There is nothing more confusing and invigorating after a divorce than getting back into the dating scene. Let’s face it. It’s hard to go from having companionship for years and then suddenly find yourself alone. At first, the sense of freedom is amazing. But once that feeling wears off, the craving to be with someone grows. So how can you best navigate getting back into the dating scene?
After my divorce, I found myself in a tricky situation. I wanted to be available for my kids as much as possible, but I also longed to be known and loved by someone special. To complicate matters, I didn’t have a clue how to meet women because I was new to town and hardly knew anyone. The club scene has never been of interest to me so I wasn’t sure how to meet people. Eventually the online dating commercials from Match, eHarmony, and Christian Mingle got the best of me and I plunged in. The adventure was intimidating and exciting as I would communicate with different women and get to know them, as well as trying to understand the process. First dates were always interesting because of the intrinsic awkwardness that was present no matter how many texts and phone conversations I’d had with the lady. For those first dates that turned into seconds, and then eventually into relationships, I learned some hard lessons along the way. Here are a few bits of wisdom to pass on about dating post-divorce.
Give yourself time to heal. I have seen too many people start dating immediately after their divorce was final. This tendency is actually quite normal, but it’s not really a good idea. You have to allow yourself the appropriate amount of time to heal after divorce. By dating too soon, you displace the pain you are feeling and delay the healing process, if not make it longer. I heard a good rule of thumb years ago that you should give yourself one year to heal for every four years you were married. I was married for 11 years when the divorce was final, which means I needed 2 ½ years to heal and rediscover my identity. I tried to skirt the process by getting involved in relationship after relationship, only to realize that I had prolonged my recovery. There is a reason that divorce rates in second marriages are higher than first marriages. People don’t allow enough time to heal and therefore are mere pieces of a person rather than a whole person.
Be cautious with online dating. As I said, I tried quite a few different online dating services. It’s not that these outlets are bad, but rather are difficult to maneuver. Be aware that the profile you read of that guy or girl is just what they want you to know about them. It’s their best foot forward, so don’t become enthralled with them so quickly. Remember that everyone has warts to hide. It takes a while to get to know someone, and online dating creates challenges because you have to build a relationship and a friendship at the same time. It’s not impossible, but I found it very difficult. My longest relationships from online dating were about two months because that’s how long it took me to really start to get to know that person. I did experience some benefits from online dating. It helped me put myself back out there again. I was also able to figure out what I wanted and didn’t want in a partner. And I discovered things about myself, good and not so good, that helped me become a better man.
Build off of friendship, not attraction. The hardest thing to do when you’re lonely and craving companionship is to focus on building a strong friendship rather than a relationship grounded on attraction. By attraction, I mean all aspects of a person you find appealing. Physical, mental, emotional, etc. Its getting past the puppy love stage so you can really get to know the other person. That is sound dating advice in general, but especially after getting divorced. A friend of mine once told me that the second time around you’re looking for what you don’t want in a person as much as what you do want, if not more so. And it takes time to understand what those things are.
The best thing I did in the dating process was to stop dating and stop looking. I took a six month period of time where I just enjoyed life as a single man. That’s when I experienced a significant amount of healing. And then, just as I heard a thousand times before, I met an amazing woman when I was least expecting it.