell people! One of the best ways to meet a partner is through a recommendation. “A way to ease into dating, is to let your friends know you’re back on the dating scene and interested in meeting single women. Ask them to introduce you at parties or social gatherings where it may be more comfortable than a blind date. If you and the woman don’t hit it off, then there are other people to hang out with instead of having to sit through the rest of an uncomfortable date,” Geter says.