It is hard to know when you should date after a divorce. I was 21 years old and a recent college graduate, trying to raise my baby boy. I had just moved across the country to a place I had never been. For me, whether I was ready or not, the first thing I wanted to do was date.
Everyone who divorces has a different story, but most of us share feelings of failure, fear and desperation. We are trying to fill the void in our hearts caused by losing our spouse. While change is difficult, dating when you aren't ready can make things even more challenging.
I wish I had known then what I realize now about dating after a divorce. I know that I would have avoided tears, frustration, and a few heartbreaks. There is not a cookie cutter rule on when you should start dating again. The goal is for you to have healthy and happy dating relationships, but no one but you can say when that will be. However, you can get an idea of where you stand by answering "yes" to these eight questions:
1. Do I live each day without wallowing in self-pity?
If you spend most of your time weeping about all that has happened to you and can't imagine moving on, you are not ready to date again. Divorce is horrible, I know. And it is okay to cry sometimes. But if you can't see hope, dating will not help you find it.
2. Have I moved on from my ex?
If you are still in love with your ex, you will probably compare everyone you date to him or her. It will be impossible to find anyone who is good for you if you are only dating to compare. Stop measuring every date against your former spouse and treat dating as a fresh start.
If you aren't over your ex, you may also find yourself mentioning your ex one too many times which will push your date away. Take the time to be over your ex before you start dating again.
3. Am I ready to talk about my past?
When you are dating, at some point you will need to talk about your past. I remember when I was newly divorced, I was scared to death to tell any young man about it. I especially didn't want to tell my date that I also had a baby boy. I was afraid that no man would accept me because of my past. Sometimes I would hide it until it became impossible to continue dodging questions.
I realized that I needed to be ready to talk about my past. By the time I met my second husband, I was at a point where I could talk about my past almost right away. It went smoothly, and I didn't regret it.
4. Am I happy where I am now?
In my early divorced days, I thought I couldn't be happy unless I was remarried. Especially as a single mother, I wanted my life to be a certain way. I was engulfed with an urgency to date and get married. I am sure I came off as desperate.
Because I was so focused on wanting a life as a married woman, I missed out on some true friendships. I missed out on having fun and truly appreciating the joys and blessings that I still had in my life. Although this isn't what you thought your life would be like, you can learn to be happy in your situation.
5. Do I love myself?
If you don't love yourself, dating again can be a nightmare. You will feel like you have to keep secrets to maintain a perfect and unrealistic image of yourself. No matter how you hide it, low self-esteem shows and it isn't attractive. Take time to learn to love yourself. If you have self-confidence and know your inner-worth, you will be able to talk honestly, listen better, and smile radiantly. If you love yourself, you will still have your self-worth even if a new relationship doesn't work out.
6. Do I know what I want in a relationship?
Perhaps you were in a relationship where your spouse was selfish, or even abusive. Have you figured out what kinds of behaviors you want to avoid, and which qualities you want? Do you know what you really need to have a relationship that will last forever? It is a good thing to be picky if you are looking for life-long happiness, rather than another divorce.
7. Have I forgiven my ex?
It can take a long time to forgive your ex, especially if you felt that he or she was the main cause of your pain. I can testify of the great peace that comes from forgiveness, and how necessary it is. To find the right person for you, forgiveness must be a part of your process.
8. Would I want to date or be married to someone like me?
Though it would be nice if divorces were always your spouse's fault, most of the time both people share some of the responsibility. Are you in a place where you would be a loving, caring, and devoted spouse? Or would another relationship only end in more heartache? If you aren't as good as the person you want for yourself, it is time to improve.
Being divorced does not make you less of a human, or less worthy of love. I found a wonderful man who loves me, and cherishes our growing family. There is hope for all who have had the misfortune of divorce. Don't rush the process. Take the time to heal. You will have your chance at love once again. It is worth it to be patient to find someone who will be with you forever.