Even though, in the early stages of separation and divorce, I was saying both to myself and to my friends, “I know I am not ready to date yet,” I put my profile up on a dating site fairly quickly.
I did this, in part, because I wanted to soothe my battered ego but also with a sense that no matter how ready I felt or did not feel, I had to get going. Time was a wasting, said a panicky voice in my ear, like one of those little angels or devils that perch on one’s shoulder and just say whatever the hell they please while leaving me or you to do the hard work or clean up should their suggestions prove wrong.
My peanut gallery pushed for getting out there as quickly as possible. So, that’s what I did.
The thing is…guess who showed up for those early dates? Was it rested, happy-go-lucky me? Or was it nervous, distracted, angry and hurt me? Looking back, I do not think any of the men I went out with would have identified me as a barrel of laughs. I am fairly certain I came across as very serious with possibly no sense of humor at ALL.
At the time, I could only laugh in the company of certain friends, usually also divorced, who “got it.” With them, I could laugh until I cried.
The word on the street was that it took two years to get back to yourself and feel like a human being again. Two years was the recommended wait-time to take dating seriously. I add the word seriously because there are many of us who will not wait two years because it can sound, in the thick of the worst of it, like a life sentence at the nunnery. So, what did I do? Panicky Lee went on a flurry of first and second dates, acknowledging that these were not serious dates.
Meanwhile, my higher self was saying, Two years, Lee. You can make it. And, as the months passed, I began to think that two years wasn’t so bad after all and that giving myself time made sense.
So, imagine my dismay on all levels of my psyche when near the end of year two a friend said, “It’s really three years before you are truly healed. Maybe four.”
Anyway, now that I’ve traveled the distance, I can honestly look back and say there are at least five good reasons to get yourself together before getting the guy:
1) Seriously, you might not be ready. Like I said above, there is a general wisdom within the divorced community that you need at least two years, and possibly more, before your emotional balance and perspective come back to center. I don’t mean to suggest you are out of whack, as in whacko.
No, rather I mean to say that as grounded and awesome as you normally are, the period of time just after the separation and divorce will find you not at your best. You probably know this on some level. This sub-par you is who you are presenting in the dating world. No amount of makeup and no amount of flirtation will cover it up completely.
2) You could jump from the frying pan into the fire. What you may not realize is that those of us who have been divorced longer than you can easily tell when we talk to you that you are still “green,” as it were. Even though we may not say anything about it, we can see that you are tired and a bit distracted or down around the edges. It is not your fault, of course. If you were any other way, it wouldn’t seem normal, I don’t think.
Anyway, just know that there are those people out there in the world who either would take advantage of the fact that you are a little off or needy or you might inadvertently hook up with another, equally off or needy person. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for trouble.
3) You might be confused about what you really want. There are definite phases of recovery and distinct phases of processing the grief. I think these phases may mirror somewhat the five stages of grief from the Kubler-Ross model, as presented in the classic book On Death and Dying. And through these various phases, you may vacillate a good deal from one idea to the other. The key thing here is that it might be unwise to form an attachment to someone while you are in vacillation mode. Because, when you emerge into the sunlight, you might look around you and be surprised by your choices.
4) You might have loose ends to attend to. Each divorce will be different, of course, but it isn’t uncommon to have financial fallout. Plus, if you are a mom, you’ve got a LOT on your plate as a single parent. To add to that, your kids might have some emotional fallout that you will need to address. All of this–the money, the kids, the random fallout–will take time and energy, leaving you drained as you try to stabilize your not-yet-stable situation.
Sure, miracles can happen and you can find your soulmate amidst the ruin. But 9 times of 10 (I just made that statistic up. The odds might be worse…), soulmates are not raining down on you. Nope, most likely, the men you meet are middle-aged and, at least temporarily, slightly world-weary–just like you. Or, on the flip side, they are cocky and convinced they are the real Cassanova. Either way, you might find you just don’t have the bandwidth to deal.
5) You might discover the REAL YOU again. Suddenly single, one thing becomes clear: You are not married anymore. This disarmingly simple situation has wave upon wave of ripple effect. You will discover, over time, all kinds of things that are different as a result. For example, you might completely change your diet. Not having to cook those meat and potato meals, you might realize you prefer to be vegetarian. Instead of spending Friday nights bowling, you might hightail it to the museum. The possibilities are endless.
The good news is that you can do more of what YOU want to do. And it may take some time to discover just what this is. However, this wonderful self-discovery might get sidelined if you are newly in a relationship and once again taking on the likes and dislikes of another person. The new you (or real you) that can emerge is the best part about a divorce. My wish for all of you is that you will find yourself in two, three or four years to be this happily transformed woman brimming with vitality and full of hope. This version of you is the one who will be the perfect match for the man you really want. This version of you stands a far better chance of building a successful new relationship.