Dating is awkward enough the first time. After a divorce, you probably feel less motivated than ever to put yourself out there. You know the pain relationships can bring and may feel like you are better off just getting a dog. With all that being said, deep inside, you still likely feel a desire be known and loved. And you know that in order to fulfill that desire you need to meet someone.
All of this will likely create an inner struggle between your desire to retreat and hide in solitude and your desire to get back out there and find someone. After a traumatic experience like divorce, you may not even know where to start and that’s okay. You need to take this slow.
Once you’ve taken the time to process your own emotions and experience, the time will come when you feel ready to step back into a relationship. Dating is the first step in that process. So here some tips for getting back into the dating world after your divorce.
Tips on Dating After Divorce
Don’t jump in too quick
For some, the inner struggle will be less intense and the draw to be back in a relationship will be very strong. In an attempt to distance themselves from their pain, they will immediately pursue a relationship. Naturally meeting someone you find attractive and spending time with them will take your mind off other things, but by doing so you risk running into the same problems again.
Instead, before you get back in the ring, be sure you’ve done your own personal recovery, taking inventory of everything that happened and led you to where you are. To do this will require time, humility, and professional help.
Working with a Christian counselor is pivotal to this process. They will be able to help you process the pain of your divorce and help you see what went wrong. Likely, they will even be able to give you helpful dating advice from years of working with people who have gone through a divorce.
Once you are able to see more clearly, then you will be able to recognize the unhealthy patterns and cycles in your life. If you are able to identify these, then you can seek to avoid them as you pursue a new relationship, setting you up for an even more healthy relationship in the future.
Don’t skip this step. This is one of the hardest things, but it needs to be done. You need to process the pain and come to peace with your divorce before you start dating other people. Otherwise, you are only inviting more heartbreak for you and the other person.
Try dating someone who isn’t your type
This may sound like some crude dating tip to try “experimenting” relationally but that’s really not the case. What this actually means is that you should try dating someone who you aren’t magnetically drawn to. Maybe he is the nice guy at work, who is always kind and very responsible. Or maybe she is the spunky girl you know who’s always up for an adventure.
If you think they could be a good fit, but they aren’t your usual type stay open minded! While it may feel comfortable to date someone who is your type (i.e. someone whose personality you are familiar with), this can also be a problem.
Remember, you are trying to break old, unhealthy patterns of relating. If you keep dating people who draw you back into the same patterns, or maybe even date certain people to perpetuate old patterns, then that is a problem. Dating someone new and different can get you out of a rut and keep you out of old cycles. It might seem a little scary, but it can be seriously helpful as you move on.
As you start dating other people, you may be tempted to keep your divorce a secret for as long as possible. It shouldn’t necessarily be the first thing you talk about on a date, but if you try to conceal your past it will come out. It’s better to be open about it on the front-end because then you know you are moving forward with someone who you really cares about you.
Don’t let people in too quickly
If you are dating someone and things are going really well, you may be tempted to introduce them to your children (if you have kids).
While it’s natural to want to share a new romantic interest with your friends and family, you need to be very careful about introducing them to your children. Divorce is already a difficult, messy, and confusing things for kids, so introducing them to new partners can be really hard on them.
Instead, people dating after divorce should wait at least six months before introducing their kids to someone they are dating. This will give them time to find out if this person is a good fit and if the relationship is serious.
Take things slow
It might be tempting to go out there and get back what you once had. But remember it’s important to find the right person, not just any person. So, take your time getting to know people. Don’t immediately jump straight into serious dating relationships.
Take your time and hang out with people in groups. You can get to know people without explicitly dating them. Organize group hang outs or join a co-ed sports team. Try to find opportunities to meet and connect with in a natural and casual way, it will help you gently wade back into the dating pool instead of diving in headfirst.
Be prepared to feel triggered
Getting back into the world of dating after having been divorced is going to bring up some serious emotions for you sooner or later. Maybe it’s on a date when you look into the person’s eyes and are reminded of your ex. Or maybe it’s when you are hanging out with a group of people and visit a restaurant you used to frequent with your old spouse.
Sooner or later these feelings are going to come. So prepare to feel these emotions when you are dating after divorce and be sure to process them. Don’t just shove them under the rug.
Just because you feel them doesn’t mean you haven’t moved on. In fact, feeling them is often the process of moving on. If you don’t take the time to process the new emotions that bubble up as you start dating again, it will only prolong the pain of your divorce.
Again, this is where a Christian counselor will be crucial to your process. They can prepare you to feel these emotions and help you process them in a healthy way as you begin to experience them. When you feel uncomfortable talking about your lingering feelings with your friends and family, you will always have a counselor there for you.
Trust your gut
With the experience from your prior relationship and the growth you’ve experienced through counseling, don’t be afraid to trust your gut. If you are dating someone and something feels off, don’t be afraid to end it. You can’t live for what life is “supposed” to be or hope for this person to change.
Make your decision based on who they currently are. Just because someone seems perfect to everyone else, doesn’t mean they are perfect for you. You have to trust your instincts about things. You need to figure out what you need and pursue that.
Dating after divorce might seem like an impossible task, but it isn’t. With time, counseling, and the right dating tips, you can begin dating after divorce. It will be difficult and require openness, honesty, and self-reflection, but if you put in the hard work of processing and moving on from your divorce, then you can start a new life with someone else.
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