Dating After Divorce: 10-Step Survival Guide to Getting Back Out There
Dating after divorce can seem scary. Not only are you worried about being hurt again, but you’ve also got to navigate completely new worlds (online dating) and communication styles (texting).
You may feel completely out of practice, especially if you haven’t dated since you were in your 20s.
And yet, as scary as dating after divorce may sound, you’re also kind of excited about first kisses and butterflies in your stomach.
I’m here to be your personal guide to getting back to dating after a long hiatus.
The Perks of Dating After Divorce
There are a lot of really wonderful benefits to dating later in life. Your life is more together and established, and you probably know more about what you want out of life and love than you did years ago.
You get to fall in love again (or maybe for the first time). If you struggled with your marriage and then divorce, it may be hard for you to remember what it’s like to fall in love. Those early days of falling head over heels are the best! Your brain is flooded with a delicious cocktail of hormones and chemicals that make you feel amazing. The world is bright and shiny. Everything is wonderful. If it’s been decades since you felt that, you’re in for a real treat.
Also, with dating after divorce, you can learn to trust again. I don’t know what your marriage was like, but many of the women in their 40s, 50s, or older that I have coached were betrayed in their marriages and found that they couldn’t trust their husbands. I don’t want that to limit you moving forward. Yes, some men are pigs, but there are so many men out there that are perfectly trustworthy, and you will learn that trust is a key component in love.
If you’ve spent decades taking care of your husband and maybe kids, you may not feel sexy and confident. Dating after divorce is your opportunity to take a note from Stella and get your groove back! That might involve a new haircut, flattering clothing, or even traveling on your own (hey, give Jamaica a try!). You can feel years younger simply by putting focus on how you look and feel.
You’ll also get to meet interesting men. Being married to the same guy for decades means you’re used to one kind of man, but once you start dating, you’ll meet men from every walk of life. Maybe your ex was a nature phobe; you might enjoy dating an outdoorsy guy. Or maybe your ex was a no-nonsense engineer; why not go out with an emotional artist for a change?
And last but not least: another perk of dating after divorce is getting to have sex! Again, every marriage is different, but many divorced women I know look back and can’t think of the last time they either had sex…or had good sex. Being with someone new (especially that you don’t have a complicated history with) can open the door to new and wonderful sexual experiences.
Your Step-by-Step Dating After Divorce Survival Guide
Getting back into dating will look different for every woman. It might be worth taking a personal inventory before getting started. Your history can’t help but impact how you move into future relationships. You may find it easy or really difficult to make yourself vulnerable with someone new. The key is to just let your experience come as it will and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
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Here are some tips that I have seen work for divorced women once they’re ready to start dating again.
Step 1: Take Your Time
I can’t stress this enough: don’t rush this. Depending on what you went through with your divorce, as well as how long ago it was, you may need months or even years to heal from it. Take care of yourself in every way; your friends may tell you that the best thing you can do to get over one guy is to — ahem — get under someone else. That’s such silly advice. It only forces you to start dating (or having sex) before you’re ready, and it sure isn’t fair to the guy who hopes this will turn into something when you’re just out for a little rebound action.
You need to ensure that you make time and space to grieve the end of your marriage. You might be hurt, apathetic, shell-shocked, or bitter after what you’ve gone through. That’s not the place you want to be in when you start dating someone new.
And yes, you may want to rush the process and get back to feeling good, but let me tell you: nothing good will come out of trying to hurry through the grieving process.
The right time to start dating after divorce is when you truly feel healed from what you’ve been through and start feeling genuine curiosity about what it would be like to be with someone new. Don’t listen to anyone else about when you should be ready. You’ll know when you are.
Step 2: Know What You’re Looking For
Like I said: dating when you’re older is better than in your 20s because you’re more sure of who you are and what you want. You may not have given it much thought, so spend some time considering the qualities you want in a man. Write them down.
Doing so can help you really zero in on characteristics that balance your own personality. And yes, you’ll be able to figure out what you want by looking at what you didn’t like about your ex. Maybe he traveled for work every week, and now you want someone who’s here more. Maybe your ex had trouble expressing emotions, so you want someone who communicates them easily.
You can get detailed and think about physical characteristics you want (tall, dark, and handsome) or even what his hobbies or job are, but focus mainly on his personality and qualities because they’re more important. You might be shocked to find that you’re compatible with a Harley-riding tattooed man 10 years older than you…who happens to be the most sensitive and caring man you’ve ever met. Be open!
Step 3: Find Your Sexy Confidence
Before you can feel attractive and appealing to someone else, you’ve got to feel that way about yourself. Take an assessment: where is your confidence right now? Many women suffer a setback in their confidence levels because of a bad marriage or divorce, and it can take work to get yours back.
It will take time. Surround yourself with positive friends who are quick to tell you how fabulous you are. Practice self-care: if getting your nails done makes you feel sexy, isn’t it worth the investment? Buy a new style of clothes. Try a new color or pattern. Get your hair highlighted.
Read empowering books and articles; you can find inspiration from others who have been down this same path who are now leading the lives they were meant to lead.
Your path to sexy confidence will be unlike any other woman’s. Find what makes you feel good, inside and out, and nurture that feeling.
Step 4: Open Your Eyes to Possibilities
Once you shift your thinking from focusing on all the pain you’ve gone through to being curious about your future and potential love that can (and will) come into your life, you should start seeing opportunities to meet people every day. When you were married, you might not have thought twice about chatting with an attractive man in line waiting for coffee, but now it’s different. You might have friends who know single men that they are eager for you to meet. A meetup group you participate in might be ripe for the picking. Even going to get a drink at a bar with friends can be an opportunity to meet a man.
