Dating After Divorce: Are You Ready? 11 Questions To Ask Yourself
Before my divorce was even final, before the ink and the tears had dried, there was another “d-word” that I was preparing myself for– dating. Just like the divorce itself, I knew it was something that I wanted to do; something that I probably needed to do, but I didn’t know where to begin, or more importantly, if I was really ready.
After diving into the dating pool headfirst and somehow landing on my behind, I had to get up on my feet, dry myself off and ask myself some important questions. Questions that anyone getting out of a marriage — or any long-term relationship for that matter — should consider before moving on.
It’s inevitable. When something monumental like a divorce happens in your life, everyone and their mother will try to tell you what you need to do and how you need to do it (yes, I realize the irony here). And at some point, someone‘s going to suggest that you get out there and start dating. Being the stubborn one that I am, I was the one telling myself that I needed to see other people, despite what everyone else was advising me to do…or not do. I may have been wrong (lesson learned), but at the end of the day, it was my life. It was me who was going through the divorce, so ultimately, it had to be my decision; good or bad.
Am I doing it out of fear?
After my divorce I found myself going from the thought of being with someone “till death do us part” to the paralyzing fear that I’d die alone. Fear is a b–ch! It can make you do crazy things; like looking for someone — anyone — to have a relationship with, even if you know it isn’t right. That’s how I ended up getting married in the first place, but I couldn’t let fear drive me into another relationship that would ultimately lead to more unhappiness. This time around, I had to face that fear, assure myself that whether I’m in a relationship or not, I’ll never truly be alone, and move forward looking for the right someone; not just anyone.
Am I doing this just to cheer myself up?
It’s easy to think that getting back on the dating scene will make you feel better; better about yourself and better about your situation. Getting dressed up, having men shower you with compliments and tripping over themselves vying for your affection? Yeah, I want that! Who wouldn’t want that?! But the reality is that there are just as many lows as there are highs when it comes to dating. Even for the best of us, there is a little thing called rejection. Rejection hurts. Rejection hurts worse when you’re still dealing with the end of another relationship. You start doubting yourself; losing your self-esteem, feeling worse than you did when you started, drowning your sorrows with wine (or maybe that’s just me) asking, “What am I doing wrong?” “What’s wrong with me?”
I know. It’s harsh. And probably not the best way to word it, but at one point or another you have to ask yourself what you did wrong in your relationship? What was your role in the divorce? Yes, even in matters of infidelity. Bear with me….
As it turned out, my best friend ended up going through a divorce at the exact same time that I was, but hers was a very different situation. Her husband of seven years had been cheating on her over the course of their entire marriage…with multiple women…including his secretary, whom she later found out was pregnant (#scandalous). It wasn’t her fault that he cheated. He was and still is a complete jerk (keepin’ it rated PG). There wasn’t anything that she could have done differently to stop him from cheating. But after she took a step back and really reflected on everything, she realized that she knew what was going on all along. Not to the extent that it was happening, but she knew something. There were even times when she questioned him, but he always managed to manipulate the conversation and turn things around so that she was the one who was hysterically crying, begging him to forgive her for making the accusations. She doubted herself. She was constantly putting herself down, calling herself stupid for believing the murmurs around town about his “extracurricular activities.” She never stood up for herself. She was never really able to find her voice, and it was something that she had been doing in all of her relationships.
Regardless of the circumstances, everyone has something that they can learn about who they are after a divorce– if they’re truly honest with themselves. There’s always something to work on; something you can improve upon so you’re not bringing the same bad habits into your next relationship. It won’t happen overnight. It may even take a little therapy. Bad habits can be hard to break. It’s an ongoing process, but definitely a necessary one.
Am I just looking for a caretaker?
It’s one thing to be afraid of being alone. It’s another to be incapable of being alone. Throughout my marriage I thought that I practically did everything on my own. I told myself that I could hold it down with or without my husband because, according to me, he hardly did anything anyway. When we separated he left me with a busted sewer line, a broken gate in the backyard and a car that I had no idea how to take care of. I was beyond overwhelmed. I panicked. The first thing I thought to do was find another man to come take care of it all–and to take care of me. It was a cry for help to my mother who talked me down off the ledge and got me to realize that yes, maybe I did need some men in my life (and women too — not to discriminate). It didn’t mean that I needed to find a date; what I needed was to find a plumber, a handyman, a good mechanic, and to learn a few new skills on my own so I could really hold it down.
