Dating after going through a divorce can be terrifying. It can also be exhilarating. It can also screw up your kids, your job, and your life. All right I know that sounds a bit daunting. It’s not all bad. Just keep some of this stuff in mind while navigating the dating waters again after divorce.
A few bits of advice…
1. DO NOT make dating a higher priority than your children. Take care of the kiddos, then find time to date. Don’t ignore your kids or take time away from your kids to date. Especially if you have split custody. When you have your kids, have your kids. Do your dating on your own time. And for God’s sake NEVER take your kids on a date with you. (yes, I’ve seen it done)
2. DO NOT let people push you into dating before you are ready. Take all the time you need to yourself first. If you have kids, it’s also a good idea to stick close to them for a while, they will need the reassurance and extra stability in this time of turbulence. But you really need to collect yourself first. Get your shit together. It’s not only nerve racking for you but you being a mess will not be a pleasant experience for the first few people you go on a date with. Trust me. I speak from experience.
3. DO go out on a date after a while. There is waiting to collect yourself then there is being paralyzed. I know someone who hasn’t been on a date in years since their divorce. It’s different if you have no desire, but if you say, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to do things with?”, well then, at some point you just have to dive in the cold water of dating, there is no other way around it. Go on a double date if you’re that scared. Just suck it up, Sally!
4. DON’T EVEN put a man or woman before your children. Are you f’ing crazy? I’ve read about people having to give up their kids to the state or their ex because they wouldn’t give up a relationship with “Danny the Drug Addict” or “Pedophile Pete”. Well wait, if you’re going to do that then maybe you shouldn’t be a parent after all. A less subtle situation is when you have a child that is troubled and screaming for your attention but you choose to spend all your time with “Davey Douchebag”. If he’s any kind of real man or a catch, he’ll tell you to go take care of your kids first. He’ll wait. Yes, you’re kids will eventually need to learn to share you, but that’s in time. The first year or two after divorce is a key adjustment period, pay attention to the kids needs first. Your genitalia can wait.
5. DO wear a condom when you decide to become sexually active again. It’s a different world, everyone is schtupping everyone. You don’t know who’s got what and who’s been with who.
6. DO know the difference between love and lust. Lust has it’s place believe me. I’ve known people who dove in head first into lust when they thought it was love and alienated their kids and ended up being left heartbroken anyways. I decided to make the distinction early on in my divorce. I had a terrible time feeling desirable again after my divorce. But feeling desirable and wanting love are two different things. I was so messed up, I couldn’t get a date. Thank God I figured out the difference. So my “first date” ended up being a make-out session the same night I met a guy in a bar. I don’t recommend it for everyone but hey, I was 35 and it got that awkward stuff out of the way and got my mojo back. I got back on the horse (so to speak) without worrying abut what the guy thought, he was a much younger guy I was positive I’d never see again and there were no feelings involved. What did he care if I performed poorly or said someone else’s name? I didn’t count on it being love, thank God, I surely would have made an ass out of myself. I suppose I wish I hadn’t done it, but it was an alcohol fueled event that got it out of the way. Shit happens. Can’t change it now.
7. DO NOT dive head first into a relationship. Take your time, get to know the person. I wanted to be treated nice and loved for once so badly after my marriage to a man that constantly belittled me, I thought anybody who took me on a date was relationship material. Needless to say I made an ass out of myself a couple of times. I don’t recommend that. Take your time.
8. DO take time to love yourself first. Take time to get to know yourself and be kind to yourself and heal yourself. Take time to cry. Take time to grieve the loss of your marriage, even if you desperately wanted out. Take the time to hug your soul and tell yourself you are ok and you are loved.
9. DON’T EVEN introduce anybody to your kids unless you have decided to be in in a monogamous relationship and you’ve been dating for over 6 months or so. You might think he’s the love of your life but in two months he could be gone and the kids are left saying, “Mommy where did that man go that was always on our couch and we thought was going to be our Step-Dad?”
10. DON’T EVEN fall hook, line and sinker for someone you’ve met online but never met in person! Have your ever seen the MTV show Catfish? You never know who’s on the other end of the interwebz. Hot airline pilot with law degree could be federal prison inmate # 253647387! And for God’s sake, sure as hell, don’t send them any money!
11. DO NOT settle for the first person that says yes. Don’t just take the first person that comes along that smiles at you and make them into a relationship just because you don’t want to be alone. You deserve better. Shop around. Get to know someone, let someone know you. Be happy first. Find someone you like, then let them into your heart. Don’t make up an imaginary relationship built on nothing. You’ll end up cheating on them or vice versa, then you’ll end up starting all over sitting on the couch crying and eating Ben & Jerry’s for 3 months while your kids act out. Stop that crap now, before it starts.
These simple pieces of advice will help you in the long run. You’ll still have missteps and heartache and jerks that don’t call back. But remember to always keep the big picture in mind. Kids before dating. Always.