After a divorce, your self esteem can be completely shattered and you may feel like you are doomed to a life of lonely solitude. You are not alone – and you are certainly not doomed to be alone forever. Consider the fact that about 30% of all marriages involve people who are remarrying. In fact, nearly half of divorced people will remarry within 5 years of divorce! To get to that point, these divorced people needed to start dating again.
Yes, dating after divorce is scary and confusing. But you will soon find that dating after divorce isn’t nearly as bad as you imagined it to be. If you follow these dating tips for divorced men and women, you might even realize that dating is fun and liberating.
How to Tell If You Are Ready to Start Dating After Divorce?
There is all sorts of advice online about how long you should wait after a divorce to start dating. One popular mantra is that it will take you half the amount of time you were together to get over him/her. So, if you were together for 10 years, it would take you 5 years to get over your ex. There might be some truth to this, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait 5 years to start dating again! Remember, that dating is part of the process of moving on. Dating helps you gain confidence, figure out your identity, and also figure out what you want in a relationship.
Figuring out when you are ready to start dating after divorce is often pretty clear. As therapist Susan Pease Gadoua says, “Once the idea of going on a date comes into your mind and you don't want to chase it out again, you're at least ready to start.” But, if you are still blaming yourself or feeling guilty about the divorce, then you probably aren’t ready to begin a new relationship.
Even if you are sure you are ready to start dating, it is a VERY BAD IDEA to date while the divorce is still in process or custody issues aren’t settled. As womansdivorce.com points out, “When you start seeing someone else, it is like rubbing salt into your ex's wounds. Believe me, he will likely react to the fact that you are dating by making your life hell during the divorce process. He may seek revenge to compensate for the anger, hurt, and embarrassment that he feels you have caused him.”
How to Start Dating After Divorce
So you are ready to start dating after your divorce? This doesn’t mean you’ve got to start going to bars and clubs or sign up to a dating website. These are ways to meet people, but the experience will probably be so overwhelming (and mostly terrible) that you will get scared off from dating completely.
Instead, ease yourself into dating after divorce. You do this by putting yourself in social situations where you will meet new people. Some ways to meet men and women are:
- Joining a club
- Doing volunteer work
- Taking a class
- Going out with friends
These social situations aren’t nearly as stressful as bars and clubs (which you might be “too old” for anyway). You will get practice with speaking to people of the opposite sex and, once you figure out who the singles in the group are, can engage in some fun flirting. You will quickly learn that the opposite sex is still interested in you and, yes, you can hold a conversation. Some of these encounters may lead to dates. Even if they don’t, you will feel more comfortable and confident when you start going out on formal dates, such as a date with someone you met online.
Remember not to dismiss any invitations, even if they seem weird – like getting invited to a divorce party or speed dating. You never know – it could be fun!
Know What You Want
For anyone who is just getting into dating, it is a good idea to take a moment and determine what you really want. Are you looking for a long-term relationship? Or are you looking for a casual flings? Or do you want something in between – some fun that may lead to something serious?
Likewise, you might want to make a list of traits in your ideal person. Must this person be of a certain religion? Are you willing to date outside of your age bracket? What about parental status – would you date a single mom or dad?
These lists are helpful. They prevent you from getting overwhelmed and going out on dates out of loneliness and desperation. But remember, your list shouldn’t be set in stone. Be willing to make compromises and adjust your list as you start learning more about what you really want at this point in your life.
The First Date after a Divorce
Whether you are divorced or not, a first date can always be a bit intimidating. Here are some first date tips to make it go smoother:
- Go somewhere low-pressure. A first date doesn’t have to be dinner (which requires a lot of talking). Check out our first date ideas, all of which are just the right mixture of activity (i.e. no talking required) and getting-to-know you time.
- Take Steps to Feel Good About Yourself: It might seem excessive to go to the beauty salon just for a first date but, if it makes you feel super sexy and boosts your confidence, then do it! Splurge on a new outfit or anything that makes you feel great.
- Don’t Make Dates that Will Last for More than an Hour: If the date goes bad, you at least know it isn't going to go on forever!
- Have an Exit Strategy: Just in case the date is going really badly, make sure you have a way out. Have the “babysitter” call you an hour into the date so you can politely get up and leave.
- Don’t Sleep with Him/Her: In the heat of the moment, it may seem like a good idea to sleep with your date, but sleeping with someone so quickly after getting back into the dating scene can make you feel cheap and confused.
