Following a divorce, take time to heal before you start dating again. You might be ready to date if you feel like you can devote time, headspace, and energy toward a new partner. The journey of dating after divorce can be confusing and scary, but remember to focus on your own personal needs and expectations. If necessary, don’t hesitate to consult a therapist.
Remember, it’s OK if you don’t know how to date after divorce; it’s a learning process. Moving on after a divorce was never something you thought you’d have to know how to do. Give yourself time, give yourself space, and be generous to yourself as you start to get back out there.
Here are seventeen helpful tips for dating after divorce:
1. Grieve Your Loss
When you’re in the initial phases of divorce, it’s crucial to grieve the loss of your marriage. The end of a marriage, whether it’s sudden or not, can be devastating because it requires you to say goodbye to a partnership. You need to give yourself time to come to terms with the wide range of emotions you may be experiencing.1
2. Give Yourself Time to Heal
Don’t rush your own emotional healing. Give yourself ample time to experience difficult emotions, and potentially even post-divorce depression, especially in the beginning when the divorce is still fresh in your mind. This is a vital part of the process that will set you up to successfully move on.1
3. Recognize Where Things Went Wrong in Your Marriage
Before you move on, reflect on the issues that may have led to your divorce.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Did you and your partner have different values and life goals where you couldn’t reach a compromise?
- Did you communicate and handle issues differently (e.g., one was an active decision-maker while the other was passive)?
- Were there narcissistic tendencies in your marriage?
- Was there an unfair balance in terms of childcare, household responsibilities, and other tasks where you felt unvalued and underappreciated?
- Did trust issues or jealousy play a role in the deterioration of the relationship?
- Was abuse of any kind or emotional neglect a factor in your relationship?
4. Take It Slow
Once you start dating again, take things slow. Doing so will give you a better sense of what you want in your new relationship.
Take to heart the fact that you’re in the driver’s seat. You get to decide:
- How important shared values and goals are to you
- How you want to be treated
- How you want to communicate
- What activities and interests you want to engage in
- How this new person fits into your lifestyle
- How fast you want to go
You’ve got a fresh start. You get to define what a loving, healthy relationship looks like to you. And you get to go find that next someone at your own pace. There’s no rush.
5. Identify What You Want in a New Partner
Before you start dating after divorce, think about what you want in a new partner. This way, you’ll be better able to identify whether someone is a good match for you or not.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Are you looking for a casual relationship or someone who can commit to long-term relationship?
- Do you want to be with someone who wants children or who is ok with being involved with your children?
- Is it important to you that they share similar interests (e.g., travel, sports, quality family time together, etc.)?
- What are your deal-breakers (e.g., smoking, drug use, infidelity, inability to accept responsibility, unwillingness to reach compromises, etc.)?
6. Explore an Online Dating Application
Using technology to meet a significant other has become commonplace. There’s always a chance that you might find a surprisingly great connection. There’s no right or wrong dating app per se; it is more about trying to find an app that caters to your specific goals and helps you make more valuable connections.1
7. Attend Social Events in Your Social Network & Neighborhood
Read your local newspaper, keep an eye out for flyers and signs, and talk with family and friends to see what is happening or coming up in your community or neighborhood. That way, you can make an effort to attend an event in a somewhat familiar environment. Even though it’s familiar, you never know who you might meet.
8. Sign Up for Activities That Fit Your Hobbies & Interests
Think long and hard about what hobbies and interests you already enjoy doing or would like to try. For instance, do you enjoy art? Sports? Music? Dance? Cooking? Technology? Science? Nature? The possibilities are endless. If you can connect with a potential partner through a common interest, you’re already off to a great start.
