Author: Bobbi Reed – REAL Mom
GOAL: To find a partner that is emotionally healthy, has common interests and is equally yoked spiritually.
While we will be focusing on dating after divorce, this advice and these guidelines are great for all dating experiences. To get back into the dating field after a divorce takes intentional steps. You need to find out what you want and what are deal-breakers (your personal boundaries). Also, what to look for and when is a good time to “put yourself “ out there. It is a minefield at best, but here are some advice/guidelines for maneuvering it.
Divorce rates in America still run very high. Many of us, after years of waking up next to someone, will find ourselves alone. Along with the grief and healing of our divorce, work must be done on yourself. It is wise to take the time to grieve, heal and always be open for the work that is going to be necessary to be emotionally healthy. Even if your partner did some egregious things, all the fault of a divorce does not usually lay with just one person. Find out what you contributed to the decay of the relationship and work on those things. It is very important not to step out too soon back into the dating field. If you do you will be dragging a lot of “baggage” into that relationship and lessening the probability that it will work out.
I know that every now and then, someone will walk into your life within a short time of your separation. If that happens, continue to do the work and take that relationship very slowly. Work on staying in the friend zone until you feel emotionally healthy again and continue to improve on yourself.
When you leave a long-term relationship/marriage, your self-esteem takes a huge hit. The thought of dating again is extremely overwhelming. You can have a lot of self-doubt and believe no one of good character will be truly interested in you. There are many men that are interested in sexual partners but not emotional partners. It is also very difficult to put yourself out there to be examined, judged and rejected. You are coming back from a huge rejection (usually), and many times with your partner choosing another woman. As women we can be very sensitive and emotional creatures, so it is very difficult to feel comfortable dating again. It is easier to meet someone along the path doing life than for example using dating sites. Beware of online dating sites, they can have so many distrustful people along with men playing a lot of games. Ask your friends that have been successful at meeting quality partners, what sites they use. Ask them what is best to reveal in a profile and what are some of the red flags to watch out for. There have been some relationships that have been successful, that have met on these sites. It is always best to pray as you are getting to know someone and take it very slowly. If you meet someone for the first time for a date, after much talking on the phone, never meet in a secluded spot. Don’t let them pick you up; meet them at the destination and always let your friends know where you are at all times.
With the increase in single people, you would think that dating is very common among them. This is not true. “In one study conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, social psychologist Jerald G. Bach man, PhD. D., found that nearly 50 percent of 18-year-olds go out at least once a week, compared with only approximately 25 percent of 32-year-olds.”** As we get older, the percentages go down even further. Many people choose not to date. Others are scared and don’t know how to go about it. How do we go forward and get back to dating?
The first thing to do is to figure out our standards. What are we looking for? What are the things that are deal breakers for us? What are things that just won’t work for us in a relationship? There will be no perfect partners out there. That does not mean we make excuses for shortcomings that in the end we will not be able to handle. A rule I like to use is that if 80% of a potential partner is good after getting to know them and 20% are things that are not so good, but are not deal breakers, then that is a good one to invest some time with. Remember, it takes AT LEAST 6 months to get to know someone well. Many people put their best foot forward, but if they are faking anything, it will come to light soon enough.
The more that you have worked on yourself and become emotionally healthy, the more you will expect from a partner. You have more to offer and of course will want the same in return. Factors that help determine your social worth include your ability to bring desirable traits to a relationship such as inner strength, kindness, intelligence, and affection to a relationship. I believe that if you are looking for certain character traits you should ask yourself if you have those traits. Realizing what you have to offer will also raise your self esteem. If you think highly of yourself in a healthy way, you will want more from a relationship.
Another thing to assess and decide before going out there, is what kind of relationship are you looking for? Are you looking for companionship only? Are you looking for a marriage partner? Are you looking for someone but not the “one”? It is important to assess this, so that you know what you truly want. Depending on what you are seeking, your standards may vary. You will always want a partner that is honest, kind, loyal and trustworthy. If you are seeking a marriage partner, you will want one that is a good provider along with, they will be focused on you and your needs. Are you that type of person at this time? Again, whatever qualities you are looking for, most of them you will need to exemplify yourself. If you want an emotionally healthy man, you need to be emotionally healthy. A saying that has stuck with me my whole life is “ what you are is what you will attract”! If you keep attracting men that are not healthy, ask yourself why.
