# 1. Follow the 5 tips listed below
Divorce is the official ending of a dream that has died. No matter how a committed relationship ends, the process that precedes it and the aftermath of the loss often leave deep scars in partners who feel they have failed. My patients undergoing divorce commonly tell me about their feelings of self-doubt, grief, guilt, humiliation, anger, heartbreak, betrayal, confusion, or unresolved conflict, in all possible combinations.
Most committed relationships begin with both partners having total faith that their love will endure not only the test of time, but unforeseen challenges as well. If they maintain authenticity, deep emotional connection, and commitment to continual transformation, they are more able to recognize the signs of drifting apart before they permanently destroy the relationship. Sadly, life often intervenes and unexpected outside pressures combined, emerging different desires, and a lack of conflict skills, can throw any relationship into chaos.
There are multiple factors that determine how long someone who has gone through divorce should wait before they reach out to trust love again. These all-important variables powerfully determine when and how it is more likely that someone is truly ready to not carry the past distress into a new relationship. And, because every situation is unique, those factors are difficult for any couple to predict in advance or to deal with them when they arise.
Still, they must be understood and resolved before anyone can trust that he or she will not simply rush into a new relationship to heal old wounds or take the chance of repeating the pattern that caused their last relationship to fail.
So, what does a person need to know before making the decision that it’s time to move on?
1. How are you feeling about yourself?
Before you should even consider re-entering the dating market, you need to feel at your best. It is a highly competitive excursion, vulnerable to the whims of a depersonalized and often-confusing experience. Many couples, as they come closer to the end of their relationship, are brutally honest in what they see as the faults in the other. Though many of those naked challenges are expressions of the disappointment and hostilities of either partner, some hit home and should be taken to heart.
I often ask my patients what would be said in common if every intimate partner they ever had were in the same room and totally honest about what they liked and disliked about them. If there have been clear overlaps in what those comments would be, they should form the foundation of what needs to be changed to avoid making the same mistakes again.
Your goal should be to courageously face whatever you believe you did right and what you may have done wrong in your prior relationship, and to commit to changing whatever you can to leave the negatives behind. You don’t ever again want to be in a relationship where your new partner begins finding fault in ways you have often heard from others in the past.
2. Look carefully at the partner you chose
You once loved this person enough to commit your life to him or her. It may be that you were too blinded by the things you loved to pay attention to those that would not wear well over time. Or, that person may have withheld parts of him or herself that you could not have overlooked were they expressed honestly from the beginning. Perhaps you thought that your partner would change over time in ways that were important to you, or you might not have even known or realized at the time. Maybe you just didn’t know yourself well enough to pick the right person or was in too much of a hurry to let the relationship play itself out before you made the commitment.
It is not uncommon for people to make poor choices of a partner when they are lonely, hurt from prior relationships, or don’t know themselves well enough to predict what they really will need over time. What made you believe that you would stay in love with the person that you are now leaving behind? How did your love for him or her, or the reciprocal, slowly die. How did that person disappoint you? Did you ignore significant signs early on because you were either so happy with what you did like or unwilling to see them as important?
3. Have you lost faith in love or in the likelihood that it can last with anyone?
If you are bitter, pessimistic, or begin dating again with a pre-defeated attitude, the chances are highly likely that your past will predict your future. It is not easy to open your heart again, particularly if your partner has betrayed you in any way.
Ideally, we should be able to search for the lessons that come from loss, our own accountability in what caused it, and a commitment to look at life and love more realistically. Too often, people approach relationships with preconceived fantasies of what relationships should be, rather than the practical understanding of what it really takes to transform new love into long-lasting and deep friendship.
If you still feel hurt, angry, retaliatory, cynical, tough, anxious, or insecure, you are not likely to see things clearly in who you choose the next time, or sadly need that new person to heal you from your past pain. To that end, promise yourself you will never tell a prospective partner all the ways your prior husband or wife was terrible to you, even if you feel he or she was. If you do, you will only attract rescuers or alienate a potential partner who does not want to stand trial for someone who has damaged you in the past.
4. Be Realistic about your current marketability
This is very hard for everyone. The dating world, unfortunately, is a highly competitive place that does not readily support new entrees. If you’ve been married for any length of time, you may find that things have changed dramatically, you’ve lost touch with single friends, and you have a different set of options than you’ve had in the past. You may have young children, a radically reduced income, have less or different things to offer, or facing lessened possibilities.
People who know themselves deeply, like who they are, and feel open to adventures and possibilities, are innately more attractive to others. It’s hard not to enjoy the company of someone who is in love with life. Even if you feel that your options for finding the right person are now more limited than they might have been before you were married, you can still put yourself at the top of any list by who you are in the present.
