People (mostly women because they don't tend to re-enter the dating pool as quickly) ask me how you know if you are ready to date following divorce. With Valentine's Day coming up, it seems a good time to talk about this.
There are more, but here are five basic signs of date-readiness.
1. You Are Comfortable Being Alone
One of the very worst reasons to date is loneliness. Grief and loneliness accompany any divorce. No one is in a good place when a relationship ends, so there is a tendency to quench your emotional thirst and assuage the pain by looking for someone else as soon as possible.
A key part of divorce recovery is being alone while you heal and process what the bleep just happened. In the early stages, you may feel lonely as you confront being without your partner and perhaps lose some friends in the process. However, loneliness evolves into alone-ness.
Aloneness looks like choosing to stay in on a Friday instead of going out. You are content being with yourself. Aloneness includes going to a few dinner parties and being the only un-coupled person and not feeling ashamed or embarrassed. Instead, you feel secure that you have made an intentional life choice by choosing to be single.
When you have reached this place, you are ready to go out in the dating world because you don't NEED a partner; rather, you are open to meeting one. These are two very different energy fields.
2. Your Energy Shifts From Damsel in Distress to "I've Got This!"
The ashes of your marriage are something you need to sift through and clean up yourself. Hoping that you can avoid dealing with it by bouncing into a new relationship leads to another failed relationship.
Life after divorce is messy for a while as you attempt to adapt internally to the enormity of all the external changes. Social, emotional and financial changes collide and can leave you feeling like the wind has been knocked out of you.
If you haven't spent some time feeling really lousy on your own, you aren't ready to date. That is part of the recovery process -- grieving the old, adapting to the present before finally creating a new life. When you can not only handle your life, but are actually satisfied with it, you are ready to date.
The feeling of confidence you gain as your own resilience is revealed is something you project and others feel it too. There is a palpable energy shift from neediness to confidence. Exuding confidence and strength is attractive and will put the right people in your path.
3. You Know What You Want in a Partner and it Doesn't Include a Rockin' Bod
Having spent some quality alone time after your break-up and really getting clear about what you need and want in a future relationship, you are able to express it. It looks like something very specific (and substantive). You have more personal work to do if you find yourself hung up on physical attributes or uttering the following vague statements:
"A nice person"
"Someone with a good job"
"Someone who will treat me well"
You want to be intentional about who you attract because this time around it is important that you share values and a commonality of vision with someone. (That is, if you want a long-term relationship instead of just a fling.)
4. You Understand What Went Wrong in Your Marriage and Have Received the Lessons
Relationships are systems and it takes two people to sustain them and it takes two to make them fail. It is important to understand your part in the failed dynamic. This isn't to cast blame on you and in so doing, re-wound yourself. It is for the purpose of gaining critical self-awareness.
In my own case, I had to gain clarity around why I would marry a man who was clearly emotionally unavailable. What was my pay off? Getting clear on that freed me. Knowledge is power. If you understand your contribution to the failed relationship, you can feel emboldened to move forward and not repeat the same behavior.
If you are saying to yourself, "but I was totally blindsided and didn't see it coming," ask yourself why that is? Perhaps you weren't tuned in? Were there warning signs that you chose to ignore because your ego told you to go after what you thought you wanted?
Once you have figured out what happened, you need to sit with the lessons and commit to how you will apply the wisdom going forward.
5. You Aren't Angry
Anger is bad energy to take into a new relationship. It represents emotional baggage. It is unresolved hurt that consumes valuable space. Anger is part of the grieving process and a necessary one, but it is the wrong stage to explore dating.
There are two kinds of anger: situational and what I call, pervasive.
Situational anger is appropriate because it is current and in response to observable stimuli. For example, your ex is supposed to drop off the kids at 2 p.m. and doesn't show up until 6 p.m. thereby causing you massive inconvenience and worry.
Pervasive anger is a bad hangover from your failed marriage. It is not current and it is not in response to identifiable events. This is the anger that represents your homework to resolve. Ask yourself what it would take to let go? If your answer is an apology from your ex, forget it.
If your ex really cared that he or she hurt you, they would have stopped or said sorry before it was too late. So what else can you do to let the hurt and anger go? When you figure this out and break free, you are ready to date.
Even Casual Dating Requires Giving
The bottom line is that relationships -- even casual dating -- need to involve some form of giving and not just taking. It is hard to be a giver if you are immersed in your own needs -- requiring emotional warmth, support and validation. And besides, who in this state do you expect to attract?
If you review the five stages of date-readiness and aren't quite there yet, don't worry! What is the urgency?
Each person's timing will depend in large part on the nature of the break up and relationship. The more dramatic the circumstances that led to the breakup, or the more abusive the relationship, the longer it will take to reach a date-ready place. And that is OK. Before that day comes, learn to feel what it's like to be your own best joy potential.
This post originally appeared on LifeRecrafted.com.