If you are asking yourself this question, you have probably passed through stages of post-divorce depression and self-doubts. Thus, you might be ready to enter a quiet harbor of a stable relationship rather than plunge into a whirling world of unpredictable dating romance.
Just to be on the safe side, let us quickly run through traditional pit stops that help people regain their inner balance in the post-divorce period and get ready for commitment.
Quick Checklist for Things You are Supposed to Have Dealt with Before
Make Sure You Let Go of Your Spouse. It is common for many spouses in the middle of divorce to try to mend things up. If there is any chance for reconciliation, you definitely can go for it. It will not do you any good if you start dating while you have a lingering thought you could have reconciled. Seeing new people and dating is stressful and complicated enough to add up to the mix.
Process Your Negative Post-Divorce Feelings. Especially if your divorce was brutal and not amicable, you need time to process your feelings and adjust to your new single life. You should address anger, rage, hatred, disappointment and so on that you feel toward your spouse and probably self.
Go to therapy. The most efficient way to deal with your grief over your failed marriage is to come and see a professional therapist who will help address unresolved and underlying issues. Do not think therapy necessarily takes many years. However, only talking to your friends and relatives is not as productive as to talk to someone objective and get custom-tailored advice.
Get Accustomed to the New Life. It is highly desirable to settle down with your kids’ schedules and custody schedules. If your custody battle is not over yet, you will find it difficult to share your mental energy with both your children and a new love.
Realize that You Need to Rely On Yourself. Sometimes people want to get into a new relationship immediately after a divorce because they need emotional support. However, for your own good it is advisable to regain your inner strength first through therapy and inner work and only then step out on the dating market and look for a new relationship.
Take Your Time to Heal. Often divorce counselors advise to calculate the time you need to heal by taking the time you were married and by dividing it by two. Thus, if you were married for 5 years, your emotions will adjust after 2 years of your singlehood. However, if you split up from a spouse of twenty years, you probably need not wait for 10 years to date again. As soon as you are sure that you do not try to cover up the post-divorce wound by looking for a serious relationship, you are fine.
Try to Tell Your Divorce Story to an Imaginary Friend. From the way you tell what happened to you and how you and your spouse acted during and after the divorce, you can glimpse into your emotional state. People are good at hiding their true feelings from themselves. You can tell everyone and self that you are fine while you keep ruminating over your mistakes and how you would get back at your spouse. For women, as they can social approval to be in touch with their feelings more obviously: if you stopped crying over your failed marriage and mourning the loss of the relationship, your grieving period is over. For men, if you can think about your ex-wife getting into a new relationship without clenching your fists and getting depressed, you are ready to get back to looking to romantic partnership.
Trust Yourself. Do not let yourself doubt your ability to fall in love and be loved back. Even if you have a failed marriage in your history, it does not mean that all your choices are wrong. After you do inner work and deal with at least some of your issues, you can expect to get somewhat different results from life. It can involve a lot of therapy and inner work, especially in you were in an abusive relationship or ended up things with your spouse in an ugly way. You may feel that you let yourself down and did not notice red flags that could have ended your relationship earlier. Try to trust yourself in smaller things. Ask yourself what you really want, get it, and praise yourself for making a choice.
Do Not Compare Yourself to Others. It is highly detrimental to your morale to compare yourself to others. If you feel tempted to think: ‘argh, this friend of mine is still married and seems to have a great family while I massively failed’, do not do that. If you compare yourself to others in order to tell yourself that you are less attractive and less legible as a partner, you sabotage your own desire to fall in love. Try to understand whether you really want a relationship right now. If yes, then find partners who you do not feel inadequate being with. If you want someone much prettier and richer than you are, your self-doubts are well-grounded and you need to address your high demands.
Do not Set any Obstacles on Your Way to Happiness. Look out for thoughts and attitudes that can put barriers between you and your desires. For example, you may think before you step out on the dating market again you need to do something specific, such as losing weight, having plastic surgery or reach some financial goal. Whereas you can pursue your dreams and desires, you do not need to wait before you find someone you can have a meaningful relationship. Therefore, do not set any unrealistic and/or ideal conditions before you see someone. You deserve to be happy right now the way you are.
Dating, or Not Dating, That is the Question
Both the good and bad news about dating life after a divorce is that there are no rules. Not having to stick to some rulebook is rather liberating because it is up to you to decide when you are ready to meet people and on which terms. On the other side, feeling vulnerable after a divorce people often fear they will make many mistakes and end up in a failed relationship again.
As for dating, experts divide. Some say it is good to take a lot of me-time when you get fully involved with your children, work, hobbies, therapy and long-delayed desires and redefine yourself at your own pace. Seeking even a non-committal relationship at this restoring stage of your life can be distracting.