I have four kids and a busy life, so I had to take an honest look and decide if I realistically had the time to put into dating; and if not, if I was willing to try to work out ways to make time. It was a difficult decision. As a mother my first priority always has and always will be my children, so it was hard to even admit to myself that yeah, sometimes I wanted to take some time to go out. It was even harder to get myself to realize that wanting that didn’t make me a bad mother, just human.
It’s something that every single mother has to deal with– deciding when to get the kids involved in your dating life. Was I going to let men pick me up at my house for dates with my kids around? When should I introduce them? Do I do it early on so I can see how they interact with one another, or should I wait until I know the guy is going to be around for awhile? Knowing that I wasn’t looking for anything serious at the time, for me the answer was simple. I didn’t want a revolving door of men coming in and out of my kids’ lives (not that I was going through them like that!). I chose to keep my dating life and my home life separate until I was ready to commit to a different kind of relationship. When it became something a little more solid, they were simply around to pick me up every now and then, or my kids knew them by name and who I was talking to on the phone, but they were always introduced as friends; nothing more. If and when things progressed from there, that’s when I finally let my dating life and my home life intersect.
Somewhere along the way in my premature post-marriage dating experience, I met a man; a fine man at that (just sayin’). We hit it off really well, getting closer and closer over the course of a month, but we seemed to be heading into the friend zone, and I couldn’t figure out when or why things went left. Eventually he spelled it out for me. It was clear to him that I wasn’t over my marriage, because during every phone conversation, over every cup of coffee, at every dinner date, there he was– my ex. I was constantly talking about him. Not always in a bad way. Sometimes it was just random memories, but all of my talking translated to one thing: My ex was so present in my thoughts and conversations that essentially I was still in a relationship; all I was missing was the physical aspect, so that’s all that I was really looking for. He was right. It wasn’t that I wasn’t over my ex. I was over him long before the marriage actually ended. What I wasn’t over was the fact that the marriage had actually ended. I wasn’t over the idea of me being divorced and what that really meant. I had to come to terms with the finality of it all and let go.
It didn’t take me long to admit that I was looking for something that was mostly physical. I guess you could say a friends with benefits type of thing. The truth is, not everyone is looking for their happily ever after right after ending a marriage. Some (like me) want something casual or short term, and that’s perfectly fine. But I had to acknowledge that that’s what I wanted moving forward so I could be honest and upfront with my dates and there wouldn’t be any unrealistic expectations going into it. I didn’t want to waste the time of someone who was looking for a wife when all I wanted was– well, you know.
Who am I looking for?
The online dating scene can be a pain to get started, and somewhat disappointing in the end, but the one thing it did was force me to sit down and decide what I was looking for in the person I was hoping to find; even if it was only for something temporary. All of those little checkboxes and dropdown menus mapped out the person I was looking for, my type, which as it turned out, did not match up at all with who my ex is (what is it that they say about hindsight?). There were things that I hadn’t really taken the time to consider. Did I want someone with kids? Did I want him to have a certain kind of profession? Yes, I wanted to be “open,” but I also wanted to be realistic about what would work for me, my personality, and my lifestyle.
What are my dealbreakers?
While I was willing to compromise on things like height, weight, and race, there were some things that I simply refused to settle on. They were my dating dealbreakers. Smoking– deal breaker. Not having your own place– dealbreaker. Unable to carry on an intelligent conversation– dealbreaker. I wasn’t in the same mind-frame as I was before I met my husband, when my dating criteria was a car, a job, and a pulse. I grew up. I now had standards. I wanted someone I could respect and actually enjoy spending my time with. I wasn’t going to fake it anymore. Because after an unsuccessful marriage, isn’t that the point…to stop faking it? To ultimately get what I really wanted? What would truly bring me happiness?
Whether it’s dating short term, long term, or going it alone – it’s all about finding your happy. Divorce is hard. Dating is hard. Life is hard. None of it, however, is impossible. I may have learned it the hard way, but I did learn it nonetheless.