What to keep in mind when you’re dating after a divorce
We have all been through a harrowing breakup or two, but divorce is different. You can’t just cut the cord and walk away: Often, the breakup is drawn out — as a result, the pain runs deep. Many times, children are involved. Assets need to be split and lives uprooted.
Although every divorce is different, there are some common stages people go through before they’re ready to date again. Based on interviews with therapists and people who’ve ended marriages, here are some things to keep in mind as you get back out there.
Work through the grief of your divorce before starting to date again. Before getting back out there, Alexandra Solomon, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at the Family Institute at Northwestern University and author of “Loving Bravely,” says the most important thing to do is address your own recovery. Read books. Talk to friends about what you’ve been through. Listen to relationship podcasts.
And consider investing in a professional. “Therapy is an immensely helpful place to grieve the loss of the relationship,” Solomon says. “Even if you’re the one initiating the divorce, there is still grief. Here, you integrate the lessons of the relationship, and prepare to open your heart to someone new.”
There’s a huge learning curve. Most people leaving a marriage will find that dating has changed a lot since the last time around. “Technology has changed how we search for love, and swiping can be especially jarring for people who have been in longterm marriages,” Solomon says. “Certainly, you can meet people IRL, but dating apps have become incredibly commonplace and convenient. Go slowly, and remember that the app is nothing more than a way to get from A (introduction) to B (face-to-face connection).”
Tom O’Keefe, 49, from St. Louis, had to get used to the new reality: the ability to see multiple people at once and the extreme flakiness that comes with that. Once he adapted, he used the changes to his benefit. “What was most challenging was just the number of options; it feels neverending,” he says. “But that also was a benefit; I approached dating differently this time. I made a more concerted effort to be myself, and I stopped trying to be what I thought the other person wanted.”
It’s OK to be more practical, and less romantic, about the dating process. Those who are divorced are more likely to see a relationship for what it is. “They may be less at risk of romanticized notions of love,” Solomon says. “The big question is the degree to which a person who is divorced has ‘done their work’ — attended to their recovery process and mined the lessons of the divorce.” Realism is a plus in the dating pool, but cynicism is not — the latter is a sign someone might not be ready to enter a new long-term relationship.
O’Keefe says he was more upfront dating the second time around, with two young kids — and he felt like there were fewer games as a result. Divorced people are “less likely to waste time beating around the bush,” he says. He is now married for the second time. “The secret isn’t avoiding someone with baggage, but finding someone with matching luggage,” he says. “My wife’s ‘baggage’ is a very good complement to my own, and vice versa.”
Divorced people might be better equipped for long-term relationships than flings. According to Solomon, many divorced people learn from their mistakes and therefore know how to spot a red flag sooner than other daters can.
Krysta Monet, a 30-yearold woman from Orlando, Florida, says she was far better equipped to date after divorce because she was intent on forming a stronger relationship for her next long-term love. “Dating becomes more about you and less about the other person,” she says. “You learn so much from the mistakes of your past that you practice different traits in hopes of a more positive outcome.”
Everyone has their own timeline: It could be months or years before you’re ready to date.