Others tentatively suggest that divorced people go out there and get plenty of sex. Having lived in a monogamous relationship, you were embroiled in raising children, providing for your family, doing chores, and paying bills. Getting headfirst into the pool of dating opportunities is a heady and refreshing experience. It indeed can return you the taste of life.
If you are able to view casual dating for what it is – casual dating with no commitment and no obligations – you can derive a lot of pleasure from it.
If, as a woman, you had a little connection with your body in your marriage and do not really know what you like and what you can give sexually; it is time to explore yourself, solo as well as with willing partners.
If, as a man, you felt stuffed in your marriage and you had to suppress some of your desires, now it is time to unleash them.
Dating can bring your exciting and refreshing feelings of self and of the pleasure to meet other people.
Of course, dating can be painful in a sense that they can reject you and get anxious about being exposed. However, if you view it only as experience and do not try to solve your issues by using other people or cling to those who do not want you, you will get a boost of energy.
In this time of exploration and celebration, you can discover many new things about yourself. You can come across your authentic self if it was covered from you all that time.
Another fruitful strategy of dealing with post-divorce dating is to alternate intense sexual life and celibacy. In order to get a gulp of fresh air after the terrible divorce chaos, it can be a stimulating experience to throw yourself out and go wild. However, after some period of mindless dating, it makes sense to step into a period of quiet contemplation of acquired experience and your inner desires.
The goal of this hot-and-cold dating period is for you to regain your spontaneity. Some people notice that they lost the carefree spirit they used to have when they were students. On the one hand, it is absolutely natural that people in their 30s, 40s, and so on are more serious because of their obligations and commitments.
However, it is difficult to get a fulfilling and happy relationship if you are unhappy and stiff with stress and discontent about your life.
If you want to truly fall in love – instead of some surrogate that would cover up your pain from the divorce – you need to be able to share what you have: free time, emotions, positive experience, and happiness.
It would be wrongful and unfair to look for a person to love only to mask your need for support. Therefore, if you feel that you are dead inside after the divorce, you better deal with this feeling on your own rather than look for someone to ‘heal’ you.
Usually when people try to circumvent the need for inner work by expecting their romantic partners to fill their inner void, they end up in unfulfilling or even abusive relationships with people who are indifferent or outright rude to them.
Your own happiness is up to you. Do your job and then – when you have something to share with others – start looking for a relationship.
How to Regain Your Spontaneity
You can say that you never were spontaneous in the first place and cannot even imagine how to get it. Then it is time for you to try to have some fun.
Having fun is the main thing you need to orient yourself to. It will help you (re) discover your spontaneity.
What is spontaneity actually? It is fun, joy, happiness, energy, and excitement to live. Joie de vivre, as the French put it.
Suppressed under the weight of commitment and adult duties, people often lose the ability to be youthfully spontaneous. People get less sensual and more rational; they focus less on pleasure and more responsibilities.
However, if you provide an inner structure within the depth of your personality, spontaneity occurs and remains. It will provide a steady flow of energy and life force.
In order to provide a structure for spontaneity, you need to learn to strike a balance between what you should do and what you want to do. Commit to your parental responsibilities, be a good employee or employer, help your parents and friends, be kind and generous with time and material things to a stranger. And at the same time know yourself and your desires, spend time the way you like, get hobbies, travel and explore the world.
On the one hand, your life needs structure. On the other hand, spontaneity hates planning. Thus, to walk that delicate line you need to try to be effervescent and excited and not to slip into a boreing mode when you tell other people what to do and how to live their life.
Sometimes life coaches advise people to visualize a partner they want to meet. Please don’t. You would ruin your spontaneity. You will look out for the person you visualized and can miss on someone truly beautiful and caring and wonderful only because he or she did not fit the profile in your head.
The advice to come up with the general outline can work out regarding a kind of relationship you want to have. But only the general outline of it. Something that includes red flags busting a psychopath, abuser, and manipulator of any gender. In all other regards, keep an open mind and welcome whatever comes your path. You will sort it out later.
If you want to be spontaneous, you should not be afraid of changes and stresses. On a large scale, some changes can be pretty stressful and one needs a lot of strength to deal with them. For example, divorce. However, talking about spontaneity changes and stresses refers more to everyday plans and decisions.
Be ready to cancel your plan or reject planning at all. Especially referring to romantic relationships. Planning can kill the buzz from the get-go.
No need to have a detailed plan of your date. It is better to start with something unpretentious, such as a walk along the beach or in the park. If, during the walk, you hear some music, approach and listen to a little. Upon seeing an ice cream stand, buy a cone and share it together.
If you planned a getaway together but something went wrong, don’t be afraid to stop it and get back to the city. And the opposite, extend your only having-coffee meeting up and spend a weekend together if you hit it off right away.
