Dating in the New Millennium is already hard, but, if you’re coming out of a divorce, it’s a nightmare. When you’ve been married, whether it’s been six months or sixteen years, you’re used to someone being there. Used to having a partner to help you with bills. Someone to vent to. Someone to pick up your slack in… well… life.
Or maybe not, and that’s the reason you got divorced, huh?
Either way, you have been out of the dating game for a minute and there are some things that you should really consider before beginning to date after a divorce.
You’re probably wondering why you should listen to anything I have to say. Well, let me run down my resumé for you. I’m on my second husband, from whom I am separated after ten years of not being able to get it right together. Before him I was married to an abusive man for five and a half years and after divorcing him. I didn’t give myself time to heal, which caused me to make some questionable decisions, just trying to find validation. If you’re over there doing the math, stop trying to figure out my age. But I digress. The decisions I made after my first marriage and lack of healing time, bled over into my current relationship. And here we are again…
I just wanna share my screw-ups so that I can save someone from travelling down the same horrendous paths that I’ve been down–more than once. Apparently, I didn’t knock my ass hard enough the first time.
So, let me give you my handy dandy post-divorce dating rulebook.
Feel the void, don’t fill the void
One of the hardest things about divorce is the loneliness. This is especially the case if you don’t have children. Even if you do, there’s a void they can’t fill like a partner or a mate can. Loneliness is uncomfortable and by far my least favorite feeling of them all. Who wants to lay in an empty bed, eat breakfast alone, grocery shop alone? Wrangle children… alone? You start to miss those things that aggravated you. Their snoring, them stealing the covers, or just that other presence beside you.
If you’re anything like me, and the majority of my separated and divorced friends, you don’t take that shit laying down. You put on your confidence, possibly a freakum dress, and go out into the world to find a replacement.
Mistake numero uno!
Any person that you find after your divorce, before you’ve learned to feel that emptiness and be okay with it, will be a rebound. And you’ll find yourself in an unhealthy cycle of trying to find someone to fill that space until you get sick of it and tell yourself you’ve had enough.
One of the best things that I’ve done was dating myself. Find out who you are now that you’re not someone’s spouse, just you, the person, the employee, the dreamer, the parent, the friend. Read a book. Take the art class you always wanted to take. Go to an upscale restaurant and order something you’ve never tried. Go hiking. Keep at it until you like yourself. How do you think you’ll know what’s best for you if you don’t know yourself?
Yes, it’s gonna get boring, but when you bored, go out with your girls! They’re always down to give you the love you’re looking for. (Unless you’re bi-sexual, and in that case, I recommend staying away from any female friend who shares your orientation, unless you have a mutual understanding, or you’ll be back to that cycle all over again.)
And, when you do find yourself with a case of the lonelies, spread out in your whole bed, snuggle beneath the covers that you don’t have to share, and cry. It’s ok. Tears are good for you. Allow yourself to purge, heal, and be vulnerable.
Bob Palmina: Your First Sex Partner
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another very important aspect of post-divorce existence: The need to get laid (Do people say “get laid” anymore? There I go telling my age again). This is another void that you will find yourself trying to fill. (See what I did there?) It is by far, the most dangerous decision that you can make in post-divorce dating, because you will be vulnerable. You might feel an attachment to that person that, more often than not, will not be reciprocated, and, when you find yourself alone again, you’ll have this fresh hurt sitting right on top of the hurt from your marriage being over.
To resolve this, you need to go old-school. Remember when you were young and exploring your sexuality? Becoming familiar with yourself? Come on, I’m trying to be subtle here. Tap into your inner teen and handle your needs yourself. You have everything you need to resolve these feelings in the palm of you hand or on the shelves of a novelty shop. Grab some Vaseline, or cocoa butter, if you’re a man, and use your fingers if you’re a woman, and go to work. I found that it can be a lot less stressful than sex with a partner. You’re not breaking a sweat, you don’t have to worry about them finishing before you, you don’t have to worry about STDs, and you don’t have to worry about them finishing before you (yeah, I know I said it twice). You know your body better than anyone, right? So, if you can’t get you off, that’s your bad.
But if, by chance, your hand doesn’t suffice, take a trip to your local novelty shop. The employees there are non-judgmental and very well-versed in the products. Groupon even has a section for discounted BOBs (Battery Operated Baes). I call mine Purple Rain, he’s got ten speeds, and plugs into the wall.
And, if you’re into this kinda thing, porn is another easily accessible resource. Working out helps, too. Go take your frustrations out on the treadmill or the weights at your local gym. Go for a walk or run in the park. Exert some energy, and then when you’re ready for sex, you won’t be out of shape and tap out. Who wants to be the first one to tap out, right?
There are all kinds of tools and tricks out there to help you deal with your urge to bust it open until you have gotten through the hard part of the divorce–the healing.
Wait for it… Now!
They say that it’s healthy to be single for about half of the time that you were in the relationship. Now, if you were in a long-term relationship, that can seem daunting, but I’ve learned that it’s about right. It takes longer than you think to get out of marital habits and get into your routine as a newly single member of society. It takes time to heal, think, discover the world all over again. Don’t rush the process. Trust the process.
