Dating after divorce. There’s a lot we can learn from each other about the pitfalls.
Dating after divorce is tricky and depending on how long you were married, it can be downright daunting. After six years, I feel like I could not only write a brief essay about dating again but a lengthy novel with graphics and charts. Sadly, it is easy to let dating after divorce become exhausting and unpleasant, much like doing your taxes every month.
Here are 6 pitfalls that you must avoid when dating after divorce.
1. Dating your ex
I don’t mean literally with your ex-husband, but I do mean the same type of man. My ex-husband used his looks and charisma to get what he wanted. On the outside he appeared confident, someone to listen to and respect. On the inside, he was hiding his insecurity, anxiety, and fear at all cost. He was often close-minded and mean. He picked on me and others to elevate himself. I dated two men who shared these qualities. One was an executive who spent most of his time trying to impress everyone with his muscles and money. The other was a politician who once asked me not to talk much and fetch him a drink. It took me only a few weeks to recognize that my “type” of guy is also the wrong type of guy for me.
2. Dating too young
I am not suggesting there is a hard and fast number that indicates that a relationship will not work. What I am suggesting is that we have two ages: our literal, biological age and an experience, nurtured age. All of my life, I was characterized as an old soul. I often struggled to communicate with my peers but excelled with adults. My outlook on all things was much closer to that of my parents (who were older) than my peers. I have met others who share this state of mind, and then I have also met those who are ten to fifteen years older than I am that share the same maturity as my freshmen in college.
I think nature/nurture debates shed a great deal of light on what kind of a partner a man will be in a relationship. If a guy has known disappointment, has experienced hardships, and has known loss—real loss—not fantasy football failures or their paternal grandmother’s loss, then I would argue they have an intimate knowledge of the human condition that others simply do not understand. What this means while dating is he shares this mindset with someone older. I value people who value the same things I do, regardless of age.
3. Dating too old
My father was 7 years older than my mom, but he didn’t look it and he certainly didn’t act much older. My dad was a lucky guy: He had good genetics that were at play and he worked a job that required him to stay in good physical condition. That being said, the moment my father wasn’t able to “perform” as he once did in the bedroom, he went under the knife. Thankfully, I was not privy to this information as a teen! However, at 40, I have learned the hard way (or perhaps not so much) that a man’s age does impact sexual performance.
At first, I thought that maybe the extra ten pounds that have taken residency around my body, was the issue, and I was not as attractive as I once was. Not true! I learned rather quickly that many men over 45 have difficulty performing well as they once did. No wonder I can’t watch a football game without being inundated with Cialis commercials. Overall, this added stress in the bedroom meant I started thinking about long-term health issues like stroke and heart disease and snoring! C-pap machines are not sexy! And older men are not for me!
4. The fix-up
I often found that friends wanted to fix me up. I couldn’t say “no” because I had set up three of them with their spouses. But that is not the norm. Nevertheless, I went on these dates. The first was a widower and I was his first date since his wife had died. The whole date I found myself constantly trying not to talk about his loss while he seemed hell-bent on convincing me he didn’t need to talk about his loss. Finally, we talked about the loss and decided he was not ready to date. Ugh.
The second date was a handsome man who was successful and kind; the only problem; his voice. Unless he went around singing “Ave Maria”, I knew there was no way I could spend much time listening to his soprano voice. The final date was much more interesting: he was a sex addict. My friend knew this man as a successful business owner and little league coach, she wasn’t privy to his predilection or addiction. So far, fix-ups haven’t worked for me!
5. Dating men who are looking for everything but love
One aspect of divorce that I struggle with almost daily is guilt. I waited until I was 27 (and I thought very wise) to marry, so I took my divorce as a personal failure—an example of my poor judgment. It was none of these things. Even though my ex-husband did not turn out to be the man I thought: he genuinely was in love with me.
When I approached dating, I tried earnestly not to choose potential partners out of guilt or insecurity, but out of real admiration and attraction. Many, especially four men I dated, did not do this. They saw dating as a means of redemption, a do-over, or as a means of finding a mother for their kids. One man flat out told me after our third date, that he always wanted a girlfriend who was blonde with big boobs. Another invited me to meet his kids at Chuckey Cheese on our second date, indicating he wanted to see if they would accept me like a mom-yikes. A third man, took me to a family wedding, where he repeatedly told everyone that he had traded up. The final time he said this: “I explained that I was not a commodity and this was our second and final date.”
6. Dating men who haven’t moved on
These men are by far the hardest to spot, and sadly by the time you realize they haven’t healed, you have developed real feelings for them. Further, these guys look healthy and whole. Most likely, they know that moving on is part of the process. They know it is not emotionally healthy to feel isolated and alone. Sadly, they may be stuck in the denial stage of divorce which is the time period that mimics how people experience shock after a traumatic experience.
These men appear like they are fine, but on the inside not so much. Things begin to crumble once the reality of their new lives begins to set in and they are forced to acknowledge that their life will never be the same. From my experience, the amount of time after divorce needed for healing and regrouping isn’t a hard and fast number.
For some, the separation period is long and extended and most of the anger and sadnesses is experienced before there is even a divorce. For others, the regrouping, healing, and forgiving can take years. The only test I have found to be a good indicator of their readiness is meeting with their best friends. If dear friends are excited that their buddy is dating, then there is hope that he is in a place to let his heart love again.