I've held off on writing about my dating post divorce experiences because I wasn't sure how to. I'm ready to share my experiences. I thought many of these tips that I found extremely useful would be of worth to others as well.
I must stop a minute and say that I'm not an advocate of divorce. In fact, if you can make it work with your spouse, I'd highly recommend taking the work-it-out-stay-married-route. That said, it was the right decision for me and is for many others as well.
Also, I didn't add a lot of tips that are for any kind of dating: dress nice, put your best foot forward, make eye contact, etc. The tips you'll find on Dating Post Divorce below are obviously for divorcees—so if you are one, I hope they help.
Get out there and date.
-Had I waited until I fully felt ready to date, I would probably still be single and not dating—even today.
After divorce you feel a variety of emotions. Even though I was generally happy, life was different and 90% of my friends were still married. I felt very odd. I felt like a fish out of water.
I didn't know where I fit in in society and going from married with kids to single with kids felt like I was a foreigner in my own life. I had lived in Taiwan and didn't understand anything anyone was saying at one point in my life. Going from married for 6 years to single was just as foreign for me as was that living-abroad experience.
To cope, I was becoming consumed in work and my two darling children. Although they are great things to spend time on I was starting to ignore socializing.
Then a good friend of mine said that I should get out there and start meeting other people who are divorced and begin to date. So, I took the challenge and did. Note-This may be different for you but for me socializing and moving on was best.
I asked some trusted friends to set me up and I got on a paid dating website that has single people of my same religion as subscribers and I began dating.
My first date was hard. I was painfully nervous. It was like I was a 16 year old going on my first date again—only with a ton of past experiences, a failed marriage, and he and I knowing that I have my darling two kids who I wasn't sure how to discuss. I was new to this and really wasn't sure why anyone would want to date me.
My first date liked me a lot, even though I didn't much want to date him, it gave me confidence that perhaps others might not be so scared of my life situation. After a few more first dates I felt like I was worth dating and that other men in a similar situation were worth dating too.
-Even if you aren't looking for a spouse, it may be beneficial for you to meet others, socialize, and be treated well. It was for me.
Read up on Dating
-I realized I hadn't dated for 7+ years so I researched some books to read and found This book. It helped me re-learn the phases of dating and steps to follow.
If you are a woman, watching Mattthew Hussey's dating tips on You tube is a great resource too.
If you have kids, say NO to long distance.
-If you have children and share custody, date people who live close to you in proximity. Long distance is especially difficult for parents who share joint physical or legal custody. This is due to the fact that if you share any type of custody and things get serious, you will need to arrange with the courts a scenario that works for everyone involved—which is near impossible.
I once heard a person say and am summarizing... 'If you are going to marry someone who lives a long distance from your child's parent and you plan to take your children with you, be prepared to be responsible for that decision. It will likely be devastating for your children and something they could resent you for. It would be like you asking your new spouse to live a state away from you. Imagine not getting to see your spouse except during summers or a week every few months.'
Before I took this advice myself, I dated a guy in another state. Besides not being able to get to know him well enough, it would have been impossible had we married to keep both my husband and children happy when they missed their father who lived a state away.
Although I realize that every circumstance is not that black and white and cut and dry, the principle is a good one if you share custody.
It's not fair to rip them away on account of your falling in love with someone far away. To try to prevent this from happening do not date people who live long distances away from you and your coparent.
Even now with my ex living 15-30 minutes away from me, it is time consuming to run kids, attend events, etc. It is something we gladly do, but it does take on average 7 hours a week of just my ex-husband and I driving the kids to and from each other's homes.
Work on You
No one is perfect. Not you, not I. We all have things we are working on, strengths, and issues. Many of us divorcee's have even more to deal with: a past history of hurt, betrayal, abuse, failure, or abandonment. These can lead to lower self esteem, depression, addiction, or other problems.
Some of us are experiencing joy and freedom for the first time in a longtime and aren't quite sure what to do with it either. I found it helpful to stick to my morals to stay grounded during this time of liberation.
Many of us don't want to marry someone like we were married to before. So it is important to figure out why we married someone with issues we couldn't live with. It is also important to figure out what to look for to create an emotionally healthy and happy relationship.
So whether you are suffering or rejoicing, it's really important to begin healing, work on yourself, and be the type of person you'd want to marry. This will help you figure out what you want—especially while you are dating.
A few resources I've heard about and/or taken part in:
-EMDR therapy which is extremely effective for traumatic events you have lived through.
-Faith based therapy (prayer, meditation, scripture study).
-Hard work therapy. Hard work helps increase confidence and self reliance.
-Addiction recovery therapy—this is a great free service for those with addictions and most of us have one or a few. Addictions could be to porn, food, drugs, shopping, alcohol, co-dependencies, etc.
-Talk-it-out therapy- talking to someone you trust and who holds the same values as you who will allow you to vent and in turn help you see some things from different angles or understand situations better can really help.
-Self-Help therapy- reading books and implementing strategies.
I would recommend getting a variety of help during your post-divorce time. It will help you become a better person, parent, friend, and partner.
Wait to Introduce Your Children
Although I dated quite a few different guys, my children have only met two.
I purposely arranged it so they would not meet anyone I dated until both parties felt ready.
That meant that I either went out on the weekend that my ex-husband had the kids, or I would get a babysitter and meet my date. On occasion, if I knew the man well, I would have the kids with their babysitter go in the backyard or their bedroom to play when I was being picked up.