I knew I was ready to date when I wasn’t impressed by the attention men tried to give me. My decision to date was based on the fact that I wanted to get to know the other person, not because I was feeling lonely. They made me smile, or they were interesting and I didn’t have to force anything or convince myself that they were something that they were not just to tolerate them. This took a while for me, because I kept throwing myself into that void-filling cycle.
I had my heart crushed, spit on, set on fire, fed to the dogs and thrown off a cliff before I realized that enough was enough. When I was tired of being hurt and dogged out because I didn’t want to admit that I wore my vulnerability like a scarlet letter or some cheap perfume (which made me a target for vultures), that’s when I settled into my solitude and rediscovered me. I have to admit, she’s pretty fuckin’ awesome, if I do say so myself (if I do say so myself, if I do say so myself). And I made the decision not to let anyone treat her (me) badly. Period.
Only you can know when you’re ready, and don’t let anyone else try to convince you otherwise. Be honest with yourself, too. Because if you can lie to yourself, you’ll believe anything that anyone tells you.
The game ain’t the same
I always see these memes about dating in 2017, dating in 2016, and the hashtag #Dontwastehertime. Keep in mind, I was out of the game five and a half years the first time and nine years most recently. That’s fourteen years of not dating. So I was like Rip Van Winkle stepping out there.
Things had changed on my ass like cassette tapes to digital downloads. I didn’t know the culture. Had no idea what the red flags were. I approached dating like a woman who had been married. I was giving away all of the marriage benefits without the paperwork. But that was my conditioning. Again, this is the reason that you need to give yourself time to operate as a single you before getting back on the scene. Do some window shopping, listen to your friends who are single, watch how people treat one another in day-to-day life.
Men don’t hold doors anymore. Women move men in after dating them for a couple of months. Don’t come into the 2017 dating world with a 2005 game plan. Hell, you can’t even come in with a 2016 game plan. They switch up on you that quick nowadays.
She got kids!
An issue that I find myself facing, and know that a lot of people do nowadays, is the child factor. If you have children, Anyone you date is going to have to fit into your life, there’s no way around it. But you also have to consider whether you want someone who has children (because they may understand the situation that you’re in), or you don’t want anyone with children (because you don’t want the drama that comes with the other parent, believe me, I know people with children who feel you on this one).
I’m very overprotective of my children and don’t just bring anyone around them. I remember one time, my baby girl asking me if I was going to get her a new daddy, like I could just go pick one up from the grocery store. Pick him up, thump him, see if he’s right, and bring him back. In her five-year-old mind that may have been how she thought it was done, right? Trust me, that prompted a very necessary conversation between me and her father and we came to her together to explain things to her.
Gratefully, I have a great co-parent in him. Some may not be so lucky. So, in addition to getting to know someone without them meeting your child to make sure that they’re right to be in your and your child’s life, you also may have to worry about the baby mama or baby daddy acting like a fool about you dating their ex. What if your child doesn’t like them? Do you cut them off and try again? What if they don’t have children and don’t want any? (Probably shouldn’t continue seeing this person if you have a child or children, by the way.) What if they have children and their kids’ parent becomes an issue?What if they want children but you’re done? Are you willing to deal with that drama?
There’s no such thing as a ready made family, just add man, or woman, and stir. Children present a whole other emotional and real life aspect to adjusting after a divorce. You must do everyone the justice of bearing all of these things in mind before you date. It makes shit hard, but imagine the impact that bringing the wrong person in as a role model for your children will have on them.
Energy vampires, and unicorns, and leeches, oh my
My momma has a saying, “everyone ain’t for you.” It took me becoming an adult, and going through two marriages to realize that people are inherently selfish. The first law of nature is self-preservation, so yeah, we look out for self first. Well, most people do. There are still a few of those selfless unicorns wandering around, but sadly, they are getting closer and closer to extinction.
But when you do decide to “get back out there,” be mindful of the people who approach you and who you share your time and energy with. There are energy vampires and leeches running rampant out here who are looking for a prime piece of meat to sink their teeth to. At this point in your post-divorce journey, you’re aware of your dopeness, you’ve embraced it. So, it’s ok to ask why this person is interested in you. What are they bringing to the table? You’ve already taken a major hit with your divorce, and if you’re like me, several more in the lonely and dating stages, so be smart. Get some ROI on that investment of your time and energy.
I remember asking a dear friend, who I was attracted to, if he’d date me right after my separation from my husband. He told me that he valued our friendship and would not want to take the chance of losing it by dating me right now. Now, some of y’all may see that as a diss. And that’s cool. But in my mind, I saw that as a real man, seeing a woman in a vulnerable state and not wanting to take advantage of her. And I appreciated that and love him for that to this day. I had another “friend,” however, who jumped at the opportunity, and the bullshit cometh soon after. It made me appreciate the first friend even more.
Nobody said dating after divorce would be easy. Dating is hard even when you’ve never been married, so what made you think you were so special? But it’s possible to make it work, after you have given yourself time, heal and move on from the divorce. You may even find “the one,” although I’m starting to believe that dream as feasible as finding a Leprechaun and a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
But, if you haven’t, or if you don’t, that doesn’t make you any less dope.
Maybe, just maybe, you’re “the one” you need.