Dating after divorce can seem like a daunting prospect. Between diminished confidence, ongoing disputes with your ex, and the vast array of new dating technology to get to grips with, it can be tempting to simply avoid the dating scene altogether.
But everyone deserves love, and it is possible to enjoy a healthy, positive dating life after divorce. Here I outline a few tips to help you overcome the fear and build a positive approach to dating after divorce.
Tips for Dating After Divorce
Don’t Jump Into Dating Right Away
Divorces are rarely amicable — while some can go smoothly, the vast majority are marked by anger, mistrust, and bitter legal disputes, and are often caused by adultery or other serious breaches of trust.
The process can go on for months, even years, leaving deep psychological wounds, particularly if your partner cheated or lied to you. It’s important not to underestimate these psychological scars. While you might feel fine, it’s easy to sweep such damage under the rug.
But this damage often only manifests itself when you’re pursuing another relationship — feelings of paranoia or jealousy can be triggered by behavior in your new partner that reminds you of your ex. Perhaps they ask what you’re doing this evening, for instance, and it triggers memories of your controlling ex-partner.
As such, it’s essential that you take it slow. While it’s tempting to jump straight into the dating scene after a divorce — perhaps you want to make up for lost time, or you’re seeking validation at a time when your confidence is at its lowest ebb — this is not a sustainable approach.
In short, make sure you are healed fully before you start dating again, which leads me nicely onto my next point…
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Independent Counselling
The truth of the matter is that dating after divorce isn’t easy. Between legal disputes, possible childcare issues, diminished confidence, and the prospect of dating after so long, it can be tricky.
These all carry a psychological weight, and it’s easy to work yourself up over them. Fears can mount inside your own head, seeming far bigger and more worrying than they actually are. Without the intervention of an independent party, you might paralyze yourself into inaction, perhaps avoiding dating altogether.
As such, it’s well worth speaking to a therapist or counselor about your divorce. This can be a psychiatrist or therapist, or a more niche love/life coach, such as my practice, Orion’s Method. In my work, I’ve found that many of my clients are wary of speaking to a professional, concerned that they are “making a big deal over nothing”, and that it doesn’t warrant such introspection.
But it’s important to move past this and let a qualified expert guide you through your emotions. Without this expert intervention, you will struggle to break out of the negative thought cycle post-divorce.
But beyond breaking out of this cycle, independent advice from a professional helps you understand it too. It helps you determine why you feel a certain way, encouraging you to learn from your emotions rather than grapple with them hopelessly.
Own Your Divorce, Don’t Let It Own You
When you begin dating, you might feel reluctant in telling your date that you’re divorced. Many of my clients report feeling embarrassed or ‘past it’ by their divorce, for instance, and prefer to hide their divorce or play it down.
But this approach only compounds feelings of shame and upset over your divorce. It reinforces negative beliefs that prevent you from pursuing happiness, leaving you in a rut.
Instead, own your divorce.
Be open but breezy about it — acknowledge to your date that you are divorced, but be optimistic about it. Rather than dwelling on what a hard time it was, instead reaffirm your hopes for the future and a general positivity.
In essence, it’s okay to acknowledge and be open about your divorce, as long as you adopt a positive, optimistic attitude towards it. A constructive approach to your divorce improves your own confidence, as well as signaling to prospective dates that you are over it and looking to the future.
Analyze Your Marriage to Identify Red Flags
As humans, we are hard-wired to seek out the familiar — we are creatures of habit, and in dating, this often means we seek out people whose personality and characteristics feel familiar, and therefore comforting. While this can be a useful trait — when making friends, for instance, or navigating new social situations — it can pose problems when dating, particularly after a divorce.
Many of my clients find themselves leaving a toxic marriage, only to fall straight into a relationship with someone exactly the same as their ex. They forget how their ex acted at the beginning of their relationship, so they end up missing those crucial warning signs.
But it is possible to avoid falling into this pattern. With some serious introspection and a considered review of your marriage, you can identify the red flags that you missed before and pave a solid foundation for happier, safer dating.
Sit down and think back to the beginning of your relationship with your ex. Think about how they were then compared to how they were towards the end of your marriage, identifying when things started deteriorating.
Were there red flags in how they acted in the beginning that, with hindsight, you can map onto their later behavior and actions?
This is a painful exercise, but an important one. The goal is not to wallow in misery, but to review your marriage to identify red flags in any individuals you might date going forward — Tips On Life & Love has a useful guide for this. Such an analysis provides you with the requisite skills and awareness to spot issues and avoid falling back into a relationship with someone who, ultimately, is not beneficial for you.
Do Things That You Love
Before you even start dating other people, you should begin with dating yourself. It might sound like a cliche, but if you ever want to love someone else, you should love yourself first.
There are myriad ways to achieve this, but you should begin by simply pursuing hobbies, activities, and pastimes that make you happy. The benefits of this are twofold.
First, and perhaps most importantly, it renews your passion for life, your joie de vivre that you likely forgot during your divorce. The simple act of doing things you enjoy, whatever they might be — swimming, dancing, yoga, and so on — provides you with pleasure, releasing dopamine and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals and creating a positive mindset.
The second benefit is a consequence of the first. The happiness and positivity that you nurture by doing things you love attracts similar people. Your passion for life radiates outwards through your attitudes, behavior, body language, and so on, attracting people who share that passion.
The tips above will help you craft a positive, constructive approach to dating after divorce. But it’s important to remember that fear of going back into the dating scene is always worse than the actual act itself. Adopt a considered, optimistic approach, and you will begin to enjoy dating just as you did before.