Dating post divorce….I have this friend who is recently, finally divorced after a long difficult divorce and traumatic marriage. She is finally ready to rediscover herself and to start dating again. She has entrusted me to act as a friend, confidant, and consultant. During our discussions I have jokingly referred to the fact that a “Dating Post-Divorce” handbook doesn’t exist, so we each have to live our own journeys. I have relived some of my own awakening in that initial post-divorce period. I have been able to look back and be proud of the growth I’ve made, the healing I’ve done, and the person I have become. It seems that the things she and I talk about are common themes amongst all divorcees, so I thought it might be helpful to share with others. These are things that if a handbook did exist – I wish would be included.
- There is bound to be anxiety.
You have survived a marriage that ended, and survived a (maybe painful) divorce. The thought of doing everything again and FAILING again is difficult to acknowledge and process through initially. It is ok to be scared. But try to push through – don’t let the fear keep you from doing things that are important to you.
- You don’t have to marry every person you meet, or date.
Dating as an adult with kids is a different ballgame, folks. You are not obligated to do anything. Your relationship (or lack thereof) can be anything you want it to be. Want to be single? Awesome. Want to date casually, without strings? Awesome. Want to have sexual relationships? Awesome. Want to have a committed relationship? Awesome. You get to decide what you want, when you want it, how you want it. Along those lines….
- You have power.
One of the most powerful things for me post-divorce was rediscovering myself. Dating again really helped me to do that. You have the power to say no. To start something and not finish it. The power to speak your truth. The power to change your mind. The power to verbalize what you want. The power to verbalize what you need. The power to make your own decisions. The power to control your own body and the choices you make for it. No one else gets the power to do that for you. You are in control.
- You don’t owe anything to anyone but yourself (ok, and your kids).
You are not obligated to anything for anyone. See above. YOU get to make the choices that feel right for you. Those choices are different for each of us, but we are the ones that have to make them at the end of the day, and own them right choice or mistake.
- It’s ok to not know what you want.
It’s hard initially when you start dating again to figure out what is really important to you. What you really and truly want and don’t want. What is a deal breaker and what is flexible. Along those lines we are told we should “get out there again” soon after divorce, and it feels like everyone is telling us we should be looking for our next husband pronto. It’s ok to take things one step at a time, and to assess your needs/wants along the way. As I told my friend….the only question you need to answer after the first date is whether the person you just met is worth meeting again to continue to get to know. It’s ok to define the relationship as it develops, to continue to float along because your needs are being met and the other person’s needs are being met. You have the power to pull the plug and move on if those needs are ever not being met. It’s ok to define the relationship too, if that puts you at ease. You do you.
- Try to let go of expectations.
I’m not sure about you, but this is a hard one for me. Dating in today’s world is EXHAUSTING at times. Some of the expectations we carry with us (societal norms, our experience with relationships from those around us, etc.) seem to make that worse. You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be, do anything you don’t want to do. Neither should be person you are getting to know, or dating, have to be anything they don’t want to be, or do anything they don’t want to do. Mutual respect between two people, and respect for yourself is key. You can’t force things to happen in a manner you want them to. Some things work out and some don’t. You may get ghosted; you may find the love of your life. Let things develop and see where they go, without the expectation that it will be anything in particular.
- We all come with baggage.
Mine comes in the package of trauma and anxiety from an emotionally abusive relationship. I had processed a lot, healed a lot by the time I started dating. But I have had so so much to learn about myself. My trauma and anxiety have reared their head when least expected in a relationship, and I have had to battle them. Learn from them. Learn when my feelings are an old response, or triggered by my past. Learn when I can trust my gut and when I can’t. The person you are dating may have baggage too. Treat theirs in the manner you hope yours is treated, with patience and respect for them.
- We ALL make mistakes.
What’s important is what we learn from them. The same concept we teach our kids applies to us too. That leads us to….
- Be patient with yourself and kind to yourself.
This is a learning process. At times it seems fast, at times slow. At times you know what you want, at times you don’t. At times the stress is high, at times the savoring and enjoyment of life is prominent. Wherever you are at, whatever your choices, be patient with yourself and kind to yourself. You would do the same for others.