Too many newly divorced individuals eagerly jump into a new relationship before the ink is dry on their separation papers. It’s important to take the time to heal from a painful separation before committing anew.
If not, the outcome could be calamitous and may add to the mountain of pain you’ve already hiked.
There are countless reasons why the experts warn us to avoid a relationship within the first year following separation.
Below are 10 reasons we should all say no to dating for a year after divorce.
1. You’re still grieving
Divorcees are often warned about the sadness and anger that follows a separation. But very few people talk about the grief that ensues. We grieve the loss of our steady and predictable life while left to face an uncertain future. Grant yourself the time to grieve this major life transition—much like you would the death of a loved one. Jumping into a new relationship while you’re grieving won’t do anyone justice. Otherwise, you will risk forging a new romance in pain and sorrow instead of in happiness and stability.
2. You need time to heal
The reason experts advise us to take the time to heal is because it’s true! Consider going to therapy and reading books about divorce in order to recognize how your issues or behaviors may have contributed to the demise of your marriage. Recognizing potentially harmful behaviors will prevent you from repeating the same mistakes or choices. Taking the time to heal will help prevent you from dragging your ‘emotional baggage’ into your next relationship.
3. You should focus on your kids
Divorce is just as hard, if not harder, for kids. Life as they know it is changing, and for many, divorce marks the onset of an uprooting custody schedule. It’s important to reassure your kids throughout the divorce process by reminding them that they’re loved unconditionally and that they can always talk to you. Communicate openly and frequently with them. Remember, the best thing that you can do for your kids is to get yourself—and your life—together. Starting a new relationship at this point may steer your attention and focus away from those who need it most. Make your children your number one priority.
4. Finalize your separation first
The paperwork and emotion involved in finalizing a separation or divorce can take its toll on even the most level-headed individual. This requires time and energy and can trigger many difficult discussions (or, let’s face it, arguments) with your ex. It’s best to put this challenging phase of the divorce process well behind you before diving into another partnership. Besides, your new squeeze might feel more comfortable entering into a relationship with someone who is already legally separated or divorced.
5. Your family needs time to adjust
Separation often triggers a series of major life transitions including moving houses, adjusting to a custody schedule, and managing your finances on one income. These logistical changes can feel unsettling at first. You and your family need time to adjust to your new reality. Embarking on a new relationship at this time would be as chaotic as plopping a hurricane in the eye of a tornado. Allow the dust to settle on the home front before welcoming a new romantic interest into the mix.
6. You’re more vulnerable than you think
When faced with change and uncertainty, we often anchor our fragile selves onto someone—anyone—to appease our angst. Vulnerability can blur our logic and reason. As a result, we don’t necessarily choose an ideal romantic partner. Our fear of being alone causes us to settle, often with heartbreaking results. Remember, it’s better to be alone than with someone for the wrong reasons. Wait until you feel strong and optimistic before jumping on the dating horse!
7. You may be in a selfish mindset
Divorce brings with it a plethora of wild emotions, including resentment and anger. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing these feelings given they're markers on the path to healing and recovery. However, when dealing with these overwhelming emotions, we become more internally-focused and maybe even self-absorbed. That’s normal, and it will pass. Be sure to wait until these negative feelings ebb, or you risk unloading your emotional burden on an unwilling partner.
8. Deep inside, you’re scared to commit
After experiencing divorce, many people are wary of re-engaging in a romantic partnership afterward. For some, this fear may dissipate after just a year, whereas for others it can take longer. Don’t confuse your need for companionship with your readiness to commit again. A little bit of reflection will help you determine if you’re truly ready or not. Ask yourself some pointed questions such as have you forgiven your ex, and will you ever love again? Let your answers gauge your readiness for commitment.
9. Rediscover yourself first
After the dissolution of a marriage, it takes time to adjust to the single life again. To ease the sting of loneliness, many seek out the comfort that companionship offers. However, now is the time to get re-acquainted with yourself. It’s possible that your likes and dislikes have changed significantly since you were last single (likely many years ago). Have fun rediscovering what makes you tick, and what you’re good at. New activities will guide you to new friends and will help pass the time. You may just find a new passion in the process! The longer you learn to live on your own, the more ready you’ll be for a happy and stable relationship.
10. Re-assess what you want in a partner
I once told a friend that getting divorced is a bit like graduating from high school: you have to try a few jobs and date a few people before landing on a great career and a spouse. It takes time to figure out what you need—and want—in a partner. Before you consider whether or not you’re ready to date, make a list of all the things you want in a companion (yes, even the things you actually appreciated about your former spouse). This wish list can include your ideal partner’s personality traits, physical appearance, and how you want them to make you feel. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.
Remember, it’s when you don’t absolutely need a relationship that you’re ready for one.