It’s been one of the toughest times of your life. But you are slowly picking up the pieces and establishing your new normal. And at some point, you will consider dating again. Many dating experts will tell you to give yourself plenty of time to heal or wait until you are “over” your ex? But what does that mean? How do you know when you are emotionally ready to date?
There is no question that a divorce or separation can turn a life upside down, logistically, financially, and the big one, emotionally. Unfortunately, for some, long legal disputes may also add to the burden. And if there are children involved, the primary focus will be on ensuring their adjustment during the transition. You are not only feeling the heart break for yourself but you feel it just as much (or more) for your children.
There are two major recovery stages after the breakup. There is the initial time where you are just getting through the upheaval and the day-to-day details of rebuilding your life, like securing a place to live and putting separation agreements in place. This can be a period of intense chaos. It’s not uncommon to feel mostly numb during this time, when the focus is just putting one foot in front of the other.
The next stage is probably where most of the self-reflection and healing will happen. This is an intense time, too, with most of it focused inward. There is so much going on here. Grieving the end of the relationship and the life you had, adjusting to living without a partner, and for some, dealing with being a single parent. Depending on the person, this stage can go on for quite a while.
So during the midst of all of this, should dating even be a consideration? There is no one-size-fits-all strategy here. Some will take awhile before they will feel ready and others will be back out there before the ink is dry on the separation agreement.
If you date before you are ready, there will be signs. You should be able to sit across from your date and be present and engaged in the conversation. If you find yourself thinking (or talking) incessantly about your ex or past relationship, it’s probably too soon.
But the flip side to dating before you are ready, is maybe making the mistake of waiting too long.
The period following the divorce or major split can be very isolating for all the reasons listed above. The last thing we may feel like doing is going out with friends, never mind going out on a date. We may turn down offers just to avoid being the only single one in the room, for example.
If you’re not careful, this natural tendency to say no instead of yes can just further fuel the isolation that you are feeling. If it goes on for too long, the line will get blurry between the time needed to recover from the divorce and a rut taking hold. This same mindset can carry over to dating. It’s always important to examine the real reasons why you may be closing yourself off to dating opportunities and to keep checking in. What does being “ready to date again” mean for you? It’s important to listen to your gut here. Could it be fear holding you back instead?
Along with answering those questions, just keeping dating in perspective can really help. Going out doesn’t always have to equate to being ready for a serious relationship. It’s really just about two people getting together and hopefully enjoying each other’s company. With that in mind, sometimes it is better to say yes, than to say no.
Terran Shea is a Matchmaker and Dating Expert with MutualMatch.ca