Most of us never planned on getting a divorce, or for that matter breaking up a long, serious, relationship. So how do we bounce back afterward? How can we learn to trust and hope for love again? What is dating after divorce, or after a long relationship, all about?
Finding your feet after a divorce
The best way to get back into dating after divorce is usually finding your own feet first. It might take a month, it might take a year (any longer than that and you need to stop making excuses), but it’s important you do so.
If you meet someone new early on, that’s OK, but if so, take it slow. Tell them you need time to be “you” before you become “us” again.
Let’s have a look at the steps of finding your feet first of all.
When you have a divorce, or break up a relationship, chances are you will ask yourself what went wrong and why. You might be angry with yourself, either for having stayed in the relationship for as long as you did, or for having caused problems in the relationship, or simply not tried hard enough to make it a great relationship.
On the flip side of the coin, you might be angry with your ex for the very same things. If it was your ex who broke it off because he had fallen out of love with you, or cheated on you, you’re probably asking yourself how to trust someone again.
The truth is, we all make mistakes. Then we learn. We move forward. And life becomes better. To allow for that to happen, we have to let the past go. You can’t redo the past, but you can make sure that in the future you act differently.
If you’re scared of trusting someone, you have the right to be so. 99.9% of people will let you down at some point. Most of the time not because they meant to, but because they didn’t know your expectations, they didn’t think about how their actions could hurt you, they got caught up in something else, or they plain didn’t care as much as you thought they did and therefore had no clue how much it would hurt you. Other times people simply put their needs above yours – sometimes they regret doing that, sometimes they don’t. That’s all part of life.
Here’s the deal, whether you’re scared or not, you will get hurt at some point. You can’t put the joy of having relationships aside because of it. Then you will be miserable 24/7. And if you have a relationship where you’re honest from the start with your partner, showing your heart so that’s what they fall for, and continue to be open with each other, then the chance of you getting hurt lessens.
Love does change over the years. People die. People grow apart. So long as you stay open to love, though, fostering relationships with friends, family, and lovers, you will always have love in your life. Always.
Let go of the pain and move forward to something that could be so much greater than what you’ve had so far.
Dating after divorce – You before us
If you want to date again, get a life. There’s nothing more attractive to the opposite (or same sex for that matter) than someone who has a life. By that I don’t mean you need the coolest lifestyle, I mean you need a life that you enjoy. You don’t need to have it all sorted either, you just need to be working towards it. Passion is attractive.
Many people feel that divorce, or a breakup, gives them a chance to start over. To re-enforce the good sides of their personality. To do the things they’ve avoided because they were scared. To finally get the make-over they always dreamed of but never got round to.
What you want your life to look like is up to you, but there are some major blocks you do need to take into consideration. The first is health.
Get enough sleep and sleep on regular hours, spend time in the outdoors, have time for “me time,” exercise (walk, dance, swim, go to the gym, garden, cycle, bowl, volunteer as someone running around playing with kids…whatever it is you love that gets you moving) and eat a healthy diet.
The second area is your social life. You need friends. Especially if you’ve been through a divorce. Attend meet-up groups, join a book club, arrange monthly get-togethers with friends, attend retreats in your town, or nearby, start taking a course/class, attend networking events, whatever floats your boat that gets you out the door.
Lastly, be sure to have a look at your career as well.
When it comes to setting goals for your personal life, don’t try to overdo it, don’t plan for some ten hours a week work-out plan, when you only have three hours available. Just be sure to set goals you can meet and discipline yourself to do it. You don’t have to tackle all goals at the same time either – take one step at a time.
Admitting defeat and conquering
Dating after divorce, or after breaking up a long relationship often makes people feel squeamish because they have to confess that their last relationship didn’t end well. Maybe their finances went to shit after the relationship ended. Maybe they let themselves go during the relationship. Maybe they forgot who they were, or maybe they broke down when the relationship broke down. Most of us break at some point. So what?
There’s nothing people love more than a dragon slaying prince or princess. We all have our own adventure to live, our own defeats and victories. People love to hear your struggles from an empowering point of view. From the point of view of someone who says: “I faced hell, I fucked up (or got fucked over) and I stood up and put myself and my life back together again.”
You don’t have to have it all together yet, you just need to show you’re making progress. It is, believe it or not, attractive to see someone overcome their struggles, as opposed to pretending they never had them.
There are few things that are more empowering than overcoming fear. If you want a relationship that’s better than the last, chances are you will have to be brave enough to do things differently this time. By overcoming fears in your day-to-day life you will feel more courageous when it comes to relationships as well.
Challenge yourself (and a friend) to do some simple things you fear. If you fear social events, read a book about pick-up skills (it’s actually a lot about learning how to approach people, never mind getting them in bed) and challenge yourself to talk to strangers. If it’s too scary in your own town, go on a road trip for a weekend. If you fear heights, climb a wall (where you have a harness to fall back on). If you’re scared of singing, do karaoke. But remember, as with goals, take baby steps when necessary!
Life becomes a completely different ballgame when you overcome your fears.
Also, remember that support rocks. Be sure to slowly build a support network of friends and be nice to yourself. You’ve been through a lot. Give yourself a high five and a hug.
Dating after divorce – The actual dating
You’re ready to date after your divorce, but where to start? Online dating, matchmaking, speed dating, going to parties, going to bars…where? I’d say everywhere, but pace yourself. Online dating is always good because you have thousands of singles in one place, more than you’d meet at any bar. It removes the pressure of “having to find someone” when you go out on a Saturday night, but do go out too. Allow yourself to have fun without pressure.
You might end up meeting someone at the gym, or at Starbucks, but open yourself up to the possibility by exploring different avenues. Don’t go on a desperate search, just relax and have fun with it!
Allow yourself to have fun
Some people think that dating after divorce, or after a break-up must be awkward as they’ve been out of practice for so long. On the contrary, it can be superb. You meet new people. You get a chance of going on the kind of dates you’ve never been on before and thought you’d never be able to experience. It’s a second chance at doing something you thought you’d never do again. Enjoy it.
Also, bear in mind that some dates will be horrendous. Laugh out loud horrendous. Allow yourself to enjoy that too. It might take a year till you meet someone whom you’ll truly click with, so prepare to enjoy the journey too.
Be prepared, be empowered
Knowledge is power. If you think something went wrong in your last relationship, or you’d simply like a better all round relationship, then read five books on creating great relationships. (Personally I’d recommend The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationships by Letting Yourself Be Loved by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson and The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida, the latter won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it, as does many of my friends.)
When it comes to online dating it’s the same thing – if you aren’t used to it, read up on it first. Learn what makes a profile attractive and how to write great first messages.
Once you're in a relationship there’s the sex thing as well. And think about this for a while: you are on your way of finding someone with whom you’ll have better sex than you’ve ever had before. How cool is that? So read some books about sex whilst you still have the time…
You can also find plenty of tips regarding dating, sex, and relationships in my past YouQueen articles.