Written by: Caroline Meyer

They say once you’ve fallen off a horse, you should get back on so that you don’t end up afraid to ride in the future. Dating after divorce is similar. You may feel bereaved at the death of your marriage, there may be angst and upset if the divorce was less than pleasant and you will probably have some issues to deal with first. Once you have dusted yourself off and you are ready to try again, don’t let the past cause insecurities or fear. You can look back at what went wrong and where you can improve, but past that, leave the past where it belongs, behind you! 

Divorce can feel very lonely. While for some people, it is a relief, for others it is hard letting go of the person you have spent years of your life with. You may also find that people who were friends with both of you decide to be friends with you or your spouse and no longer with both of you. They may also pull away from both of you all together. You might also find that you have let past friendships from when you weren’t part of a couple fall away and you are unable to regain these friendships.  So not only do you have to start over with friendships in many aspects, you now want to try and be social in order to meet a prospective love interest or even just someone to hang out with to start with. Work out how much time you have available with work, taking care of kids and running a household on your own and then you can start figuring out how to start getting to meet people again.  Go to gym, talk to the cute person at the store or join dating sites. You can choose your pony! 

Don’t start dating until the divorce is final. You also need to take a little time to recoup before you jump back in with both feet. How much time you take is completely up to you. Some people recover quickly while others are emotionally drained by the process and take longer to feel up to socializing. Knowing you are over and there is no going back leaves you open to a future. If you are still concentrating on the past, you can only do harm in a potential new relationship. 

When you decide to start socializing, you have to also be able to assess your own reasons for wanting to start dating. Are you looking for someone to take your mind off your anger and hurt? Are you actually open to emotions that may come in time from a new relationship? Are you just lonely and want someone to talk to or are you open to something more. You need to know what you are looking for and be ready to be open with your dates on that score.  

No, you don’t have to be ready for a long term commitment right at the start. When you start dating again, you may be open to the possibility but you don’t need to assume that you will want to get married again at this point in time. Open yourself to new experiences, do things you haven’t before, meet interesting people and move forward with a life “after divorce”. 

There is often a concern over “rebound” relationships. People always assume that the first relationship after a divorce is bound to fail. While the first relationship will be challenging, there is no reason why the person can’t be a perfect match and may even end up as a life partner in future. Toss the misconceptions out the window and be prepared to be happy. This could be with the first person you date or the 10th person you date. There is no guarantee on finding another partner, but you have to at least be open to the possibility. 

After a divorce, you should realize that no one is perfect. You cannot set a long list of “must haves” for your dates otherwise you may find your dating pool to be extremely shallow. You may lose out on the next love of your life because they have a different hair colour than what you imagined in the “perfect” partner. Don’t expect first dates to go wonderfully well either, because usually they don’t. Unless the date was horrendously awful, don’t be afraid to go on a second date and at least give yourself and the other person, time to relax and start to get to know each other. 

You can generate a “must haves” list if you feel the need, but instead of focusing on looks, you might want to look at character traits. Is blonde hair more important than being a good parent? Do they have to have blue eyes or rather be loyal and loving? Even when it comes to hobbies, you don’t need to be compatible as it is interesting to have something to talk about that you aren’t doing together. Must haves should really be based on the emotional and mental and not on the physical aspects of your potential relationship partner.  The same goes for the “must not haves”.  These may be harder to determine on a first date though. If you want someone who is never dishonest, you can’t ask this questions on a date as a dishonest person would probably lie to you anyway. However, if you want someone who loves animals, you would probably be incompatible with someone who is deathly afraid of them or loathes animals. If you love travelling, you might not want to get involved with someone who is tied to home base and never prepared to leave their city, no matter the country. You are the only one that can really decide what your deal breakers are when it comes to the type of person you want to date. 

Don’t mislead your potential dates.  Things like age, employment status, whether or not you have kids, your interests and so forth should be an open book to potential dates. If you are going the online dating route, try avoid profile picture from more than 2 years back (the more recent the better) and don’t embellish details as the truth eventually comes out. Faking it wastes your time and that of the person you go on the date with. Rather be honest and you are more likely to find someone who actually matches up with you! Be yourself! 

You have to remember that this is not a race. There is no need to get too intense too fast. Spend time dating casually, talking on the phone, taking part in activities together and generally getting to know each other. Once you have seen the person in a variety of settings and you have learned a lot more about them, you might then want to introduce them to the family. There is no need to rush the physical or the emotional aspects of a new relationship. You both need time to establish if there is a genuine connection or not before you get in to a deeper relationship. 

Remember your priorities. Dating is great and quite important for your personal growth in the future but it is important not to lose sight of your priorities. Your children should still be one of your top concerns and anyone new you bring in to their lives should be vetted well. You also need to prepare them for the possibility of a relationship with someone other than their other parent. Allow them to vent their concerns and emotions so that you can help them adjust. Your new partner will also have to learn to fit in with your household over time. Discuss all the important things before they become an issue or end up as break up. Don’t get overly focused in trying to find a partner to the point that your family, work or other responsibilities have to take a back seat. The person that is right for you will understand your situation and be prepared to fit in and cause rifts in your current life. 

If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. You need to trust yourself and how you feel. Go with your gut instinct as it tends to be right more often than not. Don’t push for a relationship purely because you are feeling lonely, even when you are uncomfortable in the partnership.  Most of all just have fun! Get to meet some new people, learn new things, try new experiences and just start living your life again! Have some laughs and if you are lucky, fall in love again!