As part of your practice for dating after divorce, I encourage you to start by simply talking to men as often as possible. You don’t have to necessarily flirt with them (that’s the next phase), but just get used to engaging in conversation with someone of the opposite sex. Your recent interactions with men may have been limited to your husband (arguing constantly) or coworkers, so this will be a bit unfamiliar territory at first.
After you gain confidence in chatting, challenge yourself to flirt with someone you find attractive. It doesn’t have to result in a date or even an exchange of numbers! You just need to reactivate your flirting muscle. If you’re funny, tell a joke. Compliment him. Comment on the long wait for coffee. Above all, smile!
Step 5: Try Online Dating
If you meet someone in person, great. But many women find that online dating not only opens up their options but it’s also a good way to practice interacting with a guy.
Start with a reputable dating site or app. I know many women who have had success on Bumble, OKCupid, and Match. There are also newer apps like Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel that you might want to check out. Just pick one or two, or you’ll easily let online dating run your life! Also, many guys are on more than one site, so don’t worry that you’re missing out if you’re just on a few sites.
The hardest thing for many people is writing their profiles. How can you talk about yourself in just a few sentences and come off as intelligent and appealing? If you don’t know where to start, ask a friend what you should include in your profile. Pick photos that make you feel attractive for your profile.
Most dating apps let you specify exactly what you’re looking for in a man, from his age and location to more granular details like income and whether he wants kids or not. Use those filters…but also be open to men that don’t necessarily fit what you think you’re looking for.
The key to success with online dating is keeping it light. Have no expectations. At the very least, you’ll get practice texting or talking to a man (an entire art form in and of itself). At best, you’ll end up on a few dates…or even in a relationship with someone you met online!
Step 6: Go on Your First Date
Whether you meet someone online, through a setup, or in a coffee shop, it’s now time for your first post-divorce date! It’s perfectly natural for you to be nervous, but if you focus on just having fun and not trying to find Mr. Right, you’ll have a better time.
As far as what you wear for the date: aim for comfort over sexiness. You need to feel good in the clothes you wear, not try to attract a man with a low-cut blouse. Trust me: if you feel good in the clothes, you likely look good in them too, and he will notice!
If the idea of a typical dinner date sends you into paralysis, suggest something more off-the-wall like a hike or breakfast date.
A safety tip from me to you: meet the guy on your first date at the venue rather than letting him pick you up. You just can’t be too careful these days, and since you don’t know if you’ll want to go out with this man again or not, it’s better for you to not reveal where you live before you even meet him for the first time.
While you’re on the date, try to relax and just enjoy the conversation. Assess the guy while you’re at it: does he make you laugh? Do you enjoy his company? Do you want to see him again? The more dates you go on, the easier it will be for you to determine whether this guy has potential or not. And give him at least a second date: some men are (understandably) nervous on a first date, just like you! On a second date, they’ll be more at ease.
Step 7: Measure Him Against Your List
After the date, spend more time assessing this man’s potential. Think back to that list you made about what you want.
Did this guy have what you’re looking for? If not, don’t settle! If he hits all the physical attributes you want (works out, has a full head of hair) but none of the personal qualities you’re looking for (he’s kind of a jerk), then move on.
Realize that you might not get everything on your list, but the bottom line is: you should enjoy his company and want to spend more time with him. That’s pretty easy to figure out.
Step 8: Work to Let Go of Past Pain
Sometimes you can’t know until you start dating after divorce whether your past trauma and mistrust will rear its ugly head. It’s okay if it does, but you need to work through this and learn to let it go.
Realize this guy isn’t the one that hurt you. You can’t assume that just because he has something in common with your ex (he’s male), that he will hurt you too. Be willing to trust again. Yes, that will take time, but the more dates you go on, the easier it will become. You don’t need to jump into a relationship right away once you start dating, so just give yourself some freedom to date multiple people and find your footing again.
Step 9: Be a Good Partner
Once you find a man that you enjoy spending time with, make sure you’re giving as much as you’re getting so that he wants to be with you as much as you do him.
Reach out to him as much as he does you. If he texts every morning to see how your day is going, be the one to initiate the text (or call) in the evening.
Pay for dates sometimes (or at least offer to). But know that this is tricky territory: 76% of men say they feel guilty if they don’t pay for a date, but 64% want a woman to contribute to the bill for a date. It never hurts to offer!
You can also be a good partner by asking him questions. Engage with him. If he told you last week that he was waiting to hear back about a job interview, make sure to follow up to see if he got the new job. Show that you’re actively interested in him and his world.
Step 10: Learn How to Find Love Again
It may not happen today…or tomorrow…but you will find love again. I promise you that.
However… you have to be open to love to find it. If you keep telling yourself that love doesn’t exist…
…that you are unloveable…
…that your ex was the best man that you’ll ever find…
…then it will be that much harder for you to fall in love again. But it’s all a mind game! If you don’t believe you’ll find a man to love…you probably won’t. But if you keep a positive and open attitude about it, you absolutely will.
It may take some time to convince yourself that it will happen, so just say to yourself every single day: “I will find love again.” Look yourself in the mirror every morning and say it. It may sound silly, but positive affirmations have been scientifically proven to drive results!
You’re at the beginning of your next journey in life. You’ve already gotten through the hard stuff — struggling through a marriage that was not meant to be and then going through a divorce that may have not been amicable. You’ve taken the time to heal your heart and now you’re ready for the next adventure: dating after divorce!
Stick with it. Like anything, it may take practice to get good at it, and you may have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your Prince Charming (at least you get a lot of kissing practice in!). But I assure you that when you least expect it, you’ll stumble onto love and be glad you followed this path.