9. Ask Family & Friends to Help You Make a Romantic Connection
Sometimes, getting support from your family and friends — the people who know you best — can help you find a suitable partner. Usually, if you ask family or friends to set you up, they already have an intimate knowledge of you as a person, they know what you want, and they want the best for you.2
10. Use a Matchmaking Service
If you’re overwhelmed by the dating process or the mere prospect of dating again after a divorce, it may be worthwhile to hire the services of a professional matchmaker. They can take some of the pressure and guesswork off of you so you can just focus on the person in front of you.2
11. Have a Safety Plan
Make sure to let a family member and/or friend know where you are on a first date, even if you are in the early stages of dating. This gives you peace of mind in case you run into a situation where you feel unsafe or uneasy. Ensure you have a full tank of gas and some cash or a card. Have your phone fully charged and bring your charger, too.
You may even want a code word that you can text to a loved one that signifies that they should call 9-1-1. This may seem extreme, but it’s essential to feel prepared in case of an emergency.
12. Focus on Your Own Needs as a Benchmark for Relationship Success
By taking what you’ve learned from past relationships, you will be better able to figure out what you want next. You have an opportunity to advocate for yourself and your expectations while also doing your best to meet your new partner’s needs. Having both partners’ needs met is essential for your new relationship to thrive.
13. Speak to a Therapist
If you still have unresolved feelings for your ex-partner, or if you feel unsure about how to progress your new relationship, then it may be time to seek help from a therapist. In doing so, you can process your thoughts and emotions in a meaningful way. To find the right match, you can use a therapist directory.
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14. Attend a Support Group
Sometimes, seeking out support from people who are going through similar experiences can help you find a sense of belonging and community. Plus, support groups can help teach you useful coping mechanisms.
15. Set Priorities
It’s important to figure out your priorities. By setting priorities for all areas of your life, you’ll be able to keep a well-rounded schedule that ensures your needs are being met.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Are you looking into a new career or educational opportunities?
- Are you trying to carve out more time for self-care?
- How much time do you want to devote to family time in a given week?
- What about time with your friends and others in your social network?
16. Don’t Rush Into Introductions
If you have children, one of the suggestions is to perhaps wait at least six months before introducing them to your new partner. This helps ensure that the relationship is stable, consistent.
17. Develop a Child Care Arrangement With Your Ex-partner
You will need to work out a mutual agreement with your ex-partner regarding custody and visitation of your children (if they are under the age of 18). Whether you have full custody or joint custody will affect the amount of time you have to spend on your children and your dating life. Try to work out an arrangement that puts your children’s needs first and also considers what may work for your and your ex-partner’s new lifestyles.
How Long Should You Wait to Date After Divorce?
When it comes to dating after divorce, there is no “right” or “wrong” amount of time to wait. That said, there’s research on whether dating after divorce is beneficial for women who are mothers.3 There is no set time frame for when they should begin dating, but research suggests the potential positive impact of dating again two years after a divorce.3
For mothers, when to begin dating is best determined by their psychological adjustment to the divorce, readiness to engage in a new relationship, and whether or not they feel they can commit to a partnership based on their responsibilities and needs.3 Similarly, introducing children to a new partner is likely best after the child has had a chance to adjust and gain stability with new routines.
In regard to women without children, much of the decision on whether or not to date will be based on whether they feel like they’ve had sufficient time to process their feelings and reach a sense of emotional resolution.
Is It Okay to Start Dating Before Divorce Is Final?
While no one can tell you whether it’s right or wrong to begin dating during a divorce, there are some things you may want to keep in mind. If you’re wondering if it’s OK to start dating someone before the divorce is final, ask yourself a few questions. Only you truly know if you feel ready to commit to someone else.
Ask the following questions:
- Do you feel ready to date from an emotional, psychological, sexual, and mental perspective?
- Do you feel ready to move past your feelings for your ex-partner to embrace new emotions that may grow towards a new partner?
- Could there be other motivating factors (e.g., loneliness, depression, low self-esteem) driving you to want to date even though you might have some doubts about your readiness?
Final Thoughts on Dating After Divorce
Divorce can be difficult and traumatic. Before you start to date again, reflect on what you’ve learned from the relationship, what you might do differently the next time around, and what values stand out to you in terms of your potential new partner. Through this, the hope is that you will be able to move forward into a new, rewarding relationship.