It will be difficult to attract someone healthy, especially if you are coming out of an abusive marriage. Your standards will be skewed in the beginning because of what you have gone through. Your normal may not be a good and healthy normal due to being abused. That is another reason to work on you, finding a new normal and better standards. If you have worked to become that quality person, and have grieved and recovered from your divorce, you will attract a quality partner.
When you feel ready to date, here are 5 tips:**
- Develop a new support group. It is very natural to go to your friends that have been in your life for a long time for support. They know you well and care for you. Also, it is hard, but many old friendships that were friends with you and your ex will go away (as some should). They may take his side, be unrealistic, and not really know the details of what happened. New friends or a newer support group can help you adjust to your new life. They didn’t know you back then and it can be refreshing to have new friends who know the new and improved you. Another benefit to a new support group, especially when being around those who are out there successfully dating and are emotionally healthy, it rubs off. It is important to be around those types of people that you are trying to become. Friendships are important because of the support, understanding and the time spent with your friends. Helping you to continue to recover while being positive in your new season is very important. During this time you should have frequent contact with your support system. They can hold you accountable for unwise tendencies, spend time with you to keep you distracted, and give you that sounding board and companionship that is helpful. Do still spend plenty of time by yourself, working on you and getting comfortable with yourself. Explore all the exciting things that you have wanted to do for a long time. Keep a list of things that will successfully distract you and use this when you are starting to feel an unhealthy craving coming along.
- Assess your self worth. If you are negative a lot of the time, you will attract negative people. The same is true of being positive. If you are a positive person, you will attract that. If you are a believer in Christ, and that is paramount of importance to you, you will seek someone similar. It is important if you are a believer to not only to seek a believer, but to make sure you are on the same page with your beliefs. Being “equally-yoked” is spoken about in the Bible and a key factor to a successful relationship. Start by making a list of your positive qualities. Share these with your support group and get their feedback. Ask them to be brutally honest so that you can see if there are any areas that they see differently. It is great to find out what you believe are your best qualities and to verify if that is what is actually coming across to those who know you well. Also, make a list of some affirmations that you would like to start claiming over your life. This can include positive scriptures and statements that you believe is where you want to be and how you want your life to successfully move forward. Again, focus on making yourself better and taking care of yourself. When you learn to put yourself first and take good care of yourself, it will be easier to see that in someone else. It will also teach you how you want to be treated and recognize that in another person.
- Work on planning some activities. You know the old saying, “he is not going to knock on your front door”. You will not meet a prospective partner sitting on the couch. It will be exciting if you focus on the things you could not do before when you were with your ex. Make a list. Review that list and see what you can do with a friend or even by yourself. Most of the list you make will be things you can do without a partner, so go out and start doing them. You will meet people along the way with the same interests. That is a huge positive! During this time and until the right one comes into your life, be active. Remember your life is not on hold; life is for the living! Don’t just exist! Even through the grief and recovery of the divorce, try to keep a few positive activities in your life. As you heal, the positive activities will grow and you will begin to enjoy your life. Don’t be negative about your new season, embrace it and know that things will get better and restoration in many areas will occur.
- Curb unhealthy cravings. During the grieving and recovery process, we will feel a lot of emotional pain. Cravings can develop that are self-destructive. Food is a big one and can lead to being more physically unhealthy. Those who do not like being single will jump into another relationship before they have done the proper healing and growing. We have beliefs that we cannot make it alone, especially if we have been in marriage for a good amount of time. Remember that when you get emotionally healthy, you will be stronger and enjoy times alone. If you can be a great person by yourself you will be a great part of a partnership when that time comes.
