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Dating After Divorce: Everything You Need to Know

After a serious relationship has ended, it can be hard to think about moving on and finding new relationships. Like we discussed in Sex After Divorce , it's important to wait until you genuinely feel ready to start dating again.

It's never too late to try something new

As painful as divorces can be, being on your own again is also an opportunity to rethink what you're looking for and try new things. Many people use this new beginning to try on new roles or explore something completely different like kink or open relationships. Whatever you decide to try, it's helpful to keep an open mind and remember that the possibilities are endless.

Don't get trapped in a scarcity mindset

When a marriage has come to an end, it's easy to feel like you'll never date, have sex, or be in a relationship again. While these feelings are understandable, they're just feelings. And feelings aren't facts. Don't date out of fear of being alone, or to seek validation. Wait until you feel comfortable being on your own and can date from a place of confidence. If you push yourself to date before you're ready, you may end up compromising your standards and land in a situation that doesn't feel good.

The rise of online dating

One of the biggest changes people notice when they return to dating after a long relationship ends is the way people meet. While it used to be common to meet partners through friends, family, and community activities, these days people predominantly meet online. According to a recent study, "Meeting online has become the most popular way couples meet, eclipsing meeting through friends for the first time around 2013." In fact, their 2017 survey found that about 39 percent of heterosexual couples reported meeting their partner online, compared to 22 percent in 2009.

Getting started with dating apps

If you want to give online dating a try, just pick one site to start with. For people more comfortable on a computer than on a phone, a site like OkCupid that has both desktop and app platforms might be a good fit. When you're setting up a profile, don't worry about making it perfect. You can start with a brief bio and just a few pictures while you're getting comfortable.

If possible, ask a friend to help you out. It can be difficult to be objective about pictures of yourself or writing about your best qualities, and an outside perspective makes a huge difference.

Meeting people the old-fashioned way

As popular as online dating is, it's not the only way to meet people. You can also meet through friends, or by participating in events and activities. Try taking a class to learn about something that's always interested you, or check out Meetup.com for a wide range of events in your area. One benefit of this strategy is that even if you don't find someone you'd like to date right away, you're still doing things you enjoy and maybe making new friends, too.

Consider the following before you even start to look for someone to date:

What are you looking for?

When you're just starting to get your feet wet in the dating world, try keeping things casual for a while. You can learn a lot about yourself from dating and meeting new people. Dating is a process of discovery, and you want to give yourself time to find out what kind of relationships you're looking for going forward before you lock yourself into something serious.

What age range is best for you to date?

If you give online dating a try you might be surprised when people considerably younger or older than you want to connect. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, there's no wrong answer. But if you go this route, you might be surprised by some of the generational differences. One generation's complement is another generation's insult. Don't hesitate to speak up about what kind of language you do and don't enjoy or any other generational culture clashes that come up.

Your must-haves and deal-breakers

When you're dating it's not only okay to be picky, it's encouraged. While it's helpful to keep an open mind and try new things, you also need to know your limits. Thinking about past relationships, consider what worked well and what caused problems. Are there areas where you need to be on the same page with someone in order to enjoy time together? When making your list, consider items such as; religion, politics, smoking, alcohol use, desire to raise kids or not, etc. You may also want to think about more subjective considerations such as sharing a sense of humor.

How much information should you share?

Getting to know someone new can be intoxicating. Not only is learning about the other person exciting but telling our own stories is a chance to reinvent ourselves in a new way. But for the sake of safety, be cautious about how much information you share, and how quickly. If you're chatting with someone new on a dating app, be very careful about sharing personal information. You shouldn't give out your address to anyone before you've met. You may not even want to share your phone number. All of the dating apps have built-in chat features you can stick with before you've met up. And several of them have even added the option of making video calls within the app – no phone numbers required.

Talking about past relationships

Your relationship history is part of your story – so it's natural for past relationships to come up when you're talking to someone new. And if you're newly divorced it's understandable for your most recent relationship, and your divorce, to be on your mind. Just remember that sharing too much information too quickly can be overwhelming. And bad-mouthing your former spouse can make a bad impression.

You should also pay close attention to how your dates talk about their exes. You can learn a lot about someone by the way they describe their past relationships. And while it's fair for someone to have had one or two not-so-great relationships, consider it a red flag if they have bad things to say about everyone they've ever dated. Especially if they use language like "crazy" when referring to their exes.

When to talk about kids?

