Follow These Tips When Dating After Divorce

When it comes to the most stressful life events, researchers rank divorce as number two, right after the death of a spouse or child and before being imprisoned or having a health crisis—and for good reason. It goes without saying that ending a marriage can make you rethink everything you thought you knew about love—and sometimes, even, yourself. But, it shouldn’t prevent you from finding happiness with a new person. In fact, experts say that getting divorced in your 40s, or 50s, can actually improve the quality of your future relationships.

“I see one divorce as a good credential, actually,” says Fran Walfish, Ph.D., a relationship psychotherapist and consulting psychologist on The Doctors. “There shouldn’t be any shame in this. It can help you figure out what you really want in your next partner.”

Ready to meet people? Before you start dating, here are some ground rules for finding a match worthy of you in the Tinder era.

Know that chemistry doesn’t always mean a long-term connection.

“Lust is nature’s way of tricking us into attachment, so be very judicious about who you keep in your dating pool and who you ‘throwback’ to the pond,” says Bela Gandhi, founder of Chicago-based matchmaking service Smart Dating Academy.

When returning to dating after a longtime monogamous relationship (particularly one that ended badly), craving the excitement of a spark-filled romance is understandable. But Gandhi says you shouldn’t discount a “slow burn.”

“Especially when we are dating after divorce, singles think immediate, blazing chemistry is the key thing to look for,” she continues. “Not true. Chemistry, especially for women, can grow over time—and may take many dates to begin to grow!”

Gandhi points to her own simmer-to-boil relationship with her husband, who she was friends with for six years before they began dating.

Make sure you’re actually over your ex and ready to date.

The ink may be dry on your divorce papers, but that doesn’t mean you’ve completely moved on. Of course, that’s understandable, but if you can’t stop talking or thinking about your ex—whether you’re praising them or hating them—you may need some more time to process your feelings before getting back into the dating scene, says Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., a licensed professional counselor.

“You have to take the time to heal, let go of resentments, and come to a healthy emotional place before you can be open to a new relationship,” she explains. Be patient with yourself and take all the time you need. Don’t let well-meaning friends pressure you into dating before you’re ready, she adds.

Take it, err, slow on the first date.

No, this isn’t some prudish warning or an encouragement to play games. But if you’re looking for your next relationship, considering every step carefully is key, according to Walfish. “Anyone can hook up, but really pleasurable sex often requires good communication and feeling safe with your partner—and you deserve really good sex,” she says. “Plus, asking someone to wait for sex can show you a lot about their character and motives.”

This is especially true for women who are in perimenopause or menopause, as hormonal changes can make sex more difficult—which is why having a patient, loving partner who is just as focused on your pleasure as their own can be an important part of the moving on process, she says.

Watch out for anyone who seems too perfect.

Never are you more in need of validation and affection than after ending a serious relationship. And while that’s totally natural, it can set you up to be victimized, Dr. Walfish says. One of the red flags that a date doesn’t have good intentions? They’re flawless.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but if they check every single box on your list, shower you with gifts, text or call all the time, push for quick commitment, make incredible promises, or want to be the only person in your life, you may be dealing with someone who is looking to control you.

That mind sound a little dramatic—and sure, there’s a chance you really have landed royalty—but Walfish points out that the harsh reality is there are a lot of people out there who aim to take advantage of women, and being in your 40s or 50s doesn’t make you immune.

One way to stay safe? Get regular reality checks from close friends and loved ones who can offer an outside perspective of your situation.

Draw a relationship map.

Knowing where you’ve been and where you want to go is just as essential for relationships as it is for road trips and careers, Dr. Martinez says. Many of us jump immediately into new relationships only to find ourselves making the same mistakes. Avoid this by looking at what worked and didn’t work in the past—including what part you played in the breakup—and identify goals.

Visualizing your journey can help you see things you might have missed before, so take the time to actually write out your “relationship roadmap” in a journal. Not sure you’ll be honest with yourself? Talk it through with a therapist or trusted friend.

Forget whatever you think your “type” is.

