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Dating: The Second Time Around

Statistics show that 75 percent of people who divorce remarry within five years. While that may be good news for many, it's not easy re-entering the dating arena. What's more, getting the relationship you want takes hard work, says Ellen Kreidman, Ph.D., author of Single No More: How and Where to Meet Your Perfect Mate (Renaissance Books, 2000).

Three Rules of Dating Re-Entry:

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Before you begin to date, you need to take stock. While you don't have to be committed to finding the perfect person before you go on your first after-divorce date, you need to be clear about a few very important aspects of your life. Your re-entry to the dating process will go much more smoothly if you:

  • Know what you want. Are you looking to get out of the house, meet new people and experience new things? Or, are you looking for a new companion to share your life? Honesty with yourself will help you find what you want.
  • Make sure you're ready to move on. It's important to give yourself enough time to grieve your loss, even if you were the one who left. There's often a lot of guilt, shame, remorse and even anger associated with a failed relationship or marriage. Most experts advise you to work through these feelings before dating again. Remember, time heals all wounds.
  • Don't date for security or comfort. Many women feel they need to start dating right away, either as a way to forget their pain, or because of the sense of security it brings. These are bad patterns to establish. Dating is not therapy. You should date when you're ready to find someone to complement your life, not because you need someone to save you from it.

Meeting Mr./Ms. Right — or Mr./Ms. Right Now

It can be difficult to meet people if you're out of practice. Once you've determined that you're ready to date again, there are a number of ways to meet people. Some traditional ways include going to bars, meeting at the office, being "set up by friends, volunteering for an organization such as your church or a sports club, writing a personal ad, or joining an online dating service.

You also may want to take a class, go to a political rally, dine out more often, hang out at the video store, join a gym, or take a singles cruise. All are good ways to meet a potential date. The important thing is to be open-minded and willing to try new things. You also need to have some patience. Making changes in your life is not easy. Just remember to be yourself.

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The First Date After Divorce: Laws to Live By

When you begin dating again, remember these basic rules of survival:

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  • Meet at venues where you can have a conversation. Don't meet at a noisy place, or a place where you can't talk. The idea is to get to know the person. Try meeting at a cafe or museum. Don't rule out meeting for breakfast or lunch.
  • Dress appropriately. You want to look and feel your best on a date. Dress appropriately for the meeting location. If you're going bowling, for example, don't wear a dress.
  • Don't talk about your ex. Misery may love company, but try to avoid using your date as a therapist. The purpose of the first date is discovery. If you can't find anything else to talk about, you're not ready to date.
  • Be yourself and follow your intuition. Don't try to be someone you think your date wants you to be. If your date is not the right person for you, you'll know it. Don't continue to date someone who isn't right for you.
  • Smile. Smiling sends the message that you're a happy, friendly person. And research shows that even if you're unhappy, smiling can change your mood. The more you smile, the happier you will be. The happier you are, the more fun you will have on your dates!

Dating When You Have Children

Making the transition from parent mode to date mode can be a challenge. Just remember that many single parents have fulfilling social lives and you can, too. Here are some basic rules for dating when you have children:

  • Be honest. Don't hide the fact that you have children and be clear that it's a package deal, says Dr. Ellen Kreidman. But do not overdo it, especially on the first date. Keep your romantic life separate from your family life until you know you're ready to introduce your new love interest to your kids.
  • You don't need permission. Your children may have a hard time adapting at first, but you don't need their permission to date. Tell your children who you are going out with, but don't discuss the details with them when you return.
  • It's OK to recognize your own sexual needs. If you are involved in a sexual relationship, limit the encounters to times when your ex has the kids. Do not have sex in your house if the kids are there or could come home.
  • Introduce your children slowly. When you're ready to introduce your boyfriend or girlfriend to your children, do so slowly and on neutral ground. Tell them you would very much like them to meet the person you have been seeing. Select a short activity such as lunch at a restaurant.
  • You don't need to build a relationship with everyone you date. If the person's not right for any reason, it's OK. Move on until you find someone who feels right. Dr. Kreidman says when you care for your emotional self in this way, you also teach your children how to become healthy, happy adults.

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