You are divorced, and you want to date. Now what?
First of all, I am sorry for your loss. It’s a turbulent time. I know you are Okay; rather, I know you will be. While dating should not be your first step in healing from divorce, it does seem to be one of the first steps to freedom people use to begin a journey.
I believe that there is a notion that all people know how to date. It’s human nature to attract a mate- a partner. So we all get it. People are attracted, hang out, have sex, and then decide if a commitment is coming. So many believe it’s that simple and then get disillusioned when it turns out to be that scenario on seemingly forever repeat.
Let’s look at a few do’s and don’ts to get you started and keep you out of that repeating cycle.
Take some responsibility. What did you learn from your divorce? We are the product of all of our relationships combined, so that means you’re some level of a mess right now. Evaluate your contribution to the failure of your marriage. Own that part. Then, consider what you would do differently with a new partner. Too many people blame 100% of the marriage failure on the other person. Taking some ownership in this will make you more attractive to a potential partner. How are you going to say this out loud to a date and still sound attractive?
Get some stability. There are three types of stability physical, emotional and financial. How are you going to be physically active? – dance lessons, the gym, hiking? You don’t need to be seeking a perfect body, just a healthy one. When considering your emotional stability, begin with taking responsibility in the first “do” and then add to it your other emotional traits – do you get angry, are you a narcissist? Do you know your attachment style? On the positive side, are you funny, are you an adventurer, and so on. Lastly, trying to live beyond your means is not stable. A financially secure person is more attractive than a perceived income. Become or be working to become attractively stable in all three areas. This will help your life overall and give you added attraction with a new partner.
Take your time and meet a lot of people. Uncovering your authentic self and being genuine with others is the magic in finding your next special person. Find a way to spend time with old friends and meet new people. Southwest Missouri Singles is a Facebook group that is always doing something. Just a fun group. You have to be brave enough to leave your house, and groups are encouraging. It doesn’t need to be this group but do something.
Know what you want. Whatever you want is valid. No one should make you feel different. So, if you only wish to have companionship or are looking for your soulmate, know what you want and be open about it. Keep in mind that companions or situation-ships are unlikely to become soulmates. The process to find an exclusive romantic partnership is different than companionship.
Have boundaries and standards. This is not exclusively a sex statement. Know how you want to treat others and also how you want to be treated by others. How do you want to feel in your next relationship? Pressure, manipulation, and guilt are a part of your past and not tolerated in your new and healthy relationships. How are you going to identify your boundaries? And, when your boundaries and standards are not met, how will you address them? What tone, what timing will you use?
Practice talking to strangers. Don’t be weird but playfully asking someone if the muffins are good in this restaurant is fun. It opens the doors to meeting interesting people of both sexes. If you have enough practice when someone you are very attracted to comes along, you will naturally start a conversation. Additionally, practice higher-level communication skills with all the new people you meet. As you meet new people, try to practice fun and diplomatic, not avoidant, communication skills. As you express yourself, it becomes part of your standards and boundaries. It may not always go well, but you are continuously improving, so you have a polished skill set when the right person does come along.
Prepare to reject others and be rejected. Sometimes dating is yin-yang. You are flying emotionally high one minute, dating and getting to know someone fun, and then wham, you’re no longer dating. Are you ready to have a conversation with someone and let them down, or will you ghost them?
Keep sex in perspective. Don’t have sex until you want to be in an exclusive relationship unless you are fully prepared for the outcome. If one and done is not within your standards already, excellent. For those of you that haven’t thought about it, please think about it before you are on a date. If you are looking for friends with benefits/situation-ship or just a companion, don’t confuse it with something committed or even repeatable. Sex is a driving factor in dating and relationships. However, it can be used as a weapon and is the frequent cause of confusion, frustration, and heartache. I know that is harsh; you’re a mature adult. And I also know it’s probably been a while, yet I want you to make decisions wisely. (FYI- I get exhausted by people asking me some version of “is that all they want is sex.”)
Don’t admit to being a new dater and inexperienced right off the bat. Please do your research. (maybe it’s worth hiring a coach:) You need to have your own experiences, and your potential partner doesn’t need to see you as inexperienced, potentially lacking know-how or confidence. That is unattractive. You want to create some mystery around you, and telling all is not a mystery. Suppose you don’t know what ghosting, bread-crumbing, or cuffing season is; read my definitions. The descriptions alone will make you more informed and less likely to be scammed.
Know if you are making it too easy. Dating is full of bombardment, and you need to slow down to protect your heart and build a genuine relationship. Once you meet someone operating within your standards and boundaries, it is effortless to get excited and reach out to your new friend too frequently. However, if you make it too easy on them, you may begin pushing them away. And too much, too early means you are unlikely to sustain this relationship. Having a fulfilling life without a romantic partner is attractive and makes “too easy” less likely.
Are you boring? Take an inventory of your life. What’s your thing? What new thing are you learning or old thing are you mastering? Take lessons and try stuff. I tried the batting cages. It’s a great story, still not for me; nonetheless a great story and a life lesson. What do you find interesting? Hobbies mean that you are not trying to connect over what type of TV you watch when you are on a date. (Read my Attraction 101 post.)
Delete and block any scammer. If you are going to use online dating apps, learn the signs of a scammer. There are varying different levels of scammer. The people that make you feel good but string you along and never meet you = scammers. The ones that ask for money or pictures are all scammers. People fall for scammers more often than you think. Sometimes they take a while to identify as they are trying to gain your trust. The one that frustrated me the most was the robots. You’re not even talking to a human person. Such a time suck. UGH!
Your friends can give horrible advice. Don’t take their advice as expert. Their primary purpose is to stay your friend, so they enable you. Work with a professional to speed up and also deepen the dating process. There are many methods for the attraction, selection, development, and retention of romantic partnerships that can make dating more fun and successful. Knowing the techniques before they happen to you is the key to managing them diplomatically. You can have a much better relationship than your last one if you help yourself grow now.
We learn how to date from each other. We see what others do and how they act, and then we copy that or intentionally don’t copy that. I agree that some dating technique is human nature, but a lot of dating is knowledge (know-how) and confidence. You must have both. Confidence alone is not enough.
Dating after divorce is super fun if you mix it with other parts of your life and have a dating mindset. Enjoy your new life freedoms and dating, it can be exhilarating.