Dating after divorce can be great or it can be a disaster. No two divorces are alike and how well you are doing after a divorce depends on different factors. Whose idea was the divorce? If it was yours, you probably have your reasons firmly in mind and can be happy about being single again. Was it a bitter divorce or a friendly one? If you two can still happily co-parent or peacefully agree about taxes and other financial responsibilities, you will likely feel more settled and ready to dive back into your new life.
Were you blindsided by the divorce and simply came to find out your partner fell out of love with you or found someone else? If it was a surprise breakup, you may be doubting your own abilities to be a good judge of character and therefore reluctant to get involved again. Be kind to yourself and do whatever you need to be in a good frame of mind. Look at dating after divorce as an experimental process. There will be trial and error and that does not mean that you are a relationship failure. You can find love the second, third, or even fourth time around. It can all be worth it if you find a new partner that meets your needs of today for the person you are now. To be happily dating after divorce, it is important that you avoid these common mistakes that can ruin your life.
1. Getting back with your ex
This is the most important thing to avoid at all costs. Do not get back to your ex. All the couples I have seen who get divorced and then remarry are miserable. One woman told me it was like taking a bite of the same turd twice. Sometimes when we are not living with an ex, we forget all their annoying habits and rude comments. You only see them when they are dressed up from work or dropping the kids off. You are tempted to forget all the bad and start remembering the great sex (even if it was only once a year) or the great holidays and trips. You forget how they belittled you, nagged you about your weight, or criticized and tried to micromanage your life.
Your ex is out of your life for a reason. They have not changed for the better. Think of your ex like the Sirens who lure the fishing boats out to crash on the rocks and kill them. They may seem charming or handsome, but it is just a disastrous trap designed to make you repeat the same thing over and over again. I almost fell into this trap after my first marriage. We had been divorced a year and I took our son to a Caribbean Island on holiday. My ex had relatives there and stayed on the same island. For a couple of weeks, we went to the beach together and played with our son on the sand and swam. My ex started looking pretty handsome and we fell into an old rhythm as a family. I did come to my senses in time and did not get carried back into an old problematic relationship. Anyone can look good in a tropical paradise with no responsibilities and only fun. Don’t let yourself get trapped into idealizing a broken relationship.
2. Dreading of being alone
You are afraid to end up alone, so you take the first person who comes along, regardless of whether they are right for you or not. People who have a big fear of being alone often will not leave a miserable marriage until they have another person waiting in the wings. It is better to be on your own for a while rather than to commit to someone out of fear of being alone.
When you make life decisions based on fear, they often end up being decisions you regret. Take your time and enjoy dating and get out there and have fun. Don’t let financial fear drive you to find a partner solely on the fact of how much money they make. It is much more fun to be with a generous person who is of moderate means than it is to be with a rich person who is stingy or uses their money to control you. Get a roommate, a second job, or learn to economize. Don’t just look for someone to support you.
3. Spreading bitterness
You continually bad-mouth your ex to friends, family, and people you are dating. If you are still bitter and have resentments against your ex, the first step to healing is to stop talking about them. We need to reach a place of neutrality where your ex is someone you wish well in rebuilding their life. I know a woman who has been divorced longer than she was married. She still resents her ex for cheating on her. Fourteen years later, these negative vibes are blocking her from any new relationship.
Try some active forgiveness exercises. We all know hurting people hurt other people. You can say the Sick Man’s Prayer, which a lot of people in recovery use. It goes like this: “____________ is a sick person. God, please help me to see them as I would see someone with cancer. Keep me from being angry. Help me treat this person as I would treat a person sick with cancer. Please forgive them and show me how to forgive them.” This may sound ridiculous to you if your ex was an abuser who hurt you physically and mentally. But just because we forgive someone that does not mean that we should associate with them or be around them.
As long as the resentment is active and the hate is living within us, it crowds out all the good things for us in the present and future. It poisons us slowly and takes all the enjoyment out of life. If you are a believer in God, trust that God will punish those people. If you are not religious, just take comfort in the fact that their bad Karma will get them or that the universe and law of attraction will give them back what they have put out. My point is that we are not to set ourselves up as judges and juries for our ex because it keeps us trapped in the past. As long as we are trapped in the past, it is impossible to find light and love with someone new.
4. Rushing to remarry
Have you ever heard the old joke that if women spent as much time finding a mate as they did try to select a new pair of shoes, that the world would be a better place? Divorced people may need a year of healing before they are ready to start dating. Just be cognizant of your own needs. If it takes 3 years of dating to find your new soulmate, just enjoy the journey. Not all your dates will be great, some will be ho-hum and some will be bad. Just take your time and really get to know a person before you remarry. If you are trying to blend families, let the children get to know the new person and their children to know you.
67% of second marriages end in divorce, largely due to not taking the time to really get to know a person well before you marry again. If step kids are involved, a partner who does not treat your children well is not worth marrying. The kids’ needs have to have strong consideration or you will resent someone who treats your kids as second-class citizens in comparison to their kids.
If the person you are considering marrying wants their own kids with you and you don’t want more kids, make the decision before you marry. You need to decide what is the most important to you. Blending families is really difficult, but if you take your time and are willing to compromise, it can work out well.
5. Picking the same type of people
You end up picking the same type of man or woman and then you end up miserable over and over again. Have you ever heard someone say, “I always date the same guy, he just has different names?” We can get some strange ideas of what love is when we are growing up. Psychologists tell us that we find someone with the negative characteristics of one of our parents or caretakers. For example, my Dad was a workaholic who was critical and cold. Therefore, I subconsciously seek out a workaholic, critical and cold man and try and get him to work less, praise me and be warm and affectionate. This never succeeds because we cannot change other people.
Some people end up with one abuser after the other or one alcoholic after the other. “But I love him” is the old saying, which the person uses as an excuse to stay in the relationship and accept whatever horrible treatment they are receiving. So the person stays and is abused or put upon and unhappy. Don’t be afraid to get some therapy, a support group, or see a counselor. Any step towards loving yourself and what one of my friends calls “dating yourself first” after divorce is what will help you enjoy the rest of your life.
If you avoid these common mistakes, you are on the road to finding your next happy relationship. You can meet a wonderful mate after divorce and you can be a better mate in your second marriage because you have taken the time to grow, mature, be flexible and really examine your idea of love. My husband was not my type initially and we both had to put in a lot of work on ourselves separately and together as a couple. Now I have a great second marriage and I am very happy.