Returning to the dating scene after divorce is by now means an easy feat. Depending on how long you were married, post-divorce dating can feel like jumping blindfolded, head-first, into a lake of piranhas. Wait. Strike that. The number of decent candidates makes the dating pool more akin to one of those plastic, kiddie pools than a lake. Where do you even start with finding a new relationship? Is it online dating, suggestions from loved ones, that guy at work, or maybe a dating app? Dating after divorce comes with baggage, sometimes yours and your new partner’s. It takes a lot of courage and self-awareness to get back out there. We applaud you! In this guide, we’ll tackle some of the problematic aspects, go over the do’s and don’ts of returning to the field, and see what the relationship experts say about dating after divorce.
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Difficult is Normal
Right out of the gate, let’s be upfront. Dating after divorce is hard. If you’re having trouble even beginning to want to think about dating again, you’re not alone. When most of you got married, it was for life. That’s what you expected, right? Til’ death do us part? In addition, most of you gave your marriage every last bit of yourself. You tried everything you could to make it work, and it didn’t. That can feel like a failure for a lot of people. Signing divorce papers can knock the wind out of your sails, deflate your self-esteem, and leave you lost for a time. That’s not the case in every relationship, sometimes it feels like freedom, but there’s rarely a case where divorce doesn’t leave some wounds that need to heal.
That being said, it’s normal to feel some true anxiety about your first date after divorce. It’s natural to feel a little awkward in the dating scene, and you’ll likely just have to make the jump over the nerves. However, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your mental health by running into your next relationship. Many people need a good amount of time to heal and take care of their own needs before signing on to deal with someone else again. So, take your time. Deal with your baggage, and proceed when you’re ready.
When Should You Start Dating After Divorce?
According to experts featured on WebMD, there’s no specific amount of time that a person should wait. Factors like the health of the relationship with your ex-spouse, the reasons for your divorce, and personality traits can all affect the timing. Experts agree that before you start dating again, you should be:
- Able to function in daily life without obsessing over your ex and what they are doing.
- Comfortable with yourself as an individual, outside of having a partner.
- Able to confront a new partner without rehashing the pain and extreme emotions of your past relationship. This means you have grieved and processed the who, what, when, where’s, and whys of your breakup and come to terms with moving on from it.
- Be aware of what you want in a future relationship. This includes your deal-breakers and red flags.
- Hopeful for the future. If you’re still in a place of despair or don’t have a positive outlook for your dating future, then hold off.
Tips for Finding Love After Divorce
1. Take your time.
Some divorcees coming out of a bad relationship are ready to love again, and can easily mistake physical or emotional chemistry for love. While true love can happen quickly, it’s rare. Take your time. Don’t force it. Your goal is not to marry the first person you go on a date with. That could be a disaster when the novelty wears off.
In an interview with Oprah Magazine, consulting relationship therapist on the popular show The Doctors, Fran Walfish warns daters to take their time with sex too. She states good sex requires feeling safe and trusting your partner, and that asking someone to wait for sex can reveal a lot about their motives and their character.
2. Have fun with it.
Going along with taking your time, don’t take your post-divorce dating too seriously at first. Have fun! Go on adventurous dates. Try group dating with friends. If you aren’t having fun with the person, then they won’t be a good match in the long run. A good marriage is a union between friends, so look for people that make you laugh.
3. Get out of your comfort zone.
When you have been going on the same old dates, with the same old person, for years, it can be uncomfortable to do this whole thing differently. Be open-minded and willing to try new things. This might involve joining a recently divorced group, taking a stab at a dating app, or going on a date that seems out of character for you. Give it a shot! Go rock climbing, axe throwing, or to a cooking class. You might love it. This whole post-divorce adventure is about finding something new. The last thing didn’t work, so don’t be afraid to look down different roads.
4. Be honest about your past.
The experts at eharmony know a thing or two about dating, and they recommend being transparent about your past. That doesn’t mean talking excessively about your ex and your failed relationship. Don’t do that. It means being willing to discuss your divorce if they ask. Your date is assessing you, just as you’re assessing them. It’s only natural that they will eventually want to know what happened in your marriage and what your part in it was. Be transparent and truthful. If you have kids, let them know. Tell the truth in your dating profiles. Building a new relationship on lies is a waste of time. The tower will eventually crumble.
