Divorce is often considered one of the most stressful events a person can go through in their life – and with good reason. When you plan to spend the rest of your life with someone, changing those plans can feel devastating and life-changing.

The good news is that there is always hope of finding true love again. Although dating after a divorce may understandably seem scary at first, you don’t have to keep going and coming back.

How to start dating after divorce

Here are seven things to keep in mind if you want to start dating again after a divorce.

1. Give yourself time to grieve

Divorce is very similar to the grief of death, and in many ways it is. Allow yourself time to grieve over the loss of your relationship, the loss of that person in your life, and maybe even the loss of what you once were. Over time, as you intentionally grieve, cultivate, and dream for the future, your heart and life will heal.

Everyone deals with grief differently and no two timelines are the same. Although you may feel tempted to compare yourself to other divorced people and how they orient themselves in their new lonely life, try to refrain from doing so. Other people may look good on the outside, when in fact they may struggle on the inside.

Take as much time as you need to make sure you are ready to go back there.

2. Don’t go back to the dating pool too quickly

Once you’ve taken the time to process your thoughts and emotions, you can start to get excited when you start thinking about the next possible steps in your life. As reliable as you are, it’s important to take the time to return to the dating pool.

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This extra time and space will let you know what you are looking for before you go out again. If you’ve ever shopped for groceries and you’re hungry, you can probably figure out why it’s best to go into the dating world with a good plan in mind.

If you start dating before you’re really ready, you may soon find that you have some emotions that you haven’t given yourself enough time to overcome. Alternatively, you may meet someone you are really connecting with, but the timing is not right, because you still have to set aside a lot of bandwidth for grief and healing.

It’s unfair to the other person who might really like you if you’re really not ready to start another serious relationship. It’s really worth it for you (and your future partner) to take this part of your journey slowly.

3. Consider therapy

While taking the time to grieve, consider finding a licensed therapist who specializes in divorce. The therapist will be able to help you overcome your emotions and provide you with mechanisms to deal with how you feel.

Therapists can also help you manage other parts of your life that may be affected by divorce, such as your other family relationships, self-esteem and confidence, and financial situations that are changing. All of these areas of life contain the consequences of a life-changing event such as divorce.

While it is important to rely on friends and family during a major life event, it is helpful to talk to a professional, impartial third party who can effectively guide you through this chapter of your life. A good therapist will help you evaluate your past relationships, rethink your thinking, and change your perspective.

When you start dating again, the therapist can help you see potential partners as their person and not look at everyone through the prism of your previous partnership. With some time and self-reflection you will be able to look at your upcoming journey with hopeful anticipation and clarity of mind and heart.

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4. Assess where your relationship went wrong

As you begin to turn the page to a new chapter in your life, consider where your relationship may have gone wrong.

According to Mindbodygreen’s relationship counselor Margaret Paul, “All relationships have a system of which each of us is 100% a part, and unless you understand what you did that contributed to the failure of the relationship, you will repeat the same behavior in the next.”

Understanding why your marriage is over will help you in your future relationships. Maybe you’ve struggled with trust in your marriage, or maybe you’re willing to be in control. Take the opportunity to work through the parts of yourself that you would like to change so that you can be the best yourself for the right person when he or she shows up.

Working on your relationship therapist skills is a useful way to get back to what you are best at.

5. Identify your relationship that is not negotiable

When you start to feel ready to return to the dating scene, start thinking about what can’t be negotiated. Non-negotiable is a quality that someone must possess in order to be suitable for you.

When trying to determine what your non-negotiable items should be, think about what you think you are missing in your marriage. Maybe your ex was not very romantic, and the passionate partner is not negotiable for you. Maybe your ex-partner lacked emotional maturity, and that’s something you should have in every new relationship.

Don’t allow yourself to compromise on what you decide your non-negotiators are. You deserve not to be satisfied with less than what you are looking for!

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Although the common saying about marriage is that love is self-sacrifice, don’t sacrifice so much that you end up losing yourself along the way. Your transition time is the perfect opportunity to find someone who is right for your life and not try to get someone to fit into what you are looking for.

Look for people who are checking all your boxes. Even if finding this one takes some time, lifelong love will be worth the wait!

6. If the children are involved, think about their feelings

Divorce can be a little more complicated if you have children with your ex. All children can be affected by divorce at any age, from early childhood to adulthood. So if your children are older, it’s important not to assume that the divorce won’t affect them as much as if they were younger.

Listen to your children and allow them to ask questions about your marriage, what their life situation may be, if applicable, and how the separation will affect them. If you are on therapy, talk to your provider about options for your children. Maybe they have a colleague who specializes in working with divorced children.

When you decide you are ready to meet again, think about your children’s feelings. Talk to them about your decision and encourage them to come to you with any feelings or questions they may have about what is happening.

One piece of advice highly recommended by professionals is not to introduce your children to your new partner until the relationship is serious. A good rule of thumb is usually after about three to six months of exclusive meetings, according to healthchildren.org.

7. Enjoy the journey to expand your horizons

When you decide you are ready to go out again after the divorce, go back there and have fun! If you’ve been married for a long time and find yourself recently single, the dating world may look a lot different than the first time you got into potential dating, so give yourself a favor if you don’t connect with someone right away!

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Try online dating, and ask friends and family who know you best to connect with someone. Say yes to people you might not go for otherwise, as you may be surprised to find that you really enjoy their company!

Remember your relationship that is not negotiable and be gentle with yourself. One week you may want to go to several meetings, while the next you may not be ready to make meetings. Both ways are perfectly fine!

Allow yourself to consider your feelings and make a decision with yourself, and don’t forget to give yourself extra patience as you navigate your new environment.

Last thoughts

When you re-enter the dating pool after being out of the water for a period of time, keep in mind that you can experience all kinds of feelings, from hesitation to excitement.

Whether you have children or if you feel even partially responsible for the divorce, give yourself grace as you consider what you would like this next chapter of your life to look like. The golden rule for dating after divorce is to be patient. Try to relax and have fun on the road!

Enjoy the experience of new places, meeting new people and exploring new hobbies. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey, trusting that while you are doing the best you can – learning and growing all the time – you will find the right person at the right time.

Presented photo credit: Victor Karkocha through unsplash.com

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