Dating after divorce can be an amazing, adventurous, exciting time, full of possibilities, new hope, and fun, or it can be a horrible, anxiety producing nightmare, making us want to stay single for the rest of our lives. So many of us have so many different experiences, but what really determines which side of the spectrum we will fall in this post-divorce endeavor? How much is it up to us what happens when we venture out? Can we ensure a positive experience and outcome? The answers to these questions are: “Us”, “A lot”, and “Yes”. The single factor that determines what kind of experience we will have is ourselves, a lot of what happens is totally up to us, and yes, we can ensure a positive experience and outcome.
The most important factor of having a positive dating experience after divorce is being ready for it. Start dating or getting into new relationships without doing the necessary work on ourselves will always result in more pain, confusion, frustration, and disappointment. Sometimes it’s hard to determine when we are ready, but it can be pretty obvious when we are not. Here are five sure signs of NOT being ready to date yet.
1. There is no desire for it or it just doesn’t feel right
Having others talk us into premature dating, or being pressured by society in large by all the “happy couple messages” when it just doesn’t feel quite right yet, is a mistake many of us make right after divorce. It is easy to ignore the small inner voice telling us “there is some work to be done alone” and lull it into sleep by the urgency of the world around us. Giving in to the squeeze and start dating prematurely while still hurting and grieving, while we are emotionally insecure and not even sure who we are after the divorce and what we really want, is a sure recipe to further injure ourselves. If there is anything inside us telling us to wait, that it’s not time yet, let us listen and resist the pressure from the outside. There are usually good reasons to wait if the idea just doesn’t quite feel right yet. There is no rush and we won’t miss out on anything by waiting. On the contrary, giving ourselves the gift of time to heal, mend, and focus on ourselves, to get secure mentally and emotionally, is the best we can do to make ourselves ready to date when the time feels right.
2. Not over the ex yet
Having strong feelings towards our ex, even if those feelings are negative, like anger, unforgiveness, or resentment, means we are not over the relationship yet and have no business of seeing other people. Carrying strong negative feelings towards our ex will seep into any new dating relationship, poisoning them from the very start. Forgiveness is a long journey and it can take up to years to complete. It doesn’t mean we can’t date or get into a new relationships until that, but we need to be conscious about any negative feelings remaining and continue toward releasing them and letting go. If we use dating as a distraction from these or other feelings we still have, or “to get back” at our ex and “show them”, we will eventually further hurt ourselves, prolong the healing process, and probably hurt others too.
3. Feeling like a victim about the divorce
Still blaming our ex, our unlucky stars, our fate, but not taking responsibility for any part of the divorce is a clear indicator of the work we need to do on ourselves before we can even think about dating again. Some people stay in victim mindset for long after divorce or never get out of it. It is a comfortable stance, blaming is always easier than taking responsibility, and other than complaining we don’t have to do anything else. If we stay stuck in it we are pretty much guaranteed some more sad, failed, or pathetic dates and relationships. The best we can hope for in this state is to hook up with someone equally in victimhood and connect over bashing our horrible exes. If that does not sound appealing on the long run we better take some time off, face our lives and ourselves honestly, with professional help if necessary, and start marking a new path ahead.
4. Having negative self-talk, feelings, or ideas about what’s out there and how it’s gonna go
A huge stumbling block in post divorce dating is projecting our failed marriage and past disappointments into the future. Telling ourselves ahead of time how bad it is going to go, and how many idiots we will meet, because there are hardly any good ones left out there and even if we met one, they would not like us anyway. We might think we simply say these things to prepare ourselves for the worst so we would not be too disheartened if those things happen but in reality these kind of thoughts create an expectation and we will unconsciously gravitate toward people and situations that will fulfill them. Changing our thoughts is not as hard or difficult as it might sound at first. We simply need to get a clear picture of what we truly want, what our most important values are and what kind of people we would like to meet. This will require some work and repetitive reinforcement, but not getting clear on these things and expecting the worst will keep us from moving toward a happier future.
5. Being desperate to find the One
If we think our marriage didn’t work out because our partner was not “The One” we might be eager to get back to the dating pool as soon as possible and start the search again. This mindset and attitude holds the underlying belief that there is someone out there who will make us complete and give purpose to our lives. The perfect man or woman who will bring us happiness, rescue us from our problems, and make life all-around great. While it is normal to have a healthy desire for a good relationship or marriage, to expect someone to save us from our misery and make us whole and content is defined codependency and needs to be addressed with the help of a professional. Not dealing with it will keep us searching desperately for something that doesn’t exist and in worst case landing us in dysfunctional relationships. Codependents usually end up coupled with addicts (be it drugs, alcohol, work, sex, or anything else) because of the “perfect match” of needs and dynamics between them. Healing from codependency really is possible with some help, but we need to make the conscious steps of reaching out, finding, and receiving it.
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