You managed to pull off an uncontested divorce, you're getting used to living alone and the first time you went grocery shopping and bought only what you wanted was amazing. But now Netflix binging is getting a little lonely, and you're starting to wonder what life would look like with a significant other. Almost everyone eventually starts dating at some point after their divorce, but how you approach it can make a big difference in whether it's a positive experience. Here are four tips for dating after divorce.
1. Be honest with yourself about what you're looking for.
Maybe you're ready for a long-term relationship, or maybe you just want to enjoy some casual nights out to get your feet wet again. Either way, it's a good idea to take yourself out for coffee and a heart-to-paper. Make a list of what you're looking for and what you want to avoid. This applies to both qualities in a potential partner as well as general life goals and attitudes. This will help you establish boundaries, get a sense of where you want to go with your life from here and ensure you recognize when someone who ticks all those boxes comes along.
If you're pretty sure you want to enjoy the single life for a while, enlist some trusted friends in helping you recognize when you start to slide down the slippery slope of settling/getting too involved. It's easy to rebound after a divorce and end up acting like you're married to someone you're barely dating. Having that extra level of checks and balances ensures you keep moving toward the life you want.
2. Take it slow.
You're used to being in a long-term, emotionally intimate relationship with someone, and it's understandable to want to feel that connection again, but jumping in too far too soon usually just ends up in even more heartbreak. After a divorce, it feels great to know that you're still funny, intelligent and wanted, but this also means that it's very easy to fall very quickly for the person making you feel this way.
Remember that a divorce is a huge life change. There will be highs and lows and time where you're not sure which way is up. Re-entering the dating world slowly ensures you're giving your own life and yourself enough attention during this transition time. And again, enlisting some friends or family members who are good listeners and won't judge you can go a long way toward making sure you don't compromise on what you want.
3. Consider the kids.
If your divorce included children, starting to date again can be even more complicated, and there are several schools of thought on the "best" way to approach this. Some believe you shouldn't tell your children when you start dating and wait until you're very serious — think considering remarriage — to introduce someone to your children. Others think you should be totally open about dating. In reality, the best approach will differ for each family, but it's a good idea to keep your children's feelings in mind. They may cope with the divorce on a different time line than you do, and if they're still in the "My parents will get back together someday" stage, bringing in your new boyfriend or girlfriend may not sit well.
4. Make sure you're actually divorced.
Maybe your divorce isn't finalized yet, but you're ready to start meeting new people. This is understandable, and starting to forge your own independent social circle is a definite positive. However, if you start dating while your divorce is still pending, things can go bad quickly. It's one thing to decide you don't want to be with your spouse anymore, but seeing them with someone new in their life can make you realize that the feelings of a marriage don't go away the second the divorce is filed. Even if you've enjoyed a very amicable divorce process up to this point, your ex may suddenly decide they don't want to share custody or give you the house when they find out there's someone new in your life. It's better to keep things friends-only until everything is finalized.
This is also better for your potential partners. While you don't have to disclose your entire life story to everyone who buys you a drink, it is important to be truthful about your marital status. If you do happen to find someone you want to get to know more or start a more in-depth relationship with, you don't want to end up blindsiding them with the fact that you're not legally single. Waiting ensures you can take the time to focus on your divorce, rediscover your independence and start a new relationship off with a solid foundation of trust.
Everyone's post-divorce experience is different, and not all of it is within your control. At some point, you'll have to take a deep breath and move forward on faith if you're looking for a new partner, but remembering your life goals and keeping your emotions in check can increase your chances of success.