Coming back to the dating world after a marriage fails can be one of two things: depressing or exciting. I hope that you feel it’s more exciting after you’re finished reading this article. There’s no doubt that no one gets married to get divorced, but divorces happen every day. Regardless of why your marriage ended, you have control over how happy you feel going forward. I tell my therapy clients to wait at least six months or a year after divorce to start dating again. But once you’ve reached that point, it’s time to get back in the dating saddle.
First, never let yourself feel self-conscious about being divorced.
Divorce is not a four-letter word. Our society can be a tad judgmental when it comes to divorce, as if it is a sign of failure or weakness. Child, please! Two people start a marriage with the best of intentions but – let’s be honest – making a marriage last over a lifetime is really, really hard. If you are divorced, I give you credit for trying and wish you a better relationship in the future. When you start to wade back into the dating pool, don’t succumb to that nonsense that divorce is a blemish on your past. Instead, tell your dates that you actually learned a lot of important lessons from your marriage, and everyone will love and admire your positive attitude.
Don’t expect dating to feel normal.
Once you start dating again, it can be…a trip. After you’ve been married, dating again can feel like being forced to go back to a seventh grade dance where everyone awkwardly stands against the wall. At first, dating will feel like an annoying obligation. If you want to date happily after a divorce, you have to be honest about the fact that it’s unpleasant to have to put yourself out there again and subject yourself to the unpredictability of meeting new people. If you accept that it’s not ideal, you can stage your own pity party and then, soon after, you can move on again.
Focus on having fun – not finding a lifelong partner.
The biggest mistake you can make is to try to find another husband or wife soon after your divorce. I’m instantly reminded of my advice to one celebrity, Kim Kardashian, when I read aloud an open letter to her on television’s “Showbiz Tonight.” Before the divorce to her husband had been finalized, she was already discussing whether she was going to marry Kanye West! I told her that she needed more time to be single.
After a divorce, you should take the issue of marriage off the table entirely. Take a year or two and simply have fun with people: casually date a couple of people at the same time; go out of your comfort zone and date some people whom you wouldn’t normally picture yourself dating; and go for romantic weekend getaways. After a divorce, don’t focus on the question, ‘Is he marriage material?’ Focus instead on enjoying the moment with your date, and don’t put any pressure on the relationship to be anything more than having fun.
Use dating as a vehicle to do some of the things you love to do.
You will look forward to dating a bit more if you use it as an opportunity to do some of the things you like to do: visit restaurants you’ve always wanted to go to; check out movies or plays your ex was never interested in; and try recreational activities that make you feel happy and alive.
Oprah Winfrey has her own magazine column adoringly titled What I Know for Sure. It always offers a cute nugget of wisdom, a paragraph with a life lesson from which we can all benefit. Well, here’s what Dr. Seth knows for sure: Life keeps getting better when you are able to have an experience and later reflect on the lesson you learned from it. Trust that your divorce was an event that you were supposed to have in your life to help you grow, and make it your goal to better enjoy all relationships that follow – dating or otherwise.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve