Dating is never easy. But it’s even more challenging after the pain of divorce because dating after divorce can bring its own its own set of challenges. When a relationship like marriage ends, you’re not yourself. You need time to rebuild and recover.
But how much time do you need? How do you date someone now that you have children? What if you make all the same mistakes again? And in the age of dating apps and breaking up by text message, what are the new commandments of dating?
Here are some dos and don’ts for dating after divorce
Don’t Start Before You’re Ready
Take the time to heal. There is no perfect answer as to when you should start dating again, but usually it is best to wait at least a year after your divorce. Use this time to go out and have fun with friends, learn a new skill, go away for a week.
Use this time to work on yourself and figure out what went wrong with your relationship. Get to the point where you know what you want from a partner and what you don’t.
Do you know your role in the marriage’s demise? Have you made as much peace as possible the divorce and your ex? Don’t skip counseling or support group sessions. They’ll help in many ways--especially when it comes to future relationships.
Make sure your past is legitimately in the past, so you don’t end up choosing the wrong kinds of people again and again.
Don’t Date for the Wrong Reasons
If you start dating again because you think that you should, or because your friends and family have been bugging you to, don’t. Date because you want to, not because you think you have to.
You are not your relationship status. You don’t want to date because dating makes you feel secure, or you think that you have to be part of a couple or simply because you don’t want to be alone.
Jumping into a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship or feel complete is the wrong reason to date. The desire to be in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship may even be why your marriage didn’t last.
If you are going to put yourself out there to start a new relationship be fair to yourself and others and make sure that you are dating for the right reasons, or dating will be a disaster.
Do Focus on Character More Than Chemistry
We all love when we feel chemistry with someone--the sweaty palms, the butterflies in your stomach--but too many of us rely on chemistry to tell us who to date.
A lot of people decide there’s no chemistry early on and as a result often give up on the relationship. First, ask yourself if the person you’re with has the qualities you’d want in a long-term partner. Do you have lots in common with this person? Or is the physical attraction blinding you to how wrong you are for each other?
Search for a partner with complementary values, and to be willing to let attraction and chemistry a chance to develop.Put chemistry on the backburner and instead focus on how a your date behaves — it may be a cliche, but actions do speak louder than words--or looks, or income.
Chemistry and attraction change and often disappear completely. This may be even one of the reasons you are no longer married. Keep that in mind.
Don’t Introduce Every Date to Your Kids
Unless you've been in a committed relationship for 6 months or more don't introduce your kids to your date. If you have joint custody, schedule dates for times when your kids are with your ex, or find a sitter. Children can easily form attachments to your romantic partners before it is good for them to do so. Some children may feel that the new partner is ‘replacing' their other parent or worry that you won't love them as much.
Kids may even want you to quickly marry someone, so they can be part of a “normal” traditional family unit. Be sure to explain to your child the differences between casual dating, long-term relationships and getting married. A child should understand that not all dating and friendships automatically end in marriage.
Children learn about the adult world through example—especially from their parents. As you develop a relationship with a partner, keep in mind that your child is learning about dating, romantic relationships and intimacy by observing you. You and your behavior is modeling for your kids and setting standards--even if they aren’t old enough to date yet.
Of course, you're allowed to have a life, even a sex life—just not at your child's expense. When school-age children are exposed to these new relationships, they need a clear statement from you about your feelings toward your new friend and your wish to be close to him, and also about the differences between adult relationships and those between children or adolescents. When you have a discussion with your child about a new intimate relationship, encourage her to express her feelings, good and bad, and help her feel comfortable with asking you questions about your new friend and the ways in which you relate. Open age-appropriate communication during the development of a sexual relationship with a close friend will allow your child to experience a new level of awareness about grown-up behavior. But direct exposure to frankly sexual conduct is not a good idea.
Things Are Different
If you've been married and out of the dating game for the last 7 to 10 years, it's an entirely different world these days when it comes to not only how you date, but when and where.
Online dating, once considered the last resort for the desperate or socially inept, is now one of the main ways to meet potential partners. Not only does it save time, but it can help you weed out people who you don't share interests with or don't align in political or religious beliefs. If you are looking for a dating relationship, It's best to go with a service like eHarmony, Match or OKCupid. Apps like Tinder tend to have a repuation as something used for casual sexual hook ups.
Don't limit dates to the weekend. These days people are more open to meeting up whenever their schedule permits. We all lead busy lives. It's not less of a date if it's on a Thursday night or a casual coffee shop lunch. In some ways these situations are even better because they take some of the pressure of a more "formal" and traditional date.
Do Have a Sense of Humor
Getting to know new people isn't always fun. It's work. And it requires effort on your part. As your divorce may have taught you the hard way, things don't always go as planned.
Dating after divorce can be fraught with issues, but only if you let it. A sense of humor will help you get throught them. A sense of humor will help you get through bad dates--and they will happen--and not make you bitter or cynical.
MInd Your Manners
Dating may have changed, but manners should remain constant.
Today, we often text people more than we talk with them. Texting is OK as a “heads-up” method of communication, like letting your date know if you are running 5 minutes late. But it shouldn’t take the place of all communication, especially at the beginning of a relationship. If you feel that someone texts you too much, suggest that you talk over phone instead! There’s no better way to get to know someone than talking and spending time together.
While communicating by text has taken the place of over the phone or even face-to-face communication, the practice blowing off texts and calls from people you're not interested in having a relationship with (called ghosting) is becoming increasingly common. While it's absolutely fine not to want a second or third date, be mature enough to say so rather than just disappear.
Another thing to remember is that talk of your ex is off-limits. It's tempting to go there, especially if you're both dating after being divorced. But talking about your ex relays the message to your date that you are more interested in your prior relationship than seeking a new one. Conversation on a date is used to get to know the other person, it's rude to spend the entire time talking about or complaining about your ex. Use your dating time to find common ground with the person your with. If you find yourself constantly talking about your ex when you're on dates, you may want to consider whether you are actually ready to date or not.
If you were in a committed relationship for a long time, the idea of beginning a new romance may seem scary. If you've recently tried other activities that bring you out of your comfort zone, you could be ready to date.
Getting back into the dating scene can be challenging but it is definitely worthwhile.
You are already equipped with all you need to make great things happen in your brand new life, and dating after divorce can be one of them.
Going through a divorce? Jack can help you make a new plan for your life. Give his Columbus office a call at (614) 751-5058.