Life is full of endings and new beginnings. Some of those endings and beginnings are sweet, while others are bitter. But as one door closes, another may open, bringing with it surprising new options and opportunities. It used to be said that half or more of the marriages in the United States end in divorce, but that is no longer the case.
With changes in attitudes towards marriage, especially among millennials, many people are choosing to avoid marriage altogether or are getting married later and staying married. Between 2008 and 2016, the divorce rate dropped by 18%.
Tips for Dating After DivorceWhile the ending of a marriage is a source of pain and other emotions, one thing is certain – it is not the end of life for the people who have just left that relationship. Divorce brings with it a slew of emotions along with significant changes.
One of the more obvious changes is the change in status, from being married to divorced and single. Such a dramatic life change can be daunting, exhilarating, or a mixture of both. You may be ready to move on with your life and find someone new with whom to share your life, or perhaps at this point, you’d rather be by yourself and live life without emotional entanglements. Whatever situation you find yourself in, here are a few thoughts on dating after divorce.
First things first
Sometimes, marriage relationships are hard and result in painful affairs. If you’re on the path to divorce, you may be eager to move on with your life to the next thing. Wisdom dictates that it’s wise to wait and not begin dating until you’ve finalized your business with your former spouse. Make sure your divorce is finalized and in the rearview before you proceed with dating someone else.
For one thing, it’s about guarding your next significant other against the tumult that divorce proceedings can bring. Getting divorced isn’t always a straightforward process. There can be delays with court proceedings, people can change their mind about verbal agreements that were made about certain items of property or even about custody of the children or family pets.There can be many ups and downs, with their attendant emotions, when it comes to divorce proceedings. Trying to date while handling the emotional and other baggage of an ongoing divorce process can wreak havoc on those dating relationships.
Instead of dating right away, it makes sense to make a clean break, finalize legal proceedings and regain a sense of normalcy before dipping your toes back in the dating pool.
When divorce happens, it comes at the end of a relationship that may have been complicated, beautiful, heartbreaking, or just plain horrible. No one person’s story or reasons for divorce are the same.
Perhaps your marriage ended because your spouse cheated on you, or you might be the one that cheated. There are bound to be a complex collection of emotions surrounding your marriage and it’s break up, and you need to allow yourself time to deal with these emotions.
Sometimes family and friends, or society at large pound the message into others to ‘move on with life’ and get over what happened. “Moving on,” according to these voices usually takes the form of jumping back into dating and starting up new romantic relationships. Doing this may have negative downsides, as we’ll explore later.
The key thing is for you not to feel under pressure to get back out there and start dating again. Allow yourself time, grace, and space to work through whatever you need to work through before you get back to dating.Once you decide you’re ready to start dating again, another part of taking the pressure off yourself is realizing that you’re probably rusty when it comes to dating. There are insecurities you’ll have to come to grips with. You’ll have to adjust your expectations.
Depending on how long you were married, you may have missed out on online dating or dating via mobile apps, not to mention the various shifts in attitudes about dating that happen regularly in our ever-evolving culture. Give yourself a chance to come up to speed and enter the right mindset for a potentially different dating culture.
Self-care is key
We mentioned being gracious with yourself and working through whatever you need to before you start dating again. That point needs to be emphasized. There is no experience that we go through as humans that does not mark us in some way. You cannot underestimate the impact that an intimate relationship like marriage can have on a person.
You shared a life with someone – your hopes, dreams, your most intimate and embarrassing thoughts, your body, your prayers and so much more. For better or worse, being that close to someone changes and shapes you. Little pieces of you will always be with that person, and little pieces of them will always be with you.
If your former spouse cheated on you, or lied about money, or gaslighted you, the memory of those things can impact how you relate to other people at that deep intimate level in the future. It might be that much harder to trust or to entrust yourself to someone else.
Spiritually, because of the biblical emphasis on marriage as a life-long institution, you might be carrying guilt for getting divorced. The idea behind doing self-care is to give yourself the time, grace, and space you need to recover from the emotional journey of divorce, and not bring baggage into your next relationship. If you feel the need for it, go for therapy to work through the issues and questions your divorce raises.
It is more than likely that you need emotional and spiritual healing after a divorce. You need time to rebuild your identity without your former spouse. Take the necessary time out to take care of yourself. If you decide to date again, your next relationship deserves the best of who you are, and you owe yourself the chance at a meaningful human connection filled with the joy of expectation and not the fear of disappointment or hurt.
Keeping it realWhen you get back into dating, you will hopefully be in the right frame of mind. This means that your past relationship is something you’ve already dealt with, and you’re not processing it for the first time with your current romantic prospect. Ideally, it’s recommended to go through therapy before you start dating so that your date isn’t the first person with whom you’re processing your thoughts and emotions about your divorce and current circumstances with.
You must be honest with your dates about your past marriage relationship. One must exercise wisdom in what and how much you divulge; your divorce may not be first date conversation material, but if the question comes up, answer it honestly.
Keep it real on online profiles. You are who you are, and your divorce is a part of your life story. If you have children and share custody with your ex, that’s a reality that your romantic prospects will have to come to terms with sooner or later.
You’ll have to decide when it is appropriate for them to meet your children, like when things get serious, but remember that such things are complicated by an ex who is part of the equation. In other words, dating after divorce is more complicated in some ways than dating while single, and there is a deep need for godly wisdom to navigate that landscape.
The closing of one door does not mean all avenues are shut off to you. When your marriage ends, that shouldn’t spell the end of a future meaningful emotional connection with another person. Dating after divorce may be complicated, but it is a possibility worth exploring guided by wisdom.
“Couple in the Field”, Courtesy of StockSnap, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Breakfast Date”, Courtesy of StockSnap, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Dream Big”, Courtesy of NeONBRAND, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love”, Courtesy of Nathan Nichols, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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