Even the smoothest divorce is a slow, wrenching, emotionally draining process. Couple that with the fact that most middle age divorcees haven’t been on a date in years, maybe decades. It’s no wonder the question “am I ready to start dating” causes so much angst? It’s a question I often get from my friends and clients. In this article I will try to offer a few observations and guidelines to help you reach your decision.
To start, I may be a traditionalist, but dating is a means to experiencing relationships (one at a time hopefully) and ultimately finding a long-term partner. So ask yourself a more significant question, one that requires a bit more introspection. Am I ready for new a relationship?
Start by taking stock of your emotional state. If you can answer yes to most of the statements below that’s a good sign;
- Feeling more stable in your life. You have a new rhythm as a single person, and it’s beginning to feel more natural.
- Your mood is fairly consistent and even.
- Less preoccupation with divorce details, or thoughts of your former spouse.
- Wanting to go out and socialize more with family and friends.
- Beginning to envision sharing your life with someone else.
But what if your emotional state is something different? Anger, excessive grief, anxiety, fragility? These emotions are deeply inhibiting to healthy relationships. Imagine sitting across from a dinner date who is raging about their former spouse or bursting into tears when you ask about their children? Could this be you? If so, the answer isn’t to hide your emotional state from potential partners, you can’t. The answer is to press pause on dating until you are on better emotional footing. Don’t be hard on yourself, divorce really sucks and it leaves a mark. Time can help, or take a more active approach and work with a therapist.
Another consideration is do you have time for a relationship? If you work full time, and have children at home you may not. Sit down with a calendar and be honest about how many evenings a week you are available or how many nights a month you could stay over at someone’s place or they at yours? Are you available to travel together? If the answer is you have very little time, you need to face a truth about adult relationships, they can’t be sustained by meeting twice a month in restaurants and coffee shops.
Finally, there are no absolutes and emotional recovery is not linear. What’s important is developing an awareness of how you are feeling emotionally and giving some thought to how a new relationship could fit into your life. Try to have a sense of humor and remember it’s not life or death. If you go on a date, feel a bit uncomfortable and realize you are not ready, take a break.