Dating after a divorce can be both intimidating, and an exciting new opportunity. Depending on how long you were in a committed partnership, it may be years since you were last single. You are now older, have a lot more responsibilities than you did in your early 20s, and may have children. That said, there are a lot of positive things about “mature” dating. There are numerous reasons for divorce, but one of the most common is that partners have grown apart, with either one or both partners expressing changes in their values and/or direction in life. And so, as hard as it is to have a relationship end (even when it’s for good reasons) having the opportunity to date to find a new partner who may be a much better match can be a wonderful thing. Add to this, that most older women would say they know themselves better, have developed better relationship skills, and are more established in their careers.
It is also important however, to understand that dating after a divorce is unique and multifaceted. In many cases, divorced women who are starting to date experience two processes simultaneously - on the one hand, they may still be recovering from an ended marriage (this can a long time, and is natural,) while on the other hand, they are ready to move forward, date and embrace their new singleness. The majority of my divorced clients, most of whom were married for 15-25 years, quickly discover that the modern dating scene is very different from what they once remember. Add to this, that many divorcees admit they never really “dated” much before getting married, and so post-divorce they also find themselves having to learn how to date.
And so, should you find yourself dating after divorce, it is important that you be patient with yourself. Depending on the nature of your divorce, and how much time has gone by, you may be more or less open to actively looking for love. The most important thing is getting started, and here are my top five tips to help you date successfully.
1. DEVELOP A POSITIVE “DATING MINDSET”
First and foremost, I can’t say enough about the importance of maintaining (or developing) a positive “dating mindset.” This can be challenging for many women since the divorce process can be extremely difficult, often dragging on, taking a toll on every area of life - emotionally, financially, and physically. Given this reality, it’s understandable that many women develop a negative attitude about romantic relationships. As a result, I often I hear divorced women say things such as, “I hate dating,” and “there are no good men left.” This view point will negatively impact, if not sabotage, any effort to find new love. It’s overall bad energy.
If you’re feeling stuck in negative emotions such as anger and resentment, my suggestion is that you first commit to the on-going work of developing a more positive and open mindset, what world-renowned Stanford University psychologist and author Carol Dweck describes as a “growth mindset.” Simply put, a growth mindset is the willingness to embrace our challenges as opportunities for change and growth. Furthermore, Dweck states that true healing can only occur when we are in this mindset.
However, if despite your efforts, you find that you are unable to make this shift on your own, seek out professional help such as a therapist and/or a coach, develop a yoga and mindfulness practice, and emerge yourself in a supportive environment with like-minded people and uplifting content (books, audios, podcasts, etc.) In addition to feeling better in your everyday life, your experience of dating will be radically different.
2. ACCLIMATIZE TO YOUR NEW REALITY & STAY OPEN
Finding yourself single and dating again after a divorce will require you getting used to your “new reality.” You are older, your body may be a little (or a lot) different than it was the last time you were dating, you may have “baggage” (exes, children, etc.) - and so will the men you will be dating! For many people (myself included) getting used to your new reality, what I now call “acclimatizing,” can take some time. This includes being open to dating much older men, who may have children, and focusing less on physical traits such as height (a big one!), body type, and hair (or the lack there of.)
Years ago, after my own broken engagement, I went back on-line and was shocked to see that many of the men showing up in my search were balding, divorced, and had children. In my mind, I was thinking, “When did I become old enough to date these men?” Clearly, I was not in touch with the fact that I was older (now in may 30s,) and so naturally, so was my dating pool! I share this now with a light heart, because five years after my separation, I have “acclimatized” and have since happily dated middle-aged men, many of whom are divorced and have children. In other words, my dating pool didn’t change, I did.
Dating post divorce, most women who are looking for their next life partner are looking for much more than attraction. Instead of dating with a checklist of superficial attributes, I encourage women to search for a partner with complimentary values, and to be willing to let attraction develop. I often coach my clients to come up with a list of “essential" qualities; qualities that are directly correlated with their happiness in the long-term. It’s much easier to be open to a variety of high-quality men if you are more focused on character and how they treat you, rather than their age, height or bank accounts.
3. LEARN HOW TO “MARKET” YOURSELF
Not surprisingly, one of the most important aspects of dating is learning how to “market” yourself. This includes taking care of yourself inside and out so you feel your most attractive and confident. In addition to taking care of your health by eating well, exercising, and sleeping sufficiently for example, taking care of our physical presentation is especially important during the dating process. If need be, upgrade your wardrobe with key items that are flattering to your body type, and have a few outfits on-hand for date nights, ones that you feel great in! Kylie & Jonathan, founders of KYJO, a Toronto-based style and image boutique, say that there is actually very compelling research to support the ‘look good/feel good' claim. “Various studies have shown that wearing clothing that fits you properly and makes you look great will give you a positive psychological boost. It's like telling yourself you're prepared and ready for anything," say Kylie & Jonathan.
Also make sure to keep on top of your hair and make-up. If you’re unfamiliar with new make-up fashion trends such as contouring and brow makeup application, you are not alone. There are plenty of great videos online or you can book a personal make-up lesson. Lastly, stay on top of your skin care with a great day and night regimen, and an overall healthy lifestyle to put your best face forward.
I understand this may all seem like a lot of work, but believe me, it’s worth presenting your most eligible self and feeling your most confident. I have had a few clients protest, saying they just “want to be themselves.” But this is not about not being yourself, it’s about embracing what has been proven to work more often than not to improve your odds at dating successfully.
4. CLOSE THE EX-FILES
One of the best pieces of dating advice I ever heard was - don’t talk about your ex on a first date, because once you start you may not know when to stop! I would go even further, and say that it’s best not to talk about your past relationships in great detail on the first fewdates. There are many reasons not to open up the ex-files in the early stages of dating. Firstly, the early stages of dating are meant to develop a positive connection between you and your date. This is most commonly created by spending quality time together, and keeping things enjoyable and light. When you bring up an ex, you risk creating distance by putting the thought of you with your ex into the mind of your date.
So when is it okay to discuss your ex? Here are a few guidelines to follow. First off, if you can, wait a few dates to share intimately personal details, so your date will not feel threatened or put off. Secondly, speak about your past relationship and your ex-partner as positively as possible. Speaking negatively about your ex, may only serve to reflect poorly on you. Lastly, make sure anything you share about an ex fits the context and flow of your conversation. It can be terribly awkward to have someone unnaturally insert information about an ex. Depending on what stage you’re at in your recovery after a divorce, it’s completely understandable that you may feel a need to talk or vent - but that’s what girlfriends, and therapists, and breakup coaches are for! This is natural, but remember your audience.
5. DATE USING THE 3-PRONG APPROACH
If you are serious about finding love, I would encourage you to use a three prong approach to dating. In addition to the possibility of meeting someone the old-fashioned way, on your own in your every day life (the preferred method of most divorced women,) you can also reach out to the natural “matchmakers” in your life to ask for introductions and set-ups, and last but not least get online!
Dating after divorce has never been so easy thanks to online dating. Now that the stigma of on-line dating is minimal to non-existent, the dating pool online has grown drastically in the last decade. However, if you are newly single it may take you a bit of time to get over your own resistance. I have always loved on-line dating, and have been using it on and off since 2002. I found it fascinating that I could connect with people I might never have met in my day-to-day life. I also loved the efficiency once I learned some basic online dating strategies and etiquette. All too often I hear people say that they have tried on-line dating and it didn’t work for them, but when I dig a little deeper it becomes clear that what didn’t work was their approach.
The top three online dating sites I would recommend for divorced singles are Match, OkCupid, and eHarmony.