The first relationship after a divorce is always exciting and a little scary. Not everyone is brave enough to start dating right away after the breakup. And even if so, few people believe in the strength of new ties.
What does the official data say about this? For example, is there a chance to find love immediately after a divorce, and how long will it take to bond with a new partner?
The first relationship after divorce statistics can shed some light on the matter. Let's take a closer look.
How Long Does it Take to Start the First Relationship after a Divorce?
It depends on the coping mechanisms of each individual and their gender. For instance, men and women cope with post-divorce stress differently.
Dr. Judith Wallerstein, author of Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce, estimated that 5 years after the divorce, “31 percent of the men and 42 percent of the women had not yet achieved psychological or social stability.”
Wallstein believes that until a person gains that stability, they shouldn’t engage in any relationships.
According to Psychology Today, it takes one year to reassemble and get everything in order. Also, the amount of time needed to recover and start dating again is very individual. Furthermore, it depends on the length of marriage and reasons for divorce.
Therefore, the answer to “Is the first relationship after divorce doomed to fail” is unclear.
For single parents, one year can be a standard before introducing a new partner to their child. In a survey conducted by Stewart, Copeland, and Chester, 50% of participating children aged 6-12 felt sad after parental separation.
Also, 20% were scared or confused, 13% were angry, and 10% felt glad. However, one year after the breakup, all children had fewer emotional and behavioral issues.
Some scholars believe that a person should wait at least three months before the first serious relationship. Others insist that there is no connection between the pause before a new relationship and its quality.
For example, Nicholas Wolfinger from the University of Utah, in his paper “Does the Rebound Effect Exist?” concluded that people who quickly engage in new relationships after divorce don’t have higher breakup rates than those who wait longer.
What is the Chance of Finding Love in a Rebound Relationship?
A rebound relationship occurs when a newly single person engages with a new romantic partner soon after the previous one. It is often perceived as something temporary and not serious.
Many relationship experts warn against engaging with a new partner too soon. “Dating before you’ve completed the emotional business around your past relationship almost guarantees that you will choose the same kind of person you just left,” says Jeannine Lee, author of Beyond Divorce.
However, she also admits that the first relationship after divorce can work only if there “is an ongoing dialogue about fears, needs, wants, and expectations.”
But is the first relationship after divorce always a rebound?
Claudia C. Brumbaugh’s survey suggests that it depends on the speed with which a person enters a new relationship and their primary motives. The researcher interviewed 264 people in their post-breakup period.
Her first relationship after divorce statistics showed that 93% of those were involved in a new relationship. On average, they lasted for 2 months. The maximum amount of time that elapsed between their former and new partners was 0-13 months.
Brumbaugh’s study revealed that people who started dating earlier, although they respected their new partner, were also emotionally involved to some degree in their past relationship.
Reasons Why People Start Dating Soon after Divorce
There are several reasons why people get into their first serious relationship not long after the breakup. These motives affect the relationship quality and its outcome.
So, what are the main reasons for people to start dating immediately after divorce?
To find a distraction from painful emotions
Major social status transitions tend to undermine a person’s emotional stability. For example, newly single people often experience anger, sadness, and anxiety. However, studies show that new romantic relationships may help decrease the level of negative emotions.
Researchers from Louisiana State University and Sam Houston State University conducted a study on coping with breakups. 107 females and 91 males aged 18-62 took part in the survey. They answered a series of questions about their splits and rebound relationships.
The scholars concluded that men, on average, start a rebound relationship sooner than women. Such coping strategies are more common in men because of “the relative lack of social support systems,” meaning they have fewer people to turn to for emotional support.
“The ‘‘honeymoon period’’ that accompanies the onset of a new relationship might also help to push unpleasant emotions and memories into the background, offering a person a new set of ideas and emotions to fixate upon,” as stated in the article by Claudia C. Brumbaugh from Department of Psychology in Queens College.
Thus, the presence of a new romantic interest can potentially decrease the negative emotions for both men and women and serve as a distraction.
To battle low self-esteem
A fair share of people after divorce suffer from low self-esteem, self-doubt, and fear of loneliness. Such negative emotions make some of them urgently look for a first serious relationship after divorce without waiting too long.
A 2010 study by the Northwestern University researchers found a connection between the breakup and a people’s self-perception, current beliefs, and way of thinking.
“When a relationship ends, and the associated interdependence is disrupted, individuals must discard some or all of the self-views that they shared with their now ex-partner,” the scholars write. The process of self-reinvention usually causes a great deal of distress.
An article published by David A. Sbarra, Ph.D., in the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine says that 79% of divorcees experience mild depression and average health and life satisfaction.
