People always complain that dating is hard. Dating when you’re in your twenties, dating when you’re in college, dating when you’re a single mum… and I don’t disagree- dating is difficult when you consider all the fear factors involved. These may include getting hurt, trust issues from a cheating ex, a lack of commitment and not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. HOWEVER, when you date after a divorce, especially one that took you by surprise- its accompanied by emotional baggage, critical judgement and bewilderment; and a lot of this is self- inflicted. The most frequent thing I used to ask myself is, “Is it normal to be this conflicted?”
It so bloody complex, this dating after divorce. Exciting. Confusing. Even harder to start dating again after so many years being part of a couple. Whatever you decide to do – to take your time, or jump back into dating – be mindful about your needs. I trusted myself and went on to have a lot of fun, I experienced both highs and lows, there was plenty of both laughter and crises yet I have enjoyed the process.
If this is where you find yourself right now here’s what I learned about dating after divorce – things, I came to realise and things I’d recommend if you’re feeling uncertain or even petrified.
Don’t let fear of stigma hold you back
Where I am from, divorce is a shocking concept. A person in my age category would be utterly surprised if I even ventured to express an interest in dating after being divorced. BUT in most progressive societies, people don’t care. They really don’t. In the UAE,most people don’t blink an eye about divorce. A man actually told me, “Ok. You must know loads of cool things… That’s kinda hot.” I just laughed and even though nothing further happened beyond that conversation, it opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone is stuck in an episode of The Crown. Venture beyond what you know or what seems safe and you’ll be surprised at how divorce isn’t the big barrier you think it is. If the other person starts making you feel guilty about being divorced, then perhaps they’re not the kind of progressive partner you need?
Don’t be surprised to expand your dating horizons
You don’t have to settle. There is this common misconception that if you’re divorced then you should be lucky to be with ANYONE ever again. Uh… no.
Now that you know exactly what you like and don’t like based on your previous marriage, your standards are actually far higher than they were when you first started dating in school/college. Therefore, you don’t have to marry the first Jamie that comes around. You may find yourself being open to different kinds of partners than you ever thought you would find interesting simply because your mind is more open and you’ve tried something safe that didn’t work out. For me, my main criteria was that I date someone who could respect my success and need for independence and I knew that I could only find that in a man at least a few years older than me. There was no way I was going to date a man in his twenties again only to have him running away again because I was more successful/ well-traveled/earned more than him!
Today, the risk of divorce is measured on how similar a married couple is based on education, upbringing, religion and race, according to The Washington Post. Well as someone who was married to a person who ticked all those boxes yet he STILL left, I have started to think that dating beyond your comfort zone might be an idea worth exploring. Sometimes what think we want is not what we need.
Do understand that there will be comparisons
Don’t fool yourself that once you move on, occasionally you won’t make a comparison. There will be times- and it will hit you when you least expect it- when you will make a comparison between something your ex did and something you’re experiencing right now. Sometimes it will be favourable and sometimes it won’t. Expect that and understand that its normal. However, if it becomes a constant thought at the back of your mind then you might want to reconsider if you’re ready to be in the dating game. From my experience, there is nothing worse than sitting on a date with someone who is still angry, hurting, or messed-up over a former love. It’s very off-putting and instantly feels like the person needs therapy, and not romance.
Do be clear about what you want and what you expect
You have walked through the fire and come out unscathed. There is really nothing left for you to lose now. Why not be 100% honest with the person you’re seeing? Ultimately, there’s a huge mindset difference between you and someone who has never been married. You aren’t looking for some sort of fairy tale anymore- you need compatibility, strength and maturity. The less time you spend playing games and being upfront, the more chance you have peace of mind and success.
It can also be as simple mentioning things you won’t tolerate or indulge. My own personal list included not being able to text or field calls all day from a significant other (I have a busy life) and the understanding that we won’t be snooping through each other’s devices because we need to have trust (primary complaint from my ex husband was that I never went through his phone- that’s right- it was a problem that I trusted him!).
Maybe you’re ready for a serious commitment or maybe you’re unsure of what you want- just let the other person know. If they aren’t mature enough to handle your straightforwardness or expectations, then maybe they aren’t ready to be with someone as awesome as you!
Do take your time and talk through things
It can be the most passionate and intense relationship in the world but if you don’t ever mention your past experiences to each other, there will never be complete honesty between the 2 of you. Now I am not saying that you should extol a long list of your ex’s virtues or even worse, insult them with every breath in your body but discussing with a future partner what went wrong in your marriage will help you two to better get to know each other and you’ll both have an understanding of what the other expects or can/won’t tolerate. Ultimately, your divorce- like all other meaningful experiences in your life- has shaped you into the person you have become and it’s a fact that needs to be acknowledged. If your partner isn’t the kind of person who is able to handle honest discussions about your past, then are they worth being with?
Ultimately, you should trust your gut because you know what’s best for you and when its best for you. I remember people who told me that instead of dating again I should go for a religious pilgrimage (??) or focus on improving my cooking skills (??) when I knew that I needed to just take the plunge and date again.
It wasn’t easy in the early days where I second guessed myself a lot and wondered what was the point of even dating if it would only lead in heartbreak. However, like the initial stages of shock, anger and misery after the divorce, everything does get a lot easier once you take the first steps.
Whatever stage you are in – mating or simply fun dating – just enjoy it! Don’t worry too much about where it is going or if you are where you are supposed to be. If you are there already and having fun, celebrate the phase you are in! Truthfully, each dating experience- much like your marriage- actually serves as an experience for you to get to know yourself better!
Allow me to direct you to these 2 articles:
This one offers advice on how to bag a man while catching free flights and is published by the infamous Kiona of How Not to Travel Like a Basic Bitch.
And this one is by Joy Valerie of Part Time Explore Dora about the 18 telltale signs you need to RUN from a man.
Do you have any dating advice to share? Let me know in the comments below!