Whether it’s been two months, two years, or twenty years since you’ve been single, a lot of people who have been married aren't sure how to get back into the dating world.
While it can definitely be intimidating, you’re not alone. There are many previously married people in the same boat — one study indicates 65% of women start dating within the first year of being separated or divorced.
The same study cites women who are getting back into the dating world cite fear of picking the wrong person, not being able to trust another person, and repeating patterns as the top concerns they have when re-entering the dating pool.
But — it’s also an exciting opportunity to explore what you’re looking for and hopefully find someone new to share your life with!
When you think you’re ready to jump back into the dating scene, we’ve got some essential tips to help you get started.
While we wish we could give you an exact number of days/months/years to wait after a divorce, it’s truly a personal decision. Finding love again will only be possible when you’re truly ready.
So how do you know you’re ready? Here are some tips we’ve heard from the experts.
You’ve come to terms with the end of your last relationship
A divorce or separation may leave you with feelings of anger, grief, vulnerability, or other strong emotions. Bringing these emotions with you into the next relationship can hinder your chances of finding the best partner for you.
“The key is making peace with your past and leaving your history where it belongs, behind you. That will result in you sending out positive vibes that will attract a great partner and a quality person that is well suited for you,” says Ilyssa Panitz, creator and host of The Divorce Hour with Ilyssa Panitz and divorce columnist for Authority Magazine. You want to start off your new dating journey on the right foot and build a healthy relationship, so you’ll need to grieve and process your last one first. Whether through time, therapy, or talking with friends and support groups, leaving the strong emotions behind will allow you to be open to someone new.
You want to date, not “need” to date
“Don't use dating as a way to get over your ex - think of dating after divorce as connecting with potential friends too (friends can be more valuable than dates after divorce),” says Rob Roseman, author and founder of WTFdivorce.com.
You want to be in a place where you’re not dating out of spite or loneliness, and you’re willing to open your best self up to potential new partners. If you find yourself reactively getting on dating apps after finding out your ex has a new relationship, take a step back and consider whether or not this is what’s best for you. Rely on friends and loved ones if you’re feeling lonely, rather than trying to fill the void with a new relationship.
If you think you are ready to start meeting new people and exploring new relationships, here are the top tips we’ve heard for dating after divorce. Not every tip is going to be right for every person — you know yourself best but these should be seen as good general advice for those newly looking for love.
1. Wait until your separation or divorce is final
Although there is no universal timeframe, jumping into the dating pool before the divorce papers are signed can distract you from finding closure in your past relationship. You’ll also want to be honest with potential new partners about how distanced you are from your ex-spouse. Think of how much more successful a new relationship will be when you have a life you can share that doesn’t include the stress of divorce. This also gives you time to process and heal from the past to confidently move into your future relationship.
2. Know what you’re looking for
Have you thought about what went wrong in your last relationship? Now that you are older and have more experience, what you were looking for the last time you dated may be different from what you’re looking for now in a new relationship. Think about why you are dating again and decide first which qualities you’re looking for and whether you want a casual or serious relationship. Maybe you don’t know — and that’s okay to! But put a bit of thought into what you’re looking for before downloading an app, going to a speed dating event, or pairing up with a matchmaker!
3. Don’t carry your past relationship into your future
Leave the heavy thoughts from that relationship behind and approach dating with a positive mindset. The things that went wrong in your past relationship can be left in the past. Definitely take the lessons learned from your divorce with you if you think they’ll make your future relationships more successful, but generally speaking, it’s best to re-enter the dating world with a clean slate.
4. Try to avoid talking about your ex-partner - especially saying anything bad
Likewise, to attract a new partner, you’ll need to send out positive vibes and remember that people that can provide what was missing in your last relationship exist. Talking badly on your ex-partner won’t make you look better and can start dates off on a sour note. So try your best to be self-aware and focus on the present, rather than the past. Avoid projecting any emotions from your past relationship onto a new partner.
5. Take it slow and explore your options
Don’t feel pressured to find a rebound relationship quickly. Not every first date is going to go well, and that’s okay. The goal is to find the best person for you, not to ditch your single status. Ilyssa Panitz recommends to, “Treat dating like going to the buffet. Just sample it in the beginning and get comfortable with the process because dating is just that, a process.”
