Dating after Divorce: When, Why and How

by Kim Johnson

Going through a divorce is extremely stressful. The pressure, strain and anxiety can make the idea of dating again overwhelming. Yet, the desire to be in a relationship is often stronger than the fear. So, resuming a social life is the next step to moving on and making a new life. While there is nothing wrong with feeling that want, it is important to take time to do it right. 

Dating after divorce is not an exact science. Each person may have a timeline. But more important than the length of time, is what one does during the time leading up to “getting back out there.” Following are some tips and suggestions that may make the jump a little easier – and even safer.

Date After Your Divorce is Final

Too many times newly divorced people rush into dating and a new relationship. This leads to bad choices in a partner or even another bad marriage. Unfortunately, there are common reasons for this quick jump. Some of these include:

  • The fear of being alone.
  • A need for financial security.
  • Your ex is in a new relationship, and you feel left out
  • A false sense that a new relationship will boost your confidence.
  • You may be starving for physical touch and companionship.

Filling a void in your life is an unhealthy motivation for jumping into the dating pool too quickly. It is tempting to bandage your wounds with positive attention from someone new. But this kind of attention can actually stall your healing and these hurts can pop up down the road causing more pain.

Giving yourself some time to heal your broken heart, rediscover yourself, and make positive changes in your life is invaluable. And although there is no magic formula when one is ready, waiting six months to a year is a great starting point. 

Date for the Right Reasons

It is vital to consider where you are in your healing and why you want to date before taking that plunge. Even though it can be hard to hear, waiting is important. When lessons aren’t learned from past mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them. 

Moving through the restoration process in the right way will help you recover from the wounds created during your divorce. As you mend, you will see some right reasons to date emerge. For instance:

  • You will let go of the past and grieve less.
  • A newfound confidence in who you are will develop.
  • The desire to date won’t come from the need to fill a void.
  • You will want good conversation or to share your interests with someone.
  • You will be content being single whether you have someone in your life.

Examining yourself, your motives and desires can help you discover where you are in the process. You’ll be more likely to find a happy, healthy and emotionally mature relationship.

Date With Preparation

Once you know you are ready to start dating again, the next big question is how. No matter what the length of your marriage, the culture of dating has no doubt changed.  Jumping in without being informed can be risky. Following are some tips to help you navigate this next season of your life.

  1. Set Your Standards Before You Date. Standards are not necessarily to be confused with your type. Some may like a blue-eyed blond or then there is the tall, dark and handsome. That’s your type. Standards, on the other hand, include your deal-breakers or triggers.  Understanding what you know now from your past marriage, what changes will you make?  What will you do differently?  What will you take and what won’t you stand for? The excitement of being pursued or enjoying another’s company can send reason right out the window. That’s why it is very important to set your standards BEFORE you meet someone. Be confident in yourself and be prepared not to settle.
  1. Be Patient and Trust Your Instincts.  While some people can jump right into a new relationship after a divorce, others will take a long time before they are able to feel strong emotions. Give yourself permission to take your time. Passion can be powerful, but real connections take longer. And, as you take your time, tune into the truth about the person. Do they say things that make you uncomfortable? Should you be seeing red flags? Do they seem a little too perfect? Or does something seem off? Do they respect your boundaries? Be careful to keep your wits and don’t let the thrill blind you. 
  1. Be Informed about Online Dating.  How and where to meet someone is the number one question when you want to start dating. In the past, church, a volunteer group, friends or even a chance meeting in a grocery store have opened the dating pool possibilities.  In our world today however, times and technology have changed those opportunities. Online dating websites and applications have redesigned how people meet. And it is not one-size fits all. So, you will need to do your homework BEFORE you sign up, as well as be aware of scammers and/or narcissists. Vulnerability can make you a target so make sure you are ready. Take your time. Don’t offer too much information too soon. Make your safety your number one priority.
  1. Try New Possibilities.  Taking the plunge into the dating pool can be scary and participating in an online dating app can be risky. So, be open to trying other possibilities.  Following are some suggestions for ways to meet new people:
  • Neighborhood Events: Check your local newspaper, flyers at Starbucks, Next Door, Parents without Partners, or Facebook groups for community events. This can be a great way to start meeting people in a familiar environment.
  • Activities that Fit Your Hobbies and Interests: Think about what you enjoy. Sports? Music? Cooking? Nature? Politics? There are many apps and online opportunities to help you join a group that shares a common interest. And it’s a great way to meet someone new.
  • Family and/or Friends Connections: These are the people who know you best and who might be best suited to help you find a new dating prospect. Let them know you would be open to having them set you up.
  • Church Groups: Another way to meet people is to join a group in your local church.  Support groups, Bible Studies, volunteer opportunities are good places to explore new relationships.
  1. Keep Your Kids in Mind. Dating as a single parent is a whole other issue when re-entering the dating scene after divorce. It definitely makes it more complicated. So, tread lightly as you start. Don’t bring someone new into their lives too soon. Reassure your kids that you still love them first and encourage them to ask question or express their concerns.  It is important to recognize their pain and loss may be even more devasting. Accordingly, be aware of how they are dealing with everything, as well. There will be other articles on this blog exploring the subject of dating when raising children of different ages and stages. 

Date Objectively 

Divorce is an excruciating experience and dating afterward isn’t something to begin casually. Taking that plunge can feel like an emotional roller coaster.  There will be heart stopping highs, promising outlooks as well as some disappointments, frustration and even rejection. However, with self-awareness, patience, conscious intention, and healing, it is possible to find love again. Keep in mind that you are fresh from a marriage that stopped working. So, take care of you, take your time and be intentional to make this new season your best.