Divorced and thinking about dating again? That could mean you’ve weathered the emotional storm that accompanies divorce, processed what went wrong with your marriage, learned what you could, and are now ready to take all of your newfound wisdom and start fresh. OR it could mean that you’re looking to date as a distraction in order to keep from having to do that really hard work. How can you tell that in addition to wanting to date, you’re actually ready to date? Figuring this out is a personal exercise—no one can do this for you. But here are five sure signs that you are not (yet) ready:
1. You want to date in order to “show” your ex. If your main motivation for firing up your love life is to try to get a reaction from your ex, you are not ready to date. You won’t only be wasting your time; you’ll be attracting a lot of bad dating karma too. Remember, there are two people involved in a dating relationship—and I’m talking about you and this new person, not you and your ex. Dating someone new only to get to your ex else is fundamentally unfair. If your goal is to cause your ex jealousy, anger, sadness, pain, or regret, the takeaway is you’re still taken with your ex. So, save everyone the heartburn and hassle and wait to date until you’ve worked through all of those emotions and you’re really and truly over it.
2. Your divorce is your favorite topic of conversation. Wanting to talk about your divorce all the time is a clear sign that you’ve still got a lot of work to do. When you’re really ready to date, it won’t take any effort to refrain from talking about your divorce because that topic will be old news. Once you do reach the point where you’re ready, avoid the urge to over-share about your ex and/or your divorce on the first (or second or third) date. There’s a time to fill someone in on your past relationship, but the first date isn’t it. Rather than letting your backstory be the dominant theme of any (or all) of your dates, a better strategy is to let it come out organically–a little here and there when and where it’s relevant to who you are now.
3. You constantly compare new dates to your ex—and then you pick accordingly. Your ex was insecure over his height, so now you’ll only date tall guys. Your ex was a CPA, so now you won’t date anyone who even so much as took an accounting class in college. It’s okay to learn from your past relationships and adjust your decision-making accordingly. If your ex was a drunk, by all means, steer clear of those who appear to have a drinking problem. But vetoing everyone who shares any characteristic at all with your ex, even down to hair color, shows that your emotional equilibrium is still out of whack. As long as that’s the case, you’re at risk of making bad choices because your judgment is weighed down by your negative feelings about the ex. Wait until you’ve regained your balance before dating again.
4. You’re still sad (or mad) over your divorce. A healthy relationship requires two healthy people. If you are still generally sad or mad, either over your divorce or at your ex, you’re not yet operating at 100%. You need to work through those emotions before embarking on a new relationship. I’m not saying you have to get to the point where you like your ex—that may or may not ever happen; nor am I saying that you have to get to the point where you never get mad at them—because that may never happen, either. But you do have to get to the point where you’re not constantly nursing a general grudge or a gaping wound that has to do with your divorce or your ex.
5. You talk to your ex all the time. If you have kids with your ex, you’re going to need to communicate from time to time. But if you find yourself talking all the time, you should ask yourself whether all of that communication is really necessary. If you and your ex are close friends rather than simply being friendly, that might be an indication that you haven’t separated from him or her emotionally. And if you haven’t, there might not be room in your life for a new relationship—or at least not a healthy one. Rather than trying to fit another relationship into an emotionally full house, focus on decluttering your emotional state and getting rid of your past romantic attachments first.
Christina Pesoli practices family law with Noelke Maples St. Leger Bryant, LLP, in Austin, Texas. She is the author of Break Free From the Divortex: Power Through Your Divorce and Launch Your New Life (Seal Press). She has written extensively on the topic of divorce, providing advice and support designed to help people avoid common mistakes that make divorce take longer and cost more. She also writes advice columns for CultureMap Austin and Divorce Magazine.