By: Lauren McKinley
When all is said and done, everyone’s favorite question is “When should you start dating again?” As with anything divorce related, there’s no real perfect time frame or solution that works for every individual across the board. Every aspect that goes into dating will look different depending on the marriage you are coming out of and the factors that contributed to your divorce. I will share some insight of what helped in my dating decision making.
1. Make Sure Your Marriage is 100% Over
Discern if there is ANY chance at all for reconciliation. If you are still working on your marriage, perhaps in a counseling program, or have a lingering desire (on either end) to stay married, stick to Plan A. Dating or letting your heart wander while there is still hope for your marriage will do nothing but add more layers to recover from. Chances are, you’ll have enough craziness to deal with, why add yet another party to the mix. Remember, it’s not over until it’s over.
2. Take Some Time
DivorceCare says, a simple equation for when you’re ready to date is take the time you were married and divide it by two. This number is the amount of time it supposedly takes for you to emotionally heal before entering a new relationship. My ex-husband and I were legally married for 5 years, but he was 100% out by year 4. Meaning, 2 years is my magic dating number. It was closer to a year and a half from the time my ex really left that I started dating my now boyfriend. However, it was two and a half years total from the day he left the first time (so much leaving, who can keep track?).
I spent this time seeking council, reading, crying, mourning, praying, and authentically healing. How you spend this time will determine how you operate in your future relationships. I am currently in a healthy relationship (with an amazing man) because I spent this time single and grieving.
3. Resist the Rebound
Set the bar as high as they come. Not in an unrealistic, shallow sense, but in a cautious one. Your heart has been through enough, don’t inflict any more unnecessary pain. From the start of my separation to the very day my divorce was final, all sorts of random friends were coming at me saying they had someone for me to meet. Any time I would make mention that I was going through a divorce or freshly single, their light bulb would go off and all of a sudden everyone was convinced they knew my next soul mate. All of these suitors were slightly off in one way or another. Perhaps there was no attraction or we didn’t share a similar faith or they weren’t all that thrilled that I had a child or (you fill in the blank).
With the online dating world booming, it is so easy to get your profile up, sit back, and wait to see who wants to date you! However, online dating as a divorced person feels less appealing. You can’t explain in the 160 characters About Me section why exactly you’re divorced. I didn’t really dabble in this enough to give an accurate review, but those are my thoughts nonetheless. It seems that it would be discouraging because you have to check the divorce box, and you can’t always explain the whys initially.
After you’ve experienced the rejection of infidelity and divorce, of course, the attention is nice. However, don’t use attention from Joe Schmo to help boost your ego and jolt you into a new relationship. It’s always, ALWAYS better to be alone than settling for someone who you’re not all that thrilled about.
4. It Will Feel Different (and that’s okay)
Oh, the feelings! All the feelings! Falling in love after you’ve gone through a divorce feels different. Your heart will experience emotions more cautiously, which is natural. It took me awhile to really believe that history wouldn’t repeat itself. I didn’t come from a marriage where we fought or had marital “issues”, so my ex’s affair and all that transpired because of it was shocking. If this could happen to our marriage, it could happen to anyone’s or my next one! It’s a process that requires a lot of time and prayer. I will say, the love and reassurance that comes from a quality man helps combat the lie that your second marriage is doomed because of your first.
Ask yourself if you’re feeling different simply because of the life stage you are in. Take into account the age you were when your former marriage started versus now. Not only will you feel more guarded because of what you’ve been through, but by nature falling in love at 22 feels different than falling in love at 30. That’s 8 years of growth and evolving to take into account. This is far from a bad thing.
Lastly on this one, don’t believe the lie that you won’t find love again. I do remember feeling like I would NEVER find anyone I would ever love as much, find as funny, or enjoy life with as much. All of which are FALSE. Other lies my mind would tell were that I would NEVER find someone who would want to date a divorced 30 year old with possible trust issues, a spunky little 3 year old, and a baby daddy still in the picture. Talk about a handful o baggage (and lies). Life is unpredictable and you are who you are because of those unpredictable turn of events. Don’t deem that stronger version of yourself who overcame a shit ton of obstacles a bad thing. Most men find that strength in a woman to be an attractive quality. You will find love again and it will be refreshing.
5. Careful with the Kiddos
Before I started dating, I was convinced that I was not going to introduce my daughter to my boyfriend until we were close to getting engaged. I did not want her to witness another man leaving her mommy. Honestly, she’s so young, it’s doubtful she’d arrive at that conclusion anyhow, but I definitely wanted to be OVERLY cautious.
At the start of my current relationship, I obviously told my boyfriend I had a daughter, but I did my best to never put any pressure on the dynamic between the two of them. I wanted to give my relationship enough time to develop on its own before even thinking about adding in the element of my child. And my boyfriend definitely appreciated that I wasn’t trying to force him into fatherhood on the second date.
We dated for three months before the two of them met. When they did meet, it was very casual. We treated it like any time my daughter meets a friend of mine. My boyfriend and I didn’t show much affection in front of her and in her mind, he was just another friend. As time went on, we spent more time together and their relationship developed naturally. Naturally, is the key word here. We would go out to lunch, do puzzles, play with Legos, watch movies, go to the park … pretty much activities that take place in my daughter’s normal toddler life.
Don’t bring a “disneyland dad” into your child’s life. When the three of us spend time together it is never extravagant or extreme. He doesn’t bring her new toys every time he sees her. He doesn’t let her get away with murder and do whatever she wants. He supports and reinforces the way I parent. Their natural bond developed nicely because it was not based on presents or theme parks, but genuine care and quality time.
Finally, NEVER allude that this person is taking the place of your baby daddy (unless your ex is completely out of the picture for legal reasons). Your new love interest is not meant to replace a parent, but join the team. My boyfriend’s step mom uses the term “bonus mom”, which I love. Step has such a negative connotation, where bonus just sounds like an added blessing. I definitely plan on using that term with my daughter in the future.
A lot of insight, I know! My plea for all the single ladies out there is that you would be cautious and patient. The right man who helps undo all of the madness you’ve experienced is absolutely worth the wait.
LAUREN MCKINLEY is the founder of Her Soul Repair; blogger; author; and teacher. She is a creative optimist who enjoys time with her dreamy husband & babies, strong coffee, sunshine, local breweries, live music, and adventuring to new places. Lauren currently resides in Southern California with her family.