Whether you were married for two years or two decades, going back out into the dating pool after a divorce can feel terrifying. How do you know when it’s “time?” Is there a certain time period that you should wait before dating again? There’s a lot to consider here and the short answer to all of it is:
It depends on what works for you.
Of course, marriage experts and relationship counselors have plenty of advice that’s much more detailed and helpful in figuring out just what that is. In this guide, we’ll cover 10 rules for dating after divorce that will help you get back out there and get on with your life when you think you’re ready to date again.
Rule #1: Take Your Time
If you’re wondering how long to wait to date after divorce, most experts suggest you hold off on dating for at least a few months after divorce. Some say even up to a year could be beneficial to ensure that you have enough time to grieve the loss of your marriage. There are exceptions here, of course, and some relationships that start closer to the end of a marriage end up being some of the best—however, that’s more the exception than the rule.
Rule #2: Don’t Date During Divorce
Although there are plenty of people who wait to divorce until they’ve found someone new, this is almost always a bad idea. Divorce is messy. Your emotions are all over the place and you’re still trying to grieve the loss of this relationship. Dating is only going to complicate things and you could get into some bad relationships because of the vulnerable state that you’re in. Even if you don’t wait an entire year, at least wait until the divorce is finalized. It’ll be better for everyone.
Rule #3: Set Realistic Expectations (or None)
This is a good rule for anyone in the dating world, not just those returning after a divorce. You have to understand why you’re dating and what you’re looking for. Also, you shouldn’t expect every relationship to have to lead to marriage. Perhaps you’ll just date to meet some new people and have fun for a while before you settle down again. In any case, don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. [Read: Challenges of Dating a Divorced Man]
Rule #4: Make Sure You’re Ready to Date
Just because you’re lonely doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to start dating. Maybe it’s time to get a cat. Or spend more time with your friends. You have to make sure that you are ready to date. There’s no reason to rush into anything. Maybe you’ll even want to spend some time on your own before you dive back in. Regardless, take the time to check in with yourself and figure out if you are truly ready for this next step. There’s no harm in waiting.
Rule #5: Don’t Date Until or Unless You Understand Where Your Marriage Went Wrong
Some people just keep hopping from one relationship into the next without thinking, hoping to find someone that makes them feel “whole” or that feeds their loneliness. The problem here is that if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong in relationships, you’re going to keep repeating the same mistakes. Try to learn from your divorce and use that in your future dating and new relationship after divorce adventures. [Read: How to Date a Single Mom]
Rule #6: Be Honest
Honesty is huge when it comes to figuring out how to date after divorce. You have to be honest with yourself, as well as with those that you date. Make sure that you are open about children, divorce, and other things in your past so that it doesn’t come back to bite you later. You don’t want to mislead someone to gain their interest and then waste everyone’s time because you’re not really compatible. Find someone who shares your values and interests—you can only do that if you’re honest.
Rule #7: Watch Out for Bad Apples
Narcissists and others who have less-than-honorable intentions often seek out people who have recently divorced, seeing them as easy prey. Make sure that you are confident and value yourself before you put yourself back out there so that you don’t get taken advantage of because of your emotionally vulnerable state. People generally want to assume the world is good, but unfortunately, the dating world does come with risks. [Read: Does He Still Love Me? – 10 Signs Your Ex]
Rule #8: Decide on Boundaries and Be Clear About Them
You’ll also need to set boundaries (or learn how to do so) and express them to the people that you date. Perhaps you’ve got kids that you don’t want involved in your dating life until or unless things get serious—make this clear. People need to know what’s expected of them and it’s up to you to tell them. Boundaries aren’t designed to keep people out—they are designed to help you enjoy spending time with the right people when you are dating again after divorce.
Rule #9: Have a Clear Set of Standards
Again, divorced dating isn’t about just going out and finding singles that will love you—there are plenty of people who will love you if given the chance. You have to love yourself and know what you expect from people you’re going to let in your life. Having a set of standards in place ahead of time makes it easier to turn down those bad apples and walk away from the terrible online responses to your dating profile because you know you deserve (and will get) better. [Read: How to Make the First Move on a Guy?]
Rule #10: Trust That Gut
Our last piece of advice goes for anyone in the dating world, including divorcees. Trust your gut in everything that you do. Our bodies tend to give off warning signals and signs if we are willing to pay attention. Have you ever met someone and just felt like they were bad news? That’s a gut feeling and we have them for a reason. If you get a bad feeling (or a good one), go with it. Chances are, it’ll do you a lot better than trying to listen to your brain about matters of the heart.
If you keep these guidelines in mind, dating, and perhaps even finding love after divorce, should be a lot simpler.