I’ve held off on writing about my dating post divorce experiences because I wasn’t sure I wanted to. After some contemplation, I decided that many of these tips/strategies of dating post divorce that I have used to date have been helpful. Hopefully they are helpful 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.
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.
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. One of the best books I’ve read on dating and falling in love using both your head and your heart is called, “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk” John Van Epp. His advice is profound. This is a MUST READ—esp if you married someone who wasn’t very kind the first time.
If you are a woman, watching Mattthew Hussey’s dating tips on YouTube is a great resource too.
If you have kids, say NO to long distance.
If you have children and share custody with your ex, 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 I 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 ex-husband and children happy. The expense for traveling would have been very high. They would start to blame and resent me when they missed their father who lived a state away.
Although I realize that every circumstance is not this 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.
Work on You
No one is perfect. Not you, not I. We all have things we are working on, we have strengths, and we have issues/weaknesses. 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 long while and aren’t quite sure what to do with it either. I found it helpful to stick to my morals in order 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. Read this book on tips on how to do this.
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. Addictions could be to porn, food, drugs (illegal and legal), shopping, alcohol, co-dependencies, etc.
-Communication 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 until serious to Introduce Your Children, then make SURE your significant other and their children love and get along with yours and visa versa.
Although I dated quite a few different guys, my children 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 go with their babysitter 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.
Then test, test, test that your boyfriend/girlfriend can like your kids. I did not do this enough and the result was disastrous. Just because a man loves his own kids and is an excellent father to his own, doesn’t mean he will be to yours. This goes for women as well. My friend’s sister hates her step-children and didn’t let on to it until after the marriage. Her husband is now torn between his love for his wife and his love for his children as his wife refuses to accept his kids. Give your relationship the test of time and facilitate lots of chances to see how your boyfriend/girlfriend is going to interact with and treat your children.
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 to them over the phone 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 doing much more with our time. 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 you avoid being used. This book has a lot of studies and evidence that backs these claims up.
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 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. Taking a step family course or reading a book or two. The Smart Step Family is a good book. Research and education can help increase your chances of making it work.
Forgive and Forget the pain caused by 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. Attend therapy. Turn to God. Do whatever you can to truly forgive. While you may have been a victim of someone else’s actions once, you don’t have to be one twice. Refusing to forgive, holding on to anger, hatred, pain, and revenge are only hurting you and your chances at happiness.
Also, apologize for the mistakes you made in your marriage and seek their forgiveness too. You weren’t perfect. No one is. It’s 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.
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Katie Clark says
Glad to see you back writing, Anita 🙂 I’m sure this will be very helpful to many people!
Congrats on getting remarried! I have never been divorced but I can see how your advice in this article could help a lot of people who are divorced. I think your advice in here is great.