- Prepare for pitfalls. The holidays, birthdays, anniversaries are going to be very difficult. They will bring up good and bad memories for us. They will stir our deep feelings of loss and our loneliness more intensely. You will compare memories of your past and compare them to your current situation. Be careful not to isolate yourselves, especially during these times. Start new traditions and make small plans for yourself ahead of time so you don’t think of your past so much. Participate in new activities with your support group so that you will not be in your memories and heartache. Ask your friends for help planning activities. It is healthier to plan ahead so that we have something positive and fun to look forward to.
I am going to add a 6th tip that is very important if you have children. It brings a new perspective on dating if you have children. You not only have a possible partner affecting your life, but the lives of your children. It is very important to the well-being and emotions of your children to not bring that possible partner around them for a long time. You must first see what that person is truly about before introducing them to your children and affecting their lives. This is in the case of you looking for a marriage partner and that possible partner seems as if he would be a good husband/step-father. If you are looking for a companionship partner or sex partner, I strongly advise you do not introduce your children to them at all. Don’t expose them to multiple people that are not there to stay. If you are seeking a marriage partner, you have been dating for at least 6 months, it seems as if the relationship is serious and will be long-term, then start to prepare them to meet that person. Six months is a good amount of time to have gotten to know them better; their character and whether it is a serious relationship. Introduce them slowly and introduce them as a friend first. I suggest no sleepovers with that person when your kids are with you for visitation. It just gets them confused and gives them possible false hope of a marriage. It also can cause problems with your ex-husband in the co-parenting arena. Use wisdom because our children don’t have the maturity to process this all, they are children. Do not fall into the trap thinking that they think like you or will understand things that you do, it simply is not the case. These are precious children that still have the minds of children and they look to us to protect them as much as possible.
In the end, re-entering the dating game can be fun. Establish if you’re ready, your standards, your support group and do what is comfortable to you. Don’t be driven by the emotion of loneliness. Make sure you are in the right frame of mind. Continue praying through each stage as you start to date. If you are looking for a life partner or marriage, ask God to walk with you through each step. Ask Him before the first date to direct you to the person you are to be with. After that first date, make sure to ask God if this is not the one you want me to be with, please remove him from my life. This will save you a whole lot of time and heartache.
You have learned yourself well during the grieving and recovery. Use your wisdom and always bounce things off of your support group. Try new things and be open to things you haven’t tried before. When you are emotionally ready, it can be a wonderful adventure. Make the most of each step, live life for your best self and keep in mind to enjoy the journey!
- Are you ready to date?
- What are you looking for in a relationship; companionship, marriage partner, someone to do things with once in awhile?
- What are the 6 tips to dating?
- What are you looking for in a partner? What are your “must haves” and what are your “deal breakers”?
- Where should you be mentally, emotionally and physically before you are ready to date again?
- What are you seeing in your friend’s relationships that you feel should be “red flags” in a relationship?
- Do you have trouble meeting men in your everyday life?
- How do you feel about online dating? What are the pluses and negatives?
- Are you still grieving your heartache and losses?
- Are your children ready for you to date? (Remember to wait at least 6 months to introduce your children to your partner – if you are both serious and committed to each other.)
- What are your family’s expectations for partnership in their world, or your friend’s?
- Are you able to go slowly and follow God’s requests for a Godly relationship?
- Write down what exactly you are looking for in a Godly partner. What are your must haves and what are your deal breakers as far as character traits.
- Ask yourself and your closest family/friends if you are ready. If not, what needs to be worked on still. Are you still grieving?
- Assess how you are able to meet new people in your life. Do you attend church, go to social events in the community, are you interested in trying online dating, etc.
- Are you comfortable and content being alone? Have you learned this yet? If not, work on that because to be a healthy member of a couple you need to be healthy alone.
- Are you putting your “best foot forward”? Are you healthy, exercising, dressing well, working on your self-esteem? If not, continue to work on being the best you possible!
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
1 Corinthians 7:1-10
1 Timothy 2:8-10
**Psychology Today, online, January 2003, An Interview with Lisa Ling