When is it Okay to Start Dating After Divorce?Feb 22, 2023
During the more than two decades I’ve helped people over 45 start their lives over after divorce, the most common question I hear is: “How soon is it okay to start dating again after my divorce?”
Exactly when you start dating again will largely depend upon your circumstances. Most importantly, how soon you can move on and start the dating process, depends upon how you are responding to the loss of your marriage.
The following questions illuminate some issues that indicate you’d be wise to give yourself more time before you start the dating process after divorce:
- Were you betrayed (eg your spouse left you for someone else that you knew nothing about)?
- Do you have young children who require your love and attention?
- Was there emotional and/or physical abuse in your marriage?
- Are you still wondering what went wrong to cause your marriage to end?
- Have you taken time to consider how you might have missed the red or even yellow flags leading toward break up?
- Are you angry and blaming your ex for all that went wrong?
- Can you take responsibility for your part in things that caused your marriage to end?
- Do you have clarity about what worked and what did not work such that you will not repeat patterns moving forward?
- Are you clear about your non-negotiables, your deal breakers as well as your preferences?
- Have you worked with a therapist, coach, or any other professional to help you process such a life changing event?
In general, future relationships tend to do better for people who take at least a few months – or perhaps even a year or two depending upon the length of their marriage – to fully integrate what went wrong, and how to do things differently moving forward. Professional help in the form of therapy or coaching can help speed up the process.
Most important is to allow yourself to fully experience the feelings of anger, grief, the regrets, guilt, shame, or possible trauma from any other of the myriad possibilities inherent to divorce, or the dating process.
It seems logical to think that after one divorce, people will be less likely to divorce again. One would hope you have learned some things through your experience and emerge wiser, with a better sense of what you want and need moving forward.
This certainly happens in some cases, if people take the time to consider new ways to make sure a relationship solid and stable before committing to marriage again.
But that’s not how it happens in every case – or in most cases according to the divorce statistics from Goldberg Jones ~ April 8, 2021:
- 41 % of first marriages end in divorce.
- 60% of second marriages end in divorce.
- 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
And I’ve since learned that a staggering 94% of fourth marriages result in divorce!
While these numbers appear staggering at first glance, it does help to remember that as a person goes along, the sample size shrinks significantly. There are substantially fewer third marriages than second, and substantially fewer second than first marriages.
Judith Sills, PhD, a Philadelphia-based psychologies and author of Getting Naked Again: Dating, Romance, Sex, and Love When You've Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped, or Distracted said:
“Everyone ends a relationship by grieving the emotional investment. For some people, that happens before they move out. Others are still emotionally married after the divorce is final.”
The bottom line is, there is no numerical time window for when exactly to date again after a divorce. Future relationships/marriages tend to do better if you take some months—or even as long as a year—to really experience the loss of your marriage and clarify your needs and desires moving forward .
Conditions, details state of affairs, situation, emotional response, betrayal, how much introspection or inner work/personal development
The following are 6 important elements to consider before you start to date after your divorce:
1 – Make decisions based upon your personal situation, not by the calendar
Based on the points made above, some people are ready to date sooner than later - maybe after a few months, while others may need years. Take the time you need. It's important to experience the emotions associated with divorce before moving on.
Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself some time to think, some time to grieve, and then some time to find someone else.
2 – The ex-factor
Are you still thinking about the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” re: regrets you might have from your former marriage? Or, do you still constantly wonder about what your ex is doing - or whom he/she's dating? If so, consider that you might be too distracted to begin a healthy relationship.
You wouldn't want to date somebody who's still tangled up with their ex emotionally, would you? The question to ask yourself is: Why would you want to offer that to somebody else?
3 – Are you open to experience new things? Or are you trying to repeat everything you've done before,
4 – Are you comfortable being with yourself?
Rather than jumping into a new relationship to avoid being alone, give yourself a chance to explore life on your own terms. Make some new single friends, especially if you’ve been in a long marriage. Check out doing activities you’ve never done before. Take a trip!
5 – Dating and marriage are an adult decision
If you’re a parent with good boundaries, you don't let your children make decisions for you. Dating is no different! Don't let them keep you from dating if that’s something you want to do. Some single parents don't date because they're worried about the effect it may have on their children.
Just be aware of the impact on your children and take it slowly in terms of introducing a new person to them. Again, this is completely subjective dependent upon your relationship with your ex/their other parent, the age of the children and their ability to comprehend what’s going on, etc.
Take things slowly and only introduce a new partner to your children when you are clear that things are serious and you will be moving forward into a long term relationship. Even going to the zoo or dinner with a new partner with your children should only be with someone with whom you are considering a long term relationship.
6 – Be aware how much things have changed since you were last single.
No matter how long your marriage was, not only have you changed since you were last single, but so has your social life, circle of friends, and routines. You might meet a new partner “organically” through a friend or by connecting with someone when you are out and about. This said, you may want to consider online dating or hiring a dating coach or matchmaker. There are no shortage of professionals available to help you in your dating process!
Whatever your age range, there is a large pool of people who are looking for love again, just like you are.
If indeed you feel ready to start meeting people and dating, be aware your next love connection can come from even the most unlikely of places ranging from dropping off the kids at school, where there might be a single person whom you don’t yet know. Or that person in line in front of you at the coffee shop just might be waiting to meet you….
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