6. Don’t ignore red flags
Trust your gut! Post-divorce is not a time to overlook any red flags or dealbreakers because you want someone to distract you from the past relationship. Be sure to get to know each person at your own pace and be cautious of red flags, especially if you haven’t been in the dating pool for a few years as they’re constantly evolving! Don’t know how to spot red flags? Check out some of our other blogs on love bombing, negging, and 10 early relationship red flags.
7. Give yourself grace
Dating can be both fun and frustrating so setting realistic expectations can help you go with the flow as it’s normal to have ups and downs. If you’re not connecting with the people you’re meeting, it could be many different factors.
Make sure you’re checking in with yourself, especially regarding your mental health. Getting back into the dating process can feel like work and you should prepare, but don’t give up on what you’re looking for!
8. If you have children, keep them in mind
For many people dating post-divorce, it’s their first time dating with children, which adds an additional layer to navigate. If you’re thinking about dating again and you have children that are old enough to understand what this means, you should be transparent with them. Also, be up front with your potential partners about your children. It’s best to be honest and set expectations and priorities early on.
So, you’ve confirmed you’re ready to start dating again, but how do you actually meet people? If it’s been a while, it may feel awkward or scary to formally incorporate dating into your life. Here’s a few suggestions for how to meet people:
Dating apps or online dating are a great place to get started — even if you aren’t sure about it!
For one, many are free and much more affordable than other options, like dating agencies or personal matchmaking. You can also choose specific apps or dating sites based on what you’re looking for, for instance, a casual vs. long-term relationship, a religious affiliation, a profession or mutual interest, etc.
Another reason to use the apps is you can decide who is worth investing the time in a date with. With practice, you’ll be able to make your own judgements based on their profiles and initial messages without committing to a date and on your own time. If you need help with setting up your own profile that reflects the best version of yourself and attract those similar to you, check out our post on writing the perfect dating profile bio.
Reach out to friends or community members and see what events are happening near you! You may find singles mixers near you, or maybe you have a friend who knows someone else looking to date. Either way, if you prefer something more organic than meeting online, these could yield great results for you.
If you have some time to delve into your interests, consider joining a class. There, you’ll be able to meet many people, potential partner or even a new friend, who already share common ground with you! And, if you don’t meet anyone, you’ll still walk away with an enriching and fun experience.
Not into the idea of swiping on Tinder? A quick Google search will show you tons of results for speed dating in your area, and there are many that cater to specific demographics, like older daters or divorced daters. Come ready to socialize and prepare your most essential questions and desired qualities. This is a great option for those who want to get back on their feet, cut to the chase, and see all your options in front of you. Some speed dating events even let you join over video chat from the comfort of your own home.
Okay — we also have to be real about how to date safely after divorce. No matter the reason your last relationship didn’t work, getting back into dating can leave you vulnerable to missing early red flags, especially if you’ve been out of the dating world for more than a few years.
While we don’t want to scare you, dating violence is a serious issue and we wouldn’t be doing our job as an organization on a mission to help proactively prevent harm in the digital age if we didn’t provide safety tips tailored to those who are divorced.
Be extra cautious if you’re dating after divorce with kids
The privilege of meeting your children should be reserved for partners that you see a long-term future with, who have proven they’re trustworthy. The experts say that at least six months is a good amount of time for you to determine whether your new partner is worth introducing to your kids. Meeting a parent’s new love interest can be an emotional experience for many children. Make space to validate your kids’ emotions as well.
Before introducing your children to someone, you should have conversations with them about this new person and vice versa. There’s lots of great advice on this process online and it should definitely be done with care!
Keep your eyes out for catfishing, scammers, and other unsafe people
While you may have good intentions, not everyone does. Especially if you’re online, make sure not to disclose too much personal information about yourself, especially to someone you’ve never met or seen in person. You can read more about catfishing and romance scams on our blog and remember: always trust your gut with these things!
Do your safety research before meeting
Some social media scoping and a quick google search can tell you a lot about a person, and we definitely recommend both of these steps before a first date. But in terms of efficiency, running a background check can tell you right away if this person could be dangerous. You can easily run a background check on Garbo to see if someone has a history of violent or harmful behavior. When you’re ready to search for someone, learn more here.
Though starting to date again can seem daunting, you have all the tools to make the experience fun, exciting, and safe.