At that you should not wait for the other party to appreciate your efforts. It is all consensual but you first do it because it is fun and you like what you offer. Your date can join in or decline. Being spontaneous in this way, you will not feel rejected if the person you see does not like something or is in a bad mood.
It is difficult to foresee everything and be sure that you will perform the way you expected to. However, if you follow the flow of life, you will find it considerably easier to have fun and be in the moment.
It is great to be spontaneous even when choosing an outfit. Not only the weather can change on the day of your date but your mood can be quite different. It is always better to get dressed based on your feelings and your mood. It goes without saying that you should have your wardrobe sorted out with seasonal clothing and stacked with necessary colors an accessory. However, you can move freely without the borders you placed yourself (or together with your stylist) for picking what to wear on a date.
Overall, whatever comes your way welcome it with curiosity and good humor. It will give you a charm.
Do not put pressure on yourself to be someone more grandeur than you really are. You have been doing a lot of inner work with your therapist and/or on your own. When you go on a date, let your inner self shine. You will analyze the results later.
Prepare the Ground
In the quest to find your new love, your role is very important. As was already discussed, you need to get psychologically ready to love and be loved.
However, there is another part of the equation. And it is also up to you to find ways to meet new people.
First of all, there is a host of new dating apps that can be helpful. Yet technology can be part of the problem too. 24/7 availability of an endless number of dating options at our fingertips seduce and corrupt us. Many people find it hard to settle down on one partner, whereas they can have a new one each night.
There is a phenomenon known as Fear of missing out, or FoMO, where people find it hard to make a final choice because they think the choices other people make are better.
This type of anxiety is pervasive in many people today because they want to make a right choice. It stems from an idea that there is something ideal that one can attain.
However, the truth is that we live in an imperfect world. We are imperfect and our partners will always be imperfect. Also, it is impossible to predict whether or not you made a ‘right’ choice. Only after you make it, you will analyze what you get and will adjust your behavior accordingly. There are no ‘wrong’ choices if you can appreciate the experience you get from any of them.
In a relationship there are so many things that can go wrong, that you need not really to bother and nip your possible relationship in the bud.
In order to overcome the string of pointless encounters, try to expand the circle of your acquaintances. You definitely have a couple of friends and relatives you seen regularly, but when you are in active search, you need to expand your friendships.
Meet up and communicate with people of any gender, age, and occupation. You never know who you can come in contact with through your friends. Get new hobbies where you come to a class and meet new people. Enroll into local community groups to help and mingle. Travel and make new acquaintances.
Try a Relationship
Finally, when the foundation of your refreshed self is laid down and your friendship circles are expanded, you can try to have a relationship with someone of your liking.
Do not be afraid that you are committing for something serious. You just try it out. You can’t predict what will happen and if it works out. The person you are seeing will influence this relationship too, don’t forget about that.
Be prepared to have your heart broken. It is possible. It is not bad. It’s also an experience. People often think they need someone to test their ability to love and be loved and in some way it prepares them for the future relationship.
Additionally, do not cling to some old ideas of self and your tastes in men/women. You can end up with someone you would never think you would like in a romantic sense. Remember about spontaneity? Accept whatever comes your way.
The most important thing is, do not be in a hurry. There is no deadline or any specific date when you should find a new love. Take your time and in the meantime find something gripping to do.
Not a Good Sign
At the same time, it is important to mention some road signs that would hint you that something has gone amiss.
If it doesn't really matter who you are dating, it is a bad sign. Sometimes divorced people are in so much pain and they want to show others they are just fine that they pretend to lead a life of a person who ‘moved on.’
Be honest with yourself. If you see that you go through the motions and the person next to you is a stranger, you do not need to keep up a facade. You need to live for yourself. You need to make choices for yourself. You do not need a relationship just for the sake of it.
You should not think so low of yourself and date a person only because he or she showed an interest in you. The only good relationship is when you sincerely and truly like the person and want to spend time together. Ask yourself, could you easily substitute this person with another one? If yes, you started dating seriously too early.
If you notice that you lost touch with your long-time friends, it means that you put too much pressure on this new relationship and want to rely on this person. However, you need to have enough strength to rely on yourself. If you are so afraid to lose that person who you no longer find time for your friends, your relationship is developing too fast. Get a grip and see your friends for once in a while.
If you cannot stand being single and you always are in a relationship, it is more difficult to redefine yourself and heal your wounds after the divorce. It looks like you put a band-aid on a broken arm without straightening it up with doctors’ help and taking medicine. You can live like that but it is much less satisfying than it could be.
Besides, being single is great for many reasons. If you have never tried it, it is high time to do it. You will get a new experience and will learn many new things about yourself. Then you will definitely be able to fall in love again and build more mature and strong relationships.