With Valentine’s Day ahead of us, many people are going to feel like they are ready to explore a new relationship, pandemic or not. We polled a group of divorced people in order to bring you some reasonable advice. For those of you who are ready, and we mean really ready, to stretch your heartstrings after divorce, here are the top five pieces of advice we consistently heard:
Learn to be alone. We heard this from almost every person.
“Learn to like your own company before you settle back down, and try to relearn who you are as a person. Divorce can be a huge shock to the system and you can long so much for the comfort and love in being coupled that you start looking for that in every person you date after you’re single again, and that can cause you to miss some serious red flags.”
“Don’t commit to anyone or anything. Your heart is still fragile and you’re emotionally starved, usually, so it is easy to fall victim to the first thing that pays attention to you. That person may not be the right fit; However, you have to get good by yourself again before stepping out there into the great dating yonder.”
“I’d say take time for yourself. Don’t immediately jump into something serious. Go slow. Get a new hobby. Go out with friends. Learn to be alone.”
Take time to have fun. Divorce saps you of your emotions. It’s exhausting and right up there with death on that famous stressor scale. Although you need to watch out for self-destructive behavior, you do also need to have some fun.
“Well sometimes right after divorce the first thing that you have to do is blow off steam. Go out with your friends or go on weekend outings. Be a little wild (within reason) for nothing more than to figure out who the new you is... I went out dancing; I went to events; I went to festivals; I assessed how I presented myself as a way to empower myself.”
Boom. Enough said. Figure yourself out and heal.
Protect your children’s emotions. Many of you will have children and you know how important it is to be responsible with your children’s emotions. Don’t have too much fun and neglect your child’s need for safety and security. Remember, this is a death for them, too. You don’t want to introduce them to someone who might harm them physically, and you must also take into account the emotional harm an attachment that ends in another loss might cause. If they are older, involve them somehow.
“I’ve been seeing the same guy for six months and we still haven’t met each other’s kids. I think it’s vital to wait until you’re committed and serious before bringing kids into the equation.”
“I let my daughter know I’m going on a date so she can be a part of it. She helps me pick out my clothes too. I definitely got her opinion first before I went on my first date after divorce.”
Decide what you want and what works for you where you are on the journey. Some people want to have a serious relationship and others want to date and explore other personalities and experiences. It’s important to understand what you need in order to move you to the next healthy place in your journey.
“Life is not over after divorce; it is just beginning. I learned how much I changed after my divorce and who I was as a person. Don’t lose yourself, but it [dating] is a definite must! When the right person asks, you will be able to say ‘yes’ without hesitation.”
“Ok. So, personally, I was ready to jump in. More so for the fact that my ex kept me extremely sheltered and I was ready to go out and have some fun. In all honesty, I had no intentions of dating seriously initially... I started with online dating sites. Tinder was pretty popular, but turned out most of the guys on there just wanted you for one reason.”
“My general advice is to look for someone whose baggage coordinates well with one’s own baggage and go from there.”
“Remember, your behavior sets the tone for your life and you are the only one that controls that. Most importantly, assess what you did wrong in your failed relationship. Don’t make the same mistakes.”
Date according to where you are on your path and you’ll definitely learn and grow.
Find happiness, even if your ex tries to make it impossible. Many exes regret something about the divorce or are angry with you for moving on and will manipulate your emotions or even your children’s emotions when you start to date. They will try to control this aspect of your life. Some exes will be adults about the situation, but this entry is for those who might not find moving on easy with an ex around. Be patient with yourself and with your children, but maintain your boundaries with the ex. It might be difficult at first since your marriage centered around some aspect of that person, but you don’t have to focus on them anymore. Focus on you. Take it one step at a time, but don’t let them determine your boundaries.
“I stood up to my ex for the first time, when I started dating, and it was liberating. He didn’t realize I had it in me and the personal attacks and hateful words stopped pretty quickly.”
“But remember your kids deserve to learn what happiness and love look like and healthy and productive look like. If you stay alone, they won’t learn some basic relationship skills -- they need to.”
These aren’t the only things to take into account, obviously, but they should resonate and help you think through those next steps. Dating after divorce may be a way to gauge where you are if you’re truly ready. It can also have its own sadnesses. But what’s growth without taking a chance? It’s about to get better, and the possibility of new love always helps.
Mon - Fri 8:30 - 5:00
(Closed 12:00pm - 1:00pm)