When I separated from my husband of ten years, I didn’t know what to do. I had survived a bad relationship, but how much of it was actually me that came out of that relationship – was in doubt. However, my friends and family encouraged me to start dating almost immediately after the separation. When I told them that I just wasn’t ready, they shook their heads in sympathy, but told me that ‘it was time that I thought about myself more.’ They pointed to the fact that my marriage had been over long before my husband and I decided to separate. I had essentially been alone for a long time before we finally took that step. But that didn’t mean it hurt any less.
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But the point was, was I ready to dip my toes in the dating pool again? So soon? My mind rebelled against the very idea of dating again. On the one hand, there was panic, because I didn’t know where or even how to start dating again, whether I even possessed the self-confidence to do the dating dance again. On the other hand, there was despair, because I would be forced to let go and move on and all the things that follow a separation, and eventually, the divorce.
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And to make matters worse (or better, as you choose to see it), my friends started shoving every bachelor they deemed ‘eligible’ at me. Of course, I went out and dated a few nice people, but however hard I tried, my heart was just not in it. I hadn’t even begun healing my broken heart, and I hadn’t even come to terms with the new reality – where I was single again. Sure, my friends were well-meaning and had my best interest at heart. But what I was feeling at the time vacillated between ‘I’m not ready for this,’ and ‘I don’t know where or how to start.’
But, despite those few dates I went on, nothing ever stuck, and I eventually took a stance where I told my friends that I just wasn’t ready to date. That I needed more time to come to terms with the situation I was in.
And it took me two more years to get to a place where I didn’t internally cringe at the mere idea of dating again. During those two years, I got used to my new life, discovered a lot of new things about myself, and was finally content, if not happy, to settle into life as I now knew it.
Although it took me roughly two years, it may take you more than that, or less, depending on how well you cope with the new situation. During this journey of self-discovery and coping after the divorce, I learnt a few things that helped me reach the conclusion that I was finally ready to start dating again. So I’d like to share those insights with you today.
Here are a few ways to know how to start dating again, and if you’re ready or not to do so:
1. You don’t dwell on the past anymore
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As you’ve given yourself time to heal and lick your wounds post divorce, you find yourself thinking less and less about the past and what happened. You’ve come to terms with the new reality, and have stopped trying to figure out what went wrong and where. You’ve come to realize that you care more about your present than your past. Although you acknowledge the fact that your past has shaped you, you don’t dwell on it too much, which might possibly mar your future.
2. You enjoy your new routine
You’re not just going through the motions of living anymore. You feel as if you’ve had a productive day, you enjoy the time you spend with your kids (if any), and that your single life is not only bearable, but is actually, in truth, good. You’re no longer bitter about the fact that you find yourself single again.
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3. You don’t resent other couples’ happiness
One of the telltale signs that you’re over your divorce – bitter or otherwise – and have moved on from that place of despair and hurt, is when you feel hopeful when you see other couples. You no longer feel wistful or angry that everywhere you look, you’re bombarded by seemingly happy couples.
4. You know what you want (and don’t want in a potential partner)
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Now that you’ve had time to process all that has happened, you know what you want, want you don’t want, and what your deal breakers are. You’re open to meeting new people, and are looking for someone who has at least some, if not all, of the qualities you’re looking for. But you’re not too rigid about it, because you feel more confident in handling and coping with things. You’re just open to exploring things.
5. Your friends have offered to set you up
You no longer feel as if you’re not ready, or that panic that used to flare up whenever someone suggested you start dating again. There’s a sense of, dare I say, excitement, at the prospect of meeting someone new. You’re not thinking about all the things that could go wrong, instead, you’ve focused and chosen to see it as an opportunity to put yourself out there. That’s a great place to be emotionally, trust me.
6. You feel curious to get to know someone new
You’re so comfortable in your skin, that you actually look forward to get to know the person your friend set you up with. You’re just open to exploring things with this person, no matter what course they may take.
7. You’ve stopped blaming yourself, or your ex
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If you want to know how to start dating again after the divorce, and check if you’re even ready for that step, ask yourself if you’ve stopped blaming yourself, or your ex. If you’ve reached the point where you’ve accepted what happened and made peace with the fact that that was the expiry date for your marriage (last relationship), then you’ll know that you’re ready to date again.
8. You are no longer angry and sad and bitter
If you find that you’re more at peace with happened, then know that you’re ready to start dating again. This is more an extension of the previous point.
9. You like yourself
This is an essential thing that you need to ask yourself from time to time, regardless of a divorce or a breakup. You need to like and love yourself for who you are, without reservations or conditions. This is the most important love affair of your life – the one you have with yourself. Never forget that.
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10. Your physical desire is saying hi again
One of the things that you lose interest in after a divorce is sex. It’s hard to feel sexy or desirable when you’re down in the dumps and trying to get your life back on track. So when you feel that spark of desire in your belly again, you can pump your fist in the air, because, honey, you’re back with a bang!
And that’s how to start dating again after a divorce! It’s not that hard, but it’s not easy either. While the divorce took a lot out of me emotionally, you might bounce back quicker than that. It really depends on individual emotional capability. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to cope with a divorce, and there’s no right or wrong way to learn to start dating again. These are some of the things that I personally encountered in my journey, but it could be vastly different for you. The main thing is to ask yourself the question, ‘Am I ready for this?’ Only you can answer that question honestly, nobody else can.
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