Dating after divorce can seem like a daunting experience. Some people even stay in a miserable marriage just to avoid having to date again. But, the truth is, we are wired to connect to others. At some point after the loss of divorce, you may be ready to try again, despite the fear and vulnerability you may feel. You may wonder if you're ready, or perhaps, if you've been waiting too long. Taking that first step can feel confusing and unsure. If you feel a bit lost, here are a few strategies to help you navigate your way back into the dating world.
Take time to heal.
The most important step to take before you jump back into dating is to take time to heal. However, there is no magic timeline. Some people may need weeks. Some may need years. A good clue to know if you're ready is to notice when you no longer ache for the relationship, but you are also not in full blown anger at the relationship. You may feel like the intense roller coaster emotions of divorce have settled. Ask yourself if you can see the proverbial forest through the trees with your marriage. If you're still lost in hurt, anger, or resentment, you may need a little more time to work through your emotions before you invest yourself into dating, let alone a new relationship.
Have no shame.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent". Essentially, shame and inadequacy are chosen emotions. And when you're surrounded by a culture where divorce is more of the norm than the exception, you can hopefully take some comfort in the fact that you are more like everyone else than not. The reality is that relationships fail. People fail. We are all human. Accepting divorce as your reality can be freeing, if you can have compassion for yourself and your situation.
Dating after divorce is an opportunity to create a relationship that you didn't have in your marriage. Take inventory of what you learned from your marriage. What are the qualities you must have in a partner? What are the qualities you want to avoid? What dynamics created struggles in your marriage? This is your chance to try new things...to try different types of dates, different kinds of partners. You might be surprised at who you meet and like.
Date outside of the box.
After you've been in a marriage for awhile, it may be hard to imagine that you could have a different type of partner. Opening your mind to the possibility of being attracted to someone different can be a stretch. Or, you may go searching for the exact opposite of your former partner. Try different kinds of people in your dating. You may be surprised at who you're attracted to, and how completely different (and hopefully better) a relationship can be with another person.
Sometimes the loneliness and loss of a divorce can push us into the arms of the first person that gives us some attention or offers some relief from the pain. Take your time so you don't rush into another relationship that doesn't work. The rush of a new relationship can be blinding if you've been in a miserable marriage for years. Moving slowly into any new relationship can help ensure that you are with someone who is worth your time. Remember that dating can feel incredibly awkward and intimidating if you've been married for a long time, and relationships can feel even more vulnerable. Its perfectly ok to move slow to protect yourself in the beginning. The right partner will understand this and be patient with you.
Starting over is a big first step, but an important one. Divorce doesn't have to be the end of dating and relationships. It might take some time, some healing, and some courage to start over, but remember that there are endless possibilities for love.