This is not a dissertation on the particulars of logistics.
This is not a description of relief when the legalities are done.
This is not a story of plunging into some next Magical Phase of Life, and nor is it a treatise on resignation though you’ve now grown accustomed to a different life: insufficient child support or its absence, awkward hand-offs and communications with your ex, a civil discourse with former in-laws, and a solitude at night that is alternately piercing and a consolation.
This is not a prescription for a specific period of healing. This is not a recommendation that you pour every waking moment into your children or your job.
This is about you. Your emotional readiness. Your emotional readiness to “get out there,” to date.
You want to return a smile to the man who offers you one at Starbucks. You want to embark on a playful flirtation but you don’t know how far you can actually take it. You want to rediscover a sex life – for its tenderness, its ferocity, its defiance, its pure physical pleasure.
You wonder about the vulnerability of disrobing.
You wonder about the variations on the act itself.
You wonder about your safety, your sexual health, your seductiveness.
You wonder about the etiquette after.
Then you set aside the wondering because you can’t imagine how you manage banter and cocktails much less second base. It may be years since knowing the intimacy of anyone except the man you married. It may be years since intimacy of any sort, even with the man you married.
Your friends may be nudging you to just “do it” – and you’re considering exactly that. If opportunity presents itself safely, and if you can separate emotion from the physical act, you tell yourself it’s an adventure, an affirmation, a tangible declaration of independence.
But what if you aren’t ready?
It’s been a year, two years, five years and you’re not there. Maybe a second marriage and divorce have left you gun-shy and unsure of your own judgment. You may be content with things as they are – I recall an acquaintance who felt she was more than enough on her own – she never dated after divorce and was happy with that decision. Maybe you want friendship, but can’t see your way clear to anything beyond that.
When will you be ready?
Your timetable for readiness may not be what you expect. It may be sooner, it may be later, and there’s no magic formula to opening yourself up emotionally. There’s no good reason not to keep your guard up when you’re dating – anyone.
Ignore the commentary of well-meaning friends, the urging of co-workers, the nagging from your mother.
Take the time you need. Listen to your gut. Make sure you are a version of yourself that you like, which doesn’t mean perfect, but it does mean you like yourself – at least well enough to accept a compliment.
You’ll know you’re ready when the breeze stirs a longing, when a friend’s courage in facing troubles serves as an example, when your child’s smile reminds you that the world is righting itself again.