Divorce is a time often fraught with anxiety, sadness and even loneliness. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness, so take note of these tips to help you get back in the dating game.
Don’t get pushed into anything
If you don’t feel ready, you’re not ready. No matter how many well-meaning people are telling you to ‘get out there’, don’t let yourself get pushed into something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or if you don't feel emotionally available.
"After divorce, and the awful dismay of dismantling your home and sanctuary, you will be shell-shocked and emotionally vulnerable," says Saga Dating member Jay. "Give yourself time to recover before venturing onto the dating scene. Accept that you need to find your feet again when it comes to dating."
But remember that dating can be a great way to help you get over your ex, too. It needn’t be something you take too seriously, but getting out of the house, meeting new people, socialising in general are all good ways to see yourself in a new light and feel positive.
And when you're ready to take a lighthearted relationship to the next step, you’ll know.
Go window shopping first
How wonderfully easy things are now for divorced daters – rather than having to tell the world your situation and then asking if they have any single friends, you can simply go online and see what’s out there. Sign up to an online dating service that suits you – while there are sites intended for divorcees it’s ideal to sign up to a site where you’ll meet like-minded individuals. Saga Dating is a popular option, with more than 100,000 users.
If you’ve been thinking about it but can’t quite bring yourself to even create a dating site profile, or you’ve created a profile, but still can’t respond to anyone’s invitations to chat or meet up, then don't worry. There's nothing to stop you simply browsing profiles until you feel ready to reach out to someone.
Don’t start dating until you’ve stopped crying
Okay, so maybe you don’t have red puffy eyes but if you’re still carrying emotional baggage from the divorce – bitter feelings, anger, jealousy, for example – it’ll show. Getting through this stage may simply take time and/or counselling, but it is important you get through it before you start dating. If you don’t, whoever you date will either be put off or could even potentially abuse your vulnerability. For a positive and fulfilling dating experience, you need to feel good about yourself and not be too focused on your ex.
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Put your nerves to one side
So you feel ready to date, but the prospect still scares you? Learn to recognise that your fear is coming from a very normal place and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. We all get nervous when we’ve been out of the dating game for a while, and more so when we’ve been hurt.
Try taking things slowly. Maybe respond to a few emails from those who interest you and don’t agree to meet up unless you’re comfortable. Facing your fears can be exciting and can make you feel more alive than ever before.
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Don't chat online for too long before you meet
When you’ve connected with someone via your online dating profile, it can be dangerously easy to build up a false image of them in your head. Over time, you can start to imagine a great chemistry that just doesn’t exist when you meet in person. While it’s good to exchange a few emails, try not to chat for too long before you meet or you might end up disappointed.
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Do tell your kids… but don’t bring them on a date!
Your children can be a great support during and after a divorce, but chances are they have their own ideas of the kind of partner you deserve and it may not match your needs or wishes. What’s more, they may have difficulty imagining you with someone new. So let them know that you are dating but explain that at this stage it’s just for fun, nothing serious.
If you trust their judgement, describe your date or show them his/her profile, but leave it at that. Unless you’re getting serious about someone, bringing your children along on a date is as big a no-no now as it was when they were babies. Don’t do it!
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Don't be afraid to date more than one person at once
It might sound tough, but dating a couple of people at the same time can not only boost your confidence but also help you figure out exactly what you do and don’t want from another relationship.
If you want to see other people, be sure to make this clear to anyone you’re dating – especially if you think someone is starting to get serious. Remember, even if you don’t connect romantically, you never know when you might make a great friend. Honesty is the best policy.
Go for coffee, not dinner
Dinner is a huge commitment – realistically it’s at least an hour of your time, probably more, which, with some dates, might be one of the slowest and unpleasant hours of your life! So go for a coffee or tea and cake instead.
Even better, arrange to meet in a public place where there’s something to see - an art gallery, a museum or a book shop, for example. That way you’ve got lots of topics on-hand to talk about too. Then, if you hit it off, you can always suggest a coffee afterwards or even dinner!
Take longer to call judgement
You might think you can tell whether a person is right for you from the moment you see them or speak to them, but as you get older, attraction can be more of a slow-burner rather than the immediate fiery passion you remember from your youth.
If you enjoy spending time with the person, give it a few more dates. You might find that as you get to know him/her, your attraction to them sneaks up on you and you’ll be glad you kept at it a bit longer!
You’re not sure you want another relationship… ever
Why would you be? A divorce can make you wonder whether it’s worth all the pain. But dating isn’t necessarily about desperate people looking for long-term love (although obviously it can be!), it’s about having fun and just opening up possibilities. And for some people, dating can simply be a means to discovering they can still be attractive to others, rediscovering self-worth and enjoying the company of different people.
But do bear in mind that for almost everyone, dating after divorce will be difficult at times, especially if you’ve been hurt or disappointed. Have faith that there are some great people out there who are more than worth your time and trust.
Divorcees can be seen as easy targets, vulnerable and potentially easy to manipulate so be extra careful when online dating or meeting someone you don't know well.
So always be sure to tell someone who you are meeting, where and when, and make sure you do it in a very public place, where you can arrive and leave in well-lit safety. And if you feel at all unsure at any point during the date, make your excuses and leave.
Or if you know that you'll worry about hurting someone's feelings by honestly telling them you're not interested, instead tell them upfront you have an appointment in an hour – that ‘appointment’ can always be cancelled if you’re having a wonderful time, but if it’s not wonderful, you can always ‘check the traffic’ and discover you’ll actually have to leave much earlier than you thought!
Ready to meet someone new and find love online? Try Saga Dating to meet like-minded singles who share your interests and outlook on life. Saga Dating is a site you can trust - we're members of the Online Dating Association.