Every Woman’s Guide: Dating after Divorce
Once upon a time you and your ex spouse probably fit like a pair of comfortable shoes? Now that you’re divorced, does it seem like you’re hobbling through life, with one shoe off and one shoe on?
You want another shoe. And the only way to find one is by putting on a new attitude and putting your fine self out there.
We’ll show you how dating after divorce can become an exciting adventure.
Reclaiming your Self-Esteem after Divorce
Who am I without him?
You went from being one-half of a couple to only one. You have no idea where he ended and you began. During the divorce process, your self-esteem took a tumble.
Reclaiming self-esteem is a huge part of divorce recovery work. Remember how long you put your efforts into pleasing him and your kids (if you've got some). Somewhere along the way, you lost sight of your self-worth. You believe you're a failure.
News flash – you didn't fail, your marriage did.
We suggest you start keeping a journal. Look into your past and log your accomplishments. What were you passionate about? Did you win ribbons for running, quilting or the biggest tomato at the state fair? Were you beginning to explore poetry writing? Did you enjoy sketching or playing an instrument?
Keeping a journal is cathartic and therapeutic. It is a medically-proven stress reliever.
Also, take a strong dose of positive self-talk daily. Following your divorce, self-talk is generally negative – "I can't do anything right." "Why would any man want me?"
On a clean journal page, start an ongoing list of positive self-talk. Read it every morning. Here are a few items to jump-start your list:
- A man does not complete you.
- Sex does not replace a healthy relationship.
- Your future is now.
- Quit depending on other people for advice.
- Refuse to settle, go after what you want.
When to Start Dating after Divorce
You will benefit from letting a year pass, before dating again after divorce. It takes that long to complete divorce recovery work and deal with emotions that resurface during holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and so on.
Do you still have an agenda? You're not ready to date if you can't forgive your ex or burst into tears when "our song" plays. If you fancy yourself still in love with your ex, dating another man will not help you get over him.
Granted, it can be tempting to use sex to help you feel better. Coming at a time when you're feeling lonely and touch deprived, sex can be gratifying for a minute or two. Selfish sexual interludes will never develop into a healthy relationship. And when you don't hear from him again, you'll wonder what you did wrong.
It's not fair to use a man to expedite your healing. What if this guy likes you? What if you like him back? But, what if you realize you're not ready to start a new relationship? He will get hurt, that's what.
You must work through negative emotions and properly grieve the loss you experienced before starting to date after divorce.
Divorce is like a little death. Not only do you lose a lover, friend and mate, you lose an extended family you may have grown to love deeply.
Are you familiar with On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross?
In it, the Swiss psychiatrist introduced the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In later years, Kubler-Ross clarified the "stages" weren't intended to be sequential. They overlap each other. She also amended it to include life traumas, other than death, including divorce.
Once you enter the acceptance stage, you're likely ready to prepare for dating. We will boldly add a final stage. Excitement!
When you can feel those tingles of excitement running down your spine at the thought of meeting a new guy – then – oh then – you are ready.
Dating after Divorce with Children
If you want to experience "trouble in River City", casually mention to your kids you're ready to start dating. It's normal for kids to cling to the fantasy their parents will get back together. Introducing a third party into what they perceive as the family unit is puzzling and upsetting to a child.
"The" conversation – when you decide it's time to start dating, tell your kids so they don’t overhear it from a well meaning relative or friend. Begin by asking whether they've wondered about your dating in the future.
Be mindful, kids are smart. Don't dumb down when talking to them. Encourage them to express their feelings.
When or if you should introduce your dates to your children – it's not a good idea to introduce every guy you date to your kids. It will add to their frustration to meet a man who vanishes after a few weeks.
When you get invested in a serious relationship initiate another conversation with your kids before inviting New Guy into their lives. Find out how they feel about seeing you with someone other than their dad. Reassure them they won't lose you; that you have enough love to share.
It's common for children to feel resentful toward any New Guy. Also, kids are territorial; outsiders trespass on their home and mom.
The child's age must be taken into consideration:
Toddlers and Preschoolers don't need much explanation. Just let them know you're going out with a friend.