-I waited to introduce my children to my date until we became exclusively boyfriend girlfriend and my boyfriend felt ready.
This was extremely helpful for many reasons. I think overall it just was more emotionally wise for everyone.
For a mother who loves her kids more than anything, I think I would become semi-blind if my date was super cute to my kids and won them over. I didn't want my kids used as pawns to influence my affection. I wanted to be sure I liked the man and that he was a good man and that I was thinking as clearly as I could before seeing him interact with my children.
I also didn't want to confuse my children and allow them to develop a friendship and then take them out of the friendship with dates over and over again.
I would highly recommend shielding your kids and your emotions by being selective on who and when they meet the person you are dating.
Always meet on first dates in a public place.
I have a conceal carry permit so I always was armed and met my dates in a public place. I never had a problem as I screened the men (more on that below) who I dated well; but just in case, meet in public and be safe.
If you find you like the person after a date or two, a quick social media/Google search, sex offender list search, and a few other due diligence efforts don't hurt either.
Screen your dates
If we met on the aforementioned website, I would email a few times, then we would chat on the phone once or twice. If I hadn't seen any 'red flags' and we were still interested I would agree to go out.
I was careful to read through their profiles and then talk and eliminate anyone I could tell would not be a great fit from the get go.
For example, one man was extremely inappropriate on the phone. I told him we would not be a good fit and refused to go out with him. Luckily you can block numbers if you run into this kind of a person and they won't leave you alone. He begged and pleaded for me just to 'meet him in person' as he knew I'd like him more than just over the phone. This was a major red flag. I didn't meet him and refused to text or call him back.
Another man I weeded out because he bored me so much I almost fell asleep during a 20 minute call. I knew we wouldn't mesh.
Another guy had an ego and was pushy yet very smooth and sauve—I knew this is not my type.
Other guys screened me as well—saving us both time. I found online dating in this manner to be incredibly efficient. Most of us are working, parenting, and much more. So adding dating to our schedule is a lot. Whatever you can do to streamline the process is good.
Having a system of screening or sifting based on profiles, texting, emailing, and a phone conversation before meeting—or not meeting—was extremely efficient and saved me a LOT of time. Further, most dates I did go out on were enjoyable and we shared many commonalities.
Don't have Sex until Marriage
You may think this is old school but I can tell you its very very important. Besides not getting STD's or pregnant, you are protecting yourself from emotional damage, or putting too much emphasis on physical lust—which can be blinding, and/or being used.
It helps you to develop a stronger relationship. My therapist highly recommended it. As did a marriage therapist I've gone to. Further, many great dating books that are not based in my faith quote study after study no the importance of abstinence before marriage in relation to marriages that last longer. When you aren't being so physical during the dating, the focus isn't on the physical as much as it is other aspects of the relationship and developing a strong bond and friendship.
No matter what way you look at it, abstinence really is the safest way to a happy marriage.
Make sure their kids blend well with your kids.
My first boyfriend I had post-divorce and I ultimately ended things on account of his family not blending well with mine. His kids were older and really did not tolerate my younger kids well. It is so important to see how the kids interact together.
Spend the time to get to know their kids and how they parent them. This is HUGE. It's important to have similar parenting styles or be willing to adapt, change, and communicate if yours are different from theirs. It's also important to see if your date is going to put you first after marriage or if the kids will rule all. Lots of communication and observation should be going on in relation to who you are dating, their children, and the blended family dynamics.
I'd recommend reading "The Smart Step Family" or going to a step-family course there is a free one here in Utah called "Kids on the Move" and its a great resource to teach people how to become step-families.
Forgive and Forget your ex.
Some of the most uncomfortable experiences I had dating divorcees was hearing the hatred and anger, resentment, etc. about my date's ex-spouse. You don't have to like your ex but you do need to forgive. Write down everything they did, then forgive it. Afterwards, throw the list away let it go. You will likely need to go to a therapist or do some of the other therapies I mentioned above. It will take work to truly forgive, but I found it to be helpful.
Something super pertinent that I read in the book How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk is as follows, "Forgiveness is the act of facing the pain and anger that someone has brought into your life and letting go of any need or desire to pay that person back. Trust, on the other hand, is a confidence in the integrity of a person to act in a particular way. Forgiveness is past oriented; trust is present and future focused. Forgiveness is about letting go; trust is about holding on. Forgiveness is something undeserved; trust is something earned." I really liked this. You never have to trust your ex in order to forgive. forgiveness really will benefit you and your future relationships more than it will benefit your ex. Do it for your and if you have kids your kids benefit.
Whether this is fact or not, I think in a lot of failed marriages one person carries a good portion of the responsibility. But just as in a healthy relationship both sides should seek to say sorry for each one's mortal flaws, its good to realize what yours have been and seek their forgiveness too.
Also, apologize for the mistakes you made in your marriage and seek their forgiveness too. You weren't perfect. No one is. Its freeing to forgive and even more freeing to ask for their forgiveness.
In the end forgiving and seeking out forgiveness is very healing. You will no longer be carrying around that hatred and bitterness. Forgiving—even when it feels impossible— is a MUST for your own health, your kid's emotions and ability to bond with both parents, and it will help make your next relationship better!
I hope some of these tips help you in your dating endeavors.
Feel free to comment if I've missed out on something that was really helpful for you while you were dating post divorce.