5. Guard your heart.
People coming out of a long-term relationship are often vulnerable, remember the case of the Tinder Swindler? Ph.D. and prolific relationship author, Margaret Paul, states that narcissistic predators are prominent in the dating scene. They prey on vulnerability. Be careful with people who seem too perfect. They might just be saying all the things you need to hear to pull you in and control you. Are they too perfect? Do they push you to become exclusive too quickly? Or do they seem to be keeping you from other friends or family? Do they have friends of their own? Have you caught them in little lies? Do they ask you for money? Read up on narcissism and learn the red flags. Broken hearts want to feel love again, but you don’t want it from a future abuser.
6. Trust your loved ones.
Sometimes family and friends see things that chemistry blinds us to. While ultimately it’s your choice, beware of continuing a relationship with a person that multiple people who truly love you’re unsure about. If your sister, your momma, your grandma, and your bestie say he’s no good, you might want to dig into why.
7. Stick to your deal-breakers.
By the time you get back out in the dating pool, you should have processed your divorce and written down, or talked through, the aspects of it that you were unhappy with. Use these concepts to guide your next decisions. There are no perfect people out there, but if your perspective mate has more than a couple of red flags, it might just be best to walk away.
8. Trust your gut.
Your conscience and instinct are your best weapon. Yes, get input from people you trust, but in the end, if something just doesn’t “feel right,” then it probably isn’t. Pay attention to how you feel around the person. Do they make you happy, feel at ease, and comfort you, or do they say things that just don’t sit right with you? Do they honor your boundaries? If not, walk away.
Trusting your gut goes both ways though! If you get a wonderful feeling about a person, don’t be afraid to pursue it. Use wisdom, but don’t operate out of fear and miss out on something amazing.
9. Consider a therapist.
Perhaps this should be the number one tip? Anyway, Dr. Margaret Paul states that doing the inner work and acknowledging your part in the failed relationship is of vital importance when moving into a new relationship. Experts suggest a period of reflection, either with a journal, a trusted friend, a life coach, or a registered therapist. They can help you work through the emotions and come to a place of acceptance, which is vital before moving on.
10. Set some boundaries.
Even if your marriage was awful, and you’re more than ready to move on, remember you’re probably still vulnerable in some ways. That means that making quick decisions is probably not a good idea. Before you head out on your first date, set some boundaries for yourself. These might be conversational, emotional, financial, or sexual. You know what you’re comfortable with. Set your limits, and stick to them.
11. Set reasonable expectations.
One of the primary reasons that any relationship fails is that we put Disney romance expectations on real-life people, and they will fail us every time. No person is going to complete you. There is no one out there that can tick off every box on your perfect prince list. “The perfect date” is a rare anomaly. Set your expectations appropriately.
12. Don’t involve your kids too fast.
The experts are pretty unanimous on this one. While you should be upfront from the beginning about your children, it’s unwise to introduce them to your partner until you have been dating for several months and there’s potential for a serious relationship to develop. Dr. Walfish points out that your children have suffered a loss too, and they need time to heal, especially younger children. Just because you have butterflies for someone doesn’t mean that your children need to meet them.
Dr. Judith Sills, author of Getting Naked Again: Dating, Romance, Sex, and Love When You’ve Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped, or Distracted, “ also warns not to let your children make decisions for you. Too many single parents choose not to date and sacrifice their happiness because they are worried about the effects on their children. Your unhappiness will affect your children too, so don’t avoid dating altogether, just do it responsibly.
13. Don’t be fooled by chemistry.
Those coming out of marriage have been through this before. You’re likely very aware that chemistry doesn’t necessarily equal compatibility. Those hormones are strong and can be downright dangerous when we let our desire for someone cover over their bad qualities. It’s indeed important not to mistake lust, or an engaging person, for love. However, the chemistry works both ways!
Divorce survivor and the voice behind Survive Divorce, Nicole Smith, warns not to write off a person that possesses some of your highly desired traits just because you don’t immediately feel a strong chemistry. Experts agree, especially in women, that chemistry can come as love develops, and a slow burn is often far more effective than a quick flame that burns out too soon.
Author Note: I can state from personal experience that a slow burn can be a real one. My husband was not my type! When I was coming out of my previous relationship, he and I became friends, but I was not attracted to him at all. He was shy, really short, and just not that attractive to me. However, he was the best person I had ever met. As time went on, there was a small spark, and I married him because my gut told me it was right. We have been married 17 years now, and I can honestly say, I find him incredibly sexy now, and that feeling seems to grow every year.
