The 5 Do’s and Dont’s about dating after separating/divorcing from your partner especially when you have children. And, when is it the ‘right’ time to introduce a new partner to your children?
Written by Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC
Let’s admit, dating after marriage or being together for a long time is difficult and scary. This applies to everyone including those who are not married. Adding children into the picture and the the dating scene seems even scarier and sometimes “too much work.” How do you know when it is the right time to begin dating post divorce? The ‘rule of thumb’ to begin dating after your marriage ends is for every year you were married, allow yourself one month to heal. For example, if you were married for ten years, allow yourself ten months before dating. I know, some people say, “that’s too long” or “that’s not long enough.” This article is just a guide; please follow your own path on what feels right to you and when you think you are ready.
1. Do allow yourself to heal after your divorce and allow time to find yourself. Allow yourself to be alone and allow yourself to grieve the divorce. Yes, many couples will say ‘our marriage was over a long time ago and I am over her/him.” Yes, you may feel this way, however, is this really what is going on inside your emotional psyche? Be honest with yourself and give yourself time to be a single parent, spend quality time with your children and yourself. Find a balance in your life for work, children/family, alone time and time for friends. No need to rush into the dating world; it’s most likely changed since you were dating.
Don’t begin dating right after you separate or divorce. Don’t bring another possible love partner into your children’s lives right away, allow the family to find their new normal and healthy balance. The children do not need to be involved with your dating life; that may set everyone up for more chaos.
2. Do begin to date after you feel you are in a good place in your new life. Do check in with yourself to ensure you are healthy and have allowed time (use the ‘rule of thumb’ or another gauge) to heal. Do look at the new single scene (a lot may have changed since you were married), and possibly sign up for a dating site (make sure to read the site reviews and what the dating site is about – some dating sites are merely for ‘hooking up.’). Do go out with friends when your children are with the other parent (or a babysitter/family/friend if the other parent is not around). Do go out in groups of people or meet people out in public such as a park or restaurant.
Don’t meet someone you have met online or never met before alone in a secluded place. A great rule to make is to always meet up with someone new (regardless if you know them casually) with a group of people or in a crowded area. Make sure your children are not around and only know you are going out with friends.
3. Do enjoy dating. Dating is challenging at times and it is best to keep it light and friendly. Beware of the men and women out there who are pushing for a relationship or wanting more (like sex) right away. Watch out for the red flags (ex. they are in love quickly, they call or text all the time, too good to be true, etc.). Slow down and get to know people. Do let the people you are dating know upfront you are not ready for anything serious and just in the initial dating phase. Do allow yourself to be content with dating and allow your voice to be heard. If the person just texts, let them know you want phone calls so you can get to know them better. It’s difficult to get to know someone through texting. Here is an opportunity to be selective and see who is out there. There is no need to rush.
Don’t rule out quality people for a dating partner who may be shorter, taller, larger, skinnier, not gorgeous, etc. Get to know someone by email and phone before going out in the first date. You may be surprised the person you like isn’t what you would have normally chosen. Don’t have sex on the first five dates and even then evaluate whether you are truly ready for this next step. Possibly sex is sex to you or them, but sex can bring a whole new element into the relationship. Don’t allow someone to come on too strong; checkmate them at the door and let them go. Be patient…it takes time. You may date many people before finding someone who you connect with on a deeper level.
4. Do allow yourself to like someone. Once you have selected someone you may be interested in more than a ‘casual fling,’ do begin seeing them more regularly without the children. If this feels right, and you are checking in with yourself regularly, and this person has the same level of interest; possibly the two of you will discuss what the next steps are. Do you continue to keep it casual or become exclusive? Remember there is no rush and you have time to get to know someone. Yes, it feels enlightening, warm and fuzzy when you like someone, enjoy this time. No need to rush!
Don’t rush to have your new love interest meet your children. Keeping your children out of the dating scene is very important. If you have found someone you want to be exclusive with, make sure they feel the same way. Some questions to ask yourself (check in moment); Do they have children? How long have they been single since their last relationship? If they don’t have children, how do they feel about being around children? Are your children prepared to have another adult person brought into their lives? Have you discussed (age appropriate) possibly dating with your children and if so what was their reaction(s)? Listen to your children and decide whether they are ready to meet your ‘special’ friend.
5. Make sure you are over your ex. If you are still wondering what your ex is doing, missing him/her, thinking about your ex, you are not ready to date!
Don’t begin dating to fill the empty void after separating from your spouse. This is the time for personal growth, exploration and putting your goals into action. Fill the empty void with devoting time to yourself, children, family and Friend’s. Begin accomplishing your goals and build your self esteem. Remember healthy people attract other healthy people. Find your new normal healthy balance.
These five Do’s and Don’ts about dating after your marriage ends is only a guide. You know yourself and what is best for you. If you are still struggling after one year (or less), find a relationship coach our therapist to help you move toward a fulfilling life (might be a good choice anyways). You deserve to be happy and finding ways to execute this is finding your new normal balance.