In my last post I addressed how long it typically takes someone to heal after experiencing a divorce. In this post I will address a very closely related topic: How soon should I start dating after divorce? Starting to date too soon after a divorce is the single biggest mistake I see people make. Sure it’s tempting to get back out there in the dating world, but jump the gun and you will only prolong your journey to emotional health.
Why The Rush?
I understand the pressure, both from within and from others. After coming through a divorce, especially if it was an unwilling divorce, you most likely feel rejected by your ex-spouse and quite possibly by the entire opposite sex. You feel an urgency to know that you are desirable, that there is hope that you will one day love again. The unfortunate truth is that if you re-enter the dating game too soon you can significantly decrease your chances of having a healthy relationship.
When someone loses a spouse to death, the last thing we expect them to do is start dating right away. We all know they have experienced a profound loss and need time to grieve. Why then do we expect a new divorcee to immediately look for a new relationship? As a divorcee you need to grieve the loss of your marriage much like a widow or widower does.
So on to the question.
How soon should you start dating after divorce?
There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that. It will largely depend on how long you were married and the depth of your emotional wounds. If you start dating before letting your emotional wounds heal you will mask the unresolved pain, anger, depression, or ________ (fill in the blank) with the joy of a new relationship. Left unresolved, these emotions will fester and eventually will come to the surface and demand attention. This can ruin what you thought was the new love of your life.
What are the signs that you are ready to date?
- Are you comfortable being single? If you feel a strong need to date you are probably not ready. If you approach dating from a position of need you will be likely to overlook warning signs in your dates just to move toward a relationship.
- Are you over the anger, hate, etc. toward your ex-spouse? The opposite of love is apathy, not hate. If you still feel strong negative feelings toward your ex it’s a good sign you are not over the relationship. You will bring this baggage into any new relationship and it will most likely be short-lived.
- Has it been at least a year since your divorce was final? Many experts agree that one year is the minimum time it takes to be ready to date. Dealing with the pain of anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, etc is something that is best handled before you bring someone else into the picture.
There’s some food for thought on when to start dating. This advice is completely opposed to the advice you will likely get from well-meaning friends and family, but my years of helping people heal after divorce has shown this to be the right way.
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