Also, the length of the marriage and psychological health affect the levels of emotional resilience. For 6 out of 10 people with a history of major depressive disorder, the risk and severity of post-breakup depression are higher than for others.
Dating a new partner can help regain self-confidence and a sense of attractiveness.
To relieve financial hardships
Divorce often brings financial hardships to both parties. But it turns out that women (especially with children) are the most vulnerable to marital status changes.
A 2016 U.S. Census Bureau report revealed that 20% of divorced women lived in poverty compared to 11% of men. In 2018, the number of single-mother households ranged from 4.67% in Montana to 11.67% in Louisiana.
Single mothers with underage children struggle with costly childcare, educational and medical expenses and often work overtime to provide for their families. In such circumstances, a child experiences a lack of communication with both parents, leading to emotional distress.
There could also be health deterioration of all parties due to the financial crisis and the inability to pay for healthcare needs and medical insurance.
According to a National Bureau of Economic Research survey, food consumption also decreases by 17% after divorce. The survey’s principal conclusion was that the family income falls by 40-45% six years after the divorce.
To emotionally detach from the ex-spouse
New relationships help to move on and begin to get used to a life without the ex-partner faster.
A survey on the rebound and its effects for individuals emotionally attached to their former lovers by Stephanie S. Spielmann and Anne E. Wilson found that the “longing for an ex-partner was disrupted” when the participants engaged in new romantic relationships.
“There is nothing as great as the gale-force winds of a new romance to make you forget all you have learned about relationships, abandon the commitments you have made to yourself, and stop building the life you want to have,” writes Susan J. Elliott, a divorce coach, and motivational speaker.
But, in her opinion, a new romance can help break the previous behavioral patterns and help start over.
To find a parent to the children from a previous marriage
Multiple studies, such as research conducted by Jane Anderson from the University of California, show that children from divorced families experience financial, emotional, and academic difficulties, to name a few.
Single parents may believe that a worthy partner can become a sort of support for the family and the child in particular.
Children need to feel safe and loved, especially in the post-divorce period. But most of the time, they don’t get enough communication from both parents, who also go through emotional turmoil.
Contact with family and friends may have a significant positive effect on both single parents and children. However, the timing for introducing a new partner to a child should be carefully considered.
When single parents start dating, they also hope their new life partner would provide additional financial support. But, unfortunately, such expectations mainly apply to women. “Divorce often leads to a dramatic decline in the economic situation of mothers and children, whereas divorced fathers often enjoy an improved financial situation,” explains Bonnie L. Barber from Murdoch University and David H. Demo from the University of North Carolina in their article on children’s well-being after divorce.
The authors add that “divorced mothers, generally having fewer financial resources and more demands on their time, are less able to provide their children with the resources needed for participation in constructive activities.”
Thus, after-school activities could become a beneficial distraction from parental divorce and positively affect educational attainment and healthy psychological development.
Dating Prospects for Single Parents
Dating a single parent can pose unique challenges. That’s why there is a belief that they experience more difficulties finding a new partner.
A survey by Christine Schnor published in the Journal of Marriage and Family partly confirms this situation.
“There is consistent evidence that having children from a previous union living permanently in the household—in so-called sole physical custody—substantially decreases one’s likelihood to form a new co-residential partnership,” says the author.
The research results described in the article suggest that women who are sole custodians to their children have 33% fewer chances of meeting someone after a divorce than women without children.
Single fathers with custodial responsibility also have their hardships in a dating game. “If you are a single dad, likely you’ll be doing more of the spending on a date, and this may eat into your budget,” says Shae Cooke in her book Single Parent’s Guide to Love, Dating and Relationships.
“You may still also have some loose ends to tie up: financial, custody, estate settling, insurance issues, and other legal matters.”
That being said, forming new romantic attachments after divorce can bring positive effects to a single parent’s life. Those who decide to postpone dating should consider the positive impact that quality relationships could potentially bring to their well-being.
A study by Michael R. Langlais, Edward R. Anderson, and Shannon M. Greene from the University of Nebraska–Kearney and the University of Texas at Austin show that “repartnering after divorce is linked to better psychological and physical health outcomes.”
This research was primarily focused on single mothers and their lives during a two-year post-divorce period.
46% of single mothers dated one partner in the study, and 21% dated several partners. 18% had more than one dating partner simultaneously, and 15% did not have any relationships.
In addition, the researchers found that emotional well-being was higher for those who were in high-quality relationships. Thus, dating after divorce for single parents is a good decision if the new relationship brings a positive experience.
Overall, the statistics of the first relationship after divorce look optimistic. The opinion that love affairs immediately after parting are not long-lasting is primarily groundless. If something is valid for one person, it doesn’t mean the others would experience the same thing.
So, finding love after a breakup is not only a possibility but a real chance to enjoy life again.