5. Getting perspective
Friends and family are often forced to choose between the two partners in a divorce. Though the comfort of support is important, those who are “on your side” too often do not help you to accurately assess what has happened. Finding a quality professional who can help you process your feelings, give you back confidence in your assets, guide you through the stages of loss and recommitment, and help you to choose more wisely in the future, can often make the difference between being stuck in the past and open to a more successful future.
Every person has a different story about how his or her relationship ended. Many have legitimate and often unresolved issues that substantiate their individual levels of distress. Most people want to love again but may still be suffering the disillusionment of their past loss. When the past is still stealing energy from future dreams, it is not time yet to search for love again.
Here are some articles I’ve written on Psychology Today Blogs that might help.
Should You Rush Into a Relationship?
How to End a Relationship When Your Partner Still Loves You
When It’s Time to let a Relationship Go
The Myth of Romantic Relationships
10 Questions to help you tell if you’re ready to Commit
7 Thins you must do to keep believing in love
How Intimate Relationships Fail
Bitterness – Love’s Poison
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
# 2. Heal from your past relationship
If you ask this question of ten different people, you’ll likely get ten different answers – and a whole lot of other information you didn’t ask about. The short answer of when to begin to date again after a divorce is whenever you’re ready.
Each divorce is as unique as each relationship, and how you left it and what you went through in the process is personal to you. Only you can make that decision. But don’t date seriously until you have taken the time to properly grieve the loss of that relationship and all it meant to you, or you might just repeat it with someone else.
There’s a big difference between going on a date with someone you met online or were introduced to by a friend and going all out to find a new relationship. And there are lots of different reasons to go on dates. If you are just dating to see what it’s like out there after years of being in a committed relationship, go on dates. Make no commitments. Find out what the scene is like and meet some new people. Feel sexy and alive by getting some attention from someone who finds you attractive. Make it clear that you are just dating and have no interest in settling down or finding the love of your life.
While you’re dating, do your own work. Heal from your past relationship, find out what you like to do when no one is watching, learn how it feels to be alone. Once you’ve done all of that, you’re ready to look for a long-term relationship again. A new relationship is not where to look for that healing – no one else can do that for you.
A friend of mine recently told me that she was only ready to date after being divorce for about a year and half. Plenty of time to get through a full year of being on your own and feeling what that’s like, then a little bit more to be sure you’re ready for the next great thing. Maybe you’ll feel ready sooner, and maybe you need more time. Use the guidelines, but trust yourself.
Make a list of the things you know you don’t want in the next relationship and another list of the things you require. Make sure you know what the red flags are for you so you don’t fall into the same problems again. Take your time (this isn’t a race). Make decisions that are right for you.
Becky Bringewatt, MA, LPC, NCC – www.mantiscounselingandcoaching.org
# 3. Do your inner work first
You’re aware of all the strong negative feelings about your ex or the insecurities and anxiety within yourself that linger after a divorce, so it’s important to give yourself time to process all you’ve experienced. Acknowledge what you have been through, face your fears, get help if you need to and when it feels right, get back into the dating mode.
You’ll know you’re ready if you’ve worked on yourself and are comfortable with who you’ve become. In other words, don’t date too soon after coming out of a divorce if you are still harboring resentments and anger. That would only sabotage any new relationship opportunities that come your way.
By doing your inner work first, you learn how to leave old relationship baggage behind you, paving the way for a healthier, more fulfilling relationship ahead. If you don’t handle the issues that affected your past choices, behaviors and beliefs, you’re likely to repeat them subconsciously, and find yourself in another relationship that may not be successful.
The time you spend on yourself, prepares you for the challenges you’ll experience while dating, ie: intimacy, being vulnerable again, sharing your life with another person, etc.
So ask yourself, “Are you feeling clear and complete regarding your divorce? Are you emotionally comfortable and ready to move on? Did you learn the lessons you need to learn so you don’t repeat past mistakes?” Dating won’t resolve anger, conflicts and insecurities, so do the inner work first before getting out into the dating world – regardless of how long it takes.
Studies show that dating “on the rebound” – too soon following a divorce– inevitably leads to a failed relationship and often depression. Take the time to discover the “lessons” from your divorce. What part did you play in the break-up? What signals weren’t you picking up? What could you have done differently to support and empower yourself? Without these answers you’re bound to make similar mistakes again and again, wasting years of your life.
By re-inventing yourself before dating again, you are opening the door to new possibilities and happier outcomes with a partner more compatible to you. That truly is what you are looking for.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com