You don’t have the same clothing style as you did in high school (and thank heavens for that) so why would you have the same taste in dates? While you absolutely want to look for someone with similar core values to yours, a divorce gives you the perfect excuse to let your ideal “type” evolve. “Take the time to figure out what is truly important to you—you may be surprised at who your ideal partner is now,” she says. “Then, be vigilant in seeking those qualities out in another person.”

Find a good therapist before you even make a dating profile.

One thing Dr. Walfish says is a necessity for women of all ages is a good therapist. “Being divorced isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it does mean you’ve got some things to work through, especially if you want your next relationship to be better,” she explains.

And if you think the breakdown of your marriage was all due to your ex’s problems, that’s even more reason to get therapy. A good counselor can help you work through all your complicated feelings and create a solid foundation for love, she adds.

Lockdown your bank accounts.

“Being able to talk openly about difficult issues like finances, fertility, children, and sex is key,” Dr. Walfish explains. “The older you are, the more complicated these issues become and it’s better to know initially if there are any major deal-breakers.”

One thorny example that women in their 50s need to consider is retirement accounts, she says. You may have spent several decades building up your nest egg and you don’t want to jeopardize your future security by mixing finances with an irresponsible partner. This means you have to be honest and clear—and expect the same of the person you’re dating—even if it’s hard.

Don’t hide the fact that you have children.

“Got kids? Put that fact right in your dating profile,” Dr. Walfish says. Too many people will dodge the fact that they have young children, worrying that it will drive potential dates away. But it’s better to know if someone isn’t ready to deal with kids right at the beginning—before you get emotionally attached, she says.

If you don’t have children yet and you know you absolutely do or do not want them in the future, you also need to be clear about that upfront. “There are so many potential obstacles in a relationship, so why make it harder by withholding the truth?” she asks.

Tell your kids about your dates…eventually.

When and what to tell your children is largely dependent on their age, Dr. Walfish says. Kids under 15 should not be introduced to someone until you’ve been seriously dating for at least four to six months, she advises. “Remember that your kids have recently suffered a major loss—their other parent—through your divorce and may still be hurting from that,” she says.

Teens and adult children can be brought into the conversation sooner. Just be sure to answer their questions completely but without giving the extra details you reserve for your wine nights with your friends, Dr. Walfish says.

Yes, age matters.

“The older woman-younger man dynamic (and vice versa) doesn’t always work out long-term,” Dr. Walfish says. Of course, there are naturally always exceptions to the rule. But Walfish adds, “Happy relationships are based on having a lot in common, similar goals and shared experiences—things that a large age gap usually.

“People will tell you who they really are if you listen carefully, so if someone shares something that seems a bit off, don’t convince yourself otherwise,” says Linda F. Williams, MSW, a relationship therapist. In addition, listening is a proven way to make yourself more attractive to others, as they will feel special and heard. That said if they’re not listening to you (or worse, not asking questions) that could be a cause for concern.

Know that dating sites are not created equal.

From farmers to gluten-free folks (yes, really), if there’s a dating preference, there’s a dating site to fill that niche. While it’s perfectly fine to sign up for a mainstream site like Match.com, using a niche site can help do some of the work for you by finding people who share the same values or passions as you do, Dr. Walfish suggests.

If you’re looking for something a little less serious, the Tinder app can be a fun way to dip your toe back into dating. Just make sure to set the age range correctly so you don’t end up getting invited to college ragers (unless that’s what you’re looking for!).

When it comes to taking your online interactions into the real world, there is no hard and fast rule about when to meet, but make sure safety is your number one priority, says Walfish. Don’t give out your home address or personal information, only meet in public, tell a friend about your plans, go easy on (or skip) the alcohol, and check out his or her social media first.

And finally, always listen to your instincts.

If you have a bad gut feeling, end the date early. If they object to any of that, they don’t have your best interests at heart anyhow. On the other hand, if your instincts say that they’ve got potential, don’t be shy about saying you’d like to see them again.

Blog Source: The Oprah Magazine | 14 Tips for Dating After Divorce

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