Deciding when, or if, to talk about your children is a very personal decision. Many people new to dating want to keep their kids out of it. It can be helpful to strike a balance between honesty and personal boundaries. One way to do this is to disclose that you have children, but make it clear that you're not interested in having your dates meet your children any time soon – if ever.

Advice for first dates after divorce

First dates can be stressful – no matter how much or how little experience you have with dating. So it's a good idea to make choices about a first date that will help set you at ease. A first date should always be in a public place for the sake of safety. Ideally, choose a location where you already feel comfortable. Coffee shops, parks, cafes, and even museums or galleries are all good options. These locations also help to keep a first date simple.

Rather than committing to an evening of dinner or drinks with an uncertain end-time, consider a daytime meetup that's likely to be short. For example, meeting for coffee during a workday implies a one-hour time limit. That can provide an easy out if you're not enjoying yourself.

And if you are hitting it off, you can always schedule a second date. Dates can feel easier when you have an activity to focus on. Even just going for a walk can help the conversation flow more easily. You can also aim for cafes that have board games, or bars that offer pinball, pool, or other games.

How to end your dates

What should you do at the end of a date? Are you supposed to hug, kiss, or go home together? Like all elements of dating, the choice is entirely up to you. It can help to consider in advance what you're comfortable with, so you don't need to make a snap decision at the moment. For example, if you know you'd be more comfortable moving slowly, and want to stick with a handshake or a hug, you can set that boundary for yourself.

Once you've made the decision, it's easier to implement at the moment. Whatever you'd like to do, be sure to communicate clearly. Asking is always the best policy. It also helps establish a pattern of clear consent practices before things get hot and heavy. While it may take some getting used to, asking for what you want can be straightforward. Try something like, "I'd really like to kiss you, would that be okay?" And when you're starting to think about adding sex to the mix, be sure to read about my article about sex after divorce.

Some words of encouragement about dating after divorce

In my coaching practice, I've seen countless clients amazed by the relationships they've found after a divorce, or when they thought it was too late to meet new people. In many cases, people are even better able to advocate for themselves after they've had years to learn what does and doesn't work for them.

For anyone having a hard time staying optimistic, Erin Tillman, dating empowerment coach, shares this advice: "Just remember the possibilities are endless. There's a big world out there with single people who are looking for all kinds of partners and relationships. Believe that you're worthy of finding like-minded individuals who are enthusiastic about who you are and what you bring to the table."

Joan Price, an advocate for ageless sexuality, echoes this optimism, "I personally have found great relationships at a time that people thought you don't get into new relationships anymore. I met my great love when I was 57. I met the partner I'm with now when we were both 73. It's never too late. It's only too late if you don't try."

Resources for dating after divorce

Navigating dating after divorce might feel overwhelming, but there are resources that can help.

Online classes

My class, Modern Dating, offers a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know to start dating – whether for the first time or after a long break. Topics include an overview of what dating apps are available, how to write a profile and send messages, choosing date activities, staying safe, and much more.

Joan Price's How the Heck Do I Date at This Age?, for people "dating after 50, 60, 70 and beyond" is another fantastic resource.

Professional & boudoir photography

One of the daunting things about setting up an online dating profile is choosing what photos to use. If you don't have any pictures you feel good about, consider hiring a professional. It's amazing what a few high-quality headshots can do for your dating game.

And if you're not feeling as sexy as you'd like these days, consider boudoir photography. While it might seem outside of your comfort zone, skilled photographers can help you find outfits, angles, and lighting that will transform the way you see yourself. Whether you keep these images for yourself or decide to share them, boudoir photography can be a surprising confidence booster.

Therapy and coaching

If you're feeling truly overwhelmed by the idea of moving on from your divorce, consider reaching out to a therapist for support. Processing feelings along with big life transitions can feel more manageable with a professional on your side. And if you're looking for more concrete and customized help getting back into dating and sex, a coach might be the right fit. I specialize in helping people figure out what they want and how to get it. Learn more about working with me on my website.

Stella Harris believes communication is key to satisfaction in relationships. Professionally trained as an intimacy educator, coach, and mediator, Stella brings empathy, expertise, and a fresh perspective to help clients find their sticking points and break through the roadblocks to their goals. Stella’s wide-ranging expertise has led to being featured on the evening news discussing the importance of sex education in schools, appearing as an expert witness in court, and even speaking as an authority on banana slug mating habits. Stella is the author of two books, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships, and The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes. Learn more at www.stellaharris.net or follow her on Instagram @stellaharriserotica
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