Post-Divorce Dating Dos and Don’ts

A lot of divorcees wonder when they should start dating.  Well intended others will tell them to “get out there” immediately.  Others will tell them to have meaningless sex.  Really, the timeframe does vary from person to person. 

That being said, a good time frame is 6 months to a year.  I conservatively suggest a year.  I also suggest no meaningless sex.  Divorce is a symbolic loss.  It’s a death…much like a death of a loved one.  Except it’s the death of a relationship.  People not only need time to grieve, but they also need time to work through the anxiety that comes post-divorce.

Dating and getting into a relationship within the first year can feel comforting.  The anxiety will be quelled.  Hope will be renewed.  You might feel desirable and worthy.  Feel like you’re showing your ex how great you really are.  You’ll be distracted from mourning.  All of this gives you the illusion feeling better. 

Except, you’ll just be covering up a wound with another person.  You aren’t likely to be fully whole mentally or emotionally.  You can’t heal unless you are on your own. 

I say wait…and while you’re waiting work on yourself.  Give yourself the chance to fully heal and embrace yourself again.  The healthier you are the healthier of a partner you will choose. 

When you do start dating, know that it will be different.  A lot has changed since you were on the single scene:

  • You are a different person now
  • Your social life is different
  • Dating at this age is different
  • You’ve likely forgotten how to date

The best thing to do:

  • Look at dating as dating.  It will be less exhausting if you don’t look at it as trying to find your soul mate.  Know that you will have to practice dating to get comfortable and less awkward. 
  • Be patient with yourself.  Your self-esteem may have taken a hit.  It will be hard for you to trust someone and let yourself be vulnerable again.  Trust will be difficult.  Commitment may feel scary.  Keep pushing yourself, but be compassionate as well. 
  • Get out there, but be patient with dating.  You will meet a lot of people before you come into contact with someone you truly click with.
  • Remember your value.  Cultivate your confidence and own your independence. 
  • Live life and try new things. 
  • Get your physical health on track.  Go to the gym, join a club, or start running.  You will look better and feel better.  It will reduce the chronic anxiety.  Try to make this a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Freshen up your look.  You may have gotten into a rut during your marriage or since.  Getting a hair cut or new hairstyle, updating your wardrobe, or changing your makeup can help your outlook. 
  • Get social. Be with out with friends at least a couple of times a month.  Most people need to be around other adults.  It fulfills our social need.  It will also help you increase your confidence as a single.

Give it time.  Don’t rush into dating.  Wait the 6 months to a year.  Work on yourself as an individual.  When you date again it will be more meaningful and will be with people with whom you are well matched.

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA