If you’re like many people leaving an unhappy marriage, I believe that you’re on a quest, looking for love. Love is our calling card and those in the midst of breakups are in desperate need of love. So naturally, dating after divorce features prominently in the hearts and minds of those separating.
Often times, dating means finding new sex, comfort, maybe even evidence that you’re just fine and ready for the rest of what life has to offer.
Unfortunately, for many, that optimism is short-lived especially after a series of uncomfortable dates or needy love-making. Are you scared of dating after divorce? You should be if you’re unprepared and misguided.
Let’s assume you want to find the perfect soulmate or at least someone you can have great sex with. (Usually, these are the knee-jerk reactions to wanting to date after divorce).
The issue isn’t that having sex or finding a soulmate is wrong – I am not saying, don’t have sex. The issue is thinking that dating or sleeping with someone means you’re fine, healthy, ready to dance the jig. The issue is feeling that you can handle moving out or living alone without any emotional repercussions or that the negotiations are going perfectly, and you have plenty of intellectual bandwidth to entertain a new lover. In other words, going down the “I’m great” road only indicates you’re completely cut off from emotions, self-awareness, and even, possibly, empathy.
Let’s assume you care about others and this period of time is a little tough for you. (News flash: I like these ground rules best.) It also sets you up to be coachable and available for new love when the timing is right.
When you first leave a marriage, you’re used to the kind of person you just left.
This is no fault of yours consciously, it’s simply the way you’ve been wired and the effect of the amount of time you’ve spent with this partner.
So naturally, when you meet new people, those most like your ex are going to be the most comfortable. You’ll also not see this in any obvious fashion – it usually doesn’t show up until that new relationship ends. But eventually, you’ll notice it which is why those first few hook-ups usually add more fuel to the fire of a broken heart.
I remember my first forays into going on dates after my divorce. I knew that those I usually gravitated to were the worst for me. And even though there was an attraction, the flirting and sex would eventually get me into hot water. Time after time, I noticed that even though they looked different, had different levels of education, different body types or hair color ultimately, unconsciously, they were just the same: controlling, needy, wanting me to be a certain way. And inevitably, the relationship would end. Thank goodness I understood the growth trajectory of dating after divorce.
There’s this period when you have to learn who you are in the present, away from the courtship, the marriage, the fight.
You have to get to know who you are again on your own. What makes you happy? What turns you on? What kind of food do you prefer to eat? What TV shows do you really want to watch? How do you like to spend your weekends?
As you become reacquainted with yourself after divorce, you have to become willing to date a lot of different people. It’s part of the new experiment. Which can also lead to more broken hearts.
If you’re committed to finding a soulmate quickly after divorce you’re going to hurt a little longer.
Most people are not ready for a speedy commitment right away. There are those leaving marriages who want to ignore commitment. They’re tired of all the negotiations. They want a break from compromising.
Falling in love is not without the stages of negotiation that are inherent in every relationship. If you’re just looking to make love, tell someone. But if you’re pretending to want a relationship and unwilling to go through the stages of negotiating the terms of your commitment, really just wanting sex, you’ll break a lot of hearts.
I suggest you use the entire sentence: “I really like you, want to spend time with you, have sex with you… etc. but I’m not emotionally ready for a committed relationship.”
These days, we have sex out of marriage – shocker! Obviously not, but the shock comes when men and women misread the opposite sex. There are plenty of men and women willing to engage in having sex without needing a relationship. What they want is communication. What your potential lover wants, is to have a fair chance to make the decision for themselves, not be promised one thing and then ghosted after a few months. (Doing so just adds to their past betrayals and re-injures their broken hearts.)
I am constantly amazed at the fortitude people have after divorce.
Their desire to get it right, their need for companionship, their misguided sense of being able to live on their own, and their willingness to persevere – to find what they’re looking for and to go on date after date in order to do so.
In order to handle dating after divorce, you’ll want to remember that everyone you meet has a past. That they’re doing the best they can and that most likely, you can’t help them heal on your own. You get to add delight to their lives: you get to be charming, kind, and romantic. You get to show up speaking in full sentences and communicating where you are in the process.
You don’t get to pretend romance, sex, and the oxytocin hormone (that love/bonding hormone) means you’ve found your soulmate (that would be super naive). Equally, you don’t get to pretend you can manage being single the rest of your life… ah, you might want to check out being stuck and Post-Traumatic Divorce Disorder™.
In order to handle dating after divorce, you have to know that you, yourself need time to heal. There will be a time, once you do your work, when you’ll be ready for all that relationships have to offer including, the negotiating stages, the commitment, and possibly even marriage again. But without being informed and on the right track, you will find the experience hard, even scary.
- Develop an awareness of who you are today and what you want.
- Learn what dating means in this online dating world, the number of dates you’ll most likely go on (often between 100-300!)
- Learn what uncommitted sex looks like when you are the one falling in love!
- Trust you’re on the right path when you’re able to manage the loneliness and loss of your marriage without needing to use others to make the pain go away.
- Believe that love is possible. It’s what we do when we’re at our best, so try not to pretend you don’t need it.
If these suggestions seem difficult on your own, consider my daily emails to help you understand what you’re up against and doingDivorce™ School (Enrollment starts April 23rd!). I believe you do not need to be afraid of dating, you do, however, need to take some time to heal and understand the love you have to offer yourself and others.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce™ School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com.