Don’t Let Failed Dates Discourage You
Remember it is a numbers game. You will probably go on a lot of bad dates. You will probably go on some good dates, only to have the person never call you back.
Don’t get discouraged!!!
Dating is essentially one big process of elimination. Just focus on the positive aspects of dating – like having an excuse to go to that new Thai restaurant, the chance to meet new people and enjoy some interesting conversation, and the fact that you are brushing up on your flirting and conversation skills with each date. Even those really, really bad dates can end up being a funny story later on.
Enjoy the Ego Boost – But Don’t Date Just Because Of It
Divorce makes you feel like crap. And, chances are, your marriage didn’t make you feel so hot either. So, when you first start dating after divorce, the ego boost you get can be amazing. You realize that you are (contrary to what your ex may have thought) sexy, charming, witty, and still good-looking!
What’s wrong with an ego boost? Nothing – unless it causes you to waste your time and lead people on. This is exactly what happened to Dina Nayeri when she started dating again after her divorce. Her first date wasn’t exactly a disaster, but it definitely wasn’t a success…
“I could tell that he wouldn't ask me out again. I hadn't felt the sting of rejection in 12 years, and I decided that if dating was a game, then I was only in it for the ego boost of a sure win. Whether or not I liked the guy, I needed him to find me impressive.”
She then started working to impress her dates, essentially putting on a “one woman show.” It worked. This one-woman show went on whether she liked the guy or not.
“I seemed inviting, but I wasn't really trying to make a connection. I wanted someone new to fall for me so I could say to Philip, ‘See? I did what you asked. You can stop worrying.’ The drummer didn't stop calling for weeks. I never went out with him again.”
This pitfall of dating after divorce is why it is important to know what you want. If you want casual dating, that is fine. Just make sure that the other person knows this is what you want.
Dating with Children
When my friend Sally got divorced, she had a 1 year old child. She thought that her sex life was over for the next 10 years or so because who would want to date a woman with a toddler in tow? So, Sally was in for a big shock when she realized just how wrong she was.
A study by Match.com found that over 2/3 of single men are interested in dating a single mom. Further, 53% of single parents prefer to date other single parents. And there is no shortage of single parents out there! At Match.com alone, about 1/3 of all members are single parents.
Some people would make it seem like single parents (especially single moms) have no options. In this ridiculous article at The Stir, the author says that single moms are basically stuck dating divorced men, closeted gays, and cougar hunters. This is in line with the whole “there aren’t any good men left” complaint which women (divorced or not) are fond of chanting. Yes, there are a lot of weirdos out there – but there are also a lot of good, compatible matches too who will consider your parental skills a positive quality. You just have to be willing to play the numbers game and deal with some bad dates and rejection before you find that right person. Negative thinking isn’t going to get you anywhere!
Your Children Aren’t An Excuse Not to Date
Many single parents use their kids as a reason not to date. Obviously, you’ve got to keep certain things in mind – like not letting your kids meet any of your dates until it gets serious. But don’t hide behind your children as an excuse not to date. If the person is worth your while, he/she won’t mind going on an early date because you’ve only got a babysitter until 10pm.
Which brings me to one really important tip for dating after divorce with children:
Make sure you have a steady babysitter your kids like!!!!
Your kids won’t mind you going out for a date if it means they get to hang out with the ultra-cool babysitter who orders pizza and lets them stay up after their bedtime. You are out having fun, so your kids should have some fun too. Otherwise, they might feel jealous that you are spending time with some new person instead of them.
Important Post-Divorce Dating Rules
The rules of dating after divorce aren’t much different than any other dating rules. But here are a few dating tips that divorced people especially should keep in mind:
- Don’t talk about your ex! This is a sign that you aren’t over your ex. You will scare people away by coming off as someone with a lot of emotional baggage in tow. Only once you’ve been on a few dates is it okay to talk about your ex marriage.
- Don’t let him pick you up at home: Especially if you have kids! You never know who will end up being a crazy stalker.
- Don’t make dates which last longer than an hour: If the date is terrible or you feel uncomfortable, you have the peace of mind knowing that it will be over soon. If it is going well, you can always extend it or set another date.
- No sex on the first date: If you are just getting back into the dating scene, then having sex on a first date can make you feel cheap and confused.
- Watch out for the rebound relationship: You might find yourself in a relationship quickly after divorce, ask yourself whether that person really has the qualities you want in a partner, or whether you are just using him/her as a rebound out of loneliness.