14. Put in the work.
Don’t expect any healthy relationship to just fall into place. Dating takes work. We have already discussed that you need to do some inner work, but it also takes work to get to know a new person. It requires time, difficult conversations, and a willingness to be open and vulnerable. If your new prospect seems like they might be a good match, be willing to put in the work. Read books on healthy relationships, study successful marriages around you, and ask questions from people you consider to be mentors. If it gets serious, then get some good relationship counseling before remarriage. Don’t repeat the same mistakes you made last time.
15. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Your first date after a divorce probably won’t be your last. That’s not a bad thing. A failed date or even a failed relationship is not a failure on your part. It might be an avoided disaster. You’ll likely learn something about yourself and about what you don’t want from it, so it isn’t a loss.
Where to Meet People
Dating sites are abundant in today’s world. While they have their pros and cons, one good aspect is that many are niche-oriented, which does part of the elimination work for you. There are dating sites for Christians, farmers, and even gluten-free people. While this might sound silly, and may limit the options a bit, it does put you in a group of like-minded people. If there’s an aspect that is important to you, then you might as well start there.
Meetup and similar apps offer group “meetups” for a plethora of incredible activities. You can join a group activity on the app, exchange messages with other attendees beforehand, and then hop in if it feels right. Some of the activities are specifically for singles or divorced daters. Others are just fun get-togethers. These meetups are a great way to meet people who enjoy the same activities as you, which is a good start to finding new love. Just choose events that you like and will enjoy doing, that way if there’s no one there that intrigues you, you’ll still have a great time doing something you love.
In the same vane, joining a group class for yoga, painting, cooking, or archery is a great way to meet people who love the same things that you do! Plus, having a hobby is a wonderful way to expand your talents and helps build self-esteem.
Get out there in the community. Run the marathon. Volunteer at the food drive. Go to the high school football game. You can’t meet new friends or new loves if you sit at home every weekend. Getting involved in a cause that you believe in is not only good for your healing, but it’s a wonderful place to meet like-minded people.
Your Place of Worship
Spirituality is an important part of most people’s self-identity. While some relationships with mixed spiritual beliefs do work, they are certainly far more difficult than a union between people with similar beliefs. While you don’t go to church or temple to meet a date, if you happen to find one there, you’ll probably have a good foundation to build on.
Don’t Worry About Opinions
The experts at the dating site eharmony advise not to worry too much about what other people think. There will always be people who think you should reunite with your ex, people who think you’re moving too fast, or those who think you need to get out there and date when you aren’t ready. While a new serious partner must get along with your close friends and family, what everyone else thinks about your dating choices doesn’t matter. Given that you have gone through the steps and are at a good place with your healing, don’t let the opinions of the wider community keep you from doing what is best for you.
Is it worth it?
At this point, some of you’re thinking, “nope… forget it. I’ll just be alone.” While it’s true that dating is hard, and there are monsters out there, there are also diamonds. Don’t miss out on a lifetime of love and happiness because of a failed relationship or fear of repeating it. Wait until you’re ready, but don’t let your past hold you forever. One lost relationship does not resign you to a lifetime of being alone… unless that is what you truly desire (in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this).
We hope this article has given you hope for your dating future after divorce! Tend to your healing, and then get out there and have some fun. You deserve it!
What are your best tips for dating after divorce? What should others know about the current dating scene? Drop your tips in the comments!
For more dating ideas, check out “The Ultimate List of Date Ideas for New Couples.”
If you think you might have found a good match, then taking a trip together can be the true test of compatibility. Check out our recommendations for “Making the Most of Your First Vacation Together.”
Anderson, C. H. (2022, August 25). 14 tips for dating after divorce. Oprah Daily. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/a25858Fre170/tips-for-dating-after-divorce/
Fields, L. (n.d.). Am I ready to date after my divorce? WebMD. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/dating-after-divorce
Dating after divorce – when and how to meet a compatible … – eharmony. (2019, April 19). Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.eharmony.com/dating-advice/break-up/dating-after-divorce/
Resnick, A. (2021, July 29). How to start dating after divorce. Verywell Mind. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-start-dating-after-divorce-5191555
Regan, S. (2020, August 30). Dating after a divorce? marriage experts weigh in on the do’s & don’ts. mindbodygreen. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/dating-after-divorce
Smith, N. (2022, April 3). 24 essential rules for dating after divorce. Survive Divorce. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.survivedivorce.com/rules-dating-after-divorce
Frequently Asked Questions
To successfully date after a divorce, experts advise waiting until you have healed from your divorce and can proceed without extreme emotions, have a clear list of deal-breakers, and to take your time.
The appropriate time to date after divorce varies by person. There is no easy answer. Experts agree that a grieving period and thorough assessment of why the relationship failed are key before moving on.