Whether the documents are signed and your marital status dissolved, or you’re recently separated and have just begun the legal proceeding, there is a change afoot. It’s called dating.
Many clients and friends dive right into the post-split dating world (some had a toe in the water before the actual split, so it’s not super tough – but that’s another article). Others shy away from it altogether, stating, “I have no desire to date, fall in love or have much romantic interaction whatsoever; this whole experience has turned me off of relationships.”
There is a fundamental reason that it is important to date after your marriage has ended: it helps you to re-establish who you are, what you want and where you are going. If you approach it in this way, things make more sense, and the angst is lessened…somewhat.
Post Disso Dating
Post disso dating enables you to re-present yourself. You won’t have a new identity, but you will be able to see yourself afresh through someone else’s eyes. This is a very cool opportunity. You are still a parent/college graduate/Californian, whatever – I am not proposing a completely new or fabricated identity. But the person who sits across from you at the coffee shop, bar or restaurant has not shared the history, resentments, failures or humiliations of your past. It is your chance to present your freshest, most positive self. The self you intend to ride into your future. Whether or not the person sitting across from you is there to share that future is wholly irrelevant – this is about you.
Depending on how long your marriage lasted, or how monogamous you were with your spouse prior to tying the knot, dating may have changed a great deal since you were last “out there.”
If you have never dated online, try it. Even creating your profile is a worthwhile exercise. There are definitely some things you need to be careful of in the new dating world, so don’t be naïve. The same warnings we give our kids about meeting someone online apply to you. Those are, be conservative with the information you share online, and if a meeting is arranged, let a responsible person know where you are going to be and when they should expect you back.
How Do I Meet People After My Divorce?
“How else do I meet people?” Let married friends fix you up – they’ll love living vicariously through you. Approach every date with the knowledge that you can regale your friends with horror stories from the experience, if it doesn’t go the way of a romantic comedy. Maybe join groups or take classes that could have likeminded single people: hiking, biking, wine tasting, travel, film watching, etc. Be wary, however, of those who will be in your world for a while. Although it is one way to meet people, single parents of your kids’ schoolmates, co-workers and your ex’s buddies can complicate things, so be cautious.
Keep in mind that you are not looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. You are looking for YOU. (And if Mr. or Ms. Right Now or even Right comes along, that’s just gravy.)
Chances are you will not meet your next significant other during this period. That rarely happens. You need time to explore. Check out individuals who are unlike your spouse. If he was paternalistic and controlling, go for someone fun-loving and a bit of a bad boy. If she was wild and irrational, try shy and bookish. Maybe go on a “gender bender” and see how it feels to be with someone more….like you.
I often hear that men go for the “newer model” after they split from their wives – boring. Certainly, we all have types, and if you, at some point in the future, decide to settle down again and revert to type, that’s fine. But this period is for The Three E’s – Exploration, Experience and Experimentation.
Post-Divorce Dating Tips
Now, let’s talk about some tips on dating during or after your divorce.
- The first rule of post-divorce dating is: you do not talk about divorce.
- The second rule is: do not talk about your ex. Although it is tempting to commiserate about your circumstances, particularly if you are both going through it, trust me, this commonality will get old. Whether you are gutted about the loss of your ex in your life, or you hate him or her with the passion and vengeance of a Taylor Swift song, speaking about it – constantly – is not attractive. At all.
- “What about my kids?” What about them? There is no need to introduce your children to any of the (hopefully many) individuals you date during this period. If somebody stands out and becomes a more serious relationship, there is plenty of time for that. Mental health professionals, with whom I have spoken, recommend about six months of exclusive dating before introducing kids to someone as a new significant other. (This too is a topic ripe for another article. You’re not there yet. Focus!) There is no need for them to experience a revolving door of new suitors or to have to worry, for a second, about you shopping for their new mom or dad. That’s so not what this is about. For now, this is part of your “you time,” and kids do not factor in here. Dating is what you do when your kids are in the custody of your ex. If he or she doesn’t have regular custody, treat yourself to a sitter or ask a friend or family member to look after them for a few hours. Giving yourself some adult time will enable you to be a better, more present parent.
- Often, the preparation for a date is more important that the date itself. Get a blowout or a mani-pedi. Buy a new shirt or go to one of those fancy shave places. Take some time to get ready. Make yourself proud of how you look and feel, as you package and present yourself to this new fresh pair of eyes and ears. Let someone else meet the intelligent, cool, attractive, chic, witty you.
Have some fun. Get out there.
Don’t take this whole dating thing, or yourself, too seriously after your divorce. You have not had this kind of an opportunity for a while, and you may not have it again anytime soon. While you are preparing yourself for the next stage of your life, whatever that may be, get to know yourself again, and let yourself fall in love a little bit – with you.