Dating after divorce is not easy. Anyone who says otherwise is probably exaggerating or lying.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re kind of freaking out right now: Putting yourself out there after something as painful and difficult as breaking up with a spouse is pretty scary. Yet, it’s important to start rebuilding your romantic life once you’re ready to find someone new. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to be willing to find it.
Here are 10 expert tips for dating after divorce. It’s not going to be easy, but you can handle it.
Take a class.
If you’re nervous about getting back out there, start with a cooking, art, or archery class instead of jumping right back into dating. Get on the internet. You’ll easily be able to find something that interests you on CourseHorse or around your local town. Your social skills might need some fine-tuning after being married for so long, this is a good opportunity to get that practice.
“I encourage recently divorced men to take classes to meet someone new,” says Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist. “Since the topic of the class will be a mutual interest for them and anyone new they may meet, it’ll make it easier to find things to discuss for those gentlemen who are a bit rusty from not recently dating.”
Pick a public activity for a first date.
Rodgers suggests choosing a farmer’s market (or something similar) for your first date. Since it’s a public space, your date will feel safe, but more than that—you won’t be caught wanting for conversation.
“You can discuss flowers, fruits, and jam preferences as you wander and shop together,” she says. “If the date is going well, I suggest buying coffee, fruit, or ice cream together and sitting someplace to eat/drink together.”
You can even start planning a second date if things are going especially well: “Suggest purchasing a few key ingredients and setting a second date where you’ll cook or prepare the purchased ingredients to enjoy together,” Rogers says.
Try something athletic or community-building for a second date.
Rodgers says that much of that “first date adrenaline” (aka: those butterflies), tends to dissipate on a second date. This is why she suggests choosing a date that can help you “form a bond” with this potential new partner. She suggests either something athletic like kayaking or hiking; or something community building like volunteering. You’re trying to get to know one another better. Since this is the case, stay away from booze.
“Most of my first and second date suggestions are during the day and don’t involve alcohol. This is by design,” she says.
The dating scene has changed, and you need to accept that.
Things might be very different than the last time you were out dating. Apps and online sites are now the primary form of finding dates. Meeting people in-person still happens, but with far less frequency.
Instead of getting frustrated or overwhelmed, take advantage of the skills you have an be willing to learn new ones. “Accept that the dating scene has changed since you were single," Overstreet explains. "The way to meet women is different thanks to dating and hookup apps. However, treating a woman with respect and having good manners never goes out of style."
Enjoy the experience.
Don’t expect to meet your next wife on your first date out of the gate. Approach dating with some intrigue and excitement. This is a rare opportunity to get back out there and have some fun again.
“Don't take yourself too seriously. Let loose and have fun being yourself,” says Overstreet.
It’s important to let the pressure go. Sure, you’re coming out of a long-term, committed marriage, but that doesn’t mean you have to be serious about everything in your life going forward. You have new wisdom and experience to try dating with a new outlook on love. Don’t rush into your next relationship. Have fun.
“Go slow: This is a marathon, not a sprint. You're not trying to get married tomorrow. Enjoy the process,” Overstreet adds.
Always be yourself.
This is a bit of a scary time in your life, and that is OK. You’re back on the dating scene, wondering where to begin, unsure if you’re cut out for it. It happens to all newly single people. Self-doubt is a natural emotion.
That being said, remind yourself that you are good enough. You are funny enough. You are clever enough. Don’t pretend to be someone other than the marvelous person that you are.
“If you are goofy, be goofy,” Overstreet tells us. “Don't fake who you are because you can't keep up the facade forever. If she doesn't like you because you are goofy, then she isn't the one. Believe it or not, there are a lot of women that like goofy men.”
If your date isn’t into your personality, that is not your problem. They just aren’t the right person for you. Someone else will be totally into it.
Try dating outside your "type."
If you’ve always dated the same type of person, date someone totally different. If you’ve always been into serious, bookish types, try dating someone adventurous and spontaneous for a change. Not every single person you date has to be your “type,” and perhaps changing it up will reveal more about your new dating preferences than you realized.
“Dating is a process of elimination,” Overstreet says. “When someone isn't a good fit, mark them off and move to the next person. Don't get hung up on someone that isn't into you.”
New experiences with new people will be a journey of self-discovery: “How will you know you don't like a certain type of person until you go on a date with them?” Overstreet explains.
Rejection is a fact of life.
One of the things that hold us back from putting ourselves out there is the fear of rejection. When you’ve recently divorced, it can be hard to bounce back. Oftentimes it feels like the greatest defeat.
But rejection is a fact of life, and everyone experiences it. “Rejection will always be a thing. Even though the dating scene has changed there is still a possibility of rejection,” Overstreet says. “When this happens, remind yourself that everyone goes through rejection at some point and don't take it personally.”
Take a deep breath and move on. In the long run, who cares? If something doesn’t work out, you’re just one step closer to finding the right person.
Remember: “You have changed as a person over the past years,” Overstreet adds. “Take time to figure out how you have evolved and who you are now.”
Desperation isn't cute.
Enjoy dating and see what is out there, but do not approach romance with the intention of getting right back into something serious. If you are looking to settle down immediately, and put that kind of pressure on both yourself and a potential romantic partner, it won’t go well.
“Don't be desperate for a relationship,” Overstreet says. “If you recently got divorced, you should not be looking to jump back into a serious relationship. Your desperation will be evident and may push away women in the process.”
You don’t want to scare off someone great because you’re trying to push it too far, too fast. Let things evolve naturally.
Remember: This whole thing is a learning process.
Dating after divorce is as much about discovering this new, single you as it is about looking for love again. Take time to enjoy yourself, the process, and this new life you’re building.
“As you date different [people], you are learning about yourself at the same time,” says Kristie Overstreet, a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist.
You may be coming out of a truly terrible experience or simply a mutual parting of ways, but that doesn’t make it less important to do some inner work. Choose to see this as an opportunity to grow, not one that dismantles your confidence.