Dating after a divorce is never easy. I am by no means an expert on what to do, but I have become some sort of expert on what not to do. I can laugh at my own mistakes and shake my head at some of the things I have done and have had done to me during this crazy experience. I've remained hopeful and optimistic and not allowed the "did that just happen" moments discourage me. There is one issue of the dating experience though that really stands out to me, and has caused me to pause. That issue is labeling.
The terms "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" were thrown around in younger years as terms that simply meant that two people had decided they didn't want to date anyone else; the equivalent to "going steady," if you will. However now those labels are so very sticky they become the elephant in the room of a relationship. Some people need those labels to feel secure, almost as if it makes them marked territory and solidifies their stats as belonging to another person. Other people hear those labels and run for the hills because of the simple uncertainty of exactly what they mean. Then there's people like me who genuinely don't care, I would much rather put the emphasis on the actual relationship opposed to what it is labeled. Society has become so obsessed with labeling relationships that it now causes undo pressure to make things "official." Is it going to make you care more or less about the other person because you've made it social media official?
The next question I have is when is the appropriate time to make it official by society's standards? By that I mean -- if it's too soon after you've met someone new, those annoying "everyone" people we all have think you are taking things too quickly and respond with "be careful and don't jump in." On the transverse, if things don't progress by some unwritten and unknown timeline then the warnings come in from those same "everyone" people of "Why isn't it official? Why are you hiding if it really is a good thing? Why won't you make it official"? What does "official" mean? Where is this magical timeline? I've never seen it, so I can't even begin to answer what is too quick or too slow and how to gage the in between of when two people officially make their relationship "official"?
What I do know is that I have done both, and neither worked. I rushed into relationships and fallen to the pressure of making some big formal announcement that "we are officially together" and that relationship ended just a few weeks later, forcing me then to go through the embarrassment of wow... that was quick. I have also bit my lip and waited for the timing to be right putting my own feelings at bay in order to not scare away the other person, only to find out six months later he just wasn't that into me and never would be.
I think the answer lies in each and every person on this earth is different, therefore each and every relationship is different. You can't compare past to present, and your "everyone" people can't compare their relationships and needs to your own. You have to listen to your heart and brain separately and then communicate with the other person; who is also listening to their brain and heart and find the right time when you both are comfortable. The label and when "making it official" happens can't be at the forefront of the relationship. Communication has to be in that spot. Granted, it's an awkward conversation to have, and yes. I have been guilty of putting off the conversation simply out of the fear of scaring the other person away. The fact is, without that conversation you don't know if you and the other person are even in the same book, let alone on the same page if that book. It's a vital conversation to have when you feel the need. Keyword there is feel.
My advice is just let it happen. Date. Take your time or jump right in head first. Follow your own feelings and don't let your "everyone" people look down their noses at you with their "I'm only asking out of love" comments. It's not their relationship and it's none of their business what you and your partner have chosen to label it. Instead, when you are put in that situation, simply look at them and say yes. I am happy. If that isn't enough to keep societies label police at bay I don't know what could be.
For those of you who are "everyone" people, please take the following into consideration. When you make negative comments out of love, they are still negative comments and do nothing to help or promote love. If you look at a friend or family member who is dating and you can clearly see they are happy and secure, why would you want to taint that with your own personal opinions of defining labels and what your own timeline is? Don't be one of those "everyone" people. Think about how your comments and judgments can make your loved one feel. Put yourself in their shoes and hear those words, if they don't promote the happiness your loved one feels, then you've probably chosen the wrong words to say. Instead, be supportive even when you don't agree, after all... it's not your label.