Divorce, or the ending of a long-term domestic relationship, is one of the most painful and stressful life events that someone can go through.
If it were not excruciating enough, after all is said and done there is…
Dating after a divorce.
I’m still waiting to hear one person sincerely reporting having a great time dating after their marriage or long-term relationship ended.
Here is my take on why it's so hard:
1. Dealing with trauma:
Divorce is always painful and stressful, but in some cases it can actually be traumatic. Trauma can have occurred either during the relationship itself, as a consequence of how the separation took place, or both.
Tip: Trauma creates changes in some areas of the brain and these changes are easier to rewire and heal when they are still fresh. If you have suffered from trauma, please seek the help of a qualified and experienced therapist to recover as soon as possible.
Invest in yourself, heal from your trauma.
2. Dating culture shock:
If your previous long-term relationship or marriage started decades ago, chances are that you do not have a lot of dating experience under your belt. If you have some experience from before your marriage, you might come to realize that dating has evolved dramatically in the last ten to fifteen years. Going back into the dating pool as it looks like today could lead to serious culture shock and confusion.
Tip: Please, please, pleeeeaaaase do not waste time and energy waiting idly, compusively trying every dating app out there, or adopting dating methods that feel inauthentic to you. If you want biological children, there is no time to waste. If you have young children and would like to blend your family, there is no time to waste. If you are a little older and would like to meet someone with whom to live the rest of your life, there is no time to waste. Seek the help of a qualified and experience dating/relationship coach to get a thorough briefing on modern dating, and develop the competences to become skillful at dating and at building a fantastic relationship. With your coach, you’ll design and implement an effective and authentic dating strategy to find true love sooner rather than later.
Don't waste time. Get support!
3. Issues with logistics:
Depending on your age when your marriage ended, chances are that you have children and/or are in a stage of your career that involves more responsibilities. Basically, you might have more commitments on your plate and your life might be more established than it was were you started your previous long-term relationship. This leads to less time flexibility and can make the logistics of dating daunting. How to find time to meet new people? What to do with the kids? When to even go on dates?
Tip: If you are serious about finding a new partner, you'll have to invest time for dating, and organize your schedule to reflect that commitment. In terms of what to do with your children, it's going to depend on your financial resources. If you can afford it, create a roster of two to three reliable baby sitters that could look after your kids one night per week (you'll have back-up options if your favorite can not make it each week). If hiring a sitter is not an option, work at creating a local moms group of trustworthy single mothers with whom you could trade child care while you go on dates. You and your kids will make new friends in the process.
Don't give up! Invest time for dating and finding love again!
4. Reacting rather than choosing:
After a divorce, it's more tempting than ever to look for a specific "type", or at least to compare prospective partners to your ex. It's natural, yet ineffective because your comparison is not going to be objective at all. If you suffered abuse, any reasonably respectful person will look like the perfect partner, whereas you two might not be compatible at all. If your ex had a specific character flaw, any person who does not have that flaw will look perfect, even if they can't make a commitment. Etc.
Tip: Before jumping into the dating pool, focus first on understanding what went wrong with your previous marriage or long-term relationship, beyond the obvious reasons. Then carefully study what make relationships happy, healthy, and long-lasting. Choose new partners based on objective standards known to correlate to happy outcomes rather than in reaction to your ex and your previous relationship.
Consider giving a chance to someone different than your "type" and see what happens. You might be surprised!
5. Clashing of needs:
If you spent years in an unsatisfying relationship, you might be looking for someone to take care of you. Problem is, that person is probably looking for the exact same thing. No matter what you have experienced before, a new relationship is going to require a lot of giving, a lot of flexibility, and a lot of acceptance from both parties, which can be hard to provide if you feel like you got the short hand of the stick in the past.
Tip: Take the break you need after your divorce or separation, so that you can learn or re-learn to meet your own needs, with the support of friends and family.
Go back to dating with a heart full of appreciation and a burning desire to be of service rather than with a bottomless pit of unmet needs.
6. Rushing through the steps:
When you meet someone exciting who finds you exciting in return, temptation can be great to rush through the steps and fast forward your budding relationship. Maybe it's because you think "you just know", maybe it's because you're worried about getting older, maybe it's because your biological clock is ticking loudly, maybe it's because you want a step-parent for your children, maybe it's because you would not mind saving on housing costs, maybe it’s because you're comparing yourself to your friends, maybe it's because you miss the coziness of family life, or maybe it’s all of the above.
Although there is indeed no point in wasting time while dating when you want to build a new long-term relationship, it's unwise to make a hasty decision when it comes to cohabitation and a permanent commitment, especially if you have children. Not only do you have to get to know a new person and build a happy and healthy relationship with them, but you also have to vet a potential step-parent before bringing them into the life of your children. It’s a huge deal for so many reasons, from the safety of your kids to the example that you set for them. Blending families is a delicate process that has to go through specific steps to be successful.
Tip: You can avoid wasting time by taking charge of your healing, learning and integrating and by surrounding yourself with adequate support. Coaching and/or therapy can save you years in this process. Once you start a new relationship though, please take your time. Do not introduce your kids to a new partner too soon, do not start cohabiting before the four pillars of your relationship have been erected, and do not make a rush decision to get married again. Second marriages have a higher rate of divorce than first ones. Don't be a statistic.
If it's truly going great, it will still be going great a year later. Relax!