- Ages 6-10 can process selective details. Explain you're going out for dinner with a man and will be home in a few hours. Answer any questions.
- Ages 11-14 understand the basics of dating. On Wednesday, tell your children you have a date Friday night. They need reinforcement you will continue to do special things with them. Invite questions and really listen. Be gut level honest with your answers. Kids have a way of knowing if you're being evasive.
- Ages 15+ are likely dating themselves, so they understand the concept. You can be more forthright with them. Say you feel enough time has passed since the divorce to start dating. Ask for their feedback and address any concerns.
Always err on the side of caution if your child expresses discomfort about New Guy. Watch for signs he is acting in an inappropriate manner, such as:
- Disciplining your child.
- Going into your kid's room without knocking.
- Inappropriate touching/teasing (wrestling, tickling, etc.)
- Calling your child nicknames she doesn't like.
- Talking about unacceptable things with your child.
- Taking your kid somewhere without your permission, i.e. for ice cream, to the park.
Tell him you've got kids the first time you meet face-to-face. This is non-negotiable and also one of the reasons we suggest a pre-date meeting for coffee and conversation.
New Guy needs to know you come with a ready-made family. Welcome his questions about your children and answer them honestly. But, don't spend the entire time jibber-jabbering about their many virtues.
As a suddenly single mom, you're in a unique situation. The safety and comfort of your kids is your first priority. If a guy doesn't like children, doesn't want any, it's better to find out before one of you gets hurt.
Dating after Divorce Mistakes
Skewed timelines is the biggest mistake divorced women make about dating.
We believe a window of opportunity opens when conditions are right for dating again after divorce. Unfortunately, too many women keep their mental curtains drawn too long. They are too bitter, too angry or too depressed to let another man into their heart.
Other women dive into the dating scene too fast. They are lonely and miss the intimacy of marriage. These women are looking for a new romantic relationship before the ink dries on the divorce decree.
The rebound relationship or first man you date post-divorceis a common mistake of lonely women. Looking for a warm body to fill the emptiness following a divorce reeks of desperation. Rebounding is usually based on physical attraction and the "relationship" doesn't sustain itself over the long haul.
Willingness to accept a late night date with minimal notice sends a message you don't value yourself. The guy you call boyfriend could be using you for as his go-to booty call.
Not that you're without blame. You may be using your rebound man like a narcotic to help dull the pain.
You may think getting your quota of compliments, getting pretty flowers and going out to happening places is exactly what you need. But, you're treading in a dangerous zone.
You will inflict serious pain on the rebound man who genuinely cares about you when you dump him. And you know how that feels. Right?
You talk too much and you're boring him to death. It brings on an adrenaline high to talk…talk…talk about your stupid ex-husband, your miserable marriage, your meddling mother-in-law. Monumental mistake!
Instead, focus on the guy you're with and the moment you're in. Be the woman with an aura of mystery. He'll keep coming back.
How to Start Dating After Divorce
The Numbers Game
Dating is a whole new paradigm since online dating exploded on the scene. Gazillions of men have posted dating profiles with dozens of online dating services. This means you will have almost unlimited access to potential dates.
As a little girl, you were conditioned to believe there is one person out there and somehow he will find you. This is called the Prince Charming fantasy.
Didn't you believe you married the right one? So what happens now? Do you wait for the real, right one to find you?
The idea of a guy roaming the world, riding his white horse, searching for you is nonsense. In everyday reality, he's probably jetting off somewhere exotic to close a business deal or working out at his health club.
The sooner you realize it's all in the numbers, the better. Instead of honing in on one particular man, give yourself permission to date several guys at once. Be mindful, you're out of practice with this dating deal.
We aren't suggesting you have sex with lots of men. We're saying that meeting a steady supply of interesting new men is a good way to practice dating again after a long hiatus.
You'll get over first-date jitters and actually start having fun. You'll realize the futility of trying to be Little Ms. Perfect, relax and just be your authentic self. Dating lots of men is a big boost to your self-esteem.
Selected or Selective Dating?
Take a pause before you hurry up and put your profile on internet dating sites. Another dating buzzword phrase you need to know is selected or selective dating.
Selected dating is where you sit back and wait for men to select (choose) you.
Question: Are you waiting for the UPS guy to deliver your "Jack" in a box? Answer: You'd have a better chance at dating the UPS guy.
Question: Are you waiting for the UPS guy to deliver your "Jack" in a box? Answer: You'd have a better chance at dating the UPS guy.
Selective dating is where you get proactive and select (choose) men you want to date. Also you'll select the man, from a number of men, you want to continue dating.
While you were married, you gave over much of your power to the marriage. Through the practice of selective dating, you take your power back. In essence, you're refusing to settle, declining to compromise and standing firm for your values.
Let's get you ready to embark on what is commonly referred to as The Dating Game. Shall we agree online dating websites are the perfect playing field for dating in numbers? You can be the captain of either team – selected or selective. That leaves The Rules, which you get to make up as you go along.
We expect you decided on selective dating. Now, let's get you out the door without stumbling. Make a list of must-haves so that you won't waste time dating men who don't make the grade.
Most women have a list in their mind that could benefit from a little tweaking. The ideal guy you've been seeking may not be the one you really need to be happy.
For example, your ideal guy is six-feet tall, good-looking, with a sense of humor, who is a successful entrepreneur and loves to dance. Which qualities are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves?
Would you consider the 5'8" UPS guy, who has red hair, freckles, compatible interests and is a kind person? The operative word here is kindness.
Research has found, "Kindness…glues couples together…makes each partner feel cared for, understood and validated – feel loved". The article "Masters of Love" by Emily Esfahani Smith, details why "lasting relationships…come down to kindness and generosity".
You can read the entire piece here at theatlantic.com
Concentrating on physical traits to the exclusion of positive abstract qualities limits your playing field. You will enhance your options of finding a great guy, by opening your mind to dating several types of men.
Take Note – it might not glitter – but it can still be gold.
Prepare your First Date Questions
We promised dating after divorce can be a fun adventure. So – K.I.S.S it up buttercup! We're not talking about a Yankee dime (although if the moment calls for a warm hug and sweet kiss we won't object). We've adjusted the ages old acronym from 'keep it simple stupid' to Keep It Simple Sweetie.
This means keep the date light like a butterfly kiss. No diatribes about your miserable past. Leave the serious stuff for later dates. Stick the 'C' word in your closet. Guys say trotting out 'commitment' on a first date is like an inquisition.
We researched typical first date questions dating coaches recommend. We resonated with one in particular:
"What type of relationship are you looking for and why?" Experts believe this is the most important question to explore on a first date. We agree it makes sense to know if his expectations and yours are compatible.
These questions are designed to jumpstart your little gray cells:
- What's on your bucket list? – This question is fodder for an entire date.
- How would you spend a million-dollar windfall? – Helps discern whether he's a saver or spender.
- How would you describe your favorite hamburger? You'll learn a lot about his food preferences, such as whether he's a mustard or mayo guy.
- What is your most cherished possession? This will delineate nesters from thrill seekers, i.e. antique armoire vs. Honda.
- What's your go-to breakfast? Find out if he's a health food nut or junk food junkie.
Dating conversation is like a game of ping-pong. You ping him something and he pongs something back. Let the silences be. You need to know early-on if gaps in the conversation are awkward or easy like Sunday morning.
You don't have a thing to wear…
When you've been out of the fashion loop awhile, nothing gets your mojo going like that little black dress (LBD). Add your statement jewelry piece and a Popsicle-colored blazer. Slip into a pair of silver metallic shoes. Not exactly your glass slippers, but indubitably tres chic. Can you spell h-o-t?
Now – get your charming, confident self out the door and conquer this dating after divorce thing.
Getting back into dating is a natural progression. We have shown you the necessary steps between divorce and dating again. Taking the time to do divorce recovery work is vital to ensure your next relationship will be healthy.
Done right, dating again will become an exciting adventure.
Thanks for reading dating after divorce, we'd love to hear your thoughts.