As if going through the process and experience of a divorce wasn’t hard enough, now you have to face the prospects of potentially dating again after several years. Is the idea of dating after divorce scary? Absolutely. But experts agree it doesn’t have to be a process that you dread. And the best way to ensure that it won’t be not to get back out there until you’re ready. The best indicator of ‘ready?’ According to Lily Rosenblatt, licensed marriage and family therapist and a private practitioner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it’s when you stop feeling like a ‘’half” looking for the other half to make yourself “whole” again. “When you have done the proper work on yourself, to identify what your contribution was to the demise of a relationship that you once believed was possible (even if that contribution was just enabling the injustices) you will feel the regeneration of your whole self begin and feel ready to embark on dating after divorce,” she says.
To give you the gusto you need to get back out if you do feel ready to do so, we asked relationship experts for their best-kept secrets for getting started dating after divorce.
Take it nice and slow.
This is no cliché—it’s an absolute must. Even if you're feeling lonely, Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., dating coach, founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, author of Exaholics and host of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast warns that the worst mistake you can make is to rush into a new relationship when dating after divorce. “Give yourself time and space to do the psychological and emotional work of healing from your marriage,” she says. “No matter what you hear from friends and family, do not push yourself (or allow yourself to be pushed) into dating when you're really not ready for it.”
Focus on yourself.
Even though the first chapter in your life didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, you now have a fresh, new start. Take this opportunity to focus on building the life you want while simultaneously being open to meeting attractive new people in the process. “So instead of ‘dating after divorce’ for dating's sake, fill your life up with meaningful and genuinely pleasurable relationships and activities that also give you the opportunity to meet people,” suggests Dr. Bobby. “Do the things you love to do and look around for new people to chat up while you're out living your life and having a good time.”
As you embark on this new chapter in your life, remember to be your true, authentic self. It’s a waste of your time and energy if you’re pretending to be someone or something you’re not—after all, how long can you keep that up? “You want to be loved, accepted and appreciated in your true totality—blemishes, liabilities and all—and you want to know that this person encourages your vulnerabilities, not someone who has misconceptions about the person you are and relates to you based on false premises,” says Rosenblatt.
Put yourself in an experimental mindset.
“If you think of dating after divorce as an experiment then it is much more a process of learning, of finding out—about yourself, your current wants and needs, what works for you and what does not—rather than just a matter of accepting vs. rejecting or being accepted vs. rejected,” says Mark Borg, PhD, relationship expert and co-author of Relationship Sanity. “The experimental process allows us to take in a lot of important information about ourselves regardless of the outcome of the particular date, and also allows us to enter the dating realm with a sense that our choice of partner is just as important (perhaps more) than whether we are accepted by someone else.”
While dating is, in many ways, serious, it doesn’t have to be taken so seriously all the time. Remember that you’re looking for a companion to, above all, enjoy life with—and have fun with! “If you cannot have fun while on a date with someone, it does not bode well for what it is going to be like to actually spend time (long car trips, vacations with in-laws, etc.) with each other,” says Dr. Borg. “We can be looser with this one than the others, though, because, of course, really liking and being attracted to someone does indeed put our heart at significant risk.”