What advice have you already received about dating after divorce? Set it aside for now. Here’s what you really need to know when you’re thinking about new relationships after the end of your marriage.
While researching “dating after divorce”, I discovered that some divorcees think that most people are not looking to date someone who is divorced. Do you believe this is true – that most people don’t want to date a divorcee? If so, then you’ll approach dating with a very different set of expectations and attitudes than if you believe that most people are open to dating someone they feel connected and attracted to.
In Surviving Divorce – Journaling for Recovery and Rebuilding, I share an important way to heal after getting divorced: express your thoughts and emotions in writing. Healing is a necessary first step to dating after divorce; my tips for journaling were based on a research study. Below are three more ideas (a concept, a strategy, and a story, to be exact!) to help you date after getting divorced. Even if your divorce was (because of) a painful or nasty affair.
Dating After Divorce – 3 Things You Need to Know
Before you scroll through my tips on how to date after getting divorced, stop and listen to that still, small voice inside of you.
- Before my divorce, what were my preconceived notions about divorced people?
- What do I think other people think about me as a divorced person?
- Am I ready to date?
- Who am I bringing into a potential new relationship? Do I have kids, in-laws, parents, friends, or work colleagues that are part of who I am?
- Why am I looking for information about dating after divorce? What do I need to know?
- What is holding me back from enjoying the process of dating?
- What do I need to take care of – or let go of – before I start a new relationship? Or even just go out on a date?
- Do I have to let go of someone I love so I can start dating again?
You don’t need to have all the answers — or any answers at all — to these questions! Just read through them. Let them percolate in your mind. If something sticks with you, it deserves more attention.
Feel free to tell me what you think about getting divorced and starting to date again. I welcome your big and little thoughts in the comments section below. I can’t offer advice on dating after divorce, but you may find it helpful to share your experience.
1. Why you have to take care of yourself
You can’t enjoy dating – much less start a healthy new relationship – unless you know how to care for your body, mind, soul, and spirit after getting divorced. Dating can be draining even at the best of times; it’s downright threatening at the worst of times! You need to take care of all the dimensions of your self so you’ll be able to recognize healthy people to date and make good choices in potential relationships.
This is the concept of self-care, and it’s essential even if you’re not ready to start thinking about finding a date because you’re still grieving the divorce.
What does it mean to take care of yourself? It depends on your personality, lifestyle, relationships, career, family members, hobbies, health, and even your genetics. Some of us need divorce support groups, recovery retreats, or personal counseling. Others need to turn to God for healing and support. Still others take care of themselves by taking up active hobbies such as sailing or hiking, joining social groups, taking art or pottery classes, or starting a business they’ve always dreamed of.
But everyone who gets divorced needs to work through the grief and heal. Dr. Mark Banschick, a New York-based physician, psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series, said “Divorce is the end of a dream of an intact family that’s loving and that stays together forever. And when there is a death, you have to grief. Grieving is appropriate in divorce.” – from Divorce: Dealing With Life After a Failed Marriage on the University of Idaho website.
Getting divorced is similar to experiencing a death. People who go through divorce may feel like they failed their spouses, their children, their marriages and this is why it’s so important to grieve. Part of grieving after a divorce is learning what self-care means to you. In How to Take Care of Yourself After a Divorce, I share four ways to heal and recover.
2. Curiosity: the healthiest strategy for dating after divorce
One of my friends – let’s call her Jill – recently hired a “matchmaking service.” Jill is 47 and has been divorced for almost two years. She’s ready to start meeting men and forming new relationships, but she has no time to date because of her job as a high-powered corporate team leader for a telecommunications company.
Jill puts a lot of pressure on herself – and on her dates, and on her modern matchmaker – because she is very serious about dating. After her divorce, she went through a painful bout of depression and low self-worth.
The solution? Jill has adopted a healthy attitude of curiosity about her dates. I love it! She is deliberately and consciously trying to be curious about how the evening will unfold. Instead of being serious, she is choosing to be curious.
Here’s what she wonders before she goes out on a date:
- What will surprise me about my date?
- Who will I discover underneath the persona he presents? Is he shy, fearful, nervous? Is he joyful, funny, smart, or kind?
- How will I feel about this when it’s over? Will I be relieved, happy, sad, disgusted, or angry at the end of the date?
- What do I think my date will be surprised to learn about me?
- What will he say when I pull out my Table Topic Questions?
No, she doesn’t bring Table Topics – Questions to Start Great Conversations on her dates — but I would! Absolutely, in a heartbeat. This is a fantastic way to break the ice and get to know your date better.
What I especially love is how the presence of this game tests the personality and flexibility of your date. If he’s judgemental and critical of things you think are fun and light-hearted, then bingo! You know you’re not a match. If he steps up to the plate with an attitude of adventure and curiosity about you, then you know you’ll at least have an interesting evening.
If you’re nervous, shy, scared, anxious, or even angry about dating after divorce, consider adopting an attitude of curiosity. Go in with an open mind. Leave your preconceived notions at home.
Are you a guy struggling with the idea of making small talk? You may find 10 Things to Talk About With Your Girlfriend helpful. It’s one of my most popular articles, so I know lots of men need help making conversation.
And the third thing you need to know about going on a date after getting a divorce is…
3. A story of two little dogs (who aren’t dating after divorce)
Last night I happened upon this wonderful story in Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff. It’s a Japanese folktale about two very different dogs who explored the exact same house.
The House of 1000 Mirrors
Long ago in a small, far away village, there was a place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could.
To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly.
As he left the house, he thought to himself, “This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often.”
In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door.
When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, “That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again.”
So tell me…are you the happy little dog, or the unfriendly little dog?
If you are the happy little dog, then dating after divorce will be an interesting place filled with rich experiences, interesting people, and happy coincidences. If you are the unhappy growling dog, then dating after divorce will be a madhouse of grim experiences, inflexible people who don’t enjoy life, and horrible food.
The choice is yours.
Isn’t it wonderful to know how much power you have in your life?
3 Things You Need to Know About Dating After Divorce
A summary! Here is the concept, strategy, and story I shared:
- Why you have to take care of yourself (the concept of grief and healing after divorce)
- Curiosity – the healthiest strategy for dating after divorce
- A story of two little dogs (who aren’t dating after divorce)
May you be blessed and edified as you move forward in your life. May you experience the peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, and a curiosity and hope that fills you with energy and strength.
“Dating is different when you get older. You’re not as trusting, or as eager to get back out there and expose yourself to someone.” – Toni Braxton.
Questions for you
What is one word that describes how you feel about dating after divorce? Tell me below. You can write more than a word if you’d like. Sometimes it’s helpful to bundle all your feelings into a word and share how